A Vermont college announces a queen sacrifice

Chess queen, by John FowlerVermont Technical College will cut back some of its academic offerings next year.  That means cutting faculty, including both adjuncts and tenured professors, and offering another case of what I’ve been calling the queen sacrifice.

Recently-appointed VTC president Dan Smith identified programs and faculty to cut two semesters in advance, to wit:

Civil Engineering Technology (one tenured professor); English, Humanities and Social Science (two tenured professors and one nontenured professor); Landscape Design and Horticulture (one nontenured professor); Architectural Engineering Technology (one nontenured professor); and Electrical Engineering Technology (two tenured professors).

Note the number of tenured faculty being riffed.  Note, too, the full-time non-tenured instructors, and remember that “up to 27 adjunct instructors may not be hired back in the fall [of 2015]”.  In addition, “[s]enior professors are being offered cash incentives to retire early”.

As usual, certain fields lead the way.  “This approach carries “outsize” implications for the humanities,” according to a presidential email.

In a differently harrowing move, president Smith placed other programs on the block, depending on what they do over the next few months:

Landscape Design and Horticulture also may see more layoffs if spring recruitment doesn’t produce adequate enrollment. The departments of Equine Studies, Civil Engineering Technology and Diesel Power Technology also have been placed on a “financial watch.”

Additionally, the school will shift teaching around, both by designing surviving courses and by outsourcing:

Departments are required to increase the number of cross-listed course offerings to cover more academic ground with a smaller faculty. Students will be asked to take some core classes at sister institutions in the Vermont State College system…

Why are these stringent moves occurring?  Causes are the usual pair we’ve seen in queen sacrifices so far: “a drop in enrollment and declines in state funding levels”.  According to earlier VTDigger reporting, “The school… is looking at a roughly $2.5 million budget gap in the next academic year.”  Recall that Vermont’s demographics are those favoring old age, with a declining under-18 population.

To sum up, VTC is suffering in the way many institutions are, with dropping numbers of students and revenue.  They are cutting faculty at all levels, from adjuncts to tenured profs, aiming at programs that apparently don’t have the student numbers.  The college is redesigning its academic offerings to better match the market.

How much longer will the queen sacrifice season continue?  As more schools nationwide take such steps what will the effects be on campus governance, graduate school PhD production, diversity of academic offerings, our attitudes towards education?  Not to mention the harsh blows dealt to so many careers and lives.

(photo by John Fowler)

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