Lyndon State Considers Faculty Cuts, Students Protest

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(Host)  Lyndon State College says it will cut faculty to confront a looming budget deficit. 

The decision has stirred protests among students and charges by faculty that the cuts aren’t necessary.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Declining state support is squeezing the entire college system, but Lyndon’s problems are more acute than others.  The college projects a deficit that will grow from $350,000 in the next fiscal year to nearly $1 million dollars 3 years from now. 

Lyndon State President Carol Moore says after years of budget tightening, the college has reached the point where cuts in faculty are unavoidable.

(Moore) "Unfortunately we’re in a position where we’re going to have to take those structural cuts in personnel."

(Zind) Moore says reducing faculty and cutting other expenses will put the college on solid ground financially and position it to grow its most successful programs.  And Moore says the college is on track to increase student enrollment in the next academic year.  That’s critical because more than 80 percent of the school’s budget comes from tuition fees.    

James Bozeman chairs the faculty assembly at the college, which opposes cuts in personnel and curriculum.  Bozeman says it doesn’t make sense to reduce faculty while enrollment continues to rise.

(Bozeman) "Over the last 5 to 10 years the number of students has increased 25 to 30 percent, but the number of full-time faculty has actually gone down over that time.  Still it’s under consideration to lower those even further while still trying to attract even more students."

(Zind) Bozeman says faculty is frustrated and feels the administration hasn’t been responsive. He charges that the college has made decisions without notice and without enough consultation with faculty.  

Junior Dan Haycook, who serves in student government, also sees cutting faculty as counterproductive and damaging to the education he’s receiving at Lyndon.

(Haycook) "I know in my degree program specifically we have professors who are published authors, we have professors who have worked in the field, who have the hands-on experience, who are absolute mentors and people we aspire to be like. And without them here I don’t see the point in being here myself."

(Zind) Students have held a sit-in to support faculty and a group of them traveled to Montpelier to ask lawmakers for more money. 

This week President Carol Moore held a forum for the campus community where she fielded suggestions on how to eliminate the projected deficit. One speaker, music professor Beth Norris, pleaded with Moore to avoid personnel cuts.

(Norris)  "There has to be another way to do this, there has to be, Carol, there has to be."

(Zind)  Moore says she understands how difficult the cuts will be, but she reiterated her view that she has no choice.

(Moore) "I cannot make those decisions with my heart. Those decisions have to be made with data and with an eye to the future of the college. It is heart wrenching to have to do this, but we don’t have other options."

(Zind)  A final decision on the cuts is expected by mid-April.

For VPR News, I’m Steve Zind.

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