I’d Rather Die a Spartan

At first, the concept of a possible merger between the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges seemed intriguing.UVM at Castleton – it has a nice ring to it.

Students of Castleton and the other state institutions would, in theory, see the value of their college diplomas increase dramatically, as each would likely be stamped with UVM’s prestigious seal of approval.

For a student like myself, one who didn’t even graduate high school but was still given a chance to flourish in college at Castleton, it seemed too good to be true.

I could be a Catamount, too. By Christ, I could.

And yet, the more I thought about it, the more it became the most god-awful, vomit-inducing, horrifying and mangled travesty of an idea I could possibly fathom.

Here’s why.

For starters, let’s look at who’s actually set to gain from the merger. At first glance, it may appear that the state colleges would reap the most rewards. After all, UVM is a high-ranking, nationally recognized institution of higher learning. People know the name.

But at its core, the merger is set out to do one thing: give UVM more money.

The university recently fell victim to the troubling economic times, falling about $11 million short on their budget. It closed the gap by firing several employees, closing numerous job openings, and even eliminated the school’s varsity baseball and softball teams.

With more cutbacks to come, as well as increasing student enrollment to raise revenue – at an already over-populated school, no less – UVM is on the wrong side of the curve in the world of academia.

Ironically, amid financial trouble, UVM still had no issue booking high-cost speakers like Howard Dean and Jon Stewart to speak at its campus.

It was also revealed that UVM administrators were paid a combined $900,000 in bonuses over the last four years, with more than $260,000 of that being given during the last fiscal year.

Good to see they have their priorities straight.

And yet, despite a harsh economic climate and a name little-known outside of Vermont, Castleton is thriving.

Budget cuts? No way. Castleton’s massive student initiative project is nearly complete, which will boast a new stadium, campus center, revamped gymnasium, and the birth of Spartan football.

Plans for revamping the Huden Dining Hall are also in the works, and the long-fabled communication department addition will be complete by next fall.

Letting go of workers? Not at Castleton. President David Wolk has no plans of cutting any of Castleton’s faculty loose.

Students are enrolling at CSC by the boatload, yet the college faithfully, for now at least, sticks to a strict student body cap of 2,000, making sure each Castleton student receives V.I.P. treatment known “by their name and not a number.”

Professors and faculty are more than advisors at Castleton, they’re close friends. Some of which will remain in our lives for years to come.

UVM treats students like cattle – cram in as many as possible, feed them an assembly line education, and hope some profit squeezes out in the end.

All right. Maybe that’s a stretch.

But Castleton has everything going for it right now. Why change anything? How is that fair? We’ve done everything right in recent years. Why should we have to pay for the mistakes of others?

Granted, some of the VSC could benefit from such a merger. But others could be axed all together as a means to reroute more funds to UVM in Burlington.

Colleges are businesses just like any other. When times get tough, businesses sink, swim, or pull together and combine their efforts. And for some companies, a merger is the best option.

But it’s not for Castleton. The school has come too far in recent years to risk blowing it all for the sake of acquiring a second-hand university title.

You want to be a Catamount? Fine. Go to UVM.

But I like my cozy Spartan jersey just fine, thanks.

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