Former president rails against merger cuts

The faculty, staff and students of Castleton were stunned on Oct. 27 when President Mike Smith announced he was eliminating 33 “administrative” positions at Vermont State University. For weeks, Smith had been promising he would reduce the number of administrators in an effort to quell the outrage over his recent cuts to faculty and to academic programs.

So, what stunned us on Friday was not that he made cuts, but that his proclamation — which he misleadingly titled “Administrative Optimization” — did not cut any administrators. In actuality, he cut only staff members. What’s the difference? Administrators work for the central office; they are paid well over $100,000; and most have never been in a classroom or even set foot on the Castleton campus. By contrast, the staffers he fired are local folks who work every day on the Castleton campus where they directly serve our students, and most of them are paid well below $100,000.

In sum, the administration lied when they said they were going to reduce the size of the administration. It was all a ruse to mislead the public into thinking they were trimming the overpaid bureaucrats in Montpelier, when, in fact, they cut only the lower-paid staffers who do the real work of the university.

One of the many tragedies of this scheme is it will do nothing to stem the university’s budget deficit. In fact, all experienced educators know that the cuts will actually hurt the bottom line because enrollment and retention — and therefore, revenue — always drop when you eliminate the hard-working, mission-critical individuals on campus who assist students and operate the physical plant.

In 2020, many far-seeing people spoke against the forced merger of Castleton with Lyndon, Johnson and Vermont Technical College into “Vermont State University.” But we were promised that the merger (which has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars) would result in more students, more programs and more revenue. Sadly, but predictably, every one of those promises has proved false.

And now we have the latest broken promise: that cuts to faculty and to programs will be matched by cuts to administrators. Incredibly, the number of administrators — and their salaries — has only skyrocketed with each passing year.

It is, indeed, stunning. It is also very, very wrong.                                                          – Jonathan Spiro – former Castleton University president

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