the heart wants what the heart wants

by annikaringen

Earlier this month, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden adorned the White House lawn with large cutout heart decorations for the then upcoming Valentine’s Day festivities. Each heart displayed a word of optimism, including love, strength, family, unity, kindness, healing, compassion, courage, peace, hope, gratitude, and amor. The hearts not only lifted spirits but also encouraged citizens to embrace unity and hope in a time of great turmoil. Dr. Biden’s display charmed the country and reminded Americans of the reason for the season: love.

Inspired by the White House’s wholesome showing, UVM assembled their own version of the cutout heart decorations. Similar to Dr. Biden’s messages on her hearts, which reflected the values of the Biden-Harris Administration, the messages on UVM’s hearts reflected the values of the university’s administration. 

The hearts, displayed on the University Green, read messages including vanity projects, STEM, defunding humanities, layoffs, athletic facility construction, and budget cuts.

“We really want the UVM community to fall in love with the changes we’re making,” said Dean Bill Falls, chuckling at his own pun.

The changes Dean Falls is referring to are elements of a plan to close UVM’s $8.6 million budget deficit. As a part of that plan, on December 2nd, Falls proposed the phasing out of 12 majors, 11 minors, and four master’s degree programs, all of which are offered by the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The display is the administration’s way of encouraging our community to respond to the university’s changes with open hearts” said Falls, making another uninspired pun.

“We saw what the First Lady was doing with her hearts, rallying the country around optimism, and we wanted to do the same on a university scale. We’re trying to get people to be excited and hopeful about the changes UVM is implementing,” said Provost and Senior Vice President, Patricia Prelock.

What’s not to be excited about? The College of Arts and Sciences supplies the most majors with required courses; whittling down the courses offered by that department reduces student’s selection, making it easier for students to decide what to take. Less course variation also builds a greater sense of community because students will be receiving similar educations and develop into like minded scholars.

“Love is all about sacrifice. For instance, the budget cuts and layoffs within the CAS department are a necessary sacrifice informed by data and guided by a strategy to focus on the future success of the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Prelock.

The sacrifice Provost and Senior Vice President Prelock brought up is CAS’s $34 million in net tuition revenue being redirected and distributed to other priorities such as $23 million needed annually to cover base salaries, benefits, and bonuses for 131 executives, rather than being invested back into the College of Arts and Sciences. 

While defunding humanities is on the agenda, the university has not made any efforts to scale back the cost of construction for a $95 million athletic multipurpose complex.

“I like what they’ve done with the hearts, although I would have liked to see them installed with some plexiglass skylights,” said Todd Merchant, project manager of UVM’s athletic multipurpose center renovations.

UVM is approaching their education model from a corporate perspective, no doubt with intentions of setting a fine example for students in the Grossman School of Business, a prioritized department.

“I think they nailed it. Big red hearts and corporate profit, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?” said Vice President for Operations, Gary Derr. He was then informed by a passing classics major that on February 14th in ancient Rome, Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both named Valentine, and their martyrdom is honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. Derr quickly changed the subject to praise for the university’s CEMS program.

Categories: annika ringen, february 22 2021, news

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