A note from the editor

I seem to say this a lot, but NVU, we need to talk.

I wrote another editorial last week welcoming our new students. While I would love to talk their ears off about NVU and how much Basement Medicine is glad to have them here, unfortunately I think we need to address a large issue.

Well, first we need to take a chill pill. Nobody’s campus is closing. Frustrated Lyndonites seem to want to say that the Board of Trustees has it out for them, but I believe that this anger is misplaced.
While it is true that the BoT needs to wholly come out and say, “No campus is closing. We are committed to the radical, amazing concept of NVU and our three vibrant campuses,” there is another angle we need to approach from.

Because that’s what our little experiment is: radical. The unification of two very different campuses is, given the context, bold, and there have been bumps along the way. It’s doable. We’ve hit all our benchmarks and our goals so far, and, as a whole, people need to cut NVU and its staff, leadership, faculty and students some slack.

Why I say the anger is misplaced is this: the reason these rumors have been flying is because of budget cuts across both campuses, but this is a symptom of a larger problem. The Legislature has been underfunding us for decades, and it’s either time to elect those who will advocate for us, or yell and scream until something changes. We deserve better. We have done so much work to make this crazy thing work, and we asked for meaningful increases from the Legislature so to lighten the financial burden on our students.

This is where the Chancellor’s office should be directing their efforts: towards our lawmakers and legislators. They should, on students, faculty and staff’s behalfs, demand that the VSCS be funded more appropriately. We are the backbone of our surrounding communities. We are the young people keeping Vermont alive. If there is one thing that I have learned in talking to Vermonters, it’s that they care a whole lot. If Vermont abandons its young people right at the time they need us the most, we can expect them to return that favor in kind.

When I came to college, it was cheaper (by a lot!) to come to an out-of-state institution than to stay in my home state of New Hampshire. I was lured by, yes, a cheap tuition, but also the community and beautiful views offered by what-was-then Johnson State College.

I want to stay here and build my life here. I use my voice here not for myself but for countless numbers of my peers who will enter the workplace with negative numbers hanging over their heads. With the Chancellor’s office advocating for them, maybe the Legislature will finally see them for what they are: assets to the state of Vermont.

I also want to call the local media out for their frustrating coverage of the White Paper talk at Lyndon. Where was that fire to report when the VSCS called, several times, for more funding? Where was the media when we needed their voice advocating for us? Are they only interested in covering the fight within the family? And don’t get me wrong: NVU is a family. While we work out the kinks, Johnson and Lyndon may find some places where we aren’t so compatible. That will dissolve away, in time. However, the media should also report on the good work and the teamwork between us. There is more good than bad here.

This is not to say I think that they shouldn’t have covered the frustration at Lyndon. Yes, we have our bad times. But if our call for more funding is just a footnote to the drama, they are doing a poor job of covering the real story.

Students, staff, faculty, and administration are frustrated because there is never enough money to go around. This, sadly, is the predictable consequence of the State’s neglect of public higher education. But if we address the cause and not the symptoms, we can make this wonderful endeavor work.
One resounding message from last week’s hearings was this: Give NVU time. We have earned it.

-Rebecca Flieder,