Three professors in the University of Vermont Extension program are losing their positions next year due to budget cuts, university officials say. The cuts are a result of the state of Vermont’s level-funding of UVM for most of the past decade, as well as Congressional gridlock, according to UVM Extension Dean Doug Lantagne.
“Finances continue to get tight,” Lantange said in an interview, “and we’re just not having additional revenues to do all the things that we used to be able to do.”
The positions cut are in equine science, dairy farming and horticulture. The three professors are tasked with a combination of classroom teaching, research and community education programs to help farmers in Vermont adopt better practices.
Professor Betsy Greene, an award-winning equine scientist, said she has developed strong connections with Vermont horse farmers in her 15 years at UVM.
“If there’s not an equine extension position, I’m not sure who will be reaching out to those folks,” Greene said. “We’ve built a lot of good programs and connections over the years that I’ve been here, so it’s disappointing to say the least.”
Greene said Lantagne never talked to her or the other two professors whose positions were cut about why he chose those three specific positions. Lantagne said in an interview that he met with UVM Extension leadership and an advisory committee and decided that the three cut positions are the ones that give UVM “the most flexibility to meet the needs of the state.”
That doesn’t mean UVM Extension’s offerings will remain completely intact, Lantagne said. He said there are still programs to help the business side of farms as well as those helping farms manage water quality issues.
“What we won’t have in equine is the biological understanding of horses in our outreach program,” he said.
On the dairy side, Professor Julie Smith is not leaving UVM, even though her position is one of the three named for cuts. Smith secured a major federal grant to fund her research on disease outbreaks in livestock, and will stay at UVM doing that work. She will not continue doing the outreach programs UVM Extension is known for.
Smith said she also never heard from Lantagne about why the positions were cut, and she thinks the way the jobs are structured creates a disconnect between administrators and the faculty that are the most visible part of UVM Extension’s work.
“In many institutions it would be the college of agriculture that is responsible for the teaching, research and extension, and whether the dean is also the director or has a director that reports to the dean, it’s all in one unit,” she said. At UVM, though, Extension is separate from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). For faculty that split their time between Extension and traditional classes, that can get confusing.
That means that even though Lantagne was responsible for the decision to make the cuts, he is not ultimately the person to whom Smith or Greene report.
“So right now how it works depends on which unit is your primary appointment. So as college-based faculty, my reporting structure is through my chair and then to the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Smith said. “Whereas for those appointed primarily to the extension unit, they would report up through to the dean of Extension.”
The three positions will be funded through the next school year until June 2016.