University of Vermont Fires 10 Center of Health and Wellbeing Staff Members; Union Criticizes Move

A person in a lab coat with their arms folded holding a stethoscope
A person in a lab coat with their arms folded holding a stethoscope
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By Elena Fasullo and Helen Shamamyan  

BURLINGTON, VT – University of Vermont (UVM, for University of the Green [F. vert] Mountains) officials last week fired 10 staff members in its Center of Health and Wellbeing with no notice, according to a story in Seven Days, a Vermont weekly news source, by Anne Wallace Allen.

The Center of Health and Wellbeing helps provide students with resources for physical and mental health. Its programs have included connections with counseling and psychiatry services, positive sexuality services, and they host school-wide events, as stated on the UVM Center of Health and Wellbeing website.

UVM official and vice provost for student affairs, Erica Caloiero, stated this change in staff is due to a reorganization effort to integrate counseling and psychiatric services with substance abuse support services, reported Allen.

“Positions in Education and Outreach that do not provide front-line care will be discontinued, as will three management positions, in order to elevate talented functional leaders to have direct interface with the department’s head,” added Caloiero.

Shortly after the termination was announced, Caloiero sent an email to the UVM staff stating that they had hired a new executive director for the Center for Health and Wellbeing, Blake Reilly, who will begin their new position in July. However, Caloiero still made no mention of the job cuts in the email, according to Allen’s article.

Rep. Troy Headrick, a faculty member of UVM’s Center for Student Conduct, commented he personally knew many of the affected workers, which include a recovery program director, a health and sexuality educator, a mindfulness program coordinator, and a communications manager, as noted by Allen.

The article quoted Headrick speaking up for the employees who were terminated, stating, “They were blindsided… They got to work on Monday and were told, ‘Your final day is 30 days from now, but don’t bother to come to work in the meantime.’”

The Seven Days article explained anxiety and depression are common struggles in the lives of college students, and according to Rep. Headrick’s statements, UVM’s counseling and mental health services were already limited, as is.

He noted student experiences, revealing obstacles such as “long wait times” and major difficulties “to maintain a relationship with a counselor when you get one.” Headrick maintained the decision to fire many of these “dedicated” staff members “has eliminated the general well-being outreach and education in a nonclinical setting,” according to the story in Seven Days.

As reported by Seven Days, UVM’s firings did not violate the staff contract. UVM Staff United had been recently working on negotiating for more just worker contracts.

Ellen Kaye of UVM Staff United stated this administrative decision “is unjustifiable given that we have got 29 vice presidents earning hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.” Kaye added UVM Staff United wants to stand up for the workers and hold the UVM administration accountable.

About The Author

I am a student from Southern California that's graduating this year from UC Berkeley. Prior to coming here, I worked as a court watch/ law clerk for a PEO in worker's comp cases of California warehouses. I reported the hearing summaries and outcomes to the employer and maintained correspondence with the attornies prior to and after each hearing on behalf of my boss. I have nearly completed by Bachelors in English, and I am planning on taking a break year before delving into law school to study civil rights defense.

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