On Friday, the board of trustees approved the elimination of two university programs, one of which, professors believe, defines the notion of a metropolitan university.
Applied medical sciences was established in 1997. On Nov. 3, 1998, voters of Maine approved a $20 million bond issues to improve the Maine economy by supporting innovative research and development. This bond resulted in the building where the AMS program would survive until Oct. 24, 2014.
Now, however, the building will house that program no longer.
In an email to the board of trustees, S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor and chair of AMS, explained that President Flanagan and Provost McDonnell had never consulted with the faculty of Applied medical sciences until they announced in the second week of this month that AMS would be eliminated.
“Our research programs, our careers and the aspirations and plans of our students are to be totally disrupted by the end of December,” said Duboise. “This decision is outrageous, unreasonable, unorthodox and wrong and does not comport with decent ethical standards of academic leadership.”
One of these standards set forth is the notion that USM should be branded as a metropolitan university.
“I think it’s the ideal metropolitan university program because this program grew out of the community,” said Duboise. “The biotechnology companies and Maine Medical Center and the bioscience research community in southern Maine were involved in the creation of this program. To this day, we have many active connections, including students who are employees of the various companies and research institutions.”
Joan Gordan, president of Maine Molecular Quality Controls, is one of these students.
At the board of trustees meeting she said, “Despite having three children, I was looking for a challenge. I found that challenge in the applied medical sciences program. I love the science, the science was amazing. It was new and on the cutting edge.”
She was almost through the program when the opportunity arose to start her own business. She didn’t finish her degree or her thesis, but the business took off.
“My company literally would not be here today if it weren’t for this program,” said Gordan.
Stephen Pelsue, associate professor of immunology and molecular biology, sees this as a success of the department. He noted that when eliminating programs, more should be looked at than graduation rates. Graduation does not always equate to success.
Faculty of AMS have outreach beyond those within the major. Biology majors and nursing majors take classes in the department, and faculty have even reached out to high schools across the state, working with approximately 12,000 students.
“If that doesn’t show what a metropolitan university should do, then I don’t understand that rhetoric. And I would call it rhetoric because it seems empty in the way it comes from our administration,” said Duboise. “Empty, and perhaps hypocritical.”
According to Pelsue, many students in the program are working in the companies in the southern Maine area while they’re a part of the program. Some of these students declined to comment, as they also represent a company.
“The projects that they do for their research thesis are part of what helps develop company products and new techniques – a variety of important aspects to company development,” said Pelsue. “It’s that engagement with the community that I think really defines a metropolitan university.”
According to Duboise, President Flanagan gave a list of what a public university should do.
“A university needs to create knowledge, transfer knowledge and apply knowledge. We do all of those things,” said Duboise. “Once he and the others have their way, they will destroy research opportunities across this university.”
He added that he believes the board of trustees are breaking away anything that is favorable to AMS to make the numbers seem smaller.
“Essentially, what they say about the five tenured track faculty, is that their five year average annual revenue from grant awards was $856,090 or so,” said Duboise. “On the other side of the chart, five year annual expenses, they have that same number again.”
Duboise said that they’ve charged the money that the faculty bring in to expenses.
“Their contorted reasoning seems to be that if you bring in that money, that that is going to defund the research programs, as though that has nothing to do with the education we’re providing,” said Duboise. “It has everything to do with the education we’re providing.”
Pelsue noted that a teach-out plan had been discussed, but nothing has been set in stone.
“They won’t be able to deliver the program that we deliver now to existing students in the absence of faculty,” Pelsue said.
“The plans that are being concocted by the administration are a fabrication and a sham,” said Duboise. “If they want to eliminate a program, they should be doing it on a two-year schedule so people can really finish the program that they started.”
Duboise questions why administration hasn’t chosen to tap into the willingness of many, such as the AMS faculty, to collaborate and innovate in a better USM.
“It seems, unfortunately, that an agenda of destruction is taking precedence over thought and creative action. All I can say is that I’m very disappointed,” said Duboise. “This is a clear loss for the university, the students studying sciences here and the entirety of southern Maine. I think this is a disservice to the community and just wish they had taken more time to make this decision.”
By: Alex Huber
It took only 18 days for the administration to finalize the elimination of the undergraduate French and graduate applied medical science programs, and the Student Senate fought the proposal every step of the way.
The senate passed two resolutions in their recent meetings that they felt voiced the concerns of the senate and the student body as a whole in regard to the program eliminations. Four senators attended the board of trustees meeting where the programs were cut last Friday and voiced their concerns there as well.
“The student body as a whole feel the cuts are negative,” said student senator Tom Bahun, who headed the writing of the two resolutions. “We need to be finding alternative solutions. Cuts lead to more cuts.”
President David Flanagan has stated that the program eliminations, combined with 50 faculty position eliminations, would cut USM’s $16 million budget deficit by six-million and that only 50 students would be affected in those programs. Students and faculty at the board of trustees meeting repeatedly told the board that they were only considering majors in those programs and the number of affected students would be much higher.
According to the administration the cuts would affect 50 students; however the number of students who are impacted may be much higher. The proposed cuts have met opposition from both student and faculty groups who believe that there are less invasive ways to close the gap.
The senate formed an ad hoc investigation committee that will aim to address the declining enrollment at USM and poor morale prevalent among the student body. The resolution condemns the program eliminations, as well as plans to eliminate any faculty positions, claims that the decision to axe the programs was made with insufficient time and data and tasks the senate with offering alternative solutions to the financial situation.
The timeline for community input is far too rushed, say student senators.
“We were given 18 days to come up with a solution, we had no possible way to do that,” senate chair Joshua Dodge told the board of trustees. “We want to work with you, not against you, but we need time.”
“I would urge you to give us time to look at the complete data and not with this tunnel vision,” said Bahun.
The senate resolutions, which were both passed unanimously, recognized the student body’s need for credentialed educators, worthwhile courses, and meaningful programs that will result in quality degrees.
“The quality of our education is not ensured unless the program is ensured,” said Bahun, stating that students not only leave USM, but the state if program offerings continue to diminish. “I understand that faculty need to be cut but cutting a program outright is a horrible solution.”
The senate believes the university is being weakened by the elimination of programs and faculty and that the potential long-term effects don’t outweigh short-term problems the university will face.
Dodge said, “We don’t believe these cuts are in the interest of the student body.”
Hillary Clinton likes Mike.
Last Friday, supporters of Mike Michaud for governor gathered at Scarborough High School to rally alongside former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The lineup of speakers for the event also included other democrats on this years ballot. All had a common vision for the state of Maine: a restoration of prosperity, equal rights and a government where republicans and democrats are able to work together for the common good.
“Hillary is an inspiration to me as a leader, as a mother, as a grandmother and as the women who has put millions of cracks in the glass ceiling facing women all over,” said Emily Cain, state senator.
She added that Mainers deserve representatives in Washington D.C. that are willing to work just as hard as the middle class does to get things done.
“The election comes down to a simple question: Who’s on your side? Who’s going to work hard for you? Who has the value …. to make sure Maine’s economy works for everyone, not just a privileged few?” asked Clinton. “Who will go to Augusta and make it absolutely clear that the governor is the servant of the people?”
According to Clinton, there’s only one answer: Mike Michaud.
“It’s a divided congress who too often are standing on opposite sides of the room,” said Cain. “Two parties who won’t come to the same table. I know the problems facing our country and our state are too big to resolve in just one party platform. That’s what I’ve always known.”
Karen Mills, who served as the 23rd administrator of the small business administration under President Barack Obama added, “Mike can work across the aisle. That’s because he believes in community. In communities you bring people together to get things done.”
She went on to explain that Michaud knows that Maine deserves the best ideas and the best thinkers for our state.
“Mike Michaud is a leader,” said Mills. “Make no mistake about that. Sometimes he doesn’t say too much, but you don’t have to talk loudly to be a strong leader.”
When Michaud took the stage, he recognized the new supporters and continued supporters in the crowd.
“I see college students, young children, professors and teachers, doctors and veterans,” said Michaud. “I just want you to know that I am standing with you. I’ll continue to fight.”
Fight, according to Michaud, to build a better future for the people of Maine.
“I see neighbors here from all walks of life,” said Michaud. “People who, like me, are driven by hope and for a better tomorrow.”
Michaud explained that, right now, Maine is at a crossroads.
“Too many people are out of work or working too hard for too little. Too many students are saddled with debt. Too many schools are underfunded and even understaffed,” said Michaud. “Too many children have too little to eat. Governor LePage will never, ever be able to fix these problems because he’s too divisive and too weathered to his ideologies to listen to anyone who has the audacity to disagree with him.”
He added that Maine is full of opportunities, but one man, Governor Paul LePage, is holding the state back.
“You deserve a governor who knows what it’s like to punch a time clock and will fight for everyone to have the same shot at the American dream that he has had,” said Clinton. “I think Maine needs a fresh start.”
Clinton recognized the family values that “Mainers” have in them. According to her, though she and Michaud grew up in different parts of the country, their families taught them the same lesson: the only direction to move is forward.
“Never quit, never lose faith,” said Clinton. “When you get knocked down, get right back up. We were taught that there is work and dignity in every human being. Everyone deserves a chance, a second chance and even a third chance at a better life for themselves and their families.”
According to Clinton, Michaud knows this “in his bones.”
“Being a Mainer isn’t a label,” said Clinton. “It’s a way of life.”
Clinton acknowledged that Maine was hit hard by the Great Recession, and attributed the slowed economic recovery to a lack of leadership in the governor’s office.
“You haven’t seen leadership,” said Clinton. “You’ve seen gridlock. You’ve seen what happens when politicians operate in what I call an ‘evidence free zone.’”
According to Clinton, Mainers just have to make sure Michaud gets the most amount of votes by spreading the word.
“If you like Mike like I like Mike, make sure everybody knows why and do everything you can to get them to vote,” said Clinton. “Tell them there isn’t any doubt in your mind about who is on your side.”
Last week, Nancy Erickson a French professor at USM, logged onto her computer and learned in a mass email that her department and position were slated for elimination by an administration that is attempting to bridge a projected $16 million budget gap.
“The announcement email from the Provost to the entire community was the way I found out that I was fired,” said Erickson.
Erickson, who’s been teaching French at USM for over 18 years, has worked 15 hour days frantically trying to convince the administration to reverse this decision, however the proposal got finalized last Friday at a meeting where the board of trustees voted 9-2 for the cuts. Erickson said however, in an email to her supporters, that this fight is far from over. After the six hour meeting, Erickson spoke to President Flanagan and several trustee members about devising a viable plan to implicate a French major across the entire U-Maine system.
“I will work with my colleagues around the System on our current proposal which the System failed to implement before, and will submit a new proposal in the next few weeks,” said Erickson.
Erickson also created a Facebook page called “Saving French at USM,” which has served as a forum for students, faculty and community members to express their mutual outrage.
Erickson said that she’s received many inquiries from students that are worried about whether they will be able to finish their degree in the spring, to which she wasn’t able to give a clear answer.
The general feeling concerning this issue among several students and community members is confusion. According to upset students, the administration is turning their back to an academic department that appeals to Maine’s largest ethnic group. Maine has 300,000 Franco-Americans, according to 2012 census data, and the majority of them live in USM’s backyard. Taking Flanagan’s new vision for a metropolitan university into account, many students find it “ridiculous” and counter-intuitive to remove French from USM’s curriculum.
According to Thomas Bahun, a newly appointed student senator and senior double major in history and political science, the administration has overlooked the cultural and economic impact of the French department.
“Their strategies are just short term patchworks,” said Bahun. “French is such an integral part of our metropolitan community. It needs to stay; it’s valuable.”
Bahun said he couldn’t think of a legitimate institution that didn’t offer French and this decision is going to negatively impact enrollment and the reputation of USM as a whole.
According to Bahun, professor Erickson has graduated more French majors than anyone else in the state, but at the last board of trustees meeting he attended, the members were claiming that the department is not producing enough major graduates.
Indeed Erickson graduated fiveFrench majors last year, which was fourth in New England among public universities. But according to Erickson, the department services a broad spectrum of students, not just majors.
“I’m not just teaching 10 students, I’m teaching around 150,” said Erickson. “There are a lot of people that value language learning and want to learn how to be culturally sensitive.”
Both Bahun and Erickson said that French is often an elective choice for students and this shouldn’t be ignored. Learning a language arms students with valuable skills that translates over into many different academic and business applications.
Whitfield Palmer, a senior art history major, said that he’s been using his French minor to supplement his major as well as gain a leg up in his military career. Palmer said that learning French actually helped him pick up Italian quite easily while stationed in Sicily for the Navy. His French fluency was put to use as well, while he worked as a translator to the Algerian and Moroccan navy.
“It teaches you how to think,” said Palmer. “It’s vital in my area of study.”
According to Alex Lyscars, a senior political science major, if the administration offered a more comprehensive curriculum it would attract more students to the program.
When asked to address the French community’s concerns with this cut, Chris Quint, the director of public affairs, replied, “ “While we are proposing to eliminate the French major, which is averaging only 4.8 graduates a year, we will continue to meet the needs of those students who want to take a class, or multiple, in French.”
“Entry level French courses are just not going to cut it,” said Lyscars. “If there were more classes and opportunities offered, there would be more graduates.”
According to a poll conducted by the University of Maine in 2012, students with French heritage would prefer to see more courses offered in schools. These students are also more likely to base their enrollment decisions on which school has courses in French language and culture. With thousands of Franco-Americans living in Maine, students like Lyscars are baffled as to why the administration doesn’t capitalize on this demand.
“It’s like their trying to cut the University out from under our feet,” said Lyscars. “It’s ridiculous that such a talented professor [Erickson] is losing her job. She’ll survive, but this is her heart and soul.”
“I will fight this,” wrote Erickson in an email to her supporters. “Thank you so much for your support. I made all the difference in the world.”
Are you afraid of big bad Ebola? Should you be worried about a campus wide outbreak? Teachers gave a resounding no.
There have been over 4,500 deaths from Ebola in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In America there have been four confirmed cases, three in Dallas, and one recently occurring in New York. One man has died from Ebola in America.
Professor Lisa Moore and Professor Rachel Larsen are microbiologists who teach one of the science labs that nursing students take. They said that basic cleanliness can help prevent the spread.
“Just really careful sterile technique is going to go a long way to preventing the spread of Ebola. And quarantine would also be important” Dr. Moore said. The two professors teach the science behind why you need to be covered and wear gloves when dealing with infectious disease.
They said students shouldn’t worry about Ebola. “Ebola is in your blood. It is not airborne. It’s less transmissible than the flu,” Moore said.
Larsen backed her up.
“The flu is worse as far as being passed from person to person, because it’s airborne and can be passed by a sneeze even twenty feet away,” said Larsen. “Ebola is less worrisome [to catch] because you have to directly touch bodily fluids of a person.”
“I think for the average student walking around campus your chances of getting it are .0000 – I mean, really low,” Larsen said.
Students are aware of all the hype around Ebola. Max Feigenbaum, a sophomore biology major, said, “I think it’s pretty ridiculous. Four people? Four Americans have been infected by Ebola and everybody goes nuts, but thousands of people die from the flu and nobody will get a shot.”
Feigenbaum recognized the media has been playing up the danger of Ebola to get ratings.
By: Brian Gordon
“That’s the messed up thing. I am worried,” said Feigenbaum. “I’m aware of what’s happening [with the media] and I’m critical of it, but I still worry about Ebola.”
While Feigenbaum was critical of the media and the government’s handling of the outbreak, he acknowledged we are much more equipped to handle this than Liberia. “I trust my doctors. Wash your hands and don’t drink people’s blood,” he offered as advice.
Other students weren’t as trusting. Crystal Palmer, a senior political science major, said, “I have issues with the planes not being kept at bay, with people from infected countries. I have no faith in our U.S. government.”
“I think the media has had a big hand in blowing it out of proportion and hyping up all of America. It’s gone overboard,” said Palmer. “Super overboard.”
Dr. Bill Thornton from the psychology department said that the media is just doing their jobs; we’re the ones who take it and run with it.
“People see connections even when they don’t exist. In order to be able to understand the world and predict things. That might further contribute to hysteria,” Thornton said.
“It’s a behavior contagion,” said Thornton. “It’s contagious behavior.”
As for those on the future front lines of the Ebola epidemic, the nursing students on campus are in good hands. They are receiving the training they need to treat and contain an infectious disease according to professor Maricia Goldenberg who teaches a community health course.
“Do not panic,” said Goldenberg. “Do not be hysterical. And if you’re going to worry, worry about the people in West Africa and that’s where your attention should be.”
Just over two weeks after USM President David Flanagan announced the administration’s plan to close two academic programs to battle the university’s budget deficit, the elimination of the undergraduate French and graduate applied medical sciences programs have been approved.
The UMaine system board of trustees approved the elimination plan with a 9-2 vote before over a hundred students, faculty, alumni and community members who had packed into Sullivan Gym to hear their decision.
63 people signed up to speak during the public comment period, which ended up lasting nearly three hours, all in support of one of the programs or against the faculty retrenchments likely to come at the end of the month.
“I’m here to ask you to slow down this train,” Jerry LaSala, a professor of physics and USM faculty senate chair, said to the board, taking issue with the fast-paced actions of the administration. “There was no consultation with faculty or students before the announcement and the deadlines for comment were so quick – it was basically the very least you could do.”
Other speakers complained about the board’s haste in eliminating the programs, saying that the community would gladly assist them in finding cost saving measures, if only they were given the opportunity.
Bryan Bozsik, president of the Bioscience Association of Maine board of directors, told the board of trustees to postpone a vote until it could complete an adequate impact report and study how the eliminations would affect the surrounding community.
“In the proposal you are considering today, both the association and the industry do not feel like these criteria were met,” said Bozsik, echoing the concerns of other leaders in the medical field, including speakers from Maine Medical Center, Maine Molecular Quality Controls and IDEXX Laboratories.
Alumni came to speak about their experiences at USM and how they felt the eliminations would affect the quality of education at the university.
“I am insulted that you have told me that my studies are not important enough to continue here, that my professor is not worth keeping here,” said James Spizuoco, who double-majored in classics and political science, two programs that will be hit with faculty retrenchments this month. “The person who got me into law school is just a number to you, just a position.”
He argued that cutting programs and faculty would not save money, but cost USM in the long-run, as students will leave or stop enrolling because they’re losing their mentors.
LaSala spoke on that same issue, comparing the administration’s situation to that of a bus company.
“When they cut back the number of buses, then there’s fewer passengers because [the buses] don’t go where you want them to,” he said. “And that’s the road we’re going down here.”
Max Reinhold, a graduate student in the applied medical sciences program, said that without the faculty and labs, he wouldn’t be able to gain the real world skills he needs to compete in the job market.
“You don’t ask a carpenter to learn carpentry online and you don’t ask a molecular biologist to learn without a lab,” said Reinhold. “Earning a degree is not the same as getting an education.”
“I come from a non-traditional science background. I’ve worked hard to balance my workload and be a full time graduate student and what I ask from the administration is the same hard work,” he said. “Elimination is the easy way out, but it’s not a long solution. [Instead of working] I could go sell one of my kidneys, but that’s not a good long term solution.”
Despite the hours of student, faculty and community testimony, administrative leaders stood by their plan to eliminate the programs.
“I am here today along with Provost [Joseph] McDonnell, in partial fulfillment of the mandate you gave me,” said Flanagan to the board. “What you asked of me then is that we put this university on a financially sustainable basis so we assure it’s long term future as best we can. I believe the plan we are putting before you today is an important building block and an overall strategy for achieving the goals you set.”
Flanagan noted that there were alternative plans in front of the board, but none of them were viable in terms of the system’s financial situation. He said continuing to offer the same programs would force a tuition raise to at least $10,000 a year and that planning to close down a campus would easily take over a year to plan and execute.
UMaine chancellor James Page, who chose to save his comments until the end of the discussion, stated plainly that the plan put forth by Flanagan was a good choice and was a necessary move to put USM in a healthy financial state.
“Time is now dictating events,” he said. “The structural budgetary gap is real and its effects are now immediate.”
Trustees Shawn Moody and Kurt Adams openly opposed the cuts, citing a lack of time to spend studying the data and concerns raised by industry leaders as reasons to take more time considering the proposal.
All other trustees voted to eliminate the programs.
“This is not an easy decision for any of us,” said Samuel Collins, chair of the board. “However, we cannot ignore the facts. We have to plug the hole before the ship sinks.”
In response to a strong urge from the administration and a financial incentive to retire early, 25 faculty members from USM have voluntarily decided to step down from their teaching positions.
The biggest facets of President David Flanagan’s $16-million budget saving plan includes, most recently, eliminations of the French and applied medical science departments and cuts to both the faculty and administrative staff. Judie O’ Malley, the assistant director of public affairs, confirmed that if each department was to meet its reduction specified by the Provost McDonnell, that no retrenchments would be required.
O’Malley noted, however, that that only pertains to this fiscal year, and things could change next year.
According to O’Malley, the administration would have been happy if all 50 positions were eliminated through retirement, but the current number of early retirees also pleases the administration.
The plan originally was to make the early retirement packages attractive enough for even more faculty members to voluntarily decide to take them. Chris Quint, USM’s director of public affairs said that the final decision regarding retrenchments will be made at the end of the month.
“No final determinations have been made regarding specific retrenchments,” said Quint.
According to Rick Abrams, a professor in the English department, the administration is now negotiating retirement deals with interested faculty, whether or not they’ve met the original deadline.
“Well it sounds like they’re offering better deals now,” said Abrams.
Abrams said that he thinks the administration has created a slightly coercive, pressurized environment within departments by pushing retirement incentives to the older faculty members. “I really don’t like the anti-intellectual direction this university has taken,” said Abrams. “They’ve seemed to forgotten the importance of research as well as teaching.”
On top of the 25 faculty members in the process of retiring, there are also an additional 11 from departments that haven’t been targeted, but Quint said those retirements won’t count towards the original quota.
O’Malley said that these retirements will need additional review from the provost, because at least some of them will create vacancies that need to be replaced.
The elimination of 50 faculty, whether it be from retirement or retrenchment is budgeted to save USM six-million dollars, with 3.3 million allegedly saved so far. Some faculty members are skeptical and are concerned that a lot of retirements might cost the school more money than it saves.
“Everybody is asking, ‘how on earth are they going to pay next year’s budget if they are paying out a bunch of severance?’” said Abrams. “At 1.5 times their salary, it would be cheaper to teach.”
In light of the administration’s plan to eliminate 50 faculty positions and two academic programs, the faculty senate has proposed alternative plans that include better incentives for early retirements and the possible elimination of one of USM’s three campuses.
According to Tom McDonald, an associate professor of business computing, closing off a campus has been discussed before but never in a formal proposal. Flanagan has asked for an analysis on the costs of each different campus to help him identify if this proposal is feasible and worth considering. The senate didn’t point to any specific campus to be targeted for elimination, but proposed that all three should be examined for areas where money could be saved.
“I will take that proposal [to eliminate one of the campuses] to the chancellor and the board of trustees,” said Flanagan. “We’re willing to listen to any proposal, if we have time.”
Offering retirement incentives to over 100 eligible faculty members to potentially reduce the number of retrenchments was also deliberated at length after being proposed by professor of English Bud McGrath. Changing the terms of retirement would have to go through the U Maine system’s Human Resources Department before they would be implemented. Lydia Savage, a professor of geography and anthropology, asked whether or not meeting the proposed retirement quota would save certain departments from retrenchments, but Flanagan declined to answer.
“So retirement may not save a department?” asked Savage. “I need clarity on this issue.”
Jeannine Uzzi, an associate professor of classics and vice chair of the faculty senate, agreed that the issue wasn’t made clear and said that there is a great deal of confusion concerning retirement and retrenchment and how the two pots of money differ from one another. Uzzie asked how is it possible that paying severance to fired faculty is cheaper than awarding early retirement benefits.
The Provost McDonnell responded to Savage and said that it really would depend on where the retirements come from and that we have to look at the larger picture of closing the budget.
“If we get the 50 or 60 retirements we hope for, it’s certainly going to help save the budget,” said McDonnell. “But it may or may not lead to retrenchments.”
Despite the uncertainty the senate voted unanimously that overall the retirement packages should be made more attractive. According to Bud Mcgrath an English professor, an incentive like offering 18 months of pay plus benefits, the amount that a faculty member would of been paid out if laid off, might influence some faculty’s decision to retire early. The Provost said that about 20 faculty so far are on board for early retirement, but they need more.
“Offering incentives are always better than trying to coerce people, either by fear or guilt,” said Joe Medley an associate professor of economics. “I’ve been told by colleagues at the University of New Hampshire, for example, that our current incentives for retirement are ridiculous.”
According to Medley, incentives for retirement is a strategy that is not uncommon in other universities.
After over an hour without making a statement, Flanagan said that he will take any proposal seriously but the time to deliberate is quickly running out and decisions need to be made now.
“We can’t just wish this deficit away,” said Flanagan. “There’s no more time for aspirational objectives.”
Flanagan’s plan to cut 50 faculty positions would take off about $6 million off of the $16 million budget deficit and must be finalized by Oct. 31. According to Flanagan the remainder will come from administrative cuts that will be announced in November.
Flanagan noted that he’s a newcomer bringing serious changes to USM and that he’s aware that he can’t really appreciate USM as much as all the people who have dedicated such a large portion of their life and energy to this academic community.
Still some faculty members feel that the administration could be collaborating and working more closely with the faculty to bring solutions that are supportive of departments, instead of destructive. Uzz,i for example,detailed her efforts to build a classics major over the past year that could be franchised across all seven campuses. According to Uzzi, she saw plenty of enrollment, even from students in Farmington and Presque Isle, and worked hard to establish a comprehensive classics curriculum but now is simply being fired.
“Last year I was asked to build a system and I did it, and it’s working, but now it’s over and I’m being retrenched,” said Uzzi. “The system did nothing to support me. I just want to know why I was asked to do all this work, just to be fired.”
Uzzi said that she thinks there is no real plan apart from just frantically trying to save money. She believes that programs like hers could work with a tiny bit of support, but there is just no real collaboration with the administration.
“Where is all our work going?” asked Uzzi.
Savage also spoke out for a closer relationship between the administration and faculty, noting that several departments have already gone through several reconstructions over the past six years without any real advice from up top.
“All they’ve said is that these departments [French and applied medical science] are just too expensive,” said Savage.
Savage said that she asked the President last week what will happen when we lose the $3.5 million from tuition once the 50 faculty members are gone in the spring. Flanagan simply said that “we’ll just have to cut more.”
“I don’t know what’s left to cut; we’re bare to the bone,” said Savage. “We’re competing with SMCC and in good faith I would tell students to go there. It’s half the cost and if we can’t offer more than them, how can we ask them to incur debt to get a degree that lacks integrity, rigor and the faculty that can sustain an education.”
The recent plan to cut the undergraduate French program and the master’s program in applied sciences would affect five and three faculty members, respectively. The topics of these cuts were also met with much displeasure from members of the faculty senate, including Nancy Erickson, an associate professor of French.
“I’m here to ask the faculty senate to help me convince the administration that French be considered important and be granted a stay of execution,” said Erickson. “We’re not low hanging fruit to just be picked off.”
Erickson said that her department trains students that stay in Maine and graduates twice as many French majors as the national average.
The senate meeting extended for an extra 30 minutes and the members didn’t even have a chance to talk about specifics on the budget agenda. They did, however, get a chance to read through the student senate resolution that stated the student members would be more actively involved in finding solutions to the budget deficit. Several members of the faculty senate applauded the students for their tenacity, proficient use of language and grammar and a well developed understanding of USM’s extensive issues.
“Can I just say that the students here kick ass,” said Uzzi.