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Flanagan responds to AAUP

USM Free Press News Feed - Wed, 2014-12-10 19:41

On Nov. 14, USM received a letter from The American Association for University Professors (AAUP), an organization dedicated to advancing academic freedom and shared governance, defined fundamental professional values and standards for higher education and ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good, in opposition to recent cuts. The university is now under investigation as a result of a noncompliance in responding on time.

The association legally has no standing in regards to what happens at USM, but due to national credibility and respect in the educational world altogether, USM’s unwillingness to comply with AAUP standards may affect its success as an institution down the road.

President David Flanagan responded to the initial letter on Dec. 3, a week after the given deadline as given by the AAUP, indicating that, while USM has not followed AAUP standards, it has been in compliance with contracts.

“The University has undertaken retrenchment pursuant to the contract in order to address what are real and demonstrable financial needs present at the University of Southern Maine,” Flanagan wrote.

The AAUP argued that USM had to file “financial exigency” to cut staff and programs in the way that it is, but Flanagan argued that this is not the case.

“You are correct when you state the University of Maine System has not declared a condition of financial exigency,” Flanagan wrote. “In fact, it is under obligation to do so based on the negotiated terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the University of Maine System faculty and applicable Trustee policy.”

The AAUP did send a second letter, indicating its future plans for USM, which was sent before Flanagan initially responded.

They explained that the actions of USM have raised significant issues of academic freedom, tenure and due process, that they describe as basic concerns” the academic community.

“In situations of this kind, our experience has indicated that it is desirable, in fairness to the institutional administration, to the affected faculty members, and to the institution as a whole, to establish an ad hoc committee composed of professors from other academic institutions, to conduct its own full inquiry without prejudgment of any kind,” wrote Anita Levy, senior program officer of the AAUP.

The executive directors has authorized the appointment of members to fill this ad-hoc committee to investigate USM.

The committee, according to Levy, will be provided with relevant available information for its examination and will arrange for a site visit, expected in January, in order to consult in full measure with the chief administrative officers, affected professors, and such other members of the faculty and administrations, to ensure that the university will have a full opportunity to present its position.

The letter ends with indicating the AAUP’s receptivity to resolve concerns without the necessity of an investigation.

Flanagan continued to stress that USM had followed all protocols, and the AAUP has no standing in matters at the university.

Although the AAUP Recommended Institutional Regulation on academic Freedom and Tenure, is not a part of the University of Maine System’s governing policies and has never been adopted as such, both the trustees and decision makers at USM working together have followed all applicable university policies and procedures,” concluded Flanagan. “The role of the faculty has been fully respected in this process.”

 

The search for a new president begins

USM Free Press News Feed - Wed, 2014-12-10 19:37

The online portal to submit applications and be considered as a candidate for USM’s presidency has closed, but the search for a new leader is far from over.

A presidential search committee has and will continue to be working on narrowing down the number of applicants into a workable number of people to be interviewed starting in January.

Heading the committee is James Irwin, a board of trustees member, who said that he’s hopeful that his group will be reviewing excellent candidates.

The rest of the committee is made up of representatives from the faculty, staff, student body and outside community. According to Irwin, the plan is to find a leader that understands the ins and outs of higher education, but also one that exhibits entrepreneurial qualities.

“We’re not only looking for someone who’s climbed the ranks at an academic institution,” said Irwin. “We want someone with a track record of building successful relationships and partnerships with organizations.”

Current interim president David Flanagan has stated to his staff that he won’t be considered as a candidate and that he’s only serving as president until a new one is found.

“We’ve been accepting applications on a confidential website,” said Irwin.

The current timeline is as follows, but according to Irwin, is not etched in stone. The committee is meeting this week to review and discuss the first big batch of applications. In January the committee will meet again to trim down the applicant pool even further to a group of people that can be invited for on-campus interviews. This would be the time that the names of the finalists would be released to the public.

“The whole process won’t work if we can’t protect the names of the applicants,” said Irwin.

The committee hopes that sometime prior to the March board of trustees meeting that they will have three-to-four names to recommend to the chancellor. Once the board approves of a candidate, then the plan would be to have that person start before the fall semester begins.

According to Irwin, the new president will have to be someone that embraces the new metropolitan model, a vision he believes most of the USM community has accepted.

“We want someone to be an agent of change……someone who will continue the process we started,” said Irwin.

Irwin said that a good academic leader is a person that can communicate, identify problems and understand the real purpose of higher education: to provide students with the resources they need to build enriching and meaningful lives and careers.

Irwin said, “We need someone to articulate why USM matters in this community.”

 

USM observes World AIDs Day

USM Free Press News Feed - Wed, 2014-12-10 19:35

By: Alex Huber

Last week by joint efforts from the Portland and Gorham Well and the multicultural center and health services, free HIV screening tests were made available to all students. These tests were given out as part of USM’s recognition of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1st. In addition to the free testing, educational events took place on Monday.

USM went beyond a single day of observance. The screening tests were available all week. The test kits used are newer and less invasive than a standard blood test, which is what has been used in the past for HIV testing at health services.

These new tests use a cheek swab and allow results to be seen in less than half an hour, a major improvement over the blood tests. With the blood test, a student wouldn’t have their result on the same day. With the rapid test, they get them before leaving.

These free tests were given to USM by Maine’s Department of Health Services. In total the university received 125 tests. In addition to the tests, the department also provided training to the health services staff.

Unlike normal health services procedures, these test, as part of World AIDS Day, were anonymous. Over the course of the week nearly 40 of these free anonymous tests were administered. Lisa Belanger, the director of health services, was pleased with the number considering that it was the week after break.

“When you’re providing an event on the Monday after a four day break, it’s challenging,” said Belanger.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, there were 39 new cases of HIV in Maine during 2013. This brings the total number of people diagnosed to 1706 people living in Maine with HIV. Belanger said that that number was lower than the nationwide average.

“If you compared us to other states of a similar population like South Dakota,we have relatively low rates,” Belanger said.

One in seven people who have contracted HIV are unaware of their disease. Belanger urges students who think they may need an HIV test to contact health services. Though the tests were intended for this past week, Belanger has said that the tests will remain anonymous and free until supplies run out.

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