The Direction Package Advisory Board met for the first time on Friday in the Brooks Student Center in Gorham to discuss tactics and strategies for creating a cohesive direction package that will be presented to the Board of Trustees.
Approximately 30 people were assembled at the meeting in order to represent a broad cross-section of the university community, with participants from the Student Senate, faculty, Alumni Board, Faculty Senate Budget and Strategic Planning commitee, Professional Staff Senate, Academic Deans, Graduate Student Leadership, advisors and more. “This is our chance to come together and work on how USM is going to go forward into the future,” President Theo Kalikow said to the group.
The first meeting consisted of making introductions, creating a schedule of meeting dates, clarifying objectives and establishing ground rules for discussing the direction package.
The meeting opened with a speech from Justin Alfond, Maine state Senate president. He said his hope is that the Advisory Board could establish a single vision for the future USM. “My hope for you all is to really do this together,” he said. He also offered his support to the group.
Two main objectives were identified for the board to address. First, the difference between how much money USM takes in and the amount it costs to keep the school running must be addressed. They want to come up with strategies to close the gap. This includes finding ways to increase enrollment and increase revenues.
The second objective is to develop a clear vision of what the future of USM is going to look like. This includes answering questions about where the university is headed and what its key goals are.
“Most of the financial problems are long term systemic problems that we’ve tried to address through cuts. We can’t cut our way to brilliance. We need to see the things we do best and do them better,” said Jerry Lasala, the chair of the physics department and co-sponsor of the Advisory Board with university President Theo Kalikow.
Kalikow expressed her hope for what the group will accomplish. “We will achieve a large degree of consensus and understanding,” Kalikow said. She also expressed her opinion that the Board needs to listen to students and discover what they need.
The board addressed concerns about the time constraints they are facing. Despite the 23 meetings that are scheduled for the next four months, the group was concerned that they might not have enough time to come up with a unified consensus and recommendations.
A major concern for many of the participants was whether or not to allow the press to attend future meetings. For almost two hours, the participants weighed the costs and benefits of press coverage. While many expressed their desire for the process to be as transparent and open as possible, many feared the possibility of negative press. Some believed that if the press were to attend the meetings, the members would not feel safe to openly express their opinions. They said that they feared that the board may be misrepresented or have their preliminary thoughts published.
Many believe that recent negative press has been detrimental to the image of the school and that the university is losing applications because of it. They want to present a positive image to the students and faculty.
Some, like Kelsea Dunham the student body president, said that the press is necessary to keep the student body informed about the decisions being made in the Advisory Board meetings.
The Board did not reach a conclusion about whether or not to admit the press. While they want to keep the student body informed, they were unsure about how to do so. Some options included having private executive sessions or presenting relevant information to the press through press conferences.
The meeting ended with a short speech from the Chancellor Jim Page. ”I’m here to voice my strong support to the University of Southern Maine,” he told the group. He offered the board support and a helping hand. “The work of this group is going to have implications well beyond this school,” he said.
Last Tuesday’s election may not have been the flashiest or most controversial, but the passage of one of the referendum questions on the ballot is good news for USM.
University of Maine System Chancellor James Page thanked voters for the passage of Question 2, the bond issue for funding for STEM classroom and lab renovations throughout the University of Maine System, in a statement.
“Those upgrades will create immediate local construction jobs, and they will create a better learning environment for our students to receive education and training for careers that Maine needs, Maine employers have, and Maine students want,” Page wrote.
Dean and Professor of Technology Andrew Anderson told the Free Press in an email, “We are very appreciative the citizens of Maine have chosen, through approval of the bond, to support higher education in general and the needs of USM in particular. While USM continually works to find resources to maintain laboratories and equipment, funds such as those available through this bond are needed to make more significant upgrades.”
Detailing how much money will be allocated to six of its seven campuses, the Chancellor stated that USM will receive $4 million that will be used to renovate some of the labs at its Portland, Gorham and Lewiston campuses.
Regarding where the money will be spent, Anderson said in an email, “The actual bond indicated that funds would likely be used for the Bailey Science Wing in Gorham, Payson Smith Hall in Portland, the Science Wing in Portland and facilities in Lewiston. We will likely be able to complete a few major laboratory renovations and less extensive upgrades to several others. The actual number of laboratories that can be upgraded will be dependent on engineering studies of the spaces to determine associated costs. There are plenty of candidates and we will attempt to make the broadest impact possible with the resources available.”
USM needs to update equipment and renovate lab and classrooms in all of the science departments. Mike Callahan, lab manager for the Biology 106 class, said, “If the biology department does get any kind of money, the labs still have old microscopes that need updating. There would be a slew of emails going around to get some monies for improvements in the department.”
Anderson explained the lab manager position, “Each department has its own lab manager, who set up labs, might do lab teaching sometimes and provide support. Different units have different demands.” Associate Dean Charles Fitts added, “Lab managers order supplies, set up labs and run so many lab sections. There are a large number of majors and lab classes that it makes sense to have someone do it.”
According to an email from Anderson, “While we have a pretty good sense of areas of need, we will seek input from faculty and staff in further defining need and establishing priorities. While this is a substantial amount of funding, it will not meet all needs.” He further clarified via a phone call that none of the funds will be used for job positions.
Anderson indicated in the email that it is not known when the renovations will take place because they don’t know when the bond money will become available for the individual campuses. After the design work has been completed, scheduling will be the next issue that needs to be addressed since the rooms where courses currently occur might have to be moved.
When asked about the effect upon students at USM, Masina Wright a part-time faculty member in the nursing department, who teaches Botanic Therapies said, “Having more up-to-date equipment means you are on a more level playing field with richer schools.”
Dave Champlin, associate professor of biology, said, “Some professors have been here for 30-40 years and have not seen some of the labs renovated. It’s expensive to update science labs and is hard to justify with budget cuts. It will be money well spent. The number of science students is increasing. This is good news.”
Fitts confirmed that many of the lab spaces haven’t had major updates. “Bailey Hall was built in 1970 and hasn’t had a significant renovation, and Payson Smith has a lab that hasn’t been renovated either.” Although Anderson doesn’t have renovation records, he said, “We haven’t had major renovations in decades. Clearly, if you go around to the labs, you can see they haven’t had serious renovations in a long time.”
When asked about an increase in science students, Anderson said in an email that data tracked for the last three years shows growth, “Since 2011, the fall enrollment in sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geosciences and Physics) has increased from 516 to 551 (3.2 percent). There are other areas that have also experienced growth: Computer Science increased from 103 to 132 (28.2 percent); Engineering from 144 to 207 (43.75 percent); Linguistics from 59 to 80 (35.5 percent); Exercise Health and Sports Sciences from 351 to 385 (9.7 percent); and Recreation and Leisure Studies from 34 to 52 (52.9 percent).”
The effect of renovations on department interdisciplines is positive. “Another thing that’s exciting
Faculty aired many of the same concerns they expressed in the October senate meeting at last week’s senate, but this time with University of Maine System Chancellor James Page in attendance.
Page, who was invited to attend the meeting by Faculty Senate Chair and physics Professor Jerry LaSala, arrived in Gorham in time for some of the latter part of the Direction Package Advisory Board meeting. At the Faculty Senate meeting, which followed the Advisory Board meeting, he expressed his support for the Direction Package process. “The work that this group is doing deserves our collective support,” Page said. “It needs to be done and it needs to be done right.”
Page said he would keep his remarks brief in the interests of leaving more time for questions, and the questions that followed lasted most of the rest of the two hour meeting. The first question, posed by English Professor Nancy Gish, addressed concern for the lack of new hires and staffing gaps at the university. The particular example she brought up was the history department’s lack of a European historian, but the issue came up several times, in the contexts of a range of particular departments.
Page responded, “I am a strong believer that we have to find ways, find resources, to bring in young scholars.” He also stressed the importance of the humanities, which, he said, were easy to lose track of in the current educational and financial climate.
Page summarized the issue the university is faced with, saying, “As a university system, we do not have the luxury of saying those things [the humanities] are not important.”
“The trick,” Page went on, “is how do we resource those?”
Page’s answer to that question, which took the language departments at USM as an example, focused around collaboration within the university system, rather than trying to find solutions for one school alone. USM’s department of modern and classical languages currently consists of three full-time faculty members, with a fourth going into phased retirement over the course of the next year. The department has recently voted to cease functioning as a single administrative unit, at the request of Dean Kuzma of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. According to the dean, they are currently under the administrative umbrella of the dean’s office while other options are explored.
“Those programs are hanging on by their fingernails,” Page said, but went on to say that were they to be cut, it would be an unacceptable loss. He then pointed to the work Jeannine Uzzi, professor of classics, and French Professor Nancy Erickson are doing to develop system-wide language programs as a way to begin to consolidate resources.
Professor Carlos Luck of the engineering department brought the conversation back to the lack of faculty and lack of current hiring going on in the system. Luck cited his own finding from observation of records from the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, pointing out that dropping enrollment, one of USM’s major problems, has fallen in roughly the same pattern as faculty numbers have dropped. Classics Professor Jeannine Uzzi corroborated those numbers later in the meeting, adding, “When you lose faculty, you do lose students.”
“Provost Stevenson made it clear that he can’t approve any new faculty searches if we don’t have the money to pay for it,” Luck said.
Stevenson, who was in attendance at the meeting, did not comment. Luck then went on to say that the Direction Panel advisory board was not expected to reach any conclusions before February, and that if the university waits until then to begin a staff-search, the graduating class of scholars from 2014 will already have been hired elsewhere. Luck said that a university-wide freeze on hiring even in departments where the number of students is growing is not sustainable. “This spiraling down is dangerous and ultimately catastrophic,” Luck said.
“I can’t sit here and make any promises,” Page said to Luck, noting that the Board of Trustees will not sign off on any “blank check” financial support for the university. “I don’t argue with the strength of your concern,” he said.
Other topics of note during the question and answer period with the chancellor included the need for the Board of Trustees to advocate for higher education in the upcoming gubernatorial race, and the geographical limitations to the kind of departmental collaboration within the system which Page offered as a partial solution. Maine, several professors, including Gish and professor of Hispanic studies Charlene Suscavage pointed out, is too large for travel to different campuses to always be practical. Suscavage in particular noted that online classes are not always a viable solution, particularly in the case of dialogue-based upper-level language classes.
EDTalks, a public forum in the format of question-and-answer sessions for students who want to have a voice in education on a local and state-wide level, is being brought into existence through The Free Press in collaboration with the student body vice president, Marpheen Chann.
Chann emphasized that the event is a place for students to address their concerns and inquiries regarding their education at the University of Maine System and what the legislature’s plans are for education around the state. Politicians in the Maine Legislature, from the Portland and Gorham area, are coming to the University for the EDTalk session. Students will be able to ask these legislators about the problems surrounding the Maine education system. Chann hopes that students will tackle some of the main issues that are currently causing complications around USM—budget cuts and funding.
“These public forums are meant to help students to get a better grasp of policies around USM and Maine,” said Chann. “It also allows students to express their concerns to state leaders.”
Azia Gilbert, a senior English major, thinks that these talks will help students find out what the state’s priorities are for education. Gilbert said that in most of her classes, professors and students are voicing their frustration about all of the proposed cuts to departments at USM.
The impact that the talk can have, Chann stressed, is measuring how much the administration and the state government in Augusta are able to back up what they say. This EDTalks session is a way for students to express their concerns about their education to the people that actually make decisions regarding public education and have it lead to action in the long-term.
John Correll, a freshman music performance major, thinks the EDTalks is a great idea. Correll said that he feels like the school administration activities are not in depth or discussed in an informative way. He said that he wants to have a discourse with his fellow students in order to see different points of views on education funding and cuts.
“This event will help bring the issues closer to the hands of the students,” said Correll. “It will spread awareness to students about what is happening at USM and hopefully give them encouragement to take action.”
Essentially, the concept behind this question-and-answer session, according to Chann, is to look beyond the university political structure. This talk will help students find for information outside of the answers university officials have been giving to the faculty and student body.
“I don’t think it’s an idealistic event,” said Gilbert, after being asked what impact she thought the talk would have on students. “Hopefully it encourages people to try to change things. If anything, it will expand the minds of students and possibly empower us, as members of the university, to take action and make changes.”
Gilbert said that one of the statements she’d make to the legislators, should she attend the talk, would be her concerns about the direction for USM as a university. Gilbert believes that the university is leading itself into becoming a “glorified trade school” that merely wants students get an education to fill positions in white collar jobs. She would like to hear how the legislators would respond to this concern, and also hear what other students have to say about this opinion.
“Just because the university says we have to do something about the budget and funding doesn’t mean that the administration has the final answer to solve problems,” said Chann. “I want students to be able to find out the source of the budget cuts and where our funding is going.”
Correll agrees with Chann when it comes to learning about school funding. When Correll was asked about the inquiries he has for the EDTalk, he said that he wants to know how much of the school funding comes from the government and how much the school makes on its own. Correll also said that he thinks the impact this talk will have on the university will be small, but he appreciates the opportunity to ask questions and to see what’s going on in state funded education.
There are currently three state legislators that will be at the session on Nov. 21. Students will be able to discuss the issues with the Maine Senate president Justin Alfond, the Democratic state representative from Gorham Andrew Mclean, and the Democratic chair of the education committee in the state Senate Rebecca Miller. Chann is still trying to find one more state legislator from the Portland or Gorham area to join the discussion.
“These state representatives and senators have a responsibility to listen to students,” said Chann, “and consider what they have to say. We want students to help contribute to statewide debates on education.”
Shadiyo Hussainali is a third year biology major with a focus in pre-med at USM. Hussainali currently is living in Portland and spends a lot of her time on the Portland campus. The places she frequents vary every semester, but she consistently spends much of her time in the multicultural center located in the Woodbury. Hussainali does a lot of work there as well as in the Science Building. She is a member of the multicultural club, the pre health club and is the vice president of the Muslim Students’ Association of USM as well as doing after-school help for other students, both tutoring and advising.
Hussainali works at fundraisers and does community service for these clubs to raise awareness of various causes. Recently, Hussainali worked with the pre health club to host a salsa dance where all proceeds went to a charity. The group also raises money throughout the year for world health costs. Currently the group is hoping to partner with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for an event.
Through the multi-cultural club, Hussainali works to host events so that students can get to know one another and simply hang out and enjoy themselves. She also meets with ESL students to help teach them and encourage them to try and get a college education. As the vice president of the Muslim Association of USM, Hussainali puts together small events and things like food tables to catch students’ attention. “As a Muslim, I want to change pre-notions of what being a Muslim is. I want to educate other students who may know not know much about us. We want to help with any questions people may have. Don’t be scared to come to our events or drop by the multicultural center” Hussanali said.
After USM, Hussainali has aspirations of attending Tufts university in Boston for graduate school. Ultimately, Hussainali wants to become either an emergency physician or emergency OB GYN and get a job at Maine Med. Hussainali has already worked outside of school to make this dream a reality when she worked as an assistant for an emergency doctor at the Mid Coast hospital in Brunswick, where she mostly filled out patients’ documents for the doctor.
The Muskie School of Public Service and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute hosted its last presentation in the series “Politics Then and Now, In Maine and the Nation” for 2013, which began in September. Next March, they will have gubernatorial candidates speak. Former state Senator Cynthia Dill, Representative Kenneth Fredette, the current Republican leader in the Maine House and Amy Fried, professor of political science at UMO, who also wrote Pathways to Polling, spoke about the current challenges in politics and government on Thursday evening.
“The last house session was very tough. There was a bill to sell the Blaine House and a bill to eliminate the governor’s pension,” Fredette said. He said the bills pointed to a certain amount of friction in the house. He alluded to Governor LePage’s off-color comments about Senator Troy Jackson, of District 35, a logger from the Allagash, a small town in northern Maine.
Fredette moved on to discuss the discrepancies in campaigns by comparing clean election candidates running for the state house, who get $4,500, versus other candidates who spend $60,000. He said, “People have figured out how much power the state has and are trying to get into the House or Senate.” When Seth Goodall stepped down, Fredette said, “$100,000 was spent on both sides for the state senate race.”
“Money and influence of independent expenditures has changed the playing field. We need reforms that both Democrats and Republicans work on together,” Fredette said.
He provided an example of bipartisanship that he experienced with former Speaker of the House John Martin, a Democrat who worked with Republicans. “I served with John Martin, a legend in Maine, he was in the legislature for almost 50 years.” Being a Democrat didn’t stop him from working across party lines, Fredette said.
Part of the solution to the problems in Maine government is having fresh insights from young people. “John Martin recruited people at colleges for the legislature.” Fredette said, before reitorating that getting young people involved is something both Democrats and Republicans must do.
Because representatives and senators sometimes refuse to work together, Fredette called upon every citizen to act for change to occur. “We need to be accountable. Obviously, we need reformers: I am, you are, we are.”
This month in Information and Technology we have several projects that are moving close to completion and a few that are beginning to pick up steam. As the term settles into its groove we are working behind the scenes to plan out our work for the Spring. Yes we are already thinking about spring and we haven’t even had snow yet. Please read on for more on what we are working on for you.
CryptoLocker Malware (RansomWare)
We have had at least one instance of this particularly nasty computer malware on campus. The software is typically transmitted by email; either an attached executable or malicious link. The malware encrypts documents on your hard disk as well as any documents you have access to on network drives. This is bad. The encryption used is very good, as in so good the NSA can’t break it. Our only recourse thus far has been to restore backups for the affected user(s). As we only back up network drives, data on the local drives are lost.
Short Version: Be extra cautious of links in email, keep workstations updated, report problems immediately.
Work on moving our network services off of Novell NetWare to Microsoft continues. The next steps you will see are the removal of Novell from your workstation, updates will begin to be automatically pushed, and printers will begin to migrate.
The Novell client removal will alter your login experience. The “Red N” login screen will disappear and will be replaced with the standard Windows login screen. The “USM Apps” and other Novell specific menu and desktop items will also disappear. This process should happen automatically and may require a system reboot. Afterwards you workstation should be a bit leaner and quicker. More information is in our knowledge base at: https://webapp.usm.maine.edu/confluence/display/kb/Removal+of+Novell+and+Zenworks+Client
With the Microsoft infrastructure, we also have the ability to “push” verified updates to machines, eliminating your need to continually check for updates. We will begin doing this simultaneously with the removal of Novell from each workstation. This will ensure your systems are as up-to-date as possible and help protect against malicious software. More information is in our knowledge base at: https://webapp.usm.maine.edu/confluence/display/kb/How+Windows+Updates+are+Installed+on+USM+Computers
Along with these two processes, we will be working with you to move your printers off of the Novell printing system and onto the Microsoft one. This process will be a bit less automated than the client removal and update pushing. You may run into problems as this happens, printers may go offline or disappear. We are working to avoid this and will ensure the Helpdesk has the most current information on where work is being performed. A call to them will likely save you time and frustration.
Short Version: Final bits of Novell are being removed from workstations. Migration nearing completion.
WebCMS (Drupal 7 Launched)
Since our last update we have completed the testing and launch of Drupal version 7. This is the updated back-end system for our Web Content Management System (WebCMS). With this update we have positioned ourselves with a flexible site that will allow “responsive” designs that work on both desktop and mobile devices. This is a huge step forward in the technology and we still have steps ahead to leverage it. In addition, during the upgrade the team was able to improve the site performance for a better user experience.
Thank you to the WebCMS technical team and the Marketing and Brand Management staff for their contributions to making this upgrade go so smoothly.
Short Version: From the outside; faster but no visual changes. From the inside; prepared for responsive design.
OS X 10.9 Mavericks
Apple recently launched the next version of their OS X operating system, Mavericks 10.9. The upgraded software is free from Apple through their App Store. We are working with a few non-critical systems to test the upgrade against the most common systems and software you use. For the moment, we are suggesting you do not upgrade on any production workstations. Though we have yet to find any major complications we are a week or more from cataloging potential problems. The problems we and others have found are quirky and may be a major inconvenience for you. We are working on developing work-arounds for those but don’t expect to finish until the end of this month.
Short Version: Hold off on OS X 10.9 upgrade for now. Verification should be complete by end of month.
Blackboard is scheduled to be upgraded to “Service Pack 13,” on the weekend of November 15th-17th. A test system has been running this upgrade for a few weeks now with testing by staff at various University of Maine System campuses, with no major complications found thus far. The Blackboard support site (http://support.courses.maine.edu/) has more information about the details of the upgrade and timing.
Short Version: Blackboard out of service from 5pm on Friday 11/15 to 8am on Sunday 11/17.
Video Bridge Update
The video conferencing bridge used to offer classes and meetings between University of Maine System campuses was upgraded mid-October and then rolled back to the original system. There were technical problems found shortly after the rollout that caused major interruption to classes using the system. The team working on the system has been working to iron those out in hopes of redeploying over the semester break. When we have specific dates, we will pass those along.
Short Version: Videoconferencing bridge will be updated during semester break.
Windows 7 (and the demise of Windows XP)
The vast majority of workstations on campus are now running Windows 7. This puts us in a good position for the impending demise of Windows XP next spring. Not a great position as there are still many workstations out there with Windows XP. Some of these have technical reasons they cannot be upgraded but many are limited by financial resources. You will be hearing more from our staff on an individual basis and working with you and department heads to develop a strategy for these workstations.
Short Version: If you are running Windows XP, expect a call from us.
Executive Director for Information and Technology