USM Transition

USM Transition

USM Transition

On Wednesday, March 19, Chancellor Page and President Kalikow provided a university-wide update to discuss USM's future. Joining them on stage were Trustee Karl Turner, Trustee James Erwin, Trustee Mark Gardner, Student Body President Kelsea Dunham, USM Foundation Board Chair Rick Vail and USM Foundation Board member Ed McKersie.

You can watch a video of the presentation and read President Kalikow's text from that event.

President Theo Kalikow presented USM's transition to the Faculty Senate on Friday, March 14.

You can listen to or watch President Kalikow's presentation or read the text below. 

You can view the accompanying PowerPoint slide.


Good afternoon.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today and start the next step of our journey together to fix the structural gap we are facing and transition to a new, brighter phase of what we all know we have the potential of becoming.

I want to stress right off the bat that we’re not going to leave here at 4 p.m. with all the details of how we will transition to that brighter future.  We’ll be making and announcing a series of decisions throughout the month and beyond. The goal today is to provide some context, to ask the Senate for its review of two recommendations, and to foreshadow some decisions we need to make later in the month. 

But before I get to those issues I have something very personal I want to say to you.

This is bittersweet…

It is bittersweet because simultaneously we are charting a course for a brighter future (the hopefully encouraging part) AND (slight pause) talking about cuts, program eliminations and other very difficult decisions that impact the lives of some of you, our staff, and some of our students in order to be able to balance the budget.

I want to acknowledge that facing some of these issues is long overdue and therefore the magnitude is larger than if it had been caught and rectified earlier.  I also want to acknowledge that I am not blaming faculty or staff, past or present, nor is the chancellor.

So, this is difficult for all of us, but most especially for those directly impacted.  I personally am tired of having to give our valued colleagues bad news. We need a different way forward.

It is my role to be the point person for the tough decisions that will, ultimately, position this university for a brighter future, one which will include a national search for a new president. 

But, we are here today to lay out decisions that will first attend to the fiscal gap. We then must enable this great university to regain its focus, and to better serve our students and our community. To do so, we will develop a series of specific cuts and specific investments. Cost cutting can’t be the only answer.

On Friday, February 28, as I listened to the findings presented in the Direction Package Advisory Board, I was thankful that this process engaged stakeholders from so many groups and with such diversity.

What became clear is that we, and members of the off-campus community, all recognize that USM is critical to Maine’s success and we must work together to enhance that in the eyes of our students and the community. The Direction Package team provided context for the recommendations.

I want to quickly revisit them with you now.

Slide 2 – Projected Number of High School Graduates 2012-20

As you know, the majority of USM students come from Maine. Demographic trends indicated a population decline in a specific age range long ago. We began a series of steps to anticipate and address this fall off. However, just as this demographic trend arrived on our doorstep, we also faced a long recession and population out-migration from the state, both of which have negatively affected this trend line for USM. Today, there are simply fewer Maine high school graduates to attract to USM. This is a trend that we will be facing for another six to seven years.

This trend does not affect all colleges and universities equally. Those with greater resources can provide attractive financial aid packages or innovative education financing. The competition for students is significant now and will become fierce. Maine’s public universities and colleges are all grappling with this reality. We are NOT alone!

Slide 3 – Total Credit Hours

While the Maine demographic chart tells a broad story, the Total Credit Hours makes our particular fiscal challenge very clear. This chart indicates credit hours of 195,532 in 2005-2006, and 175,185 in 2013-2014. During the same period, our headcount dropped from 10,974 to 8,923, or in FTE’s from 7,348 to 6,460. I doubt this is news to any of you. These trends are well known.

Over the past five or more years, you have lived through multiple processes to address these trends. 

I’m going to express an opinion here. I would suggest that what has been done in the past to match budget to income was done by well-intentioned folks … often with the goal to be the least disruptive to the existing mission of the University, while believing that enrollments would return to pre 2006 levels.  However, it was incremental, not transformative. And the enrollments did not come back.

Today we are faced with a $14 million dollar structural gap between expenses and revenue from all sources. If we don’t address the core issues, we also project additional shortfalls going forward.

Today, we are faced with declining demographic trends, a lagging economy, and reduced state funding which pose challenges to our mission and our ability to remain solvent. It’s time for us to work together to design a series of changes that lead USM into a future that provides a more fulfilling experience for students, and better serves our communities and the state.

It falls on me to guide the process, but thankfully I did not have to do it alone. The Direction Package Board provided recommendations, some immediate, some for further consideration.

I want to address one of those right now.

The Direction Package Vision/Identity subgroup’s recommendation to position ourselves as Maine’s Metropolitan University is right. This identity will bring far greater consistency, focus and intentionality to our work and takes advantage of one of the assets that we uniquely enjoy.

Slide 4 – A Metropolitan University

We must commit, in the words of the Vision/Identity subgroup, to more intentional interactions with our metropolitan areas; provide leadership to improve the quality of community life; and offer flexible, adaptive, accessible courses of study, relevant to the needs of our students and communities and grounded in the arts and sciences.

I am convinced that if we wholeheartedly commit to this vision that we will build a greater appreciation for all that we have to offer; carve out a distinctive advantage that prospective students will recognize in the increasingly competitive higher ed marketplace; and be better positioned to serve our students and Maine people well into the future.

USM serves the two most highly populated metro areas in Maine. We are in the right location to leverage critical collaborations with non-profits, government, and industry. 

And we have numerous faculty already involved in applied research, scholarship and creative projects outside USM campus borders – and I want to thank you for your leadership as examples to the rest of us.

You and your colleagues have critically important roles to play in helping our students utilize our cities as living laboratories, thereby enriching their learning experience, strengthening the academic culture of the university, and contributing to the economic, civic and cultural life of Maine communities.

Since the Direction Package was unveiled, a lot of discussion has already occurred. The Free Press editorial in the February 24 edition embraced the notion of Metropolitan University. 

Recently, Student Body President Kelsea Dunham, in her “State of the University” presentation, noted that we are not using our location as well as we could. She emphasized that students, and I quote, “want to see how our majors could work together to solve the problems of our communities.” Thank you Kelsea.

It is not, however, a new idea to us – an interesting fact is that USM was a founding member of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities in 1990-1991. There are currently over 50 members of this coalition and the values and mission align well with much of what USM is already doing.  So, while we are positioned well, there are very specific standards for achieving status as a

Metropolitan University and for USM, work will need to be done. It is not status claimed, but one that is achieved.

There are important, near-term goals that can be achieved that will help us reach our long-term goals. An interim step is to achieve a formal Carnegie Classification of “Engaged Campus.” This classification will provide a formal, widely recognized framework by which we can solidify our position as Maine’s Metropolitan University.

The Carnegie Foundation’s formal description of an “Engaged Campus” states, and I quote, “The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.”

What I’m proposing today, and will share with the wider community in coming days and weeks, sets a foundation for this vision that aligns with the recommendations of the Vision/Identity Subgroup of the Direction Package.

However, before we build, we must make certain that the structural foundation will hold.

To support this foundation, the Creating Organization Responsibility and Effectiveness or CORE Subgroup of the Directional Package Committee made many bottom-line recommendations.

Slide 5 – 7 Major Strategies

The CORE recommendations provide pathways toward reaching our budgetary goal while maintaining and enhancing the USM experience. One, for example, cites our faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 15. For USM to become fiscally sustainable, we must examine this and other indicators and make necessary adjustments.

Slide 6 – USM Unit Comparison

The Academic Review Subgroup provided analysis of current USM programming and introduced key considerations for the evaluation of portfolios of programs

Slide 7 – USM Portfolio of Programs

All great institutions create and maintain a FOCUS – they create services and programs at the intersection of what they can do better than others and what the people that they serve desire.   It is our combined goal to once again be responsive and responsible. To you, our faculty, staff to our current and future students and to our community.

So, ultimately I am here today to announce the hard choices that are going to set the foundation and begin the task of bringing focus on the USM as a thriving and long-lasting institution that better serves our students and this region of the state. 

So on to specific recommendations, which need Senate review.

I come to you today with two proposals and a foreshadowing of future events:


We must leverage the distinct characteristics of our three campuses in such a way that we provide a greater range of educational options for the people we serve.

I’m proposing that we start that process at LAC.

Folks, we have a win-win opportunity here. Let’s break through the academic silos so the people of the Lewiston-Auburn community have easy access to the full range of USM programs, and that the people in other communities we serve have access to LAC programs.

For 25 years, LAC has done exemplary work with interdisciplinary programs that are truly engaged with the community, and with creating an effective, student-centric culture.  The rest of us can learn from them by tying LAC more closely to our Portland and Gorham campuses.

I’m submitting to you today a proposal to review LAC’s structure with the goal of giving the people of Lewiston-Auburn access to the same range of academic offerings as those available in Portland or Gorham.  As part of this effort we will be looking to integrate LAC more closely with the rest of USM, making sure we are as cost effective as possible.

I want to stress that there are a huge number of operational details to be worked out here. My intent is to work collegially to figure out the best way for our campuses to create a more seamless identity and student experience, and in the process give students here and in Lewiston-Auburn more choices. Each campus can be a portal for the others.

As specified in the governance constitution, I solicit the Faculty Senate’s recommendations on this change to a college, which I request I receive by May 5.


Let me turn to the work of the Direction Package’s Academic Review Subgroup, which had the difficult task of addressing the standards and priorities to our academic programs.

As the Academic Review Subgroup noted, and I quote, “Ultimately, the existing collage of programs offered at the University must be transformed into a carefully considered, complementary portfolio of critical entities that synergistically support a focused University mission that serves the needs of the Southern Maine region. The institution must be greater than the sum of its individual academic components, while at the same time, be streamlined for wider programmatic cooperation and coordination with the other entities in the University of Maine System.” End quote.

I agree. We must embrace the direction of this statement and make the cuts necessary for fiscal sustainability, and then work toward a USM vision for the future as described earlier.  

We can no longer afford to carry all the programs we have, and especially those that unfortunately have insufficient student interest to financially sustain them.

Consequently, I propose eliminating the following four programs:

  • American and New England Studies
  • Geosciences
  • Arts and Humanities at LAC
  • **Recreation and Leisure Studies

The first three simply are not sustainable due to a number of factors, among them low enrollments, unsustainable student-to-faculty ratios, and low graduation rates.  

The fourth program – Recreation and Leisure Studies, is a special case that could benefit from collaborative discussions around the goal of positioning it for long-term success. The program currently enrolls some 50-plus majors, yet will soon have just one full-time faculty member.  We currently are NOT in a position to invest in faculty for this program.  One alternative might be to explore integrating Rec and Leisure Studies with a complementary discipline in such a way that healthy enrollment levels are sustained over the long term.

I ask that you join Provost Stevenson in seeking alternatives to program elimination.

In accordance with our constitution, I place this proposal before the Faculty Senate and ask for recommendations by May 5.

This is painful and disruptive for those dedicated and talented people directly affected. It is also disruptive to the campus community.  To all of you I give my heartfelt condolences. And for our students, please note that if these proposals are approved, under university policy, we will work with you to ensure that you have the ability to earn your USM degree in your chosen major.

There is much to discuss, and yes, to debate here. Let me reflect briefly on my request for recommendations on the LAC proposal and on the proposals for program elimination.

I fully expect you to offer critiques of these proposals. Those will be helpful but insufficient to address the challenges ahead. I still have to close the FY 15 budget gap and position this university to move ahead.

So, I also need your alternatives. Remember, these are proposals, the details of which still need to be fleshed out. There may very well be better ideas out there, which, if implemented, should still get us to the $14 million and a brighter, more sustainable future. I need those ideas! We need those ideas!

Now for the foreshadowing…  We will be announcing a set of additional reductions for FY ’15 and beyond before the end of this month.  I do not have final numbers because some plans have yet to be finalized, plus we will not have final

numbers on members of the faculty who wish to take advantage of the special retirement incentive until sometime next week. 

But I can tell you that the number of faculty discontinuances, including program eliminations, will be in the approximate range of 20 to 30, in addition to the retirements we know about as of this point in time.  Again, these numbers will remain fluid until such time that we can finalize plans and determine the actual number of retirements, which may help offset the need for layoffs. Staff reductions will be in the range of 10 to 20. Those will be in addition to the 14 net staff reductions made earlier this year.

The ongoing work of streamlining administrative procedures and tightening up our course scheduling is increasingly important because the cost savings from this helps offset the need for more personnel actions…. 

As part of this work, we’ll continue to decrease our reliance on part-time faculty, make strategic use of full-time, non-tenure track faculty where it makes academic sense, and hold to the principle that tenured faculty members are at the heart of any high-quality program and provide essential continuity for long-term success.

These decisions will be guided by peer-driven benchmarks, especially the faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 23 at peer and at aspirational peer institutions.

I mentioned earlier the need for strategic cuts and strategic investments.  On the investment side, we have approval to fill seven faculty positions: three tenure-track positions in Nursing; one tenure track position in School Counseling; a full-time lecturer in mechanical engineering; one in accounting; and one in printmaking/drawing.  We will continue to find ways to make strategic investments.

The University of Maine System and the State of Maine need a successful and prosperous USM.

We cannot be complacent when facing a sea change of financial, demographic and technological forces. We are engaged in a difficult, dynamic process but one that, ultimately, will allow us to build a sustainable and stronger university better prepared to serve students and Maine people in a new era.  

Thank you once again for your love of USM, for your understanding of just how difficult a process this is, and for your willingness to help move us to a brighter day.