The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures

Crisis at USM

University cuts arts and humanities while crying poor — but are they really?
By NICK SCHROEDER  |  March 27, 2014


RETRENCHED Clockwise from top left: Kent
Ryden, Meghan Brodie, Rachel Bouvier, Julia
Edwards, Nancy Richeson, Paul Christiansen,
Deepika Marya, Annie Finch. See below for their

Ready for a lesson in critical thinking? It’s free. 

Two weeks ago, University of Southern Maine President Theodora Kalikow announced that the school would be cutting the departments of Geosciences, Recreation and Leisure Studies, and American and New England Studies. Those 15 faculty (and three staff), Kalikow said, would make up the first round of as many as 50 eliminated positions at the college (among others within the system) in response to a systemwide budget shortfall brought on by flat state appropriations, decreased enrollment, and tuition freezes.

Many more cuts came last Friday, affecting the departments of Economics, Political Science, Theater, Music, Sociology, Public Policy, English, and Women and Gender Studies. Handed down by Provost Michael Stevenson, many were issued as “retrenchments” — a jargony term for eliminating specific programs without appearing to violate faculty union contracts. (All of those listed are represented by the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, the school’s teachers’ union.) Several more faculty members, whose names were not released, volunteered to retire to “save” a colleague in their department who was originally targeted.

Roughly a hundred USM students and faculty protested the cuts on Friday in Portland, assembling outside the provost’s office in the law building in an effort to prevent the layoffs and demand reinstatement. A majority of USM’s 310 faculty rallied at a senate meeting later that day, voting unanimously to demand of the administration detailed criteria and rationale regarding the layoffs, which targeted the arts and humanities departments and, as several students and faculty pointed out, affect a disproportionate number of women, many of them minorities.

Kalikow, along with Chancellor James Page, has justified the cuts by pointing to a $14 million budget shortfall in the 2013 fiscal year, as well as intentions to close a $65-95 million “structural gap” through 2019. But as protests have swirled the Portland campus all week, a growing number within the university are contesting those claims, alleging they’re part of a “manufactured crisis” designed by University of Maine system officials to justify the implementation of corporate business models that value profits over liberal educational standards.

Among the most vocal of them is Susan Feiner, a USM professor of Economics who also teaches courses in the Women and Gender Studies department. In public statements, citing information pulled from the school’s publicly available budget analysis, Feiner has noted that the UMS actually generated a $17 million profit last year and placed it into unrestricted net assets, a/k/a reserves, of which the school has accumulated an additional $100 million from 2008 through 2012 according to public annual reports. She also points out that the system currently boasts a AA- credit rating through 2015 from Standard & Poor’s, the fourth highest rating possible, and questions the increasing number of administrative hires at campuses statewide, particularly at the System Wide Services and Chancellor’s offices in Bangor, where the school currently pays 291 administrative employees nearly $20 million annually in a region where not a single class is taught.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
| More

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FEELING THE PULL  |  October 30, 2014
    Ever feel like it’s getting harder to talk about sex?
  •   ASK YOUR DEALER  |  October 27, 2014
    The automobile is a thing of great ambivalence. On one hand, it’s contributed to catastrophic and virtually irreversible climate change, enabled the limitless profiteering of the oil industry, and served as symbolic fuel for a lot of dumb notions of masculinity. On the other, if you’re an American between the ages of 16 and 99, life’s most pivotal moments would have been impossible without them, whether they provided transport, escape, or a soft, cushiony interior.
    On October 8, our sister publication the Providence Phoenix announced that it would close, ending a 36-year run for the city’s only alt-weekly. What that means for our paper is a good and appropriate question.
  •   ANY OLD TOWN  |  October 11, 2014
    It’s a long, ruminative drive from Portland to Parsonsfield, the site of a bizarre, unclassifiable, and oddly intimate sort of production by the renowned Maine artist Amy Stacey Curtis.  
  •   SUNNY, NO BLUSTER  |  October 11, 2014
    There’s no point in making music if you’re not being honest.  

 See all articles by: NICK SCHROEDER

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2017 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group