In fear of creating yet another bureaucracy at USM, Provost Joe Wood has decided to cancel the plan for New College. This plan, originally designed to help improve student retention rates at the University, will instead be broken down so that only parts of the plan will be implemented.

“A lot of time and effort went into this plan, and I am excited the faculty and staff are paying attention to retention and transition at the University, but I had major concerns about establishing another bureaucratic structure because I don’t think we need any more of that here,” said Wood.

New College would have established a first-year experience program for incoming freshman and transfer students with less than 18 credits, non-matriculated students, undeclared students, associate degree students, and students admitted with conditions. In addition, the program would have served students who had not yet met the math or writing requirements of the University.

The idea met with some opposition because of fear that students would be segregated from traditional students.

“I felt that this idea would make the students in the program feel separate, and I think that that is wrong,” said Wood.

Justin LaBerge, junior political science and communication major and Student Senate treasurer feels that while some of the ideas in the New College plan are admirable, the overall plan would have been a step backwards.

“I would have been extremely enraged if the University had decided to implement this New College,” said LaBerge. “It dumbs down the University. This may come out mean, but this is college. There should be the expectation that you did pretty well in high school and if not then maybe you’re not ready for college yet. Maybe you should sharpen your skills at a community college first but not here. I want people to respect my education from USM, not look at it as a community college.”

The parts of the plan that Wood and others did find would benefit the University will be implemented largely under the guidance of a new associate provost for Undergraduate Academic Programs. This position has not been filled yet, but Wood hopes to find someone by the beginning of the fall 2001 semester.

“We hope in the next two weeks to have a full job description. The search will be internal and we will look for someone with lots of undergraduate education experience and a strong interest in achievement in general education and diversity,” said Wood.

The new associate provost will be charged with realigning Advising Services and the Division of Academic Support to smooth the transition for transfer students and incoming freshmen and follow them more closely. In addition, he or she will work to improve proficiency classes and competency requirements such as math, computer, and English placement tests. Much of this will be done using the work of the New College Implementation Committees.

“As the curriculum changed in the Math and English Departments, the developmental classes haven’t been equivocal,” said Rosa Redonnett, vice president for Enrollment Services. “We need to work on the flow between developmental classes and upper-level classes within these departments.”

Wood also plans to strengthen and possibly extend the core requirements into upper-level classes to help the large number of transfer students at USM.

“Last year 53 percent of the graduating class didn’t come here first,” said Wood. “Fifty-seven percent of them did not take English composition here.”

To address this problem, Wood is considering working with the faculty at USM’s primary sources of transfer students, mostly Southern Maine, Central Maine, and York County Technical Colleges to make students coming from these schools more comfortable with the transition.

“We will work with those faculty in terms of syllabi, teaching strategies, and conversation between faculties to instill greater confidence in the students transferring,” he said.

Wood added that many professors at these schools teach classes at USM, which would make this idea easier.

The only academic restructuring that will take effect immediately at the University is the phasing out of the associate’s degree in business administration.

“The faculty in that department indicated that they wanted to end it. We will find ways to reassign them appropriately,” said Wood.

The other plans derived from the New College idea will wait until a new associate provost is hired.

“What needs to happen is still unfolding, but retention and transition will be our main goal,” said Redonnett.

Staff writer Kate Bucklin can be contacted at [email protected]

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