USM won’t lay off any tenured faculty in the next two academic years, but administrators may cut non-tenured faculty positions and majors that routinely graduate fewer than five students a year to account for a budget gap of around $500,000.

“There will not be any retrenchments this year and next [academic] year,” said President Selma Botman in an interview last Wednesday. Botman sent an e-mail to faculty two weeks ago announcing the decision.

USM had initially braced for a budget gap of $3.2 million, but the state legislature on March 30 restored $6 million to the University of Maine System in previously proposed cuts. As a result, $1.5 million in base budget funds were restored to USM’s budget.

The estimated $1.3 million a year in savings by consolidating USM’s eight colleges into five will not be realized until after the plan is implemented in 2011. Botman approved the plan on April 9. She plans to present the plan, and the budget for Fiscal Year 2011, to the Board of Trustees at their next meeting on May 23 and 24.

Had it not been for the legislature restoring funds, “layoffs could have been a very real possibility,” said USM spokesman Bob Caswell. Though tenured faculty probably wouldn’t have been cut “because the contractual obligations related to faculty layoffs are such that we wouldn’t realize any savings in this fiscal year anyways,” he said.

Administrators have not yet decided how to account for the $500,000 gap yet, Caswell said. “Discussions are under way. They will probably be from a range of areas,” he said.

Provost Kate Forhan didn’t rule out the possibility of cutting programs. She said administrators will look at the majors graduating fewer than five students a year. “Do we serve the many or so we serve the few?” said Forhan. She said USM needs to “recognize that we might need to disinvest to invest.”

Additional savings will come from cutting $1 million in non-academic positions in FY11. Caswell said these cuts could include laying off high level administrators — possibly even vice-presidents, though decisions haven’t been made yet.

Part of the plan’s implementation will include organizing the different departments in each college, a process that will be left up to the faculty.

“We’ll ask the departments to talk about new configurations. That is another cost-saving report,” Botman said. “We want departments to come together. Very small departments might not be academically optimal or fiscally sound.”

“I have no expectation that we will be laying off untenured faculty [this year],” Forhan said. She said she’s optimistic about next year as well.

Jerry Lasala, chair of the physics department and faculty senate said there will be secret ballot vote on whether the senate approves the plan at their next meeting on April 16.

“My gut feeling is the plan is likely to be approved and it’s likely there will be changes recommended,” he said.

But Botman said she won’t be making any more changes to the plan before submitting the final report to the Board of Trustees until April 24. “It is not going to be changed. It is essentially the final report of the design team,” she said.

Lasala said the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the School of Business both have had issues with the plan.

Members of the College of Nursing and Health Professions were vocal with discontent of the plan at the last faculty senate meeting on April 2. The current plan has the School of Nursing in the Engineering, Health Professions, Nursing, Science & Technology College.

“The synergies are being somewhat forced with our relationship with the [sciences.] We’re not a pure science. We’re an art too,” said Janis Childs, professor from the College of Nursing and Health Professions, in a phone interview last Monday.

“I’m not sure a lot of our scholarly Ph.D. prepared nursing faculty are into that structure,” she said. Childs said some of her colleagues do not feel their opinions were taken in consideration.

“We read every single response; of course we were listening,” said Botman.

She said the members of the College of Nursing and Health Professions have a legitimate point of view, but “the resources are absent” for keeping the college of nursing independent of other schools at USM.

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