In the past few weeks, there has been an incredible amount of confusion regarding the vote of no confidence in University of Southern Maine President Selma Botman. The controversy regarding pay raises seems to be the catalyst that drove this petition to the president’s desk. It is not.
President Botman took office and inherited a large amount of debt incurred by former university leadership. She was able to pay off that debt to the university system early and get us in the black for the first time in many years. The news of a $5.1 million shortfall next year is due to an in-state tuition freeze, recently set by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. Before this shortfall, Botman dedicated another one million dollars to financial aid and housing — reducing the residential deficit and bringing more students to USM.
In the process of filling a huge budget gap, President Botman worked with faculty, staff and students to come up with a reasonable way to restructure how this university works. There was a lot of deliberation about how the university would look after and some people were pleased about the change while others were upset. The university administration mandated a minimum of 12 full-time faculty or equivalent per department while faculty was under the impression that they would be in charge of organizing themselves.
A survey of faculty has shown high disapproval ratings for the president’s leadership through the reorganization of the university. Regardless of where I stand on the reorganization process, it’s important to take a step back and remain objective.
On April 9, our new UMS chancellor, James Page, released a statement:
The University of Southern Maine is facing challenges that demand significant change. I support President Botman’s efforts to address these challenges, and at the same time I take the concerns raised by the Faculty Senate in its recent action very seriously.
Respecting the Faculty Senate process, I am committed to engaging with all members of the university community to address their concerns. It is nevertheless essential that — at all times and especially now — the university community act in a unified way to serve our students and the people of Maine.
As of right now, I thank President Botman for the work she has done for this institution and I respect the faculty for speaking out in regards to what they need. In order for this university to be successful in the future, we need to work together NOW. In my personal opinion, a vote of no confidence in President Botman is creating some very negative media attention, which may cripple the university from expanding and fixing our recruitment and retention problems. I encourage the faculty and administration to open up their lines of communication and to come up with a solution that will not hurt the students at this institution of higher learning.
TJ Williams is student body president-elect and the current president of the Board of Student Organizations.