In a press release posted by the Office of Public Affairs on April 12, USM announced that the School of Music would be the beneficiary of a $1 million bequest from the estate of Anne Randolph Henry. But many music students are still stuck worried about the future of the music program.
In the wake of the significant cuts made to the SOM recently, the music community has seen this as a sign of support and hope for the department, but a closer look shows that it will not affect any of the recent cuts made.
“The funds are greatly appreciated as the majority of the money will be used to fund student scholarships,” said Professor of Music Michele Kaschub in a statement to The Free Press. “It is important to note, however, that this money cannot be used to solve faculty and staffing shortages.”
Kaschub went on to state that it was unfortunate that the announcement coincided with the meeting that took place between the president, provost and SOM students, since the gift and the current challenges the school faces are not related.
The testamentary gift of $1 million was announced in the spring of 2001, and according to the SOM Director Scott Harris, it prompted the change of their unit from the “Department” to “School” of Music. At the time the donor wished to remain anonymous, and few people knew who made the donation.
Henry graduated from what was then known as University of Maine at Portland in 1971 with a degree in psychology and died in 2011 at the age of 91 in Falmouth.
“She loved music — it was part of her life,” said Anne Stanley, one of Henry’s six children, in a statement released by the university on Friday. “[The gift] shows what kind of person she was. Education was important to her. At that time, it was groundbreaking for someone in her 50s to return to college. She enjoyed it.”
Henry left instructions for the foundation that bears her name, that will provide annual gifts to the SOM in perpetuity of approximately $50,000, that the funds are to be used for music scholarships and to supplement the annual music operating budget. Harris said the funds will start being applied to those two areas in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins in July 2013.
A key student involved in protesting recent cuts to the music program is senior music education major Rachel Schoellkopf. She has rallied her peers, community members and supporters of the arts from far and wide through a petition on Change.org, the world’s largest online petition platform. The petition calls for the administration to amend the budget cuts made to SOM. Schoellkopf and her peers have met with the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Lynn Kuzma and were informed that their demands will not be fulfilled at this time, but with over 750 signatures, the students they have a lot of support.
“USM, I think, has felt threatened by us and the reason we protested was to get answers,” said Schoellkopf. “The $1 million donation, seems to be something that was put in the press as a sort of calm down for all of the hysteria that had been going on.”
The student petition states that the present elimination and non-replacement of faculty positions will force the remaining faculty and staff members to take on more responsibility in addition to their already overloaded schedules and that this will cause an immediate weakening of programs and goals.
According to Schoellkopf, the petition has been picked up by the National Association for Music Education and the organization has been sharing it on their website and Twitter account, gaining some national support from musicians and music students.
Students still feel optimistic about their protest efforts.
“The school of music is undergoing lots of changes, and it is best to have all of us music students keep as open a mind as we can while trying to maintain the quality of the music programs,” said Schoellkopf. “This is just the beginning of the fight.”