The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences has been facing reorganization issues centered around the new Direction Package for USM, and CAHS professors are uncertain of the future direction of the college’s academic and financial success, but most agree that reorganization is necessary.
The CAHS faculty has had two meetings over the past few weeks: for the most part to address the Direction Package and what needs to be done within each department of the college. Lynn Kuzma, dean of the CAHS, said that the reorganization would be beneficial to the college. Kuzma said one new direction for the college could be professors interacting across disciplines to create a stronger academic bond for the faculty within the university. Added on to the confusion surrounding reorganization is the budget. Kuzma said that the provost recently informed her that there will be $5 million or more in cuts at USM.
Richard Campbell, chief financial officer within USM’s administration, said in a statement to The Free Press that the $5 million cuts are a reasonable number to make up for the budget shortfall due to low enrollment. Campbell mentioned that this number will be refined once financial reports are finalized by the administration at the end of October. The administration, Campbell stated, is planning reductions around USM.
When Kuzma was asked what she might do about a lack of funding, she said that one direction could be that the college would not replace faculty after they retire. Kuzma also pointed to course enrollment management as another area for tightening the budget. If a course doesn’t have high enrollment numbers, usually twelve students or more, she said, it would be canceled for the semester in order to save money. She also mentioned that another way to save money would be to reduce the amount of adjunct professors within the college. However, Kuzma said the specifics of reorganizing the college are still up in the air.
Cheryl Laz, associate professor of sociology feels that the Direction Package, as it has been presented so far, is not supportive of the college.
Laz said that she feels that communication between faculty and the administration has not yet been productive. The university, Laz said, is taking on a business model outlook for students and that the liberal arts that are at the heart of USM will suffer.
“Departments are like political party structures,” said Kuzma. “We want the faculty to get out and associate with each other in order to build cross-disciplinary relationships.”
The CAHS sent out a survey to its faculty members. Part of this survey addressed some faculty gossip and rumors about the new Direction Package. Kuzma said that one of these rumors was that the administration was going to cut out the the language department, uprooting or firing faculty, to turn USM into a replica of a community college. These rumors, Kuzma stated, are not true.
“Lynn spent a lot of time dispelling rumors during the meetings,” said Adam Tuchinsky, associate dean of CAHS. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible moving forward, should the faculty choose to reorganize the college.”
The survey results showed that there were several comments left by professors who were not in favor of reorganization. It was noted that at the next meeting, should the unsatisfied faculty show up, their comments and questions will be addressed. The survey also addressed the need for faculty to decide what parts of the Direction Package they agree and disagree on in order to give feedback to the administration about possible adjustments to the measure.
Laz did not take the survey because she said that she wants to have face-to-face discussions about the issues within the CAHS, rather than attempts to reorganize over survey results.
Kuzma and Tuchinsky stressed that they do not want to reorganize the college in a top-down style. They want to be as inclusive as possible with the faculty. Kuzma admitted that if the faculty does not want to reorganize at all, then they will leave CAHS unchanged, but a majority of the college’s professors, around 65 percent according to the faculty survey, do want to see changes.
Laz said the meetings for the CAHS were about whether the college should respond to the new Direction Package. According to Laz, many questions were not answered during the meetings, and there is still confusion among faculty regarding what the college will do in the future. Laz would not comment on what specific questions were asked during the meetings.
“We are thinking about a content base versus skills base,” said Kuzma. “Content is important, but we need to focus on the skills students need to learn. Skills that help students become lifelong learners.”