Four programs don’t make the cut in newest proposal

University of Southern Maine President Theo Kalikow talks to people in the Shepard Lee Community Hall before Friday afternoon's meeting of the school's Faculty Senate.
Seth Koenig | BDN
University of Southern Maine President Theo Kalikow talks to people in the Shepard Lee Community Hall before Friday afternoon's meeting of the school's Faculty Senate.

Posted on March 14, 2014 in News
By Sidney Dritz

At a packed informational session of the Faculty Senate Friday, President Kalikow proposed cutting two undergraduate majors, one graduate program and the arts and humanities major on the Lewiston-Auburn campus.

Kalikow proposed cutting the American and New England studies graduate program and undergraduate programs in recreation and leisure studies and geoscience. Geoscience is chaired by Stephen Pollock, who received a Distinguished Service Award from the Geological Society of America last October.

“This is not a threat, this is an opportunity,” Kalikow said in reference to the arts and humanities program at Lewiston-Auburn. However, Kalikow’s proposals met with significant resistance from the faculty.

After Kalikow’s presentation, Pollock registered his objections to the proposed cutting of his department. “We excelled at teaching. We engage our students. We take them to national conferences. We encourage them to conduct research. They have led national meetings,” Pollock said. He noted that each faculty member in the geosciences department publishes regularly

“I am not leaving this place without a fight. I think this is very shortsighted of you to have done this,” Pollock said.

Women and gender studies professor Wendy Chapkis also objected to the proposed cuts. “For the last 10 years we’ve been asked to do more with less,” Chapkis said. She advocated cutting administrators, including associate deans and provosts before cutting faculty members.

Provost Michael Stevenson is a member of the President’s Council, the group that has been advising Kalikow about what cuts to make in the wake of the final presentation of the Direction Package Advisory Board on Feb. 28. “We are unable to support financially all the programs that we have,” Stevenson told the senate.

Stevenson was referring to the budget shortfall of $14 million that was projected in February for USM’s fiscal year that begins on July 1 .Kalikow later told the Free Press that the proposed cuts would cover half of the projected budget shortfall.

“These things are never simple,” Kalikow told the Free Press. She said that she expected there to be extensive discussion of the proposed cuts before the Faculty Senate’s formal report on the proposals is due in May.

The discussion has already begun. “I think that done properly a budget cut and subsequent reallocation of funds can and should boost enrollment and ‘fix’ the problems at the university. However, simply slashing expenses can only hurt the university. I have very little confidence in our current leadership to accomplish any sort of growth for our university,” said junior criminology major Jeffrey Rollo to the Free Press.

Kalikow said that, in addition to cutting costs, there will also be efforts made to boost revenue. She declined to explain what these efforts will be, but said that she would explain further on Wednesday, when she and Chancellor James Page will be holding an open meeting to discuss goals for the future of USM.

Chancellor Page has been publicly supportive of USM’s work on the Direction Package since the Faculty Senate meeting in November. At Friday’s senate meeting, he said, “This is a problem that will haunt us each and every year until we have a structure to better serve the university and community.”

Recent American and New England Studies graduate Kate McMahon saw the proposed cuts as problematic for the future of the state. “Many of my colleagues–myself included–who have wished to go on to doctoral degrees have had to leave the state altogether, further contributing to the aging of the Maine population and the exodus of the best and brightest out of state,” she said.

“With the continued loss of degree programs so vital to what USM has been, I cannot believe that anything but a further decline in the quality of education for young people in Maine [will result],” said McMahon.

Kalikow’s proposed cuts to the USM curriculum will not be finalized until the Faculty Senate make their final recommendations on May 5, but they will be included in theprojected budget for next year to the Board of Trustees, which she will submit to begin to be reviewed in April.

Anthony Emerson, Francis Flisiuk, Kirsten Sylvain and Sam Hill contributed to this article.