Monday, September 25th, 2017

Faculty Senate votes to reject first round of cuts

Professor of English Deepika Marya makes her way into the provost's office for her meeting. Marya refused to enter without bringing protesters with her and as a result was not allowed in to receive her letter.
Sam Hill
Professor of English Deepika Marya makes her way into the provost's office for her meeting. Marya refused to enter without bringing protesters with her and as a result was not allowed in to receive her letter.

Posted on March 21, 2014 in News
By Sidney Dritz

In a special meeting of the Faculty Senate in response to the series of faculty layoffs and program cut proposals, the Faculty Senate voted unanimously to reject the actions taken by the administration, including the layoffs and the proposed program cuts, despite its support for the idea of a metropolitan university.

“I would like to walk out of here with the beginning of an alternate plan,” Faculty Senate chair and physics professor Jerry LaSala told the senate at the beginning of the meeting.

LaSala noted that the Faculty Senate’s response to the president’s proposals was not due until May 5. “We’ve got plenty of time to work on this. That doesn’t mean we can sit back, but it does mean we can use our brains.”

“Jerry said we have till May 5 to come up with a proposal, realize that the legislature will be out by then,” said senate vice-chair and associate professor of leadership and organizational studies Tara Coste.

LaSala reminded the senate that he had cooperated with the administration, serving as co-chair of the Direction Package Advisory Board for much of the year. “At the moment I personally feel rather betrayed by the turn things have taken over last two weeks.”

LaSala said that the administration was not present at the meeting because he had not invited them, with the hope that the senators would then feel comfortable to speak their minds and devise an alternate plan.

Over the course of the meeting, the senate passed several motions requesting an explanation of the criteria being used to evaluate departments before selecting proposed cuts and also the criteria used to identify the programs that the laid-off faculty were selected from.

Student Body President Kelsea Dunham addressed the senate and asked that students be included in any committees they form. “Obviously students care, and they want to be involved,” she said.

In fact, five of the students who attended the senate meeting addressed the crowded room, expressing their support of the faculty and announcing their intentions to take action against the layoffs and cuts.

Nursing professor and Faculty Senate representative to the Board of Trustees Valerie Hart asked for input from the members of the senate on how they would like her to address the issues at the Board of Trustees meeting Sunday and Monday. She asked the senate to bear in mind that faculty and student representatives no longer have an official voice at the table at board meetings, so her input would be in unofficial conversations.

After voting to extend the meeting three times, the senate finally passed a resolution stating its rejection of the actions taken by the administration on the grounds that the program cuts and faculty layoffs are not in the best interest of the students, the communities USM serves, or the entire state of Maine, and that, furthermore, they are not consistent with the vision of a metropolitan university. The resolution will be sent to the Board of Trustees.

The text of the resolution reads:


“The USM Faculty Senate embraces the notion of a metropolitan university while rejecting the current implementation actions. These actions are not in the best interest of the students, the state of Maine or the communities we serve, nor are they consistent with a true metropolitan university.”

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  • David Raymond

    What Danny says below–in full agreement on all points. I’d only emphasize one of them, the little-known fact that over 75% of college instructors in the US have adjunct positions with an average annual salary of $25,000, no benefits, no job security from term to term, etc. This is part of the larger pattern of defunding public education at the state level and then privatizing it. If this keeps up we’ll have no real public education system to speak of.

    To your more general point: I’m lucky. I have tenure and belong to a unionized faculty at a private university. Recently the administration put the school into a multi-million deficit. It went to faculty and staff for givebacks to cover its fiscal mismanagement. From non-unionized faculty and staff the administration just unilaterally reduced or eliminated salary increases and benefits. Realizing that despite being blameless for the deficit we still had a stake in the well-being of the university, us unionized faculty agreed to givebacks but on our terms. Suffice it to say I think that if all faculty and staff (and more workers in general) were unionized management would be more prudent in their fiscal decisions; as it is right now they just say,”hey if we fuck up we can always take it out of the hide of labor.”

    I’m always surprised when workers resent other workers for defending their own economic well-being. Strikes me as a rather slavish attitude.

  • Danny Evarts

    No, the question is why are these cuts being made in the first place, when there is no financial reason for doing so (and while administrators are currently being hired). Destroying the University and the programs people actually attend it for by cutting these programs and this faculty is unconscionable. The Politically-appointed Board of Trustees, Chancellor, and temporary President were put in place to slash the school to nothing, and they’re doing their job. The Provost has about the lowest job evaluation record one can get.
    They believe Education is a business (thus showing they have no clue what Education is actually about), and that we students are the “customers.” If they truly believe we are their customers, then they’re putting themselves out of business by cutting service, product, and valued staff. It’s a poorly managed business that is only serving to push people away, and firing needs to be done from the top down of such a business to put it right. Take half of the paychecks of the Chancellor and President for this year … how much of the salaries of those being let go would that cover? I’m betting quite a bit.

    The low-paid faculty are not the problem. The wasted money spent on non-teaching administrators in Bangor (and the cushy salaries of the President and Provost) are far more than enough to hire even more professors, so that we students can get a quality education from a variety of sources. But the Administration and Board of Trustees don’t give a damn about the students or education. They sacrifice nothing, no matter how much they pretend. They have no stake in our school, or our education. They get their huge paychecks and perks and walk away in a year or two, while the school is irreparably damaged.
    Layoffs should not be done if they’re not necessary. And the administration has not shown that they are actually necessary. Their “financial crisis” is manufactured and false, in order to make cuts. They hide behind this constant lie in order to do so, and don’t even have the courage to be honest about their restructuring of the school. They waste money on fancy signs and their little feel-good parties, but when it comes to the students … well, we’re screwed.

    That’s what you get when you put two analytical philosophers in charge of people. They remove all human value and connection from the equation. And strip the soul and character, anything that makes something unique, from whatever they lay their hands on.

  • redmons

    Again, the question is why should colleges and university faculty be exempt from a phenomenon that has affected everyone else?

  • Anonymous

    Have all USM positions been filled by open and truly competitive processes?

    Budding journalists are not doing their homework.

  • David Raymond

    What “bounds”?

  • David Raymond

    You’re right. Pull everyone down! Don’t lift everyone up!

  • Guest

    Layoffs have been a fact of life for the American economy since 2007–eight million jobs lost according to BLS. Is there some reason why colleges and universities should be exempted?

  • DAVID HILL

    Sounds to me like they know they have overstepped their bounds and are scared about their own positions.