Just after 3:00 p.m. on Friday, President Theo Kalikow sent out an email officially announcing that 12 faculty members from nine departments have been laid-off over the course of the day.
A group of students, numbering as many as one hundred at parts of the day, occupied the seventh floor of the Law Building, where the layoff meetings took place, in protest.
“Original plans called for 15 layoffs, but the number was reduced to 12 Friday afternoon due to the retirements of three faculty members,” Kalikow wrote.
The three faculty members who will be retiring are professors of art, philosophy and English respectively, confirmed Executive Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell.
“Certainly young faculty are being pitted against the old,” Christie Hammer, president of the USM branch of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine and associate professor of social and behavioral sciences told the Faculty Senate.
Hammer told the Free Press later that she had attended about half a dozen of the layoff meetings between faculty members and Provost Michael Stevenson in her capacity as union representative. She explained that there was a feeling of pressure on older faculty to retire to avoid the retrenchment of more junior faculty.
“It’s not explicit, but it’s inherent,” Hammer said.
Kalikow’s email cited financial constraints as the reason for the layoffs, which, she said, would continue with an expected 10 to 20 members of the staff slated for elimination in the coming weeks, in addition to the layoffs of 14 staff members earlier in the year.
“Unfortunately, we, like many other institutions throughout Maine and the nation, are facing less revenue, higher costs and intense competition for fewer students. Our cost structures are not supported by current revenues,” Kalikow wrote.
At the Faculty Senate meeting, English Professor Nancy Gish addressed the fact that the president and the provost have not presented a plan that details how the actions they are taking will solve the university’s problems.
“There isn’t any rationale that has been given that has any relation to logic,” Gish said. “What I see is a shifting of money, not a saving of money.”
Hammer described the student reaction to the layoffs as intangible, but priceless.
“What students have done today has lessened the pain for both faculty individually and faculty collectively,” Hammer said.
Angelica Pendleton, a senior theater major, addressed the Faculty Senate shortly after the layoffs. “‘Blind, righteous rage’ is an appropriate way to describe the way students have reacted this week,” Pendleton said.
The following faculty members were cut:
Update: Saturday 3:00 p.m.
Rachel Bouvier (Economics)
Vaishali Mamgain (Economics)
Julia Edwards (Political Science)
Meghan Brodie (Theatre)
Joan Mather (Theatre)
Paul Christiansen (Music)
Deepika Marya (English/Women and Gender Studies)
Carolyn Ball (Muskie)
Kate Forhan (Muskie)
John Baugher (Sociology)
Annie Finch (English/Stone Coast)
Rolf Diamon (Sociology)
Johann Jaeckel (Economics)
Correction: Johann Jaeckel was on a one-year contract that will end. He was not formally laid-off.
Update: Saturday 4:41 p.m.
At Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting it was announced that the elimination of Art Education faculty member Kelly Hrenko’s position had been rescinded by provost Stevenson.
Caswell explained the details on this in a statement to the Free Press later Saturday.
“With the programs proposed for elimination, the current expectation is that those faculty would be retrenched,” he said. “If there were another faculty position that needed filling and the faculty person from the cut program had the qualifications for that position, they could be reassigned.”
The Free Press reached out to both the President and Provost for comment. Caswell responded, saying that neither were available for comment. Selected student representatives from the protesters met with Kalikow Friday, and Caswell clarified that for the current time, that communication “will have to suffice.” He added that both Stevenson and Kalikow will be in Machias on Sunday, he said, for the Board of Trustees’ meeting meeting and in the meantime were unavailable for comment.
However, he added again that both “are interested in reaching out to people on campus in the days and weeks ahead.”