More than 100 gather in law building to protest faculty cuts

A group of more than 100 students have gathered on the 7th floor of the law building this morning to protest termination of faculty.

More than 10 faculty members are set to have one-on-one meetings with Provost Michael Stevenson this morning and some think it will end in notification of their terminations.

“I’m here because I feel a lot of the faculty that is being targeted are the professors that are the most involved with their students and the community,” said junior political science major Megean Bourgeois.

“This feels political. This is bigger than just budget cuts,” said freshman economics major Nick Marcketta.

Students have been chanting in the hallway, saying “listen to me, it’s my degree” and “chop from the top.”

“We’re seeing a real attack on tenure in the state of Maine today,” said Christy Hammer, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences and president of the USM branch of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine.”They [the system] has the money. They don’t have to make these cuts.”

Update: 10:30 a.m.

Students who gathered at the Woodbury Campus Center for the 10 a.m. meeting have moved their meeting to join the students already protesting in front of Provost Stevenson’s office. Now more than 100 students, faculty and community members are gathered.

Susan Feiner economics professor is also in attendance. Upon entering, Feiner sat in the middle of the hall to start a traditional sit-in and was quickly approached by Public Safety officers intending to arrest her. Feiner was not arrested.

“We’ve worked at long time to build an economics department that maine can be proud of,” Feiner said. “They’re ruining it in a second.” What the chancellor told you about the $36 million looming shortfall, she shouted,is a bald-faced lie.” She also shouted to students in attendance that the administration are doing this on purpose to wreck your university.

Student senator Will Gattis publicly announced that he regrets supporting the Direction Package process. He is upset that two economics professors,Vaishali Mamgain and Rachel Bouvier, have been said to have been slated to be let go. “They made me fall in love with economics,” he said.

Portland PD are now gathered on the scene monitoring the crowd that has gathered, filling the entire hallway. Students read emails from cut faculty, while others show their grief.

Update: 10:55 a.m.

Tensions elevate as student Jules Purnell tries to enter provost’s office with English Professor Deepika Marya to receive formal letter of termination. Public Safety won’t let anyone in.

Update: 11:20

The number of people gathering in the hall continues to grow. Students and faculty are now sitting in, and a number of students broke off to greet candidate for governor Mike Michaud as he comes to speak at 11:30 as part of a series that featured the candidates.

Students chanting and Portland PD steps on to the scene.

Update: 11:38 a.m.

Students and faculty making a list of demands now. First on the list is “voluntary giveback.”

Update: 12:02 p.m.

Protesters still gathered, and the group is not dwindling. Word is spreading that officers may ask those gathered to leave shortly. “Some people are going to have to make some decisions,” said Professor Lorraine Carroll from English.

Update: 12:31 p.m.

Protesters are contacting office of Portland mayor Michael Brennan. They are also calling legislators from the greater Portland area, including Senate President Justin Alfond and Portland Rep. Diane Russell.

Update: 1:22 p.m.

Rep. Diane Russell in a statement said that she would not come out against president Kalikow, as she believes that “she is doing right by the university during this difficult time.” Though, she added that she supports student efforts to stand up for their beliefs. “I would be there if I didn’t have to pass a budget today,” she said. She explained that she did not feel that she enough of the details to make an informed decision.

Update: 2:09 p.m.

A group of students and faculty have decided to go to the Faculty Senate, but that body has moved to go into an executive session, so the public has been barred from attendance.

CORRECTION:

Faculty Senate has not moved to executive session. The meeting is open.

Update: 3:09 p.m.

Kalikow sent out an official statement on the cuts this afternoon in an email to faculty and staff. “We have made the painful decision to lay off 12 full-time faculty members in nine departments.”

“Our 12 faculty colleagues teach in the Departments of Art, Economics, English, Philosophy, Sociology, Theatre, the Honors Program, in the School of Music and in the Muskie School’s graduate program in Public Policy and Management,” Kalikow said. “Original plans called for 15 layoffs but the number was reduced to 12 Friday afternoon due to the retirements of three faculty members.”

Update: 3:45 p.m.

The provost and his office assistants left the building escorted by four officers, walking over a row of students and faculty, laying on the floor in front of his door to bar his way. They prepared to be arrested, writing the number of a lawyer on their hands and arms. However, no protesters were arrested. Stevenson left quickly through the back door of the law building.

Protesters officially disbanded around 3:30 p.m., but they made plans to reassemble in the same location at noon for another sit in.

Before they dispersed, protesters made plans to resume their sit-in on Monday starting at noon.

This story will be updated.

0 thoughts on “More than 100 gather in law building to protest faculty cuts

  1. As I said elsewhere earlier today. “Let’s see. How do we save money? How about we cut the young, enthusiastic, productive and lower paid junior faculty and keep the old, should have already retired, higher salaried senior faculty and see how that works out in a few years.”

    1. Not everyone on the list is “junior faculty”. Annie Finch is a poetry hero and a Stonecoast legend.

    2. this attitude is kind of ageist, and also reinforces the idea of economizing education. im not a student but respect what the students here are doing, and think everyone should be very mindful to not fight over crumbs, or divide the spoils, but work together, think big, push hard to reform the entirety of education system that treats all of us as consumers or laborers.

      This means not selling out some so that a few can benefit, this is exactly what those who are really proffiting off our messed up education system tries to get us to do. Work together, old, young, new,experienced, across departments, and between different schools, and the broader community as well. This is where real power comes from.

      What we are all up against is a well coordinated class of beurocrats and financeers, in executive political and corporate positions, working together in dynamic and fluid ways to reinforce their monopoly of control over our communities and our resources. We have to be as coordinated and serious as they are, in addition to being more numbers, far more creative,and of course having a hell of a lot more fun!

    3. We shouldn’t have to make a decision between “the young” and “the old.” I love USM because of the diversity in students and staff alike. I enjoy the opportunity to hear and learn from varied perspectives. We, as a community, (because we are a community as clearly demonstrated by the outpouring of love and support by students and staff) do not need to choose between professors we want to keep as members of our community. This is the administration’s way of shifting blame for the layoffs from itself to the professors who chose not to retire early. I don’t know about you, but I am not ok with individuals who cancel my meetings and don’t remember my name eliminating professors who have gone above and beyond to make sure I succeed; these people not only know my name, they know my weaknesses and strengths and have worked with me to make sure that I can achieve everything they know I can.

  2. As a USM graduate I’m so incredibly saddened by this. I’m proud of my degree and Vaishali Mamgain and Rachel Bouvier were two of my primary motivators. It’s a sad day when you become embarassed for something you worked so hard for…
    USM learn to prioritze and stop pissing off the people who pay you.

  3. And the doctor showed up to the delicate operation with a hacksaw and started sawing away. Rivers of Blood spurted everywhere as the University writhed in pain. She lifted the mangled carcass off the operating table and proclaimed, “See? Isn’t it sexy and Metropolitan now?”

      1. We’ve heard that there are 2 more in Muskie and 2 more in languages, and possibly 1 more at LAC. You cannot trust administration’s numbers as they play professional shell games with data.

  4. The highest levels of management make $203,000/year. In these troubled times when many areas of the university are being forced to make cuts, start there.

  5. Who gets laid off is determined by the faculty contract and based on seniority. The administration is able to identify the departments that need to be cut but from there, the contract dictates the actual layoffs

    1. The faculty cuts being made are in violation of tenure, in violation of labor and union laws. Additionally, older professors in threatened departments were strongly urged to consider retiring early in order to “save” junior faculty from getting fired. It’s these sort of scare tactics that USM students and faculty rightly reject.

  6. As an alumni, I am embarrassed of the decisions that this university is making. They are abandoning some their strongest educators, consequently abandoning the students education. The administrators are over paid and have no direct contact with the students education. How important is education? How important is the future? A $200k salary is despicable and greedy.

  7. Diane Russell’s statement is a profile in courage. Anyone wanting to support USM needs to let your state representatives know that you are looking for their leadership on this and will remember how they respond.

  8. While I ultimately ended up transferring to another institution, I took one econ class with Vaishali Mamgaim. To date it was by far one of the best and most challenging courses I have ever taken. That this “feels political. This is bigger than just budget cuts,” is an interesting opinion by Nick Marcketta. I can’t speak to the other professors being let go, but Vaishali was an exceptionally influential educator that drove me to explore economics and finance. USM is losing a huge asset by letting her go.

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