Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Faculty from London to New York show support in letters for USM faculty laid off

Posted on March 22, 2014 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

The following is a compilation of letters written from faculty from a variety of backgrounds and from various locations that were sent to Provost Michael Stevenson following the lay-offs of 12 faculty members on Friday and the proposed elimination of four programs earlier this week. The source of each of these letters was verified by the Free Press prior to publication. This post will be updated with more letters as they are received.

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Received: Friday March, 21 6:45 p.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson,

I oppose the budget cuts and layoffs just announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public. I hope that you will reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately. The University tradition deserves much better than a subaltern attitude to the fictional politics of austerity on the part of its leaders. If you feel unable to defend your faculty and students from such attacks, it would be better for all concerned if you were to vacate your position and enable somebody committed to the principles of integrity, truth and civic service to fulfil the responsibilities that you unfortunately seem to have abdicated.

Cordially,

Dr. Peter D. Thomas
Lecturer in the History of Political Thought
Brunel University, London
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Received: 6:56 p.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson,

I am alarmed at the degrading of university services and academic standards that seem immanent following recent changes at USM.  I oppose the budget cuts and layoffs recently announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public. I suggest that you reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately, or otherwise suffer the fate of so many other educational institutions in English-speaking countries, namely to lose all credibility as a teaching and research institution. Remember, once a drop in standards becomes common knowledge and the reputation of the university declines enrollments and research funding declines too.  This should be enough to make any administrator think twice.

Sincerely,
Dr David McInerney
Australia

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Received: Friday March, 21 10:13 p.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson,

I oppose the budget cuts and layoffs just announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public. Please reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately! Sincerely, Professor Susan Ruddick University of Toronto Received: Saturday 1:57 p.m. Dear Provost Stevenson, I oppose the budget cuts and layoffs just announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public. Please reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately! As a member of the steering committee of the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP) I have full knowledge of the consequences of austerity policies and budget cuts upon Higher Education. Their only outcome will be to reduce the access to Higher Education and to undermine its quality. Higher Education is and should remain a public good.

Yours sincerely,
Panagiotis Sotiris
PhD Professor at University of the Aegean Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP)

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Received: 2:03 p.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson,

I strongly oppose the budget cuts and layoffs recently announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the people of Maine. University administrators should serve as good, ethical role models for the larger society, but your treatment of USM faculty has been unbelievably shabby. Please reinstate all “retrenched” faculty and other employees immediately.

Sincerely,
Professor Ted Stolze
Former President, AFT Local 6215 Cerritos College Norwalk, CA 90650

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Received: Saturday March, 22 2:55 p.m.

Dear President Theo Kalikow and Provost Michael Stevenson,

It takes a lifetime to build something of vitality and consequence. Your actions are about to prove sadly again that it only takes one stroke of a pen to destroy the great work of the many. University of Southern Maine has a major reputation as a precious jewel of innovative economics. I sincerely hope that I can continue to include your school as a preferred four-year college transfer destination.

Sincerely,

Kenneth M. Levin,

Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Economics Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY)

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Received: 3:45 p.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson,

I oppose the budget cuts and layoffs just announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public. Please reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately!

David Wilder
John Carroll University
Co-Chair Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association
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Received: Sunday March, 23 1:44 p.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson,

I oppose the budget cuts and layoffs just announced by the USM Provost’s Office. These cuts and layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public. I hope that you will reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately.Your duty as provost should be to defend faculty and students, not to appease financial hawks who have time and again proved themselves the enemy of an educated, critical citizenry.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Hartley Lecturer in English
University of Giessen, Germany
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Received: 7:33 p.m.

Dear President Kalikow and Provost Stevenson:

I write to ask that you find a new strategy for coping with the financial pressures your university faces. I was shocked that you propose to fire productive, vital, and young tenured professors in liberal arts fields deemed to attract too few majors, regardless of the great numbers of students these professors teach and touch. Morality and legality aside, how could that be a solution to your institution’s problems? Destroy the energy, love, commitment and knowledge these people have brought your students, and the capacities they will bestow as they mature? Wound the future? Leave the departments from which new blood is drained to wither and die? That is clearly the proposal.

Please reconsider this plan. Surely retirement incentives and a time-horizon which extends over several years, so that retirements might be planned rather than pressured, can solve perceived short-term financial distress. Surely a positive redirection can be led. I devoutly hope that you lead it.

The proposed path violates expectations and promises lives have been built around. It positions public educational institutions as arenas for credentialing without learning. It is not creative, and not in keeping with what we are capable of at our best, even in difficult times. Please find another way.

Sincerely,
Bruce Norton, PhD
Associate Professor and Economics Coordinator
Department of History, Economics, Anthropology and Political Science
San Antonio College
San Antonio, TX 78212
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Received: Monday, March 25 8:10 a.m.

Dear Provost Stevenson and President Kalikow,

Colleagues both in London and New England have just told me about your recent decision to close four programs, and your attempt to eliminate fifteen tenured or tenure-track faculty members. I’ve also heard that some senior faculty have been pressured, against their will, into early retirement. This is an outrageous violation of basic academic freedoms, a vicious abuse of collegial solidarity and a frontal attack on the very principle of a university.

Since I work in a Philosophy department and had the pleasure of visiting USM’s remarkable Philosophy Club for a seminar back in 2007, I was particularly astonished to learn of your plans to make cuts to the Philosophy department, and of your attempt to eliminate the post of one of the most interesting and promising young philosophers I know, Jason Read. Jason’s work is widely read by scholars in my field, and he has been a regular speaker in London over the years; in June 2012 he was chosen by the students in my own program as the keynote speaker for their graduate conference.

Researchers in the UK and all over the world greatly value the work of your faculty, and appreciate the freedoms and protections enjoyed by our colleagues at American universities. Rest assured that we will do everything we can to discourage you from pressing ahead with these layoffs, and I very much hope that protests on and around your campus stop you in your tracks. The reputation of the institution you lead hangs in the balance.

yours sincerely,
Peter Hallward
Professor of Modern European Philosophy
Kingston University, UK
http://fass.kingston.ac.uk/faculty/staff/cv.php?staffnum=734
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Received: 10:31 a.m.
Dear President Kalikow and Provost Stevenson

I am writing as a concerned academic to voice my opposition to layoffs just announced by the USM Provost’s Office. Cutting the jobs of faculty who have given so much to the university and who are at the heart of its mission should be the very last thing that a university management considers. These layoffs are not necessary and will severely harm USM students and the Maine public.

I join other academics, students and concerned citizens in calling on you to reinstate all laid-off faculty and other employees immediately. It is galling to see how the context of ‘austerity’ – a political discourse aimed at entrenching inequalities and exacerbating the very debt-driven conception of the economy that has created this situation in the first place – is being invoked to do irreparable damage to educational institutions across the world. At the same time as wages are being depressed, jobs cut, and students fleeced (or simply excluded from education), we are witnessing increasingly bloated managerial salaries, dubious investment decisions, and the imposition of a discredited business logic to pedagogy and learning.

As managers and administrators your task is to facilitate the experience of teaching and learning, not to act with the arrogance of those who think that they are indispensable to the university, while teachers are just a disposable item on a spreadsheet. I hope you will reconsider your decision and demonstrate a renewed commitment to the university’s educational mission rather than to the hypocritical invocation of the bottom line.

Cordially,
Dr. Alberto Toscano
Reader in Critical Theory
Goldsmiths, University of London​
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Received: 12:39 p.m.

Dear Sir,

It is with increasing concern that I learn about the situation at the University of Southern Maine. The University has gathered an international reputation thanks to the brilliant work produced by some of the very academics that now see their positions threatened. Your role as university administrators is not to implement “maverick” policies based on a dogmatic belief in cost-cutting and bottom line economics. Your only role at USM is to safeguard the valuable work of your faculty and provide a learning environment for your students where there they can expect their teachers not to be distracted by your actions. The University does not exist to provide administrators with comfortably pay-packets, but to ensure the continuity and enrichment of a research and learning community. In other words, and without aiming to be unnecessarily unkind, you are surplus to requirements, your faculty is not.
I do hope you will reconsider before you ruin the name of your University and throw away all that it has so far achieved.

Yours sincerely,
Yaiza Hernández Velázquez
Lecturer
Central Saint Martins
University of the Arts
London

 

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  • Nick

    Dear Guest,
    Tuition increases would not be such a concern if it were 1994 when the Umaine System was funded 70% by the state and 30% by tuition. As of late that stat has flipped completely. Furthermore, I am a USM student, and at roughly $4000 per year, USM is an unbeatable value. In fact it is too good to be true. I am in favor of tuition increases if it means preserving the quality of the institution I have come to love. You want cheap thoughtless job training? Go to Kaplan. They sell that at fantastic profit margin. USM provides something infinitely more valuable. — Or do you simply propose an inferior education for the inferior people of Maine?

    Cordially,

    Nick

  • Martin Conte

    I think everyone attending these protests would agree with that statement, if they thought that the leadership of the institution were actually working appropriately for elevating the university from its present situation. But the reason why the faculty senate unanimously voted against the actions of the administration, and why the student senate voted no confidence in the administration is to question whether or not this administration IS actually working for these goals.

  • JDU

    Roy, the faculty have been doing their jobs: teaching, advising, mentoring students, and researching, hoping that their administrators would do THEIR jobs recruiting students, raising money, and turning the hard work of faculty into revenue: THIS is the work of the administration. Unfortunately, since our administrators cannot do what they were hired to do, we have to do their jobs and ours for about 1/4 of what they make.

  • Caleb L.

    As much as I would like to believe that they are working under difficult situations, it is mostly due to their own faults. They have not been sharing information with the faculty and in a recents survey of the faculty, more than 75% found him lacking in his duties and in working with the faculty. If he worked in an elected position he would have been impeached long ago.

  • Tom Peters

    Interesting view of solidarity.
    Some might say solidarity consists of supporting the leadership of the institution who are working to elevate it from its present circumstances.

  • Ted Stolze

    Yes, these letters have similar texts, because this is a concerted international campaign of support for USM faculty. In California–indeed, around the world–teachers, staff, and students have been struggling for several years to prevent a hostile corporate takeover of education, and I commend anyone in Maine who stands up for the historic mission of the university as an autonomous community of scholars. Sorry if a basic moral concept like solidarity is unknown to you, but I don’t apologize for that.

    Ted Stolze
    Philosophy Department
    Former President
    Cerritos College Faculty Federation (AFT Local 6215)

  • Guest

    Yes, these letters have similar texts, because this a concerted international campaign of support for USM faculty. In California–indeed, around the world–teachers, staff, and students have been struggling for several years to prevent a hostile corporate takeover of education, and I commend anyone in Maine who stands up for the historic mission of the university as an autonomous community of scholars. Sorry if a basic moral concept like solidarity is unknown to you, but I don’t apologize that that.

    Ted Stolze
    Philosophy Department
    Former President
    Cerritos College Faculty Federation (AFT Local 6215)

  • Roy Steven

    I am sorry, “the faculty senate are working on a proposal to restructure the budget” Where have these people been over the last 6 months when they had been asked for their input? What realistic, concrete ideas have they provided over the last few years? And now you want to play the discrimination card? Those laid off were based on tenure as in line with their union requirements. There are so many people out there that seem to believe business can go on as usual without any changes, but hey, they may be right, cut the administration. Cut them all. See how long an institution can last with just faculty. I believe USM is making a slow spiral down, but I disagree it is because of those people that are trying so hard to save it.

  • Guest

    Looks to have been one source–the drafter of a form letter that was sent to all these profs and they just cut and pasted. So much for academic rigor and original research.

  • Guest

    Andre, the Free Press verified the source of these letters prior to publication.

    Thanks,
    Kirsten Sylvain
    Editor-in-Chief
    The Free Press

  • concerndizen

    ” the faculty senate – are working on a proposal to restructure the budget “. This is a great development. This is a very capable group and their plan should give a viable alternative. In fact, it should have been drafted months, if not years, ago. Budget cuts at USM have now totaled more than $20M in the last few years. 12 of their own have been put under tremendous hardship. Perhaps for no reason. They shouldn’t have waited so long.

  • Andre Honhon

    Interesting how the wording of these professors’ letters is so similar, especially the first paragraph. I hope and trust this isn’t plagiarism!

  • Guest

    Ms Pendleton,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. Perhaps my challenge to this Thomas person was too aggressive. But really, what gives him the right to address the USM Provost in such a condescending manner? I have never met the Provost, but he and the rest of the administration are trying to deal with an incredibly difficult situation as best they can.

  • Angelica

    Dear Guest

    Who are you to tell us otherwise? At least Professor Thomas had the courage to sign his name.
    If you must know, multiple groups at USM – groups that actually have the power to do something, such as the faculty senate – are working on a proposal to restructure the budget. Did Professor Thomas mention tuition or tax increases? I must have missed that sentence. The new proposals are intended to include options for RESTRUCTURING the current sources of funding for USM; there are many more ways to increase funding than tuition and taxes!
    What makes USM “even less attractive” is not tuition (even though it’s expensive, it’s still cheap compared to many other options), but an administration who refuses to treat its students or faculty with any real respect (something that could easily be achieved by at the very least releasing the criteria used for the layoffs, warning of layoffs instead of announcing a delay, and emailing more than just the terminated professors, such as heads of departments about to lose a member). A quick look at the actions of young adults of Southern Maine shows just how many of them were turned away by ADMINISTRATION, not tuition.
    Out of thirteen people laid-off yesterday, eight were women, four were lesbians, and three were people of color. Unless USM has a massively large population of female professors and professors of sexual and racial minorities hiding in secret somewhere, this is also a disproportionate enough selection of faculty so as to nearly be discrimination.
    The next time you decide to act out in anger (and this could go for many other people), try getting some facts to back you up.

    Cordially,
    Angelica Pendleton, Senior Theatre Major

    PS: I hope I speak for the rest of the academic community when I say please stop showing such blatant disrespect for a school such as Brunel. http://www.brunel.ac.uk/

  • kingconger

    Ha ha. Nice comeback.

  • kingconger

    Guest, you’re absolutely right to ask who this person is and why he is giving advice from London to the USM provost. We don’t need suggestions from London, especially snarky ones

  • Guest

    How unseemly, Lecturer Thomas/Fawkes. See you in the parking lot, asshole.

  • G. Fawkes

    Ooohh signing in as a guest, are you? How terribly brave. And if you aren’t the Provost and presume to know something about the budget cuts(unlikely, for a person who cannot even spell the name ‘Brunel’ when it’s typed barely an inch above this box) then you can cordially bugger yourself with the testicles you apparently lack, you uneducated fuck.

  • Guest

    Dear Professor Thomas

    Who are you to lecture anyone on the USM budget from London or Brunei or wherever your library carrel happens to be? And what alternatives are you proposing? Tuition increases that will make USM even less attractive to students than it is? When you have solutions to budget issues that do not require further subsidies from taxpayers, let us all know.

    Cordially,