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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