The following is an email sent from Kalikow to current students at USM. It was sent at 3:31 p.m. yesterday afternoon.
We have made the painful decision to lay off 12 full-time faculty members in nine departments. These individuals were informed earlier today, Friday, March 21. Under the terms of the faculty contract, their terminations will be effective on May 31 of this year.
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. Original plans called for 15 layoffs but the number was reduced to 12 Friday afternoon due to the retirements of three faculty members.
This is a very sad day because these are people who have dedicated their careers to the belief that higher education has a key role to play in improving the lives of their students and the quality of life in the communities in which we are located.
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. We simply can’t let this continue. We must find ways to make sure USM is fiscally sustainable — that revenues and expenses are in balance year in and year out. To do otherwise would jeopardize our ability to serve students and Maine taxpayers.
Hard decisions need to be made. Consequently, we are making those decisions so that we can position ourselves as a stronger, more focused institution.
We are at a point where the number of faculty positions needs to be adjusted so that we can continue to deliver a high-quality education to a smaller student body. We currently have 310 full-time faculty. The actions announced today, plus retirements, get us to the range of about 280 full-time faculty.
As noted in last week’s Faculty Senate presentation, we are building a faculty staffing model that decreases our reliance on part-time faculty, makes strategic use of full-time, non-tenure track faculty where it makes academic sense, and holds to the principle that tenured faculty members are at the heart of any high-quality program and provide essential continuity for long-term success.
To that point, we are in the process of filling seven, full-time faculty positions: three tenure-track positions in nursing; one tenure track position in school counseling; a full-time lecturer in mechanical engineering; one in accounting; and one in printmaking/drawing.
The hard work of attending to our budget gap is not done. In the weeks ahead, we will be announcing 10-20 staff layoffs in addition to the 14 staff layoffs made earlier this fiscal year.
Working toward fulfilling our mission in a sustainable and fiscally responsible way is tough work, especially when it involves layoffs. But we will get through this and become a more focused university, closely connected to the communities in the population and economic centers of the state. As a result, we will become widely known as a metropolitan university and appreciated for giving students real-world learning experiences that enrich their educations, and boost the region’s economy and quality of life.
Theodora Kalikow is the current president of the University of Southern Maine.