The following is an email sent from Kalikow to current students at USM. It was sent at 3:31 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

Dear Students:

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.

Sincerely yours,


Theodora Kalikow is the current president of the University of Southern Maine.


  1. Firing 12 faculty members but President announces “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.”

  2. Dear President Kalikow,

    I can’t tell if you are a decent person who finds herself
    trapped, ashamed, maybe even afraid, in an increasingly ugly and untenable
    situation, or if you are simply a hatchet-person, someone whose job is to put
    the warm-seeming older-woman face on the longstanding neo-liberal plot of a
    cabal of truly bad men who in no unequivocal terms mean harm to USM and the
    public university system.

    Either way, your legacy will be that you went out of your
    way to placate men who are truly our enemies (and they are, as far as I can
    see, all men), men who do not understand and do not care about what goes on in
    a university, or how a university actually functions; men who brazenly flaunt
    their deep antipathy and antagonism to the core values of the academic
    community at large; men who wish to turn education into a corporate product.

    You will not be remembered as someone who made hard choices
    and difficult compromises at a time of crisis, but as a frontline collaborator
    in the dismantling of the public liberal arts university during a time of
    manufactured crisis, and with it, the democratic promise of a free and secure citizenry
    comprised of creative, critical thinkers.

    You will be remembered as someone who failed or refused to
    defend academic values; as someone who bought into the hollow promises and single-value
    systems of bankers and technologists.

    Once we concede that education must be defended in economic
    terms, we have conceded everything. We are now playing according to the value
    systems of people who want only to destroy us. To destroy the liberal arts. To
    destroy shared governance. To destroy the tenure system. To destroy unionized
    workers. To destroy an educated and free-thinking citizenry. To destroy
    creativity. To destroy any remaining sense of empowerment and security among
    students, staff, and faculty.

    In hindsight, you, the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor’s
    office, The USM Foundation members, and the Provost have all been startlingly
    clear about their endgame for USM: you all want an institution with more bogus
    online classes and even complete online degree tracks, where the teachers are
    mostly poorly paid, insecure adjuncts, and where the courses are tailored to
    the needs of the local business community, to whom the institution will be
    formally answerable, and to whom slave labor will be farmed out in the form of

    That “vison” can be aggressively marketed (“Make your own
    schedule! Go to school whenever it’s convenient for you! Make more money in
    your lifetime!”), with increasingly worthless degrees churned out by the
    truckload for an increasingly desperate public, whose massive debt-load serves
    to fatten the coffers of the bankers and business leaders who happen to serve
    on the BoT and the USM Foundation.

    This is you speaking in the Bangor Daily News in July 2012:

    Kalikow, who met with reporters
    throughout the day Tuesday, said institutions of higher education must be
    flexible in the face of changes in society, the economy and technology. She
    said USM, located in what Page described Tuesday as Maine’s “economic engine”
    of greater Portland, must continue to build connections in the surrounding
    businesses and community organizations.

    “We can cut the budget and streamline operations and create relevant classes
    and blah, blah, blah — but if we don’t have those community connections, a
    university won’t be successful,” she said.

    “Blah blah blah”? Why were you so glib and dismissive about
    your core mission when speaking to the press that day? And in April of last
    year, you rolled your eyes at me in a public symposium about the future of the
    humanities when I asked whether it was your responsibility to defend academic
    values against the encroachment of those who would seek to value everything on
    a monetary basis. I wrote about this encounter in the Free Press:

    Last month I attended a public
    symposium on the future of the humanities at USM, where I asked President
    Kalikow what responsibility the academy has to hold the line against the
    encroachment of purely economic values on what was previously protected
    cultural space. Kalikow rolled her eyes at me as if to say, ‘Oh lord, here we go
    with the ‘value’ questions,’ and then replied with a spirited defense of speed,
    ease and convenience in higher education, along with the assertion that
    McDonald’s is not always bad.

    I left the symposium offended and
    disheartened by her glib dismissal of what I believe is probably the critical
    question regarding the future of this country. I also completely disagreed with
    her answer: nutritionally, economically, socially, environmentally,
    discursively and spiritually, McDonald’s is always, always bad.

    Students and faculty (and allies from around Portland and
    the world) have spoken clearly and eloquently. While the occasional online
    class may augment a course of serious academic study, we don’t want the inane “convenience” of online education – we want the support of a genuine flesh-and-blood community, and real world relationships that increase all of our strengths and
    abilities exponentially. Anything worthwhile and of value requires genuine
    effort. We reject Netflix U and we resent the condescending implication that
    students “demand” junk-food education. We want jobs, but we aren’t here for
    career training, and our engagement with the surrounding communities means a
    lot more than (and goes a lot deeper) than kowtowing to local businesses.

    The only people who want this garbage are the people who
    stand to profit from it and who are trying to ram it down the public’s throat
    by creating false demand and false financial crises. The students don’t want it,
    and the faculty don’t want it. Against impossible odds we have built a thriving
    community of creativity and productive scholarship here at USM, and we value
    what we have.

    But instead of defending it, you helped destroy it.

    Unless you muster up a last-minute turnabout display of
    integrity, that will be your legacy, President Kalikow.

    I beg you. Help us. Do not turn your back on an institution
    that has given you a life and a mind beyond measure. Do not abandon the
    academic values and ideals that have nurtured you your entire life. Do not be
    an accomplice in the destruction of creativity, and critical, thought and the
    commercialization of every public good in this country.

    Philip Shelley

    Class of 2014

    BA English, Summa Cum Laude


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