Parry: USM pulled out of rip-tide but tossed into furnace by admin actions

Posted on March 23, 2014 in Letter to the Editor, Perspectives
By Kirsten Sylvain

Dear Provost Stevenson and Board,

Now I’m no economics or mathematics major, but it seems to me that by dramatically reducing the size of the faculty (and subsequently the amount of courses offered) the outcome is obviously going to be fewer students enrolled. An individual was speaking to me and others the other day about how in 2009 the amount of enrolled credit hours was about 190,000, while today that number is down to about 170,000. The real kicker, however, is that this person said that the administration has cut around 15,000 credit hours since 2009. Now bear with me–170,000 credit hours plus 15,000 credit hours equals 185,000 credit hours…Using this logic, you and the board appeared to have made the assumption that every single one of the courses that has been cut would have been completely empty.

How about a simple metaphor–a restaurant serves an average of 300 individuals a day. Then the kitchen manager realizes that they are spending a significant amount of money on the materials and cooks. He brings this to all of the various (and usually non-essential) management in the restaurant, and they decide that to cut the costs they will ONLY serve 250 people a day and let a few cooks go. After a year they realize that they are still spending a lot of money and revenues are down, and so, in order to further cut costs, they fire a couple more cooks and decide to only serve 200 people a day. The next year comes and they realize that they are now losing even more money than they were to begin with. The solution? Fire EVEN MORE cooks and decide to only serve 150 people a day.

Now you see where this is going right? You and the board referred to USM as a business–let me ask you this: what kind of business turns down customers with the hope of keeping costs down? The aforementioned hypothetical restaurant had its good days and bad days (hence the average of 300 in the beginning), but that’s how it goes. It is a silly business plan to think, “Oh, well yesterday we had a pretty bad day, and our labor-percentages were pretty high. Maybe if we don’t make as much food, thus spend less on the materials, and oh yeah, terminate a few cooks since we don’t want to serve more than x amount of people anyway…”

Then there’s the issue of firing part-time professors who are paid $3,000 per course. Now we pay close to $1,000 per class (but for the sake of shooting for lower numbers to emphasize my point we’ll call it $850)–so if I’m not mistaken there is a profit to be made as long as any one part-time professor’s class has more than five people enrolled. Lets call the average number of students enrolled in these classes 14 (again with the low-estimate)–the university is theoretically making $8,900 in profits.

Now I know that you are likely not going to read this and thus won’t answer this question, but how much does the Board of Trustees make per year off the university, and what exactly do they do to positively impact the students–that is, we the investors who are paying them? I know that as an investor, the educators are the ones I (and most of the student body) value the most. I highly doubt there is a student out there saying “They cut my program, but hey, at least we still have this super-convoluted and wasteful UMaine System-wide bureaucracy.

As the ultimate decision-makers of the university,  you know, I’m sure, and have thought about all of this before choosing to leave many of our very treasured and respected educators without a job. Ultimately I am far from alone in my disgust with the decisions that have been made in order to “save” our university–and by “save” I mean pulling out of the rip-tide only to be tossed into a furnace.

Regards,

Robert Parry

Junior Political Science Major

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