Students push back against proposed program cuts

Chief Student Affairs Officer Susan Campbell (left) met with Recreation and Leisure studies department chair David Jones and students in the program to coordinate a reaction to the proposed cuts.
Patrick Higgins
Chief Student Affairs Officer Susan Campbell (left) met with Recreation and Leisure studies department chair David Jones and students in the program to coordinate a reaction to the proposed cuts.

Posted on March 26, 2014 in News
By Sidney Dritz

The difference between the faculty members who were laid off last Friday and the four programs President Kalikow proposed cutting entirely the week before is that the four degree programs are only proposed cuts, which won’t be evaluated by the board of trustees until July.

The four proposed degree programs Kalikow proposed cutting are recreation and leisure studies, geoscience, American and New England studies and the arts and humanities major on the Lewiston Auburn campus.

After the announcement of the proposed program cuts, each student enrolled in one of the affected programs was contacted in order to formulate personalized plans for them to finish their degree, said Chief Student Affairs Officer Susan Campbell.
Campbell attended a meeting organized by the recreation and leisure department to allow the department’s students to formulate a plan to oppose the closing of their department. “What I wanted to reaffirm was that we are committed to helping students complete their degree,” Campbell said.

She stressed that the university intends to uphold its responsibility to help and students enrolled in cancelled programs, or, indeed, students thinking about entering the program who declare their majors before some time next fall finish their degrees.

“Any program elimination does not affect a student’s ability to graduate. It can’t,” Campbell said.

“You have to do contingency planning,” Campbell said, when the Free Press asked if her office was operating as if the proposed cuts were happening.

A number of students in proposed-cut programs are determined not to need to make use of those contingency plans, however, and even more members of the affected departments feel blindsided by the proposals.

Geoscience

“It has been exceptional, it has been so heartwarming,” Geoscience chair Stephen Pollock told the Free Press when he was asked about the student response to the proposed cutting of his department. “I know letters are being sent to the president and the provost.”

Pollock explained that the last formal review of the department, in the 2012 to 2013 academic year, did not contain a recommendation to close the department. “They made recommendations that would allow the department to grow through selective mergers.”

Since then, Pollock said, through a concerted effort, the department has grown, and the graduation numbers have risen.
“A student said recently, and I agree, that one thing we could do better is to market the program,” Pollock said. “I think we need to market the courses better.”

“I don’t think people know how incredible that program is and the caliber of scientists it has produced over the years,” said Rachel Weiss-Racine, a 2007 geoscience graduate, in an email to the Free Press.

Recreation and Leisure

Students from the recreation and leisure studies program organized two meeting last Wednesday in order to coordinate a response to the proposed cutting of their department, where the ten students in the department were eager to tell the Free Press all of the positive things their program adds to the community.

“It’s one of the few majors at USM that’s bringing the university out into the public in a positive light,” said recreation and leisure student Liz Holbrook, recounting work the program’s students have done to help rehabilitate wounded recent combat veterans, and the positive media attention the program has received.

Others discussed service internships required for graduation in the program, often in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The talking points gathered on the board at the meeting to present to the President the next day expressed concern that one of the reasons recreation and leisure faces elimination is that the university doesn’t know much about the program.

“The title ‘Theraputic recreation’ reflects the continuum of services,” said recreation and leisure major Abby Myshrall.
“Because we are Recreation and Leisure Studies, they don’t understand that we do more than fun and games,” recreation and leisure department chair Dave Jones told the Free Press, later.

A number of recreation and leisure studies students addressed the president in support of their program the next day.
“My students had a great presentation,” Jones said.

American and New England Studies

A number of students from the American and New England Studies program also attended Thursday’s meeting. They expressed concern for their department, and were relieved to hear that the proposed cuts were not yet set in stone.

“There was a lot of immediate outrage among current students and alumni. We’re getting a lot of supportive letters written to the upper administration by supporters and alumni,” said ANES chair Kent Ryden.

Ryden admitted that from a strictly revenue-centric standpoint, ANES does not quite earn as much money as it costs to run the program.

“I think that we fit the mission or the vision so well, so completely and we’re the only humanities graduate program in Maine,” Ryden said. “I was hoping that the people making the decision would know that and take that into account.”

Dean Joyce Gibson of the Lewiston Auburn campus did not respond to the Free Press’s request for comment.

The Faculty Senate are charged with presenting their own recommendations on the president’s plans by the May 5 senate meeting. Shortly after she presented to proposed cuts, Kalikow told the Free Press that her proposals have been written into the proposed budget which has been submitted for the upcoming year. There will be time to revise the budget until it is approved by the board of trustees and the chancellor, which will happen over the summer, though she was not sure of the chancellor’s exact timeline, Kalikow said.

“I think there will be a lot of discussion,” she said.