President Theo Kalikow surprised those in attendance at today’s Faculty Senate meeting when she announced a reversal of all 12 of the faculty cuts that Provost Michael Stevenson had made in March.
She made the decision at the meeting, she said. It was so sudden a decision, she noted, that the previously retrenched faculty had yet even to be notified of the change.
Executive Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell explained that Kalikow asked for a designated Faculty Senate committee to submit an alternate cost-saving proposal that would generate the same “savings and outcomes” as the previous actions. That committee will have until May 31 to submit the proposal to Kalikow, at which point she will take the alternative proposal under advisement.
Multiple faculty present thanked the president for her announcement. “Thank you President Kalikow for restoring some hope in this process,” said associate professor of nursing Kim Moody.
Kalikow said that the three programs slated for cuts in mid-March, Geosciences, LAC Humanities and the graduate program in American and New England Studies are still on the table. The Faculty Senate Academic Review Committee will have until May 5 to propose alternative cuts to President Kalikow.
The process of staff cuts Kalikow said will also continue. During the fiscal year 2015, 14 staff have already been officially laid off. As part of the efforts to fill the remaining $14 million gap, Kalikow announced last month that 10 to 20 additional staff would have to be notified.
When asked whether or not those staff had already received their notices, Kalikow declined to comment on specifics, but added that she thought that three staff had been notified in the last week of their termination.
Kalikow also explained that the process going forward has not yet been decided. Much of the work that remains, she said, depends upon the results of the faculty committee recommendations. “What else we will do is still to be determined,” she said. However, she added that everything may be back on the table after the senate committee’s proposals have been considered, including the 12 reinstated faculty members.
“It may turn out that they get fresh letters,” she said. “It may be that people who didn’t get letters [will get] them.” But any new letters will have to wait for October after the start of the new fiscal year, the next possible deadline at which faculty may be retrenched according to their contracts.
With the news of Kalikow’s decision, student and faculty protesters rejoiced. Many faculty, students and locals praised the efforts of students as directly causing the reversal of the cuts.
When Kalikow was asked how student efforts to protest the retrenchments affected her decision today, she responded that the impact was only indirect. She added, however, that she was pleased with the level of student involvement.
“I’ve been waiting for thirty years for students to wake up,” she said.
In a prepared statement, #USMfuture organizers said that they saw the president’s decision as an “incredible victory for the #USMFuture movement,” but they added that the fight isn’t over yet.
“We also see this as just one step in the ongoing struggle and pledge to continue to oppose all cuts, including staff and department cuts, until the Board of Trustees agrees to an independent audit of UMaine system spending.”
They plan are gathering tonight to celebrate in the Woodbury Campus Center.