Students for #USMFuture’s open letter to administrators

Posted on April 21, 2014 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

Dear USM President Kalikow, Provost Stevenson, UMaine System Chancellor Page, and UMaine Trustees:

We were overjoyed when we heard President Kalikow [unexpectedly reversed] her decision to “retrench” 12 to 15 tenured faculty in a single day. To us, the un-retrenchments mark an unequivocal victory, the achievement of our number 1 stated goal from the day we first gathered outside the Provost’s office.

We also recognize this as a small, temporary victory in an ongoing struggle for the future of USM, the UMaine system, and public education in Maine.

Because we reject the corporate model offered by the BoT, and because we have been so consistently excluded from this process, we organized to have our voices heard. Today, we continue to carry forth a vision for USM that upholds the university’s mission, to provide all people of Southern Maine “high-quality, accessible, affordable education.” The following is our list of current priorities as a student-led coalition.

1. Support USM and UMaine Staff: While faculty retrenchments spur headlines, staff firings are happening both more quietly and more frequently. For some staff members, being fired means being escorted to the door by security without notice. We are currently working with staff representatives and union leaders to strategize ways to amplify their stories and defend their jobs. We recognize the essential work that staff do at USM, and we recognize their right to work with dignity, security and respect.

2. Support of Alternate Budget Plans: We support the principles behind the faculty’s alternate 27-point financial plan. While we understand that reasonable people might disagree over specific points, what strikes us most significantly about the plan is how the faculty senate was able to find alternate ways to eliminate waste and maximize savings in a few short days, under tremendous pressure, while the administration was unable to offer any counter-solutions for a period of months. We defend this plan, which would save the targeted programs and at-risk faculty positions.

3. Get an Audience with the Board of Trustees: We ask to appear at the next Board meeting to present our case directly to the Board. We also encourage our supporters in the coalition and across Maine to contact each Trustee directly, and let them know that the direction in which they are steering the UMaine System does not reflect the wishes of the people of Maine, and may violate terms of stewardship as codified by law and university governing documents.

4. Finance an Independent Audit of UMaine System Finances: As a public institution, the UMaine System’s finances are a matter of public record. We are investigating ways to crowd-source an independent audit of system finances, looking to connect the dots regarding misrepresentations, waste, conflicts of interest, and instances of cronyism or retaliation.

5. Fight for Funding For Public Education: We will continue to work towards elevating education as a pivotal political issue during the next election cycle. To this end, we are building a coalition of students, faculty, staff and allies from around the state to demand a state budget that ensures our human right to education. This coalition, Solidarity for #UMaineFuture, includes off-campus allies such as the Maine AFLCIO, and the Southern and Central Maine Labor Councils.

6. Contextualize Our Fight Within Wider Struggles Against Austerity and the Privatization-Oriented Education Reform Movement: We defend tenure and the availability of a comprehensive public liberal-arts based education because these institutions are irreplaceable repositories of information and values not institutionalized anywhere else in our society. We recognize that the income gap is the widest its been since before the great depression. We reject logic that would pit working class people against each other for supposedly scarce resources. We are stronger when we work together to demand our human rights be met.

The administration may believe this student movement will die after graduation day, but we’re not going anywhere. We understand that a quality public education is no longer something every citizen can simply expect—it is now something we have to fight for. We fully expect to be fighting that fight for the rest of our lives, and we are more than prepared to so.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully,
Students for #USMFuture