Monday, September 25th, 2017

Students rally to save three programs on the administration’s chopping block

Ardis Cameron, an American and New England Studies professor, spoke at the rally aimed at saving her program from elimination on Wednesday, claiming that ANES was a unique program in the country.
Francis Flisiuk
Ardis Cameron, an American and New England Studies professor, spoke at the rally aimed at saving her program from elimination on Wednesday, claiming that ANES was a unique program in the country.

Posted on June 27, 2014 in News
By Francis Flisiuk

Michael Havlin, a recent business and economics graduate,  urged attendees to spread the word about the crowd-funding website.
Francis Flisiuk
Michael Havlin, a recent business and economics graduate, urged attendees to spread the word about the crowd-funding website.
Dr. Stephen Pollock, a geosciences professor, details how valuable his department is to the community by sharing his knowledge of mercury and its effect on river ecosystems.
Francis Flisiuk
Dr. Stephen Pollock, a geosciences professor, details how valuable his department is to the community by sharing his knowledge of mercury and its effect on river ecosystems.

Students for #USM Future recently organized a rally outside of the Maine Law Building to protest President Theo Kalikow’s final budget recommendations, specifically the three programs that are slated for elimination.

Geosciences, American and New England Studies and the Arts and Humanities program on the Lewiston-Auburn campus have been considered part of the necessary budget cuts since March, and have not been removed from the chopping block.

Convincing administrators not to cut these programs has been a goal of the student group since their first protests and on Wednesday they said they were rallying to ‘preserve’ the programs.

“We know these programs are valuable, profitable and continue to grow,” said LaSala. “We haven’t been explained why these majors are being targeted.”

On Tuesday the group announced a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $10,000, with aims to finance an independent audit of the UMaine System’s budget. They are hoping an investigation would shed light on any conflicts of interest, rule-bending and lack of oversight within the USM administration. The USMFuture Preservation Fund has raised $2,394 within the first few days of asking for donations.

The group drew a small crowd, comprised of faculty, staff and community members and many were given a chance to voice their concerns publicly..

Stephen Pollock, a geology professor, explained how rising levels in mercury are seeping from bedrock and into Maine rivers, causing many environmental problems, in an effort to show how valuable maintaining a geoscience community on campus is.

“If enough mercury makes its way into the Penobscot river, we’ll have decades, maybe centuries worth of problems,” said Pollock. “These are the kinds of issues that geosciences documents. We make society better.”

Ardis Cameron, a professor in the American and New England studies program, stressed that her academic department is not only popular, but extremely profitable. According to Cameron, it’s also one of only two of its kind of academic program in the entire country.

“It’s a human right to have access to education,” said Cameron. “We need to pause and ask ourselves does the current model best suit the needs of our region and the students who live in it?”

Many speakers and protestors argued that it’s not and there are many more fiscally responsible ways to save money, that doesn’t involve eliminating crucial programs and valued faculty members. The Faculty Senate presented an alternative budget proposal weeks ago with an estimated $5 million in savings, but according to LaSala, Kalikow turned a blind eye.

“There are a lot of ways we can save and creatively shift money that doesn’t involve students,” said LaSala. “Cut from the top and reduce the salaries of overpaid administrators.”

Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell said that there were sit-down meeting between the administration and student leaders after the group’s first protest when they were rallying to save faculty members who had been retrenched.

“Theo has made a point all along that the work of the students ought to be appreciated because, whether you can agree or disagree with what they’re saying, the students are showing that they care about this university,” said Caswell. “Certainly, everybody is aware of the points that they’re raising. They’ve been taken under consideration.”

Speakers also noted the budget for administrative cellphones. the recent hiring of Director of Public Affairs Dan Demeritt at the system-level and firing of former Portland Student Life Director Christopher O’Connor.

“It’s another chilling demonstration of how decisions are being made without clear criteria or rationales and with little regard to what is best for USM students and the community at large,” said Sarah Victor, a mother and graduate student in Occupational Therapy, on the hiring of Demeritt.

#USMFuture also revealed that they will be starting their own search for a new president.

According to LaSala, #USMFuture is going to urge the board of trustees to listen to their recommendations and give them representation on the official presidential search committee. The first order of business for #USMFuture’s search is develop a criteria for a new president that is based upon preserving USM as a comprehensive liberal arts university and community healing through transparency and shared governance.

“If they refuse to grant us representation on the committee, then we’re prepared to form and sponsor our own,” said LaSala.

Last month, Kalikow announced the formation of the Metropolitan University Steering Group, which would aid the search committee in finding a president with a more metropolitan vision. The members of #USMFuture, according to LaSala aren’t entirely convinced that the objectives of that coalition is what students want for USM.

“We all know ‘metropolitan university’ is simply a code word to help turn USM into an appendage of the corporate world,” said Michael Havlin, a recent graduate in business and economics.

Victor said that the group feels it’s time to take matters in their own hands, but that so far, they’ve been met with condescension, evasion and occasionally outright lies.

“The damage that will be left in the wake of the Kalikow administration, the LePage chancery, and this board of LePage appointed trustees, will have catastrophic reverberations in the state of Maine for generations to come,” said Victor.

Caswell noted that while the budget for FY15 has been finished, the administration will need input on next year’s budget soon.

“As we look ahead to working on the FY16 budget, we’re going to be committed to an inclusive process, so we can meet the fiscal challenges while continuing to offer and affordable high quality education,” said Caswell, noting that the form of the inclusive process has yet to be determined. “All of that has to be done with the understanding that we’re not going to meet universal agreement with the hard challenges we face.”

Editor-in-Chief Sam Hill contributed to this story.

  • Anonymous

    I might share them with the Free Press as they are fair in their reporting. And will do when in in mid-August they realize what went wrong for USMfuture and their faculty led mission. Not the students fault.

  • Curious Mainer

    If you are not willing to share the documents, can you share the process? Who do I ask for them from?

  • Anonymous

    Your profile name does not suit you as you don’t appear to be Curious at all…so maybe a name like Jump-to-Conclusions would be better as you learn to get facts first.

  • Anonymous

    I asked for the documents and received them, many of the blamers and whiners, have not asked!! I was civil and whah-lah, got them. CuriousMainer, you will have to ask for yourself. Enjoy the process.

  • Curious Mainer

    Can you tell us where to find the documents that provide evidence for all of your arguments? I would be interested to read them.

  • Anonymous

    Read above posting.

  • Anonymous

    The USM bookstore has financial reserves? No it does not. Renovating the bookstore didn’t come out of the bookstore budget and had been planned to create better use of space and updating the electrical and heating systems,these are planned maintenance projects. As many universities are having these financial situations with their bookstores because of; students purchasing used text books from online sellers to save money; textbook companies have a monopoly and increase costs each year- some books are over $200; so the campus bookstores are losing or operating in the red, including USM’s.It is sad when staff are laid off.
    USM is trying to keep the bookstore open for students. You do not have the correct facts and sound as if you are just into being negative about any decision made.
    So you are clear- when Pattenude was USM president he did some good things, but there was little oversight of the budget and as everyone is now aware, some of the USM faculty don’t like to be told no and then start throwing tantrums, he choose to say yes leading to major budget issues which you currently see. Each president since that spending spree has had to deal with additional cuts because of his choices and some faculty who decided they had a right for more funds.More importantly each President since then who has tried to bring the budget back in line has had to deal with faculty senates who only care about having power but not viable alternative budget plans- with major math issues.So the protests without serious commitment to working for what is best for USM and blaming is the chosen path is getting USM no where. Each president, currently Kalikow has to make the budget decisions while faculty who had either scurried to a blaming and not-going-to-help hole and some others hiding behind(but really leading) “student” protests.have created the luxury of blaming Kalikow, and sadly are part of the problem.
    Many of the faculty also receive stipend money which is not reported in the public report of their salaries… Hmmm still waiting to hear them say we won’t accept that money for being on a committee or advising students…nope. Guess whose interests matter the most?

  • Brennan Huff

    What in Sam Hill is going on? “Editor-in-Chief Sam Hill contributed to this story”

  • Brennan Huff

    The “People’s University”. Yes and we the people are out of money to pay for it. Welcome to life 101.

  • Curious Mainer

    that’ll save us millions! such bad decisions that save nothing in the face of the real cuts that should be made.

  • James O’Hara

    Damn. Who? The administration have had the bookstore in their sights for years. Almost done demolishing that once-thriving campus outpost of literacy and print culture. (Though of course they are not above spending the Bookstore’s financial reserves on renovating the space before kicking the bookstore out entirely.)

  • Sadmac

    meanwhile, a single mom with 3 small children were laid off from the bookstore yesterday