The following is in response to a letter from Newly appointed USM president David T. Flanigan requesting “thoughts, recommendations and support” concerning the future of USM.
I take up your request for help, though I have serious doubts as to how much anyone will pay attention to, let alone read, the many responses you will no doubt receive.
For my introduction, let me produce my credentials in the USM system: as a nontraditional mature student, I assisted the University System in many capacities as a student worker and representative on various committees from 2002 until my graduation in 2009 with a summa cum laude BA in Liberals Studies. My interests ranged from business studies to psychology to liberal arts.
At this time, I have a strong personal desire to be assured that no “money-saving” changes will deny me the right to complete the low-residency graduate degree I have started here at USM. (MFA at Stonecoast) My secondary concerns are for my daughter’s alma mater and its reputation as a Maine institution – a reputation that does not follow the untested and uncertain business model as currently popular in academia. Maine’s motto states clearly “Dirigo.” We do not step in the path muddied by the masses who, believing that others must know the answer, follow the popular trends. We do our own thinking, and we can come up with better answers for All the People of Maine.
As a 3-time homeowner, a business owner and as a manager of others’ businesses, I know that selling off irreplaceable material assets (especially in a buyers market) is irreversible, controversial, and unwise for the long-term health of an institution. As someone familiar with the physical plant of USM, may I suggest that judicious consolidation and modernization of dorm and other spaces is a good investment. USM also has the potential to be a true leader by investing in permanent savings through improved weatherization and in the great potential for generation of free, renewable green and alternate energy from the vast supply of solar and wind energy now going to waste on campus.
A university is not intended or expected to turn a profit as if it were a business. Nor is it a technical school generating producers and consumers. A university’s product is an educated citizenry able to create a better future, make better decisions, and improve upon the foundations we have built. If you have improvement in mind, improve the quality of education. Adjunct faculty with real-life experience can make excellent educators.
There is sloppiness in the University website and in student services at many levels – I refer to low-level office staff as well as those in highly-paid positions. Everyone in the University of Maine System should recognize their position is as a servant of the people of Maine, not a cog in an industrial machine.
A University is not in the business of making money. Do not mistake your job as one in which you can simply creating a temporary false impression of solvency by trading excellence for expedience by selling off the material gifts that speak to Maine’s heritage.
Thank-you for your interest in my opinions. A personal reply would be appreciated, though unexpected.
Tina Lee, LMT
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