Thursday, January 17th, 2019

President Flanagan announces 50 faculty cuts, two program eliminations to combat budget deficit

David Flanagan, interim president at USM.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
David Flanagan, interim president at USM.

Posted on October 06, 2014 in News
By Sam Hill

President David Flanagan announced today that the university would be eliminating 50 faculty positions and two additional programs by the end of November to combat its growing budget deficit, which is estimated at $16 million right now.

The administration has increased early retirement incentives and are looking to eliminate many positions through retirement by Oct. 20, but will resort to layoffs at the end of the month. According to a letter from

Provost Joseph McDonnell to staff and faculty, 100 faculty are eligible for retirement.

The administration will also propose eliminating the undergraduate French program and graduate applied medical sciences program, which Christopher Quint, the executive director of public affairs, says will impact 50 students.

“This is the first phase of our sustainability plan,” said Flanagan in a prepared statement this morning. “The proposal we are announcing today — totaling approximately $6 million in savings towards our $16 million goal — are decisions we are obligated to make at this time as set forth in the faculty (AFUM) contract and USM governance documents.”

According to Flanagan, these cuts are the first steps in turning USM into “Maine’s Metropolitan University” and is necessary to keep the university affordable and accessible for current and future students.

“We are being strategic and decisive to ensure USM remains a vibrant and affordable university serving the needs of our students and our communities,” he continued.

McDonnell wrote in his letter that these cuts are the alternative to eliminating numerous academic programs entirely. He asked the faculty to help reconfigure small departments into more interdisciplinary programs in order to save money and continue offering the same courses.

“This plan is not merely a way to deal with a budget crisis, but an opportunity for a cosmopolitan university to connect the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences with each other and the professional programs in Business, Technology, Health, and the Environment,” wrote McDonnell.

McDonnell outlined a plan for “program realignment” in his letter, a plan that aims to keep available  credit hours the same with fewer faculty. He listed faculty reductions by department: seven faculty will be cut through the  program eliminations last month, which included geosciences, American and New England studies and arts and humanities at the Lewiston-Auburn campus. Five faculty will be cut from the applied medical science program and three from languages when the two new proposed program eliminations go through. six-to-seven positions in the Muskie School of Public Service will be eliminated in the community planning and development and public policy and management programs. The English department will be reduced by four-and-a-half faculty and the education program will cut two-and-a-half faculty. Computer science, criminology, economics, music, psychology and sociology will each lose two faculty members. Communication and media studies, history, leadership and organizational studies, natural and applied science, philosophy, political science, social and behavioral science, technology and theatre will each lose one faculty member.

The administration is waiting to see which faculty members will retire by Oct. 20 before they consider layoffs, which will be announced by Oct. 31. If a faculty member in a specific program retires in will count toward that department’s cuts.

“The university will be intact by handling the budget situation this way. We’re trying to restore financial stability without putting the burden on students,” said Flanagan in an interview with the Free Press. “There are always going to be people that say we can’t change, but in this world you either change or you die, and I’m here to make sure USM survives. We’re going to make this university stable and make sure it continues to exist.”

The plan also includes numerous suggestions for combining and condensing programs in the future. According to Flanagan, phase two of their plan will consist of cutting down on administrative costs and looking for additional revenue streams for the university.

Shortly after the annoucement, Joy Pufhal, dean of students, sent out an email to all students reminding them the health and counseling services were availble if students needed them.

“Some of you may be feeling directly impacted by program elimination and /or may know the employees that could be impacted,” wrote Pufhal. “We will be providing stress relief opportunities and other events over the coming weeks to connect and support one another.”

“The transformation of the university presents the entire university community with serious challenges but also exciting opportunities,” wrote McDonnell in his conclusion. “It will require hard work and enormous energy but we will be rewarded by making this university a vital institution in the state, region, and the communities where we are located.”

Flanagan noted that these changes would be happening much quicker than eliminations have happened in the past.

“We have to act with a sense of urgency,” said Flanagan. “The system doesn’t have the money to bail us out again.”

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