Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

‘USM needs to be invested in, not cut:’ Faculty, students respond to announcement of faculty cuts

Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women and gender studies, has continuously spoken out against USM administration since cuts last spring.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women and gender studies, has continuously spoken out against USM administration since cuts last spring.

Posted on October 06, 2014 in News
By Emma James

Neal Young, a political science major, explained that he came to USM and left for a private education.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Neal Young, a political science major, explained that he came to USM and left for a private education.
Jerry LaSala, a professor of physics and chair of the faculty senate, said the university course load cannot be completed if faculty cuts continue.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Jerry LaSala, a professor of physics and chair of the faculty senate, said the university course load cannot be completed if faculty cuts continue.

Students and faculty gathered in opposition to the cuts released earlier in the day by the president and provost.

Susan Feiner, professor of economics and vice president of the faculty union AFUM, announced that AFUM speaks out strongly against the ill-advised cuts that, according to her, completely compromise USM.

“Programs are explicitly detailed in the course catalog,” said Feiner. “With the faculty cuts, most programs don’t be able to deliver the degrees. Faculty are not pieces on an assembly line.”

Feiner explained that AFUM opposes the cuts and will support faculty with grievances.

Paul Christenson, professor of music, echoed Feiner.

“We all have our own areas of expertise,” said Christenson. “We are not cogs on a machine. The classes we teach are specialized and cannot be taken on by our colleagues.”

Jerry LaSala, professor of physics and chair of the faculty senate, agrees that USM cannot be sustained with the additional 18% reduction in faculty, on top of a 25% reduction in the past five years.

“Another 18% makes it virtually impossible for students to complete their degrees,” said Feiner. “Programs cannot be delivered with these faculty cuts.”

In addition to faculty cuts, two programs have been identified for complete closure. The undergraduate degree in French and masters program in applied medical sciences are both up for expedited elimination

“That’s five majors cut in the space of one month,” Feiner said.

Neal Young, a political science major, explained that he came to USM and left for a private education. He’s returned to USM to finish his degree because he feels that USM has given him a stronger foundation than the private counterpart.

“When you cut departments, you’re depriving students of skill sets they desperately need,” said Young. “It’s not about regurgitating a textbook. It’s about making students passionate.”

With the small faculty-to-student ratio, competitive with what students may find at a private institution, Alex Night, a physics and math major, explained that his life goals have changed as a result of creating close ties with faculty.

“Teachers can only give us love when they have energy to do it,” said Night. “[With proposed cuts] if I want to continue with life plans, I’ll have to leave. And I don’t want to do that.”

Christy Hammer, co-president of AFUM, agreed with the sentiment of a low faculty to student ratio, and expressed that she doesn’t want to see USM privatized.

“He [President David Flanagan] wants to privatize USM,” said Hammer. “Why would they cut faculty who are the revenue generators?”

In the three programs that were cut, according to Hammer, it only cut seven faculty members. One of the programs, American and New England studies, was the only master’s program in humanities for all of Southern Maine.

“That shows USM has been systematically starved,” said Hammer. “USM needs to be invested in, not cut.”

Wendy Chapkis, professor of sociology and women and gender studies, asked the people of Maine: “What do you want in terms of options for yourself and for your children? We just cut the only public humanities master’s program in southern Maine. Is that your vision for southern Maine?”

Chapkis questioned why the vision of branding USM as “Maine’s Metropolitan University” is better than as a comprehensive university.

“We are programs central to the life of the university,” Chapkis said.

Meaghan LaSala, senior women and gender studies major, emphasized that the issues USM are facing do not just affect faculty and students, but everyone in Maine.

“A comprehensive university is an economic driver,” said LaSala. “We need the people of Maine to agree that we need to invest in USM, not cut.”

The faculty cuts presented today are only phase-one of a three phase plan by the president. Later phases include looking at administrative costs.

“We [faculty] are the revenue generators,” said Feiner. “The heart of the university is with  the faculty and with  the students in the classroom. Curriculum are not prepackaged. Its not like ramen noodles.”

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