Tuesday, January 23rd, 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.”

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes the deeply attractive Susan Feiner grunts out her spench one again. It’s like watching a woman swallow her own oozings. Somebody bag her head, please!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah Matt, I do have a PhD in Economics. I earned it in 1981 at UMass Amherst. I am the first PhD economist to be hired into a Women and Gender Studies program IN THE WORLD!

  • Guest

    Before you make such a claim, look into the numbers; the administration is not always correct. In the economics department, for example, the administration is claiming that upper level courses are small. The goal the administration is setting for class size to be around 25 students. Upper level economics courses at USM range between 30-40 students.

    Also, if the goal of USM is to attract more students, how are they going to be able to handle a larger student body if they continue to cut programs and professors?

  • Lani

    To say that most of the kids at USM don’t pay their own tuition is probably the most ignorant and incorrect claim that could be made. USM is full of non traditional students, full time workers, parents. Maybe you missed the part about Feiner being an Economics Professor too..

  • Martin

    Do you have sources for this information? I’d love to see the numbers of how many students’ parents ‘pay their way.’ I am a current USM student, and I have paid my tuition entirely independently of my parents. In fact, nearly every student I know holds a full or part time job, or has gone into personal student debt, to pay for their tuition. But again, maybe you have actual numbers somewhere in a closed briefcase you could show me.

  • Blundemeier

    ” low-information / pseudo-enlightened progressive crowd.” Hey, it’s Rush Limbaugh! Welcome to Maine!

  • Liberal Arts for Portland

    A “Women & Gender Studies” professor who has a PhD in economics.

  • Matt Collins

    Because Maine would then be on the hook for various future government stipulations and become beholden to federal whims on multiple levels. Should the federal legislature then defund or cut those benefits, then Maine would be all but expected to pick up the tab. In short, he knows what he is doing beyond a liberal talking point meant to garner favor with the low-information / pseudo-enlightened progressive crowd.

  • Curious Mainer

    And Flanagan eliminated LAC Arts and Humanities while admitting in made a profit for the university you go figure – all on line for you in the records of the Board of Trustees meeting in Fort Kent.,

  • Guest

    Gee – I don’t know…why would Maine governor refuse to expand Medicaid and lose millions in federal money for Maine?

  • Curious Mainer

    Most USM students are 28 years old and working – and pay taxes.

  • bulgingtrousers

    If she has crunched the numbers and is so confident that things are able to work, then why on Earth would the University so blatantly shut down a profitable production? Oh wait, they wouldn’t, she is wrong.

  • bulgingtrousers

    Most USM students (not all), are kids whose parents pay their way. Also, most kids there do not own land, or pay much in the way of taxes other than sales tax.

  • Brittany Hill

    If you’re referring to Susan Feiner here, yes, she absolutely does know about balance sheets and what-not as she is also an economics professor. She has crunched the numbers. As a USM student, I would like to inform you that myself, and many of my peers, do indeed pay our own taxes and tuition. Attacking the people working against the cuts at USM based on ideas you have about them is an irresponsible and invalid argument. Instead, please consider the factors laid out by both sides.

  • Anonymous

    “I guess a “Women & gender studies” professor would know about balance sheets & what-not”

    You know who should “know about balance sheets & what-not?” The administration that got USM into this mess. These cuts are a direct result of mismanagement and incompetence that must have been going on for years. The problems are dealt with at that the top, not the bottom.

    They can’t do their jobs, so they cut others’.

  • Curious Mainer

    USM students pay most of the freight at USM – state appropriations are only 30 percent of the budget. And clearly you don’t know USM students – most of them do pay their own tuition and are taxpayers (as are faculty and staff). Husson gets to charge whatever they ant – USM does not.

    BTW – Husson’s enrollment has dropped – 2013 first-year enrollment was 17% lower than in 2009.

  • Matt Collins

    So, what we’re hearing is that a bunch of USM faculty think that USM faculty should not be cut, and also, a bunch of USM college kids who don’t pay taxes (most of whom don’t even pay their own tuition) think that USM faculty should not be cut…… Uh huh…. thanks guys. I guess a “Women & gender studies” professor would know about balance sheets & what-not, put her in charge and right that ship. Why is it that Husson has been growing in leaps & bounds over the past decades?…. private, no tenure…. no state government…. got it, check.