Friday, September 21st, 2018

AMS professors claim their major is of vital importance in local professional industries

S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor of AMS, in his lab.
Sam Hill
S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor of AMS, in his lab.

Posted on October 27, 2014 in News, Uncategorized
By Emma James

On Friday, the board of trustees approved the elimination of two university programs, one of which, professors believe, defines the notion of a metropolitan university.

Applied medical sciences was established in 1997. On Nov. 3, 1998, voters of Maine approved a $20 million bond issues to improve the Maine economy by supporting innovative research and development. This bond resulted in the building where the AMS program would survive until Oct. 24, 2014.

Now, however, the building will house that program no longer.

In an email to the board of trustees, S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor and chair of AMS, explained that President Flanagan and Provost McDonnell had never consulted with the faculty of Applied medical sciences until they announced in the second week of this month that AMS would be eliminated.

“Our research programs, our careers and the aspirations and plans of our students are to be totally disrupted by the end of December,” said Duboise. “This decision is outrageous, unreasonable, unorthodox and wrong and does not comport with decent ethical standards of academic leadership.”

One of these standards set forth is the notion that USM should be branded as a metropolitan university.

“I think it’s the ideal metropolitan university program because this program grew out of the community,” said Duboise. “The biotechnology companies and Maine Medical Center and the bioscience research community in southern Maine were involved in the creation of this program. To this day, we have many active connections, including students who are employees of the various companies and research institutions.”

Joan Gordan, president of Maine Molecular Quality Controls, is one of these students.

At the board of trustees meeting she said, “Despite having three children, I was looking for a challenge. I found that challenge in the applied medical sciences program. I love the science, the science was amazing. It was new and on the cutting edge.”

She was almost through the program when the opportunity arose to start her own business. She didn’t finish her degree or her thesis, but the business took off.

“My company literally would not be here today if it weren’t for this program,” said Gordan.

Stephen Pelsue, associate professor of immunology and molecular biology, sees this as a success of the department. He noted that when eliminating programs, more should be looked at than graduation rates. Graduation does not always equate to success.

Faculty of AMS have outreach beyond those within the major. Biology majors and nursing majors take classes in the department, and faculty have even reached out to high schools across the state, working with approximately 12,000 students.

“If that doesn’t show what a metropolitan university should do, then I don’t understand that rhetoric. And I would call it rhetoric because it seems empty in the way it comes from our administration,” said Duboise. “Empty, and perhaps hypocritical.”

According to Pelsue, many students in the program are working in the companies in the southern Maine area while they’re a part of the program. Some of these students declined to comment, as they also represent a company.

“The projects that they do for their research thesis are part of what helps develop company products and new techniques – a variety of important aspects to company development,” said Pelsue. “It’s that engagement with the community that I think really defines a metropolitan university.”

According to Duboise, President Flanagan gave a list of what a public university should do.

“A university needs to create knowledge, transfer knowledge and apply knowledge. We do all of those things,” said Duboise. “Once he and the others have their way, they will destroy research opportunities across this university.”

He added that he believes the board of trustees are breaking away anything that is favorable to AMS to make the numbers seem smaller.

“Essentially, what they say about the five tenured track faculty, is that their five year average annual revenue from grant awards was $856,090 or so,” said Duboise. “On the other side of the chart, five year annual expenses, they have that same number again.”

Duboise said that they’ve charged the money that the faculty bring in to expenses.

“Their contorted reasoning seems to be that if you bring in that money, that that is going to defund the research programs, as though that has nothing to do with the education we’re providing,” said Duboise. “It has everything to do with the education we’re providing.”

Pelsue noted that a teach-out plan had been discussed, but nothing has been set in stone.

“They won’t be able to deliver the program that we deliver now to existing students in the absence of faculty,” Pelsue said.

“The plans that are being concocted by the administration are a fabrication and a sham,” said Duboise. “If they want to eliminate a program, they should be doing it on a two-year schedule so people can really finish the program that they started.”

Duboise questions why administration hasn’t chosen to tap into the willingness of many, such as the AMS faculty, to collaborate and innovate in a better USM.

“It seems, unfortunately, that an agenda of destruction is taking precedence over thought and creative action. All I can say is that I’m very disappointed,” said Duboise. “This is a clear loss for the university, the students studying sciences here and the entirety of southern Maine. I think this is a disservice to the community and just wish they had taken more time to make this decision.”

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