Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Admins continue to work on teach-out plan

Provost Joseph McDonnell discusses the two-year teach-out plan to be enacted for students in eliminated programs.
Krysteana Scribner
Provost Joseph McDonnell discusses the two-year teach-out plan to be enacted for students in eliminated programs.

Posted on November 17, 2014 in News
By Emma James

In wake of five programs being eliminated within the span of a few months, the administration is continuing to work on establishing a two-year teach-out plan so affected students may finish their degrees.

American and New England Studies, geosciences and the arts and humanities program at Lewiston-Auburn campus were eliminated by the board of trustees in September, along with French and applied medical sciences just a few weeks ago. Since the eliminations, the administration has promised that students will be able to complete those programs in a timely manner before closing them completely, but according to some faculty little progress has been made in developing a teach-out plan.

 According to Kent Ryden, chair and professor of American and New England studies, little progress has been made on developing a concrete teach-out plan, at least to his knowledge.

“The dean’s office has been in contact with students, telling them there still will be courses offered, but there are no specifics,” said Ryden. “Our students are very much in the dark.”

Provost Joseph McDonnell explained that, though some argue there are ambiguities with the process, administration is taking their obligation seriously to provide students the opportunity to graduate in these programs.

“We’re working to that objective,” said McDonnell. “We’re trying to make sure courses are in place for the spring semester and beyond that. Because there are so few students enrolled in these programs, it does give the opportunity for individualized plans.”

According to Ryden, the dean’s office has contacted students saying there will be ANES courses offered, but possibly not by current faculty, and with no specifics about what those courses may be.

“A real point of confusion is what’s going to happen with students working on their master’s theses. Students are still frustrated,” said Ryden. “We’re very much in the dark. They haven’t been given any guidance, specific guidance, at all by the administration.”

S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology in the applied medical sciences program, also had limited knowledge on what the teach-out plan will look like, stating in an email, “I wish there were more that I could tell you about the plans being made. Meetings of the CSTH dean with individual faculty members are proceeding. I cannot predict what the end result will be at this point. I don’t have any additional information at present.”

McDonnell noted that not all students take the thesis path, and that conversations are starting to happen regarding their preference for degree completion. He also reassured that the administration is working on securing part-time faculty to teach the required courses, as well as faculty to advise in thesis research.

“I think students need to be able to see a path,” said McDonnell. “Exceptions can be made, but I also think students will want to see what’s being offered to them each semester, rather than having the whole thing open-ended.”

McDonnell explained that it’s about what the university can offer and a students’ schedule; students are not restricted to a two-year timespan.

“We do have the option to tailor these plans for each student,” said McDonnell. “Students ought to know when courses are being offered so they can plan their schedule.”

Still, to some, this plan seems difficult to interpret and unrealistic, given that USM is such a nontraditional school.

“Administrators are taking action and only then figuring out repercussions,” Ryden said.

According to McDonnell, however, some plan is better than no plan. It’s better to have courses planned out over a two year span so students know when they’ll be available than to have it completely up in the air. This way, he believes, students have a visible path to continue on toward graduation, with the understanding that some exceptions can be made beyond the two-year plan.

“These are difficult times for the university, faculty and students,” said McDonnell. “It’s important that we work together cooperatively to serve the students in light of the budgetary constraints we are facing. I deeply appreciate the cooperation of faculty in best serving out students.”