Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

USM Preservation Fund meets $10,000 goal

Meaghan LaSala, senior women and gender studies major, speaks out against program eliminations.
Sam Hill
Meaghan LaSala, senior women and gender studies major, speaks out against program eliminations.

Posted on November 17, 2014 in News, Uncategorized
By USM Free Press

By: Annie Quandt

As of Friday, the USM Preservation Fund reached its $10,000 goal. The fundraiser, which was started last spring by the protest group Students for #USMFuture, has two initiatives: One is to fund an independent audit, the other is to provide legal counsel to students.

“The independent audit’s goal would be to shed some light on the finances. [We want to hire] someone who’s impartial and from the outside, an impartial accountant, to answer a lot of these questions in terms of how profitable are these programs that are being cut. Faculty that are being eliminated are bringing in a lot of revenue on a yearly basis,” said Meghan LaSala, senior women and gender studies major and student leader for the group.

LaSala discussed the importance of legal counsel, noting that the administration is still unable to tell students how they’ll be able to finish their degrees.

“They’re firing the only professors that have the training and credentials to offer these courses that students need to graduate,” said LaSala. “When students declare a major, that’s a legal contract with the university, that they are obligated to fulfill in terms of providing students the education they signed up for.”

MA’s in applied medical sciences and American and New England studies were both eliminated. BA’s in geosciences, French and the arts and humanities program at the Lewiston-Auburn campus were also cut. 

 “About 25 faculty were retrenched, and a lot of faculty chose early retirement, but not all those retirements were able to save other faculty positions, because if they weren’t in the programs being targeted by the administration, then junior faculty were still retrenched,” said LaSala. “We’ve lost five programs since the start of the semester, but many other programs are losing half of their faculty.”

LaSala believes these are cuts that will have a lasting impact on USM. 

“We’re losing our only tenured classics professor; we’re no longer going to be able to offer a class in the major,” LaSala said.

LaSala also noted the stress some faculty face with the cuts.

“The administration is arguing that senior faculty can just teach more classes but a lot of faculty are already teaching about four classes. It also completely undermines that faculty at public universities, half of their job is to do research and to include students in that process; it’s part of their job contract that they need to do research,” said LaSala. “Faculty that is teaching five courses a semester are not going to be able to do that kind of work.”

LaSala noted that the university is advocating for a shift toward more adjunct professors.

“They’ll just replace these positions with part-time positions, but those positions are underpaid, unstable,” said LaSala. “I know one adjunct professor that calls it her volunteer job. They don’t have an office. They don’t have the resources to support students the same way that tenured faculty do.”

Paul Nakroshis, a physics professor at USM, agrees that the course load put on other professors will be too much.

With a goal of reinstating transparency, sharing governance and advocating for state investment in USM, many have donated to the fund. Not only have professors donated, but LaSala says many alumni, students, families and members of the southern Maine community have also contributed to the fund.

Nakroshis explained that he donated because he believes the students are acting more intelligently than the university governing system.

LaSala emphasized that there’s still hope for USM.

“I think there was and is another path forward for USM. That is to stop this downward spiral train of cutting courses which is only going to make our declining enrollment worse and hurt our bottom line because we’re cutting faculty that are bringing in revenue for the University,” said LaSala “We need to slow this train down.”

“We shouldn’t let this supposed crisis moment define us as an institution,” said LaSala. “The region of southern Maine deserves a first-class institution, and we as a state can afford it.”

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