Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Admins to ignore AAUP sanction

Krysteana Scribner

Posted on November 24, 2014 in News
By Emma James

The American Association for University Professors (AAUP), an organization dedicated to advancing academic freedom and shared governance, defined fundamental professional values and standards for higher education and ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good, sent President David Flanagan a letter in opposition to recent cuts.

This is the second time this year the AAUP has intervened with administrative decisions, the first time was last spring when President Theodora Kalikow proposed the elimination of four academic programs, which would result in the elimination of tenured and long term non-tenured faculty.

According to the letter, USM has not acted in accordance to the statement of principles on academic freedom and tenure, developed by the AAUP jointly with the Association of American Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than 220 scholarly and higher-education organizations.

Chris Quint, executive director of public affairs, explained that all actions the university has taken in the elimination process have been based on contractual obligations, despite accusations the letter presents.

“From the purposes of who we follow, or what we follow when it comes to these layoffs or the program eliminations, we adhere to the contract, we adhere to the University of Maine system and the University of Southern Maine governing documents,” said Quint. “While we appreciate their letter, at this point we have no plans to be responding to them. They do not have any standing in this matter.”

According to Anita Levy, senior program officer of the AAUP, the organization has not yet determined next steps, as they are giving administration a chance to respond. If a response is indeed declined, there is a possibility that an ad-hoc investigation will be authorized. If this does happen, an investigation may lead to a placement on AAUP’s sanctions lists, which would seriously damage USM’s reputation even further. USM may also be placed on a “no-hire” list, which would make it difficult to hire faculty in the future.

Quint, however, argued that no new information will be found, referring to the elimination process as an “open book.”

“They’re free to take whatever action they have. They don’t have any legal standing when it comes to this matter. We adhere to the contract and we adhere to governance documents,” said Quint. “We’re a public institution. Anything that we do as a university is public information. We have nothing to hide.”

Though a reputable organization, Quint explained that they have no say in how the university is run.

“There’s a lot of things said and a lot of things thrown out there. Some of them have validity others have none,” said Quint. “The deficit is real; we’re not taking these actions because of some corporate takeover, or some ideological agenda that we have. We’re taking these actions to right size the university.”

USM is just one university that is part of what seems to be a national trend, according to Levy. Levy explained that there are a number of institutions where administrations make unilateral determinations to reorganize program in a certain way, regardless if that reorganization has educational value.

“Administrators are making these kinds of cuts and eliminating programs without adequately consulting the faculty and determining whether or not those kinds of cuts would be beneficial as a whole for student learns,” Levy said.

Quint indicated that USM will continue to operate in a direction toward financial sustainability, rather than change how things are being done to align with the AAUP’s standards.

“We’re going to continue to operate in the best interest of our students here, and do what’s necessary to make this an affordable and accessible university for our current and future students,” Quint said.

In the meantime, Levy urges students to remain involved and active on campus.

“I think students have to continue to be activists and to advocate for themselves and the faculty, and take an active role in trying to bring the administration into the daylight. They seem to want to operate behind closed doors,” said Levy. “That’s not the way to run a university.”

  • Martin Conte

    Actually, for at least half a decade, USM has been running in the black, making a modest profit for the UMaine system. When USM was told there was a budget deficit, what this actually meant was that once the profits USM made were redistributed among the 7 campuses, their individual budget had to be reduced. So, in fact, USM has been supporting out of pocket the other 6 campuses. Also, you present these three options for the university to face the budget deficit. What the USM students and faculty are doing, in what you so politely term whining, are presenting alternatives: significant cuts to high profile salaries (like the Vice Chancellor, who in the midst of this budget crisis received a 60,000 salary increase), reducing the bloated size of the Chancellor’s office, which takes up 16 mil of the system’s budget and has no direct contact with student life, reorganizing the system so that redundancies are eliminated, and advocating for Maine gov. to invest more realistically in the UMaine system, among other suggestions. Unfortunately, just like the response to the AAUP’s letter, the UM admin is turning a deaf ear to every. possible. alternative. Not because these alternatives are out of hand or unreasonable but, it seems, because they seem to have a difficult time with this notion of shared governance that they’ve obligated themselves to in contractual agreement with the faculty.

  • Iffy

    Julius Fries: Chris Quint claims to abide by the contract … but there are literally dozens of grievances of contract issues currently moving through the system. Quint also claims that USM abides by the governance document, but that document explicitly incorporates the AAUP 1940 standards on academic freedom and tenure. The USM Faculty Governance Document was approved all the way up through the Board of Trustees, they can’t just decide not to follow it. Although they have.

  • Maine Resident

    I am tired of hearing faculty and staff from USM whine. They are part of a 7 university system that are all having to tighten their belt. The entire system, especially USM, is running in the red. This year every school in the system, except USM, made difficult decisions to be fiscally responsible. USM faculty whined and their students protested. USM ended up taking most of the rainy day system fund meaning they were basically supported by the other 6 universities. Face the facts! Either students can pay substantially more for their education, faculty can take substantially less for their salaries, or cuts have to be made. Quit acting like entitled children.

  • Trainedbyseals

    Chris Quint, why do you say that the AAUP has “no standing”? This seems to be the same claim that a public institution in Texas made before it was censured. I find it odd that the UMS administration is so concerned about brand-management that it would hire you and other accomplished PR people to shape the local message during this period of tumult, but that it wouldn’t be concerned about how the University of Maine system is perceived, about its national reputation. As you may know, the AAUP, like the AMA, serves as a kind of governance oversight committee for universities in the United States. To be censured is to be part of a short list of institutions marked as in violation of long-standing standards of governance for faculty and students. I can’t imagine why USM or UMS would ignore the shameful possibility of being on that list.

  • Anonymous

    If the University has nothing to hide as Mr. Quint avers, why has Dr. Feiner been unable to obtain requested financial data in a timely manner?

    Perhaps the next Legislature should remove language in Maine’s FOAA law which masks certain University information from public view and analytic review.

  • Julius Fries

    I would appreciate some clarification on how the USM is or is not adhering to the contracts of faculty members who have been laid off.