In response to recent cuts by administration, as well as the threat of a sanction by the American Association for University Professors (AAUP), a special faculty senate meeting was held on Friday to discuss the role of the senate moving forward.
In an almost unanimous vote, the senate passed a resolution to ask for a rescindment of recent acts by administration, as well as a request for administration to work in collaboration with governance documents and the AAUP.
The senate proposed a resolution regarding what they perceived as violations of the USM governance constitution. In response to this, an investigative team will be on campus Sunday and Monday.
According to Nancy Gish, professor of English, there are approximately 1,000 concerns from universities presented to the AAUP each year, and only four or five are selected to investigate, USM being one of those.
“We are on the verge of being censured by the AAUP,” said Carlos Luck, professor of electrical engineering. “Do we know what that means?”
According to the senate, though the AAUP has no legal standing, it will affect the university as a whole in the future. Concerns regarding recruitment and retrenchment were brought up.
In an interview with The Free Press, Chris Quint, executive director of public affairs, explained that USM has reached out to other universities sanctioned by the AAUP and there has been no significant impact on enrollment or recruitment.
“It’s inconsequential,” said Quint. “It doesn’t impact us. It’s in existence for them to promote an agenda.”
“The best people in the field will not apply for jobs here,” said Susan Feiner, professor of economics and professor of women and gender studies.
Mark Lapping, professor in the Muskie School of Public Service, said that people will look at the list of censored institutions and simply not apply.
“Let’s face it, it’s a buyer’s marker,” said Lapping. “It’s a blemish on the system. There are potentially more actions like this that could happen to the system.”
Lucinda Cole, director of the women and gender studies department, explained that USM would not be able to fulfill the universities purpose under these circumstances.
Quint explained, as he has in the past, that the AAUP has no standing in the matters of the university.
“They have zero legal standing. We are meeting with them as a courtesy and there will be no one else meeting with them from administration,” said Quint. “If they accept, they’ll have an opportunity to ask whatever questions they need to.”
“This is a misunderstanding of the word ‘standing.’ Most people think only or imagine only of the legal standing,” said Gish. “The AAUP has immense national standing, professional standing, moral standing, ethical standing, academic standing.”
She went on to explain that the word “standing” is much broader than whether or not there are legal implications.
“If, for example, my doctor were to cause me to be permanently disabled and the AMA took a stand on this, it wouldn’t be legal in court but it would certainly have standing,” said Gish. “If it was made public in the state, it ought to have a powerful impact on people’s views of the university.”
Luck explained that the idea that censure by the AAUP only puts a “damper” on recruitment doesn’t seem like a big enough punishment. However, others explained that there are long term repercussions to take into account.
Jerry LaSala, chair of the faculty senate, explained that governance is one of things considered when becoming accredited.
“I suspect that that would read down upon our accreditation,” said LaSala.
Luck also brought up the issue of recruiting local students in the area.
“What will our potential students do once they hear that USM is being sanctioned?” he asked.
Gish explained that one of the most important things that people could do was read the preamble of the constitution, which includes information about USM’s relationship with the AAUP.
“To say that the AAUP is not and never has had any participation in the policies of the governance system is incorrect,” said Gish. “The BoT is violating its own policies against the constitution.”
Quint rebutted that the only mention of the AAUP is in the preamble, which is simply an acknowledgement.
“There’s one mention in the USM constitution. That’s it,” said Quint. “We don’t have to meet with them, but we’ve offered.”
Quint said that once the investigation is through, he suspects USM will be censured, but that they’ll find exactly the same information that’s been given out since September.
“The same information [President] David [Flanagan] has given to the faculty senate meeting every time,” said Quint. “That information is we have a $16 million structural gap. They’ll find that the numbers are real. Whether they believe it or not, they’ll find that we’ve followed the processes in place.”
Quint believes the visit has a predetermined outcome, and that the AAUP did not plan their visit well.
“We’re closed on Monday and we’ve got other things to do,” said Quint. “If their intention was truly to have an informed investigation, reach out to us on days when we’re not closed or busy.”