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“I don’t want to be anywhere else:” Longtime Mainer seeks USM presidency

Glenn Cummings during his visit to USM last week.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Glenn Cummings during his visit to USM last week.

Posted on February 19, 2015 in News
By Brian Gordon

Prospective USM president Glenn Cummings met with university leaders last Thursday to discuss how he’d spend his presidency, should he be chosen for the job.

Cummings said he is “a product of Maine.” A 12th generation Mainer, he comes from a line of lobstermen, fishermen and his mother worked at Shaw’s for years. He is the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“USM gives opportunity to people who would not normally have that opportunity,” said Cummings.

He has been an adjunct professor of economics at USM and is currently serving as University of Maine at Augusta’s president. Cummings was appointed to the Department of Education by Barack Obama where he served in Washington, D.C. for a year. He also served as Speaker of the House in the Maine House of Representatives for six years.

Cummings views his background as a teacher and administrator as an asset and an ability to work both sides of the aisle.

“I have no intention of being a patsy for either side,” Cummings said, noting that he understands how to play the balancing act between advocating for the teachers and getting business done on the administrative side.

“I will help us stabilize and ignite enrollment to stop this downward spiral,” said Cummings.

Right now the University of Maine System gives more money to Orono over USM and spreads it around the seven UMS campuses.

“The seven sisters form is not friendly to USM,” said Cummings. “USM should be given a bigger piece of the funds.”

“A dollar spent in Portland has a multiplying effect that ricochets around the community more than Fort Kent or Presque Isle,” said Cummings. “I’m not going to concede on this.”

Student attendance at the meeting was sparse. Lillian Harris, a counseling graduate student said she was “just curious” about the future president. She went to undergraduate school at McGill in Montreal but chose USM for graduate school because of its intimate size. Harris thinks the next president should “convince the Maine government that USM is important,” and that “there’s value in education.”

“I’ve gotten a lot out of USM and I want other people to,” Harris said.

If Cummings had been president during the budget turmoil that saw over 50 faculty get fired and over a hundred staff, he said he wasn’t sure the cuts could have been avoided but faculty would have been the last to go.

“We need to protect our faculty,” said Cummings.

According to Cummings, he would have made sure to have a teach-out plan in place for those students in the programs that had been cut.

Cummings referred to last years cuts as “shortsighted decision making,” and hinted at possibly bringing some majors back.

“Whether it’s me as new president or someone else, they’re going to try to bring back biosciences,” Cummings said noting we have major bioscience industries at home in the Portland area.

Eve Raimon, a professor of English, addressed the rise of part-time teachers on campus and thought there might only be full time tenured teachers at UMF and Orono.

Cummings replied adjuncts are fine but USM is not a community college. “We need full time faculty here at USM teaching and leading research,” said Cummings.

In his pitch to faculty Cummings told them, “I’m not making the argument that you should pick me because I’m from Maine. I know how good you are. You are the heart of the university.”

Cummings mentioned he couldn’t name the president of his undergraduate school but could name three professors that made a difference in his life.

Cummings’ vision of the “metro university” would have seen the economics department at USM working on the budget. He also would like to pair with the Council on International Educational Exchange, a non-profit based in Portland that facilitates study abroad programs, which could increase our international student population. But first, Cummings said he would like to attract “new Mainers” noting the large immigrant population around the Portland area.

“Recruit them before you go overseas,” said Cummings.“USM has a great story and I want to help tell it.”

He added that, working together, the USM community can turn around the aforementioned “downward spiral” because the university is already “great.”

“I don’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t want to be a governor or chancellor. I’ll be here for 10-20 years, if you’ll have me,” said Cummings. “I want to be here.”

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