Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

“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.”

  • Sam Richton

    If there is still another candidate available I would sign them quickly before they change their mind.

  • Nokomis

    Hey, hey! I wasn’t directing my comment at you – it was meant for Mr. Cummings! I think that is why you responded to me with your otherwise funny comment – or is it?

  • David

    Southern Maine Community College has done an admirable job over the past decade, responding to the needs of its students by expanding class offerings, opening another location (Brunswick) and keeping the focus on the classroom. If this were Florida, not Maine, we’d just promote it to Southern Maine State College, and dismantle USM. SMCC has been a good shepherd of both state dollars, and student tuition. Cummings actually thinks USM deserves more?? USM claimed it would set up world-class engineering and got millions to build and set that up. And with all that investment, they managed to graduate just 8 engineers in the last reported national data, where UMaine graduated 202 plus a few dozen graduate students with masters and doctorates?? (Source: Profiles of Engineering & Engineering Technology Colleges, American Society for Engineering Education 2013 Edition) Sure, USM can graduate a bunch of people… with degrees that are all book and pencil and paper….

  • Anonymous

    Hi Nokomis–it must be pretty darned cold under your bridge tonight–you know, under the bridge where the trolls live.

  • Nokomis

    What can you really expect of someone from the Islamaphileobamacrat Party?

  • Anonymous

    ““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.”

    He thinks his job as president is sort of like the judge in a court–a balance between prosecution and defense, administration and faculty? Totally false analogy. Presidents lead management, period. They are not unbiased mediators or arbitrators.

  • Anonymous

    “In his pitch to faculty Cummings told them, “I’m not making the argument that you should pick me because I’m from Maine.”

    Then who cares that he comes from 12 generations of Mainers, (including real Mainer lobstermen!) Why mention it?

  • Anonymous

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

    I’d like a president who thinks and speaks clearly. Stablize is one thing, ignite is something quite different. I also wish he weren’t in hyperbole mode: ignite implies huge skyrocketing enrollments. Pardon my skepticism. I’d have been satisfied with “reverse the enrollment drain and shoot for modest increases over the next five years.” That’s more realistic.

  • Anonymous

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

    Making friends in advance with the other six college presidents….

    😉

  • Anonymous

    “Harris thinks the next president should “convince the Maine government
    that USM is important,” and that “there’s value in education.””

    How dreary, how banal. Everyone already pays lip service to this idea, but no one really believes state subsidies will increase, so a serious cognitive dissonance is set up with empty mouthings like this. Why make it sound so important to state the obvious: education IS important. Wow.

  • Anonymous

    Ask the faculty and alumni of Good Will Hinckley about Glenn Cummings and the level of trust he generated.

  • Anonymous

    “Cummings’ vision of the “metro university” would have seen the economics department at USM working on the budget.”

    That suggests to me he has no idea what economists spend their time on–not on accounting, budgets, book-juggling, etc. Who believes this stuff?

  • Anonymous

    “Cummings replied adjuncts are fine but USM is not a community college.”

    Nice! Already going after the MCCS before the systems even merge. SMCC ate USM’s lunch with cheaper and transferable credits, so the obvious riposte is to denigrate those credits and suggest that adjuncts teaching are not the real deal.

    But that’s all smoke and mirrors. He knows darn well the school will continue to exploit cheap adjunct labor and dump any tenured faculty it can. Who believes this stuff?