Friday, September 21st, 2018

Flanagan plans final months of presidency with criticism from faculty

Sam Hill | The Free Press

Posted on March 09, 2015 in News
By Sam Hill

Sam Hill | The Free Press
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Sam Hill | The Free Press

President David Flanagan laid out what his three focuses will be during his final months in office at Friday’s faculty senate meeting: recruitment, retention and transition.

Flanagan said that recruiting new students has been an arduous task for those involved and that while marketing and advertising efforts are likely to help enrollment, faculty need to keep recruitment and retention on their minds as well.

“Trying to attract new students is very important work,” said Flanagan. “Important not only to the people of Maine and this university’s students, but to you [the faculty] as well. If we fall behind, we already know that you are not isolated from the consequences.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to encourage students to enroll, but a lot of it is up to you, in being actively engaged in advising, supporting and counseling outside the classroom as well as in it,” he said.

The sentiment that faculty were responsible for enrollment and that their jobs may be at stake did not sit well with some members of the senate.

“It’s remarkable that your administration and Theo Kalikow’s administration has come in to this university and done as much as you can, much like Putin, turned us into junk bonds in terms of reputation and can take no responsibility for it, and actually come on to the floor of the senate and say that if we don’t do more, more of us will be fired,” said Shelton Waldrep, a professor of English and the Free Press faculty advisor.

“There is no way the reputation of this university can increase, which means attracting students, as long as the administration denigrates faculty and attacks tenure,” he said. “We are an international symbol for the battle over tenure in higher education. That is not a reputation created by the faculty, but one created by you, your predecessor, your chancellor and your board.”

Gary Johnson, an associate professor of history, noted that in his 26 years at USM, someone has presented a new retention plan nearly every year and that while advising and college structures plays a role, it’s young, new faculty and their course offerings that attract students.

“I have to say, we’re not attacking tenure, we’re attacking deficits,” said Flanagan. “And the truth of the matter is, we have been on an unsustainable financial course. You can sit in an ivory tower and say, well that’s not right, but it doesn’t generate any money.”

Bad publicity and the amount of bad press USM has seen recently was a topic of discussion throughout the entire senate meeting and Flanagan said, as he has his entire term as president, that internal conflicts have been the cause.

“You can criticize whatever we do in whatever form, and that’s great, but in a way, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it discourages people from coming here and that starts the death spiral,” he said. “When you attack yourself, when you criticize the university, when somebody getting paid by the university steps up and says we’re vocational, we’re no good, we can’t deliver, go to UNE, that’s ten times more devastating than if a competitor says it.”

Flanagan said that he expects a setback in enrollment and reputation from the faculty cuts he’s made this academic year, but that they have been necessary.

“It is our responsibility as public servants to let people know what is happening here, because we want our students to feel good about USM and we want students to come here,” said Waldrep, defending faculty who have spoken out against administrative actions, “But that will never happen as long as the administration is attacking faculty and the sanctity of tenure.”

“The reality is: we’re not attracting students,” said Flanagan. “We have a lot of negative publicity and it would be in everyone’s best interest to try and turn that around.”

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