This letter was contributed by Marpheen Chann.

I applaud my fellow student government colleagues and the student senate for their support of students and faculty. But I write to voice my dissent in regards to the vote of no-confidence in the administration.

In my opinion, the vote of no-confidence is premature given that the protest has been gaining momentum and attention, that prior to the vote of no-confidence, there was still room for dialogue. I am afraid now that we might have pre-emptively burned a bridge. While it is important for the student senate to concur with the faculty senate, not even the faculty have issued a vote of no-confidence.

So why do I dissent? Protests are not instruments of shutting down conversation. Rather, they are an extremely powerful means of forcing a party to the table and to engage in dialogue. Issuing a vote of no-confidence undermines the reasoning behind protest, that of forcing dialogue. It sends the message that there is no more discussion to be had. A vote of no-confidence, in my opinion, should be a last resort – when dialogue is no longer achievable.

I support the students and I support the faculty. I am as hurt as everyone else with the loss of Professors Mamgain, Bouvier and others. But I also support proceeding with caution so that our message does not get muddled. I support a clear and concise strategy. I support reason and critical thinking as we approach these issues. Emotions are running high. There is excitement in the air as momentum is building – but we must remember what we are fighting for.

We are not fighting for notoriety or fame or for press coverage. We aren’t fighting to tear people down. We aren’t fighting for the sake of fighting – we are fighting to save our university from rash and irresponsible decision making. So I ask everyone to not engage in the same behavior that we accuse the administration of engaging in. Let us think out and speak out, together, and proceed with caution and civility so that we do not also do what we accuse the administration of doing.

Marpheen Chann

Student Body Vice-President


  1. This is incredibly well thought out, well written, and more importantly, relevant. A vote of no confidence certainly seemed like a drastic, and in my opinion, desperate and incited step.

    • Shame on you for polluting this dialogue with your cowardly anonymous spew..
      You are a disgrace. Grow up why don’t you.

    • To the Free Press editor,
      I do not understand why comments such as this one from Anonymous are not deleted by you. I suspect that if I were to post an anonymous racist or anti-gay rant or a clearly false and defamatory anonymous personal attack on someone, it would and perhaps should be deleted, so why not censor comments that lack any substantive content at all? This is your forum and you have the right to police it. Of course, you also have the right, as sponsor of the forum, to allow any idiot to post anything at all in the name of freedom of speech, but how about exercising some editorial judgment? You exercise such judgment on what you publish–why not on comments here?

      • I personally do not want this torn down. I am not afraid of criticism, especially when it is submitted ANONYMOUSLY-it speaks more to their character than to my stance. I just hope this person feels comfortable enough to approach me in person to tell me why, especially if it is a student I represent.

        – Marpheen

        • You are absolutely right Mr. Chann. You are a good example of maturity and sound judgment for those of your peers who seem to be in need of one.

    • This comment is the single most disgraceful and cowardly thing I’ve seen come out of the current debate. I hope you are not a student here. I hope I do not consider you a friend when you are not hiding behind an anonymous post. If I am your friend, I am ashamed.

    • My what discourse, in fact, if all insults could be slung with such vulgarity than we could, absolutely, make a difference by screaming and shouting and swearing. Good for you Marpheen, it isn’t easy to have an objective view and a calm voice when fiery tempers and fiery words feel better and can be thrown faster. Whether or not others can and will see things from your point of view the fact remains that this was well thought out and delivered. Unlike the comment I am replying to 🙂

  2. I’m pretty sure the damage was already done when the Faculty Senate revealed the across-the-board “very ineffective” votes for Provost Stevenson and the administration.

  3. As a member of the Senate who voted in favor of this motion, I have to respectfully disagree with VP Chann. President Kalikow herself informed a group of students that all faculty cuts were not negotiable; she stated this in a public meeting with students on Friday. In essence, she stated that the dialogue was over – there was no room for discussion or further debate. She made up her mind with Provost Stevenson, and students would be forced to sit back and let it happen. Additionally, she admitted that the Board of Trustees insisted on cuts – but did not state that they needed to be academic in nature, and did not single out any departments or areas to cut. The attack on CAHS (College of Arts, Humanities, and Sciences), as well as the potential targeting of women (9 of 12 laid off were female), seems to be an odd demonstration of administrative practice.

    If this is truly going to be a metropolitan university that engages with its community, a focus needs to be placed on the arts, humanities, and sciences. We cannot as students sit back and allow our University to be taken over by extremists at the administrative level, nor can we allow further disregard for the will of the “customers” as we are called. As one student said on Friday, if this is a business – do not buy. It is being poorly mismanaged, and the time, money, and energy spent on the Direction Package was all for not as Kalikow and Stevenson made these cuts so quickly, and so without merit, that it demonstrates they were predetermined.

    The Direction Package, in essence, was not even considered. One week after its reveal, drastic cuts to CAHS were unveiled – cuts which absolutely contradicted the months of work done by students, faculty, staff, and community members. The vote of no confidence was in response to the administration’s lack of respect for student vision, as well as their lack of transparency. No criteria were given to justify these cuts. They were made unilaterally and in violation of students’ rights to a high quality education.

    • Dear Some Senator,
      Sorry you did not identify yourself because you deserve credit for providing the clearest explanation I have seen so far of the students’ perspective on the recently announced faculty layoffs. I am an outsider who is following the situation with interest, and I had been leaning toward accepting the administration’s position that layoffs were unavoidable. If many students and faculty did indeed invest substantial time and energy in this Direction Package initiative, as I gather it is called, and if the administration indeed has ignored the results of that effort without any real explanation, then I can readily understand why students and faculty are so irate (in addition to the damaging precedent and actual damage the layoffs would inflict).
      Thank you for your thoughtful and reasonable analysis.

    • Question: You note that 9 of the 12 layoffs were of female faculty, which raises an obvious concern. On the other hand, I have also heard it said that the layoffs were dictated by the faculty union contract, once it was decided in which departments the layoffs would occur, which implies a more benign explanation. What is the truth?

    • The University system is 36 million in the hole. You don’t fix that without cutting. Sorry, but how much value does the Humanities bring to the University? You can engage with the Community with a very limited humanities and arts program, and quiet frankly, the vast majority of the community doesn’t really care about what is going on at the University. You want to make a big deal about community involvement, when there isn’t very much nor will there ever really be. that much involvement. At this point, if these programs are not drawing students, or have budgets above their value then yes they should be cut. One thing, you should be cheer leading is making sure they do not do across the board cuts. Also, do you really think they were in this meeting saying, what women can we fire???

    • Your “targeting of women” claim is completely baseless without relevant supporting data regarding: 1. the overall percentage of women employed at the school in general, 2. were the women in question relatively new hires, 3. did these women coincidentally happen to be in programs which were under-performing, 4. were these women in departments having a negative cost to earnings ratio as compared to other departments, and lastly 5. were these women in departments with declining enrollment or in departments having forecasts for declining enrollment? Using the old race, sex, religion, or ethinicity card without relevant data to back such a spurious claim is one of the weakest tricks in the book for any group that has no legitimate counter to their predicament since it indicates a lack of bona-fide standing.

      • I can answer your questions for the economics department:
        1. 2.5/6 are women.
        2. Relatively, yes. Bouvier and Vaishali are the most recent hires, however, they have worked at USM for 9 and 15 years respectively. 3. Economics is not under-performing, and in fact, supports a number of other programs. For example, in order to earn a degree, a business student needs to take economics classes.
        4. The economics department EARNS money for USM>
        5. The economics department has seen increased enrollment, both in majors and in classes.

  4. As the father of a student in the Economics dept., I must say that there seems to be a hidden agenda here. I wonder if our reactionary Governor might have had political reasons to eviscerate some depts? It is well known that the school had attracted some important economists who don’t adhere to the “free market” philosophy and could be considered to be” leftists” and liberals.My son was grateful to have a “state of the art” faculty who are on the cutting edge of progressive economics. That’s been wiped out. The Governor is taking the state into the “back time” quickly and the victims will be Maine students.

    • News flash for you: 95% of public university professors in liberal arts, humanities, and basically any department other than engineering are liberals with leftist agendas, so no, USM would not need to be “targeted” as part of some conspiracy against their so-called liberal economics professors as this is standard amongst almost all public universities. BTW: “progressive economics” is code for socialism, and is a nonsensical scheme which works only on paper where there is no crime, no system-bilking, and no person has a problem with rampant black markets, rationing, price-fixing, and a general malaise amongst the public to engage in investment or capital-earning entrepreneurship. Say what you want about Capitalism, but I’ll take what we have now over anything in Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, or most of Europe. Your presumptions about the governor’s involvement are as baseless as the absurd claims made by the Mexican restaurant in Portland “Mesa-Verde”, and yet again indicates a lack of bona-fide defense and a grasping at straws towards conspiracy to try and figure out why a liberal union-run institution does not function.

      • Actually, “progressive economics” is NOT code for socialism. USM has one-of-three heterodox economic programs, as compared to neoclassical economics departments, in the United States. Put simply, one of the major factors of our economics department is the rejection of the neoclassical assumption that all actors are rational.

    • The governor does not call the shots on the cuts at this level. Sorry, but this is in the liberal wheelhouse at the university admin level.

    • As a student of economics at USM, I agree with you. Recently one of my peers was accepted to UMass Amherst for graduate school with a full scholarship and a stipend. All thanks to the people who were just fired. With our gem of a department now gutted, I must transfer to another school if I want to pursue graduate study. — We must fight for public higher education.

  5. Don’t kill the momentum. I’ve never seen the students at USM band together like this, and I’m proud. They’re outraged and doing something about it. Faculty and programs have been cut NOW, and thus transparency and answers are warranted NOW. Where is the documentation showing the research and decision-making that went into these cuts? Why, instead, did Theo slap us in the face with a useless email that said nothing more than ‘cuts were done because cuts were needed’? The administration said that this isn’t up for discussion, and that’s all the reason to vote no-confidence. It’s not a rash decision, it’s an ambitious one.

  6. All that being said; Did any, and I mean ANY of the students or professors who have a complaint about this actually read any of the fine print on the contracts that were signed for employment and/or acceptance into this school? Could any of the complainants on either side of this particular issue quote any bit of the exceptions, responsibilities, or liabilities listed in any of the signed paperwork? I am guessing the answer is no. Given this, you certainly have the right to engage in your First amendment freedom and complain all you like about protesting, not protesting, wanting certain programs, etc…. but please don’t expect for one minute that you are in any way, in the right, or somehow owed anything. You are all “grown-ups”, there are risks to all investments and purchases and you have to be ready for the jungle that is life. You might get hired with great promise somewhere, and then needlessly laid-off or cast aside. Your home can be taken by the state to build a road or bridge, your options can be severely limited by any number of things beyond your control – get over it and set yourself up to overcome such obstacles! Life is NOT fair, nor should it be lest the lay-abouts have all the privileges that the hard-workers have. If you think that you are entitled to ANYTHING, then you are wrong. Rise above it and do the best you can, because whiners never get ahead.

    • This is one of the most ridiculous and saddening perspectives I’ve heard in the short course of this debate. The University of Maine System is a public institution devoted to the public good. We are all grown-ups, yes, and grown-ups don’t just sit back and accept toxic and destructive status-quos in human society and chalk it up to the inherent cruelty of the universe. The public and the students have a vested interest in the fate of the public university, economically and culturally, and to suggest that the current decisions being made in the governor’s office, the state legislature, the board of trustees, the UMS and USM administrations are an inevitable consequence of life just ‘not being fair’ shows how little you understand about why the world is as cruel and unfair as it is.

      Yeah, you’re right, nobody is technically owed anything. When you come out of the womb, there’s no contract you sign saying everything will work out however you want it to. But that fact, if we can call it that, is irrelevant to every issue and problem we face as a community. We could even say that it’s precisely because we have no guarantee in this ‘jungle’ of life that we must work together and think through the shortfalls of our world so we actually can set ourselves up ‘to overcome such obstacles.’ We have to adamantly and systematically reject this ‘logic’ of yours which advocates just laying down in the face of corrupt and unreasonable power structures that don’t care for the actual lives of flesh and blood human beings like you and me.

      I hope you eventually come around to a more helpful perspective, both for your sake and the community’s.

  7. Maybe if Marpheen had these concerns he should have come to the Senate meeting Saturday night and voiced them or communicated better with Kelsea Dunham, the Student Body President because now she looks like an idiot….and maybe if Marpheen wants to promote the open line of communication that is rapidly closing in these tough times he should have gone to speak with Theo in the Gym today to peruse that line of communication instead of going to that protest…food for thought.

  8. Dr. Kalikow..hero of the left at UMF, goat of the left at USM. She should have retired when she had the chance to leave on a high note.


  10. One of my mentors said “you can always go back” — to address some issue, some person, some transgression on anybody’s part… This is one bridge that can be UN-burnt — I agree administrators need to meet and hear more from students, and I suspect it needs to be students to request meetings with them, have an agenda prepared and shared ahead of time, etc..


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