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By LETTER TO THE EDITOR  |  April 11, 2014

We could debate whether Nick Schroeder’s March 28 article, “Crisis at USM,” was a news story or an editorial, but I do not think that would be productive to the important discussions currently taking place on and off campus. However, Mr. Schroeder’s article is riddled with inaccuracies that cannot be left to stand uncorrected.

For example, the list of faculty retrenchments is rife with errors in terms of the types of personnel actions taken or actions proposed to be taken and the dates of these actions.

Then, there is Mr. Schroeder’s misunderstanding of the term “retrenchment.” This is a recognized term across higher education that refers to a formal process used to lay off tenured members of an institution’s faculty for economic reasons. It is not a “jargony term for eliminating specific programs” as described by Mr. Schroeder.

Finally, President Kalikow recommended for elimination the programs in Geosciences, Recreation and Leisure Studies, American and New England Studies, and Arts and Humanities at our Lewiston-Auburn College. The article omitted Arts and Humanities. Furthermore, these are proposals for elimination. The Faculty Senate, through shared governance, will submit its counter recommendations to the president by May 5. Presidents in the UMaine System cannot eliminate academic programs. Program eliminations must be approved by the University of Maine Board of Trustees, in this case at their July meeting. Recommendations are just that. Last week, a plan was devised to save Recreation and Leisure Studies by integrating it into the School of Nursing temporarily.

Had Mr. Schroeder called USM Public Affairs to check his facts, we would have been happy to address his questions. One has to wonder what other statements made in the article are also incorrect.

Personally, I would like to say that none of this has been easy for anyone at USM. Students are losing some of their favorite professors. We are losing our colleagues, both in the faculty and staff ranks. While USM will be sure to graduate everyone who may have their program eliminated, it is heart wrenching for students to learn their academic department is slated for possible elimination.

What gives us heart is watching our students rally around their university. Many of us are proud of them.

Judie Alessi O’Malley (‘09 M.A.)
Assistant Director, USM Office of Public Affairs

Nick Schroeder writes:
Thanks for your response. It’s good to see that USM administrators are taking criticisms to the UMS Directions Package seriously. Thanks also for your acknowledgement of the cuts to the Arts and Humanities department in Lewiston-Auburn. In the decision to focus on the on the unfolding scenario in Portland, where criticism has been the loudest, I meant no slight against the losses elsewhere in the system.

I appreciate that you’ve drawn a distinction between the department and faculty cuts having already been initiated (as I put it in my story), versus being merely recommended by President Kalikow. I wonder how meaningful that distinction truly is. The presentation of the Directions Package on March 19 showed Kalikow and the system Board of Trustees to be unified in their vision; regardless, the proposal seems to be having the desired effect. Some faculty from those departments are retiring. Others, like Recreation and Leisure Studies professor Nancy Richeson (profiled on our cover), have found positions elsewhere, and I imagine several more will follow suit. The announcement that USM plans to reconfigure certain RLS programs in the School of Nursing came on March 27 — two days after we went to press (I covered it in a follow-up in last week’s issue).

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