Crisis at USM

By NICK SCHROEDER  |  March 27, 2014

The Obama Administration has sounded the bell. Outcomes-based funding is now the model for postsecondary education, and Metropolitan Universities are at the head of the pack. The first design principle in the NCHEMS outline is both so cryptic and illuminating that it’s worth quoting at length: “In the past, institutions have been rewarded for increasing access and enrolling more students. Enrollment-driven formulas became the norm, with the access objective so strongly embedded in financing policy and institutional cultures that change is now difficult. But access is no longer the sole — or even dominant — goal in many states. Student success and completion of academic programs (increased degree production) are on the ascendancy as state priorities...The public agenda should state a limited set of goals that 1) Are tailored to the needs of the state, not borrowed from elsewhere (and) 2) Focus on the needs of the state and its citizens, not the institutions of higher education.”

Less access; more results. Cast aside the unquantifiable, often politically thorny curricula of professors and their demands for tenure (“the institutions of higher education”) in favor of a breathless rush to graduate students in disciplines determined by large corporations (“the needs of the state and its citizens”). And with state universities literally competing with each other to attract federal student-aid money based on performance standards, it adds up that there’d be additional incentive to cut from their arts and humanities programs, which typically measure success from less tangible criteria and grant degrees to students who may pursue multi-disciplinary career paths, whose incomes may be lower, or might not immediately attain jobs within their field.

Maybe Professor Feiner and Chancellor Page are both correct. Maybe the austerity measures are a response to a manufactured crisis benefiting the administration’s ideological, pro-business goals at the cost of good education, and system officials want to remove as much indeterminacy as possible for the school to compete for enrollments and federal aid tied to forthcoming performance-based initiatives. That’s a worse quality product, whether you see it through the eyes of a customer or a student.

CLASS DISMISSED

 feat_ball_main

CAROLYN BALL, professor at the Muskie School
of Public Service, is among those being "retrenched"

The number of USM faculty being cut, targeted, retrenched, or forced into retirement are ongoing. Here are several that have been identified.
Carolyn Ball - Professor, Muskie School of Public Service
John Baugher - Professor of Sociology
Rachel Bouvier - Professor of Economics
Meghan Brodie - Assistant Professor of Theatre, Director of In the Underworld, spring student production on stage April 18-27
Paul Christiansen - Professor of Musicology
Rolf Diamon - Lecturer in Sociology & Major Advising Coordinator
Julia Edwards - Lecturer, Departments of History and Political Science
Annie Finch - Professor of English; former Director of Stonecoast Residency Program for Creative Writing
Kate Forhan - Professor, Muskie School of Public Service
Vaishali Mamgain - Professor of Economics & Department Chair
Deepika Marya - Professor of English; Professor of Women & Gender Studies
Joan Mather - Assistant Professor of Theatre
Nancy Richeson - Professor of Recreation & Leisure Studies; Coordinator of Gerontology Certificate Program
Kent Ryden - Director & Professor of American & New England Studies

Nick Schroeder can be reached atnschroeder@phx.comor on Twitter: @chawson.

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