Backing away from one queen sacrifice

In this season of colleges and universities performing queen sacrifices, one institution has backed away from its attempt.

The University of Southern Maine announced it would cut faculty, staff, and programs last month.  Student and faculty protests ensued (see Doug Henwood’s podcast for more on this). But the institution’s president changed her mind on Friday.

Why did president Kalikow reverse the sacrifice?    She explained herself in terms of faculty governance:

“The faculty made a good case that they had possibly better ideas… it’s best for USM for the faculty and administration to be more tightly involved in these crucial decisions.”

Lambert Strether (of the splendid Naked Capitalism blog) argues that student and faculty pressure caused the reversal.  Bad publicity on the national stage (i.e., Krugman) also played a role.

However, the ax is still out:

  1. Staff cuts are still scheduled, with up to 34 people facing termination.
  2. President Kalikow hasn’t accepted the faculty proposal, and insists the financial crisis remains unsolved: “They have a couple more weeks to give me better alternatives,” Kalikow said. “The long-term goals remain the same.”

What can we learn from this unsacrifice?  Possibly that student and faculty pressure can sap such decisions.  Bad publicity might be as powerful.

Note that there doesn’t seem to have been an outpouring of support from Maine or the local communities.

If this holds, will USM’s decision take the wind out of similar decisions elsewhere?  Perhaps, just perhaps, this was a turning point.

(thanks to Sean Andrews for first catching the story)

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