University of Southern Maine declares a serious queen sacrifice

queen sacrificeThe University of Southern Maine announced plans for serious faculty and program cuts, with all the hallmarks of a queen sacrifice.

The gist is that USM will cut 50 instructors, 100 staff, increase class load for the remainders, end several programs, and merge others.

We can see classic queen sacrifice elements:

  • Financial pressures: “a string of multimillion-dollar deficits”
  • Enrollment pressures: “enrollment drop almost 30 percent in the past five years.”
  • Programs cut tend to be have low numbers (“The programs targeted for elimination have had few graduates, [Provost Joseph] McDonnell said”) and to be the humanities:

The administration is proposing cutting the master’s program in applied medical sciences and its five faculty, and the undergraduate French program, with three faculty members. The University of Maine System board of trustees voted last month to eliminate three other USM programs, the American and New England studies graduate program, the geosciences major, and the arts and humanities major at Lewiston-Auburn College, which is part of USM.

  • A strong sense of urgency:

“It’s a triage budget,” said President David Flanagan, who notified faculty of the cuts Monday by conference call and email. “I believe there are many faculty that understand we must change or die.”

However, I can’t find any sign of declaring financial exigency, as the AAUP says must occur before faculty firing.

These cuts are more severe than others we’ve discussed here, representing a true sacrifice.  Consider the faculty numbers:

Cutting 50 of the university’s 343 full-time faculty members would shrink the full-time faculty by almost 15 percent, and would be just the first wave, officials said. Two more rounds of cuts in administration and staff positions will be announced before the end of the year.

Also of note is the work speed-up:

In his email, McDonnell also laid out new expectations for faculty, including training all faculty to teach online, and having faculty teach four courses a semester. Flanagan said such “productivity measures” would allow USM to continue to offer the same number of courses and credit hours.

Since USM is a public institution, there is an option for the state government to increase funding.  The Press Herald article notes this several times.  As I mentioned in my Penn State speech, this may be a political option for higher education to take.

USM also considered increasing tuition, which remains flat after several years of an imposed freeze, but rejected that.

Previous posts on USM.

(thanks to Barbara Sawhill and Stephen Landry for the story; chess photo by Wendy Cope)

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