University of Southern Maine students celebrated Friday after learning that university officials had restored one of the programs that were to be eliminated in a cost-cutting plan for the coming year.
USM President Theodora Kalikow said officials found a way to preserve the recreation and leisure studies program by folding it into similar health and wellness programs, with the staff reporting on an interim basis to Director of the USM School of Nursing Krista Meinersmann.
“This plan makes sense when considering the aging of Maine’s population, and the anticipated growth of therapeutic and community recreation and related allied health fields,” Provost Michael Stevenson said in a prepared statement.
The programs still to be cut are American and New England studies and geosciences at the Portland and Gorham campuses, and the arts and humanities program at Lewiston-Auburn College, which is part of USM.
Allison Andrews, a sophomore in the recreation and leisure studies program, said she was “overwhelmed” by the news.
“It’s so relieving. We showed the university how much we cared,” said Andrews, 20, who wants to use her degree to provide therapeutic recreation for at-risk youths.
Andrews said the faculty, staff and students came together to give officials a “professional debate” about the merits of the program and how it fits into the university’s mission.
“Despite the anger and disappointment throughout the processes, we still managed to stand up for what we believe in,” she said.
Kalikow left the door open to restoring recreation and leisure studies when she announced the cuts earlier this month. She noted that while the other programs were cut for lack of enrollment, the recreation and leisure program was different. It had 55 majors last year, and 232 students taking courses.
The program’s four-person faculty has shrunk in recent years to just one person. Kalikow said the university did not plan to fill those positions, so the only possibility was to absorb the program into another department.
Andrews said she hopes that the other programs can be restored, too. USM students have started a “Change Your Major” campaign on Facebook, urging students to change their majors to the threatened programs to boost their numbers and send a message to the administration, even if students eventually switch back to their original majors.
“I’m crossing my fingers for the other programs,” Andrews said.
Kalikow has announced plans to cut four academic programs and eliminate as many as 50 positions, including as many as 30 faculty members.
Last week, 12 faculty members were laid off, prompting a string of protests, a Student Senate vote of no confidence in Kalikow, proposed state legislation to audit the University of Maine System’s budget and a student walkout.
Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at: