Ending the use of outside consultants, eliminating middle management adminstrators and consolidating the three campuses of the University of Southern Maine are among a list of alternate cuts being developed by the Faculty Senate.
There is no dollar figure associated with the list of 27 proposals, but Faculty Senate Chairman Jerry LaSala said the goal was to save enough to be able to reverse the planned elimination of three academic programs and as many as 50 faculty and staff positions. The group expects to have calculated the possible cost savings and revenue figures by early next week, he said Friday.
“The reason we are working so hard on this is because we, the faculty, are deeply concerned that cuts of this magnitude will hurt enrollment and wind up costing us more money than we save,” LaSala said, noting that several proposals would bring in revenue. “Making money is far more beneficial than cutting. We all agree we can’t cut our way to success.”
The draft proposal was presented to legislators in Augusta Friday, as about two dozen students and faculty lobbied representatives and met with members of the Portland delegation and the Education Committee.
“The decision to make these cuts and eliminate so many faculty members, who are the core of this school, makes no sense to me especially when there are so many other viable options to save money,” student organizer Jules Purnell said in a statement Friday. “As a student, I urge those in charge to take a really hard look at our alternative plan which saves money and impacts students in the least harmful way possible.”
Last month, USM officials announced the cuts as part of an effort to cut $14 million from the school’s $140 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. USM’s budget crunch is part of a $36 million funding gap in the University of Maine System caused by flat state funding, declining enrollment and tuition freezes.
A dozen tenured or tenure-track professors at USM have been laid off and three programs are slated to close: the American and New England studies graduate program, geosciences, and the arts and humanities major at Lewiston-Auburn College, which is part of USM. If those programs are eliminated, another seven professors will be laid off, bringing the total to 19.
USM President Theodora Kalikow said she welcomed the Faculty Senate’s proposals.
“I keep saying, and I’ll say it again, that if they come up with a viable alternative that saves equivalent amounts of money and we don’t have to cut the programs, I’d be thrilled,” Kalikow said Friday. Her proposed cuts only close about $7 million of the budget gap, and System Chancellor James Page has said the system will provide some one-time bridge funding to help close the gap.
Several of the Faculty Senate ideas have been considered before, but Kalikow said she’s “open-minded” about all the proposals.
“Nobody in their right mind likes to cut programs and retrench (lay off) faculty,” she said. “The overall problem is $14 million.”
LaSala said the goal was to come up with about half of the $14 million gap.
He emphasized that the proposals are not firm. For example, he said the Faculty Senate wasn’t proposing the university close the Gorham campus, but study how to best use the three campuses.
Among the proposals:
— Place a moratorium on the use of outside consultants; rely on the expertise of USM faculty and staff to advise USM’s administrators.
— Consolidate small departments into larger, interdisciplinary units to reduce chair compensation costs.
— Require the president, provost, and deans each to teach one class per year to offset their salaries via tuition revenue.
— Eliminate all administrative positions with the title “associate.”
— Eliminate all director (of academic programs) positions and replace with equivalent of department chairs.
— Expand enrollment caps on certain classes, and use advanced undergraduates to assist with discussion groups and grading.
— Establish a year-round schedule for classes.
The full list of proposed alternate cuts can be read here.
Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org