University of Maine President Paul Ferguson is stepping down to become president at Ball State University in Indiana, officials announced Thursday.
His new position begins Aug. 1.
“Among his many accomplishments, Paul oversaw the development and implementation of UMaine’s Blue Sky Plan which has set the University on a strong path of enrollment growth and increased student success. His leadership will be greatly missed,” University of Maine System Chancellor James Page said in a statement.
Ferguson, appointed in 2011, served as the 19th president of the flagship campus of the University of Maine System, succeeding Robert Kennedy. The second highest paid employee in the system, Ferguson earned $270,000 annually.
The announcement was made at Ball State, where Ferguson will succeed Dr. Jo Ann Gora, who is retiring. Before joining UMaine, Ferguson served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University. He’s a professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
Ferguson did not offer any reasoning for his departure to members of the University of Maine Board of Trustees, said Sam Collins, Trustee Chairman. “I think that he had a really good opportunity at a university that has about 20,000 students with a lot of research and development, and he was taking that opportunity,” Collins said.
In a statement, Ferguson said he and his wife were “immensely proud of the work and spirit that the UMaine Community has so admirably demonstrated during the development and implementation of the Blue Sky Plan,” a restructuring plan Ferguson oversaw during his time at UMaine.
Howard Segal, a professor of history at Orono and a longtime faculty senate member, said that although he is sad to see Ferguson leave, he is not surprised.
Segal, a 28-year professor at the system’s flagship campus and longtime member of the faculty senate, said he’s watched with frustration as the University of Maine system has grown increasingly at odds with itself, calling Ferguson’s task as an “impossible situation.”
Segal said that Ferguson was under pressures to both increase the profile of its flagship campus in Orono, while simultaneously “dumbing down” requirements for transfer credits and programs to allow more students mobility from community colleges into the University of Maine system. Orono, as an autonomous campus for 103 years, cannot easily be merged with six other campuses with varying degrees of program quality and facilities.
If all the campuses are supposed to offer equal educational opportunities, why, Segal asked, is tuition higher in Orono? “The obvious point is that the quality of the facilities—thats why you pay more,” Segal said. “The system has never resolved how you distinguish between a flagship in more than name, and a system which is at once a system of seven equals and a system of seven unequals.”
Segal said he is perplexed at how high-level administrators make decisions. For example, to nominate someone for an honorary degree is a 14-month process, yet when the trustees chose to freeze tuition for three years, discussion lasted roughly ten minutes. Also not to be discounted is Ferguson’s new salary, which he estimated to be about $200,000 more in Indiana.“Let’s be honest,” he said. “We all hope that Ferguson gets free parking at Ball State.”