When I arrived as a professor of English at the University of Maine-Farmington, the Women’s Studies program was one of the central pillars of campus life and community. That program has been whittled down over the years, and has undergone its own transformations (becoming Women’s and Gender Studies). UMF during that time has had a reputation as being a welcoming place for gay and lesbian students and more generally for LGBTQ+ students. As Prof. Ann Kennedy points out in Kay Neufield’s article “Nine Faculty Positions Eliminated at UMF,” (May 7), her courses in those areas are regularly filled. Fall enrollments at UMF reveal numerous courses across a variety of disciplines with single-digit enrollments. Kennedy’s Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies is not one of those courses.

The vast majority of students at UMF are women. To cut the one program that speaks directly to women’s experiences seems short-sighted. The UMaine System administration seems to believe that all Maine students are exactly the same and that what works on one campus will work on another, ignoring the distinctive characteristics of the communities and students on individual campuses.

Women’s and Gender Studies has also been a major factor in making UMF a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ students. We have an ethical responsibility to continue to do so, but the cuts suggest we have abandoned that responsibility. The cutting also makes little economic sense. As student populations shrink in Maine, the group of students interested in courses in Women’s and Gender Studies has remained a stable and reliable cohort of students, one that UMF should be working to increase. Instead, the university has chosen to make cuts that could alienate a student population that we need for our continued viability.

Assertions from administrators that cuts were made only for economic reasons ring hollow.


Michael Johnson


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