Michael Laliberte, who is set to become the new president of the University of Maine at Augusta, left, shakes hands with University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy after being introduced April 7 in Randall Hall at the UMA campus. Faculty opposition to the hiring of Laliberte kicked off a cascade of no-confidence votes in Malloy. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Editor’s note: This special report is a joint effort of the newsrooms at the Kennebec Journal, Portland Press Herald and Sun Journal.

University of Maine Chancellor Dannel Malloy has lost the confidence of many faculty at three core satellite campuses just as his three-year contract is up for renewal.

As UMaine trustees convene Sunday to consider extending Malloy’s contract that expires in June, interviews with faculty and others suggest the departures of well-liked campus presidents and controversy over the hiring of replacements has led to perceptions that the embattled chancellor is untrustworthy and not being transparent with the university community.

Since early May, the faculty senates of the University of Maine at Augusta, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Farmington have each issued no-confidence votes in Malloy. University of Maine at Machias faculty endorsed these votes on Friday as well, and a draft no-confidence document has also been circulating among faculty at the flagship campus in Orono.

Faculty say the chancellor and his administration do not trust the governing practices of individual campuses within the seven-school system and the turnover of leadership during Malloy’s tenure has “led to a culture of instability.”

“The voice of the faculty is critically important, and I take these resolutions seriously,” Malloy said after the second no-confidence vote, which came from the University of Southern Maine. “The pace of change in undertaking these initiatives is itself the cause of anxiety at not only USM, but around our System.”


Together, the campuses enroll nearly 30,000 students, 33% of them at the Orono campus.

Sarah Hentges, associate professor of American studies at UMA, said she feels the chancellor’s recent actions have “already done harm to the seven universities in the system.”

“(The statements from Malloy) feel really disingenuous and tone-deaf,” she said. “He doesn’t understand or want to understand issues the faculty are raising.”

The Randall Student Center at the University of Maine at Augusta. A no confidence vote in the chancellor by UMA faculty has had a cascading effect throughout the University of Maine System as three other campuses have also expressed no confidence in Chancellor Dannel Malloy. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The board of trustees — composed of the state’s education commissioner and 15 people appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature — is expected to begin considering Malloy’s future with the system at its monthly meeting on Sunday and Monday. Trustees will be hearing from an outside firm hired last summer to conduct a multi-year review of the chancellor. His contract, which includes a $350,000 salary, expires June 30.

Although board of trustee meetings are largely open to the public, Malloy’s review will be done in executive session, away from the public eye. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday at the University of Southern Maine’s Glickman Library.

Votes of no confidence are becoming increasingly popular at universities across the country, according to Ellen Chaffee, a senior fellow and consultant for the Association of Governing Boards, which is a national organization that counsels higher education administrators and board members. Chaffee said that’s because there is “so much stress” on everyone, including the fact that people have not been in-person for most of the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


No-confidence votes are the faculty’s way of “putting up an SOS, that something needs to be done,” said Chaffee, a two-time former university president who served three years on the Des Moines University board of trustees.

Sometimes the votes are because of financial issues, but other times they’re the result of faculty unhappiness. That’s why the “context (of the vote) is so important,” she said.

“One of the things that is very easy to take lightly, especially people involved in business organizations where if someone doesn’t like it, they can leave — or they can tell them to leave because they can be replaced easily — (is that) in a university, everything the university does is in terms of adding value for students,” she said. “(Faculty) are the most important asset in the university. They have the expertise and experience the university needs. If conditions are bad, it won’t be easy to replace them.”

The overseers of the University of Maine System have, to date, been quiet about the recent turmoil. 

In a May 12 statement, the trustees acknowledged the first no-confidence vote, taken by Augusta faculty against Malloy and the recent UMA presidential search. Professors there were startled to learn the chancellor and the chair of the search committee did not disclose that their incoming leader, Michael Laliberte, received a pair of no-confidence votes at his former university in New York for financial recklessness and “enabling a culture of disrespect and hostility.” They also requested a new search.

“It’s a matter of utmost urgency and importance to the integrity of the University of Maine System and its universities,” the trustees responded.


The board has not released a statement since, despite no-confidence votes filtering in from Portland, Farmington and Machias professors in the meantime. 

Margaret Nagle, a spokesperson for the system, said the trustees will confer with lawyers this weekend about what actions to take, including whether to keep Laliberte as UMA’s new president.


Malloy was hired in Maine with a unanimous vote of the trustees in May 2019, on the heels of his two-term governorship of Connecticut.

The Democrat struggled with low voter approval ratings in the southern New England state, and was at times the most disliked governor in the country.

He took the helm of Maine’s university system at a time when its strategic plan directed resources and investments to support increased enrollment, improve student success and graduation rates, enhance the system’s “fiscal positioning,” and contribute to the state’s economic development. Crafting relevant academic programming and increasing “engagement” of the university’s employees were secondary goals. 


That plan spanned 2016-2021, and the trustees charged Malloy last summer with developing a new one, which is slated to be presented publicly in the fall of 2023.

When he first arrived, Malloy focused on addressing nursing and engineering shortages. Stabilizing the budget was on his list, too, as the chancellor before him, Jim Page, froze state tuition for six years. 

In 2020, Malloy also led the push for “unified accreditation,” an attempt to join the governance of the separate universities and make it easier for them to share resources and programs. One of its key successes, according to the system, was an agreement to combine the state’s two engineering programs — at USM and the Orono campus — to create the Maine College of Engineering, Computing and Information Sciences

But faculty have felt the move correlates to an unnecessary loss of autonomy on individual campuses. The effort has been an ongoing flashpoint, with UMA, USM and UMF each referencing specific impacts of the initiative as a reason for voting “no confidence” in Malloy. 

“What it does is put so much power in the system level,” said Hentges, the UMA professor.



Professors at UMA were the first to declare a total lack of faith in Malloy’s leadership earlier this month. 

On May 12, 13 of the school’s 18-member faculty senate voted no-confidence in the chancellor. Eleven also voted no-confidence in the UMA presidential search that resulted in hiring Laliberte and called for it to be redone, with one person opposing it and two abstaining. Five members were not present for the vote against Malloy, and four were not present for the vote against the search.

Malloy and Sven Bartholomew, a trustee and chair of the UMA presidential search committee, failed to meet ethical obligations they had signed onto, agreeing that they would “guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, and/or distortion” through omitting or emphasizing information about candidates, professors said. Had the pair told the full committee what they knew about Laliberte’s history, the faculty senate alleged, the committee may not have voted to hire him.

Peter Precourt, an art professor at UMA, said it’s going to take more than a new search in order to regain the trust of the faculty, but he emphasized the search “must” be redone since it was “unethical.”

Precourt said he speaks for most of his untenured colleagues.

“We are of that mind that there must be another search,” Precourt said. “This was not OK. We are not just ready to move on to the next step; we are trying to stop that now. The board of trustees has the power to do that. It’s clear, and it’s been clear in the process, (Laliberte) is the person they want and they do not care what they have to do to put him in place.”


UMA art professor Peter Precourt is shown Thursday in the print studio in Handley Hall in downtown Augusta. Precourt said faculty are so concerned about the search process that resulted in a new UMA president, that it’s going to take more than a new search in order to regain the trust of the faculty. The search “must” be redone since it was “unethical,” he said. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The UMA President Search Committee was formed in October 2021 after former President Rebecca Wyke resigned in July of that year to the surprise of most faculty members at the university, according to UMA faculty the Kennebec Journal spoke with.

Wyke formally became president July 1, 2017, and signed onto a three-year contract until June 30, 2020. Each year after her contract expired, she would undergo a review, according to Nagle, and the contract would be renewed for another year. She was receiving an annual salary of $209,930 at the time she left.

Those one-year renewals struck Chaffee, of the Association of Governing Boards, as somewhat odd. The average tenure for a university president is six to eight years, she said. Annual reviews are common in a president’s second or third year, but a second contract is typically for another three years, as opposed to one.

Before serving as UMA president, in 2008, Wyke was the vice chancellor for finance and administration and later served as interim president of UMA from 2015 to 2016. 

Rebecca Wyke, former president of the University of Maine at Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

“Becky was very down to earth . . . she listened to us and in some ways, she was kind of hands-off on the academic side, in my experience,” said Hentges, the American studies professor. “But she trusted the leadership on the academic side to make decisions and supported those very much while understanding what UMA and our mission was about.”

When reached recently by the Kennebec Journal, Wyke said she had nothing to add about her departure.


The university system used Storbeck Search, a consulting firm some say has a history of botched searches, to help gather and narrow down the candidates until there were four finalists. Officials from the University of Maine and Storbeck have pointed fingers at each other when it comes to who is to blame for not being upfront about Laliberte.

From the outset, Malloy has maintained that the information was shared “in confidence” with Malloy and Bartholomew by Storbeck Managing Director Jim Sirianni, and that the consultant indicated it was up to Sirianni or Laliberte to bring the issue up to the UMA Search Committee.

“We beg to differ with the chancellor’s understanding about the advice he received from our firm,” Storbeck Managing Director Shelly Storbeck told the Chronicle of Higher Education for its May 13 edition. “It is always our policy to present all relevant information to the hiring authority and the search-committee chair, which in this case was shared with the client in February. We leave it up to the client to determine how and when to share sensitive information before selecting a final candidate.”

Malloy this week said that he “does not agree that the Storbeck Search consultant properly advised or fully informed him or the (search committee chair) about all relevant information about the candidates,” said Nagle, the spokesperson.

Both Malloy and Bartholomew apologized and said it was wrong not to share the information about Laliberte’s no-confidence votes with the search committee. Malloy also pledged to review and revise hiring policies to require presidential and provost candidates to disclose prior votes of no-confidence and ensure “all relevant information about applicants for employment is available to be carefully considered by those charged with responsibility for vetting candidates and making recommendations to a UMS hiring manager or authority.”

It is unclear whether Bartholomew will face any disciplinary action.

Hentges recalls the tide turning against Malloy in Augusta.

“When Laliberte was announced, I was with some students on Zoom and we watched the announcement,” she said. “We felt very excited and positive and thought, ‘OK, we have a president who is ready to lead us and is going to be stronger, but when this came out, it was a devastating blow where everyone is feeling very unsure with the lack of communication and what the fall is going to look like.”


President Glenn Cummings’ departure from the University of Southern Maine was among the first concerns that drew ire, and disappointment, to the Portland campus.


When he resigned in October 2021 to take on a teaching role at the school, it came as a shock to most staff, similar to Wyke’s resignation just months before. Their departures were the first point cited in USM’s vote of no confidence in Malloy on May 13, the day after UMA’s.

The USM Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence also cited the UMF president’s departure, lack of faculty input in important decisions and Malloy’s plan for unified accreditation.

There were 25 USM faculty members who supported the no-confidence vote against Malloy, while three opposed it. 

“I am not perfect as a leader,” Malloy said in a statement after the vote.When I’ve made mistakes, I’ve tried to publicly acknowledge them. We as leaders in Maine’s public university system should all approach our challenges with humility and a willingness to work constructively together to advance our mutual interests and better serve the people of Maine.”

The University of Southern Maine campus in Portland. Faculty at the school have taken a no-confidence vote in Chancellor Dannel Malloy, joining at least three other campuses. Michele McDonald/Portland Press Herald

Last fall, Portland professors fought to keep Cummings in control of their university.

The same month that he announced his resignation, the faculty senate passed a resolution to have the board of trustees deny Cummings’ resignation and allow him to stay for at least two more years to see through his projects.


University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings announced that he will step down at the end of the year and take on a teaching role at the university. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald file

Cummings spearheaded a $100 million residence hall, the largest construction project in USM history, and gathered many fundraising and grant opportunities for the university. He came into the role with experience as deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education under former President Barack Obama, and as a legislative leader in Maine’s state government, where he sponsored the bill that turned the state’s seven technical colleges into a system of comprehensive community colleges.

“It is no secret that there have been disagreements between President Cummings and (the) Chancellor over several issues,” wrote USM English Professor Eve Ramion in an Oct. 27, 2021, email to the board of trustees obtained by the Portland Press Herald.

“Among them, and most recently, is the Chancellor’s efforts to move USM Graduate programs to (the University of Maine at Orono), out of the state’s population center,” Ramion added. “As well as, using the pandemic as rationale, practically all hiring decisions have been taken over by the Chancellor’s office. Why wouldn’t the president and the provost retain their authority in this regard so long (as) the decisions were within the budget?”

In an email from Cummings to the trustees, the former president said he was approached by faculty members who thought his departure was the chancellor’s doing. 

“When pressed by faculty as to whether the chancellor was behind my decision, I have consistently answered that we have different leadership styles and appear to vary about the future of USM, but that I seek this transition because the timing felt right for me and my family,” Cummings said in an email on Oct. 25, 2021. 

When asked about the perception that the chancellor asked Cummings to leave, Nagle, the spokesperson, directed the Kennebec Journal to an Oct. 5, 2021, statement.


“I respect President Cummings’ request to leave the USM presidency on a high note and return to the faculty. He can be proud of the legacy he’s built throughout his presidency to position the University of Southern Maine for further success in the University of Maine System,” Malloy said. “In all the time I’ve known him, Glenn has never wavered in his focus on USM’s students and their success. On behalf of all of UMS, I want to thank him for his service and leadership.”

Cumming’s initial two-year contract was set to expire June 30, 2017. That contract indicated his pay was $235,000 per year, but university documents show he received $280,205 at the end of 2021’s fiscal year.

Cummings was also well-liked at UMA, where he served as interim president in September 2014. While there, he made a lasting impact with staff.

“I felt like he understood what UMA was about and he came in wanting to grow and support UMA in those ways,” Hentges said.

Cummings could not be reached for comment.

The University of Southern Maine announced Monday that Jacqueline Edmondson, a longtime Penn State administrator, would replace Cummings with a three-year contract at $290,000 a year, expiring June 30, 2025.



At the Farmington campus, the cutting, or retrenchment, of nine Humanities and Social Sciences positions has fanned the flames against Malloy.

UMF’s faculty senate voted “no confidence” in Malloy on Wednesday, listing the retrenchments alongside issues with leadership and unified accreditation as the main reasons for the decision. 

The nine faculty members learned the fate of their positions on May 2. According to reporting from the Franklin Journal, the decisions were made based on the “budget and enrollment challenges” at UMF.

“The System will continue to do everything that it can to find new opportunities for the members of the faculty who were directly impacted by these changes,” Malloy said on May 18, in the wake of the campus’ no-confidence vote. “I know this is hard and I know that there will be those who disagree with this course of action. I am accountable for my decision to approve this plan, as difficult as it is, and understand that it is my responsibility to implement the vision and strategies set forth by the board of trustees even when that requires incredibly hard choices.

“Our focus must remain on serving our students and maintaining a university system that is accessible and affordable,” he added.


Merrill Hall on the University of Maine Farmington hosted a student sit-in earlier this month, as students protested a plan to eliminate nine faculty positions. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Students were riled enough to hold a 24-hour sit-in from May 11-12 and called for Malloy’s resignation or removal.

“(Malloy) has shown that he mismanaged the UMaine System,” UMF student Karly Jacklin told the Franklin Journal at the sit-in. “He doesn’t have any interest in the benefit of the students, or the professors. He doesn’t have anyone’s interest (in mind) but himself and his friends.”

University of Maine at Farmington President Edward Serna is leaving his post to serve as president of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. He was appointed president in 2019. Submitted file photo

A few days after the retrenchments were announced, on May 5, Malloy appointed Joseph McDonnell as the university’s interim president, effective from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2024, with an annual salary of $200,000 — $10,000 more than former President Edward Serna, who is leaving after three years to become president of his alma mater in South Carolina. 

“We were late, too late in the normal process to start a search and draw the audience of applicants that we would have wanted,” Malloy told the Franklin Journal about McDonnell’s hiring. 

Back in 2014, when McDonnell was provost at USM, he announced the retrenchments of 50 faculty members who were asked to retire or step down from their positions. 

The retrenchments at UMF “opened up wounds at USM like you would not believe,” said Lydia Savage, a geography-anthropology professor at USM and the campus’ faculty union president, adding that she believes he “will do more.”


On May 18, UMF Provost Eric Brown stepped down citing the “impending change in presidential leadership.”


The president of a labor union that represents full-time faculty across all University of Maine campuses said professors at the flagship University of Maine at Orono have shown support for their colleagues at the other schools.

“There is concern with how the university system is going about business,” said Jim McClymer, president of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine and a physics professor at Orono. “There’s a lot of concern and not a lot of happiness with how Chancellor Malloy presents his arguments.”

McClymer said he believes the Orono campus will be the next one to experience turmoil after the events at UMA, USM and UMF. The Orono faculty are particularly concerned over unified accreditation and the potential consequences the redesign of the engineering program could have on the Orono and USM campuses.

The flagship campus enrolls just under 10,000 undergraduates and employs 866 faculty members, making it the largest university in the system. 


In addition to Orono, UMA, UMF, UMM and USM, the system includes the University of Maine at Fort Kent and University of Maine at Presque Isle, as well as The Maine School of Law.

McClymer said the path toward restoring relations between the chancellor and faculty is clear.

“Only if the multiple concerns raised are legitimately addressed, instead of being dismissed as has become the standard response, could confidence ever be restored.” 


Kay Neufeld of the Franklin Journal and Lana Cohen and Rachel Ohm of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this report. 

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