USM cuts 50 faculty positions

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PORTLAND — The University of Southern Maine has a plan to cut 50 faculty positions and two programs in an effort to eliminate $6 million from its budget, according to a statement sent out by administrators Monday.

These cuts are the first phase in a year-long effort to eliminate $16 million from the university’s budget that recently appointed president David Flanagan has said is his first task in his new role.

The entire University of Maine System is facing a budget shortfall that will result in cuts and restructuring efforts. Administrators have said that if they change nothing, the seven-university system will be $69 million in debt by 2019.

The two programs that have been proposed for elimination at USM are an undergraduate degree in French and a graduate degree in applied medical sciences. Those are in addition to the three USM programs that the system’s board of trustees approved for elimination in September. Students currently enrolled in the programs will be able to finish out their degrees.

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Flanagan said he believes the university will be able to continue to offer almost the same number of credit hours to students, despite the reduction in faculty. Class sizes will be larger and all faculty will be asked to teach four classes per semester. Currently, some faculty teach two or three classes per semester, he said.

The university had about 340 faculty members on staff in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the office of institutional research. The university’s operating budget for fiscal year 2015 is about $134 million.

In August, Flanagan convened a team made up of university administrators, who helped him identify which positions and programs would be eliminated. The Faculty Senate will have until Oct. 17 to review this proposal and offer a response.

The university system is offering a retirement incentive that Flanagan hopes will take care of some of the 50 faculty positions he is proposing for elimination. Faculty have until Oct. 20 to take advantage of the retirement incentive. If retirements do not take place in the positions Flanagan has proposed for elimination, the most recently hired faculty in those departments will be laid off.

Flanagan said that in the past, USM has attempted to make cuts by waiting for retirements, a process that was “helter skelter” and left the university with “gaps in coverage and inconsistencies that are hard to explain.”

This time, he said, will be different.

“I think it’s long overdue for this university to try to manage itself on a strategic basis,” he said. “That requires discipline and thinking through to the future.”

If too many faculty take the incentive package, the administration will hire new faculty into the positions that they want to keep filled, Flanagan said.

There is still $10 million that needs to be identified for the university to pass a balanced budget. Flanagan said the rest will be through cuts in administration and capital expenditures, which will be announced later in the semester. Because of stipulations in the faculty contracts, faculty retrenchments must be announced earlier.

The faculty positions proposed for elimination are:

  • American and New England Studies – 2
  • Applied Medical Sciences – 5
  • Arts and Humanities – 1
  • Communication and Media Studies – 1
  • Community Planning and Development – 3
  • Computer Science – 2
  • Criminology – 2
  • Economics – 2
  • Education – 2.5
  • English – 4.5
  • Geoscience – 4
  • History – 1
  • Languages 3
  • Leadership and Organizational Studies – 1
  • Music – 2
  • Natural and Applied Science – 1
  • Philosophy – 1
  • Physics – 1
  • Psychology – 2
  • Political Science – 1
  • Public Policy and Management – 3
  • Social and Behavioral Science – 1
  • Sociology – 2
  • Technology – 1
  • Theatre – 1
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