ORONO (AP) – The future remained uncertain for the president of the University of Maine as a newspaper reported that the chancellor called for Peter Hoff’s resignation.

Hoff, the longest-serving president in 38 years at UMaine, has criticized Chancellor Joseph Westphal’s reorganization plan for the system and has looked elsewhere for work.

The two men met last week and were expected to meet again this week as they discuss Hoff’s future.

John Diamond, spokesman for the system, confirmed that the discussions will continue this week. But Diamond declined to confirm or deny that Westphal had called for Hoff’s resignation.

“The chancellor and President Hoff have been talking about President Hoff’s future with the university system,” he said.

But the Portland Press Herald quoted Daniel Innis, dean of the University of Maine’s College of Business, Public Policy and Health, as saying Hoff said Friday that Westphal had asked him to go.

“I don’t think it’s widely known at this point. It will be. Any time you have a change like this it’s disturbing. People are going to be surprised – many will be surprised. It’s going to be tough,” Innis said.

Rep. Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Education Committee, said he heard from Sen. Mary Cathcart, D-Orono, that Westphal had sought Hoff’s resignation. Cathcart declined to comment.

Hoff has led the Orono campus since 1997. During his tenure, student enrollment has grown from 8,900 to 11,200, and the university expects the numbers to be up again this fall.

Additionally, the number of research dollars is on the rise. In 1997, the school was bringing in $18 million to $20 million annually in outside research grants. Today the school is in the $50 million to $60 million range.

According to Diamond, Hoff’s contract expired last summer and since then he’s been serving at the pleasure of Westphal.

Friday’s news follows months of speculation about a deteriorating relationship between Westphal and Hoff, who has been a finalist for the presidency of other schools three times in recent years.

Most recently, Hoff learned in May that he had lost his bid to run the University of Nebraska System.

Hoff then criticized Westphal’s proposed reorganization of the University of Maine System, saying March 31 he took issue with “negative” and “critical” statements Westphal had made about UMaine.

Hoff said April 1 he fully supported the reorganization and praised Westphal’s vision for the Orono campus.

Hoff’s comments about the reorganization put him at odds with Westphal, said Jim McClymer, UMaine chapter president of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine and an associate professor of physics.

“Peter has maybe not kept his concern over the damages the plan will cause us as quiet as they’d like,” McClymer said.

Gordon Kulberg, associate professor of psychology and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said there has been speculation for some time that Hoff would soon leave, “so it’s no great shock.”

“I think the university will survive and do well,” he said. “The university’s primarily the faculty, and it’s a great faculty.”

AP-ES-07-03-04 1243EDT

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