University of Southern Maine faculty cast a vote of no confidence in University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy on Friday afternoon, citing the departure of three UMaine System presidents in less than a year and a lack of faculty input in important decisions.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I think this vote is a culmination of a lot of shocks that faculty and the system have had to absorb over the year,” Faculty Senate Chair Shelton Waldrep said. 

The resolution also condemned Malloy’s plan to centralize UMaine System management, and expressed concerns about a decrease in autonomy and independence for individual universities.

Waldrep, who is chair of the English department, said there was “robust” support for the resolution. Almost 90 percent of the faculty senate voted in favor of the no-confidence resolution, a statement from the group said.

The University of Southern Maine Faculty Senate is a body of over 30 faculty from a variety of departments. It is charged with scrutinizing the impact of proposed changes to the university and its programs, allocation of resources and systems of education.

The vote Friday is one in a series of actions university system faculty and students took this week to demonstrate their disapproval of Malloy’s actions.

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On Wednesday, faculty at the University of Maine Augusta also passed a resolution of no confidence in the chancellor. The Augusta resolution focused on concerns with the presidential search process at that school, which resulted in the hiring of a candidate who had received a vote of no confidence from faculty at his previous institution.

University of Farmington students convened a 24-hour sit-in from Tuesday to Wednesday to protest the system’s decision to cut nine social studies and humanities faculty positions.

In a response to the USM no-confidence vote, Malloy said that he respects the voices of faculty members and takes their concerns seriously. But he did not provide any specifics as to how he would address their concerns.

Instead, he touted the changes he has made to the system since his tenure began in 2019. He pointed out some of the very things that the faculty described as concerns, including unified accreditation and moving the University of Maine School of Law to downtown Portland.

“The pace of change in undertaking these initiatives is itself the cause of anxiety at not only USM, but around our system,” he wrote. “I appreciate that, and I look forward to working on my relationship with USM’s faculty and its new president so that USM grows in stability and stature to advance these and other board priorities and strengthen its own unique contributions in our university system.”

The system is scheduled to announce the new USM president on Monday, and Malloy said in his statement Friday that he thought the resolution reflects faculty’s anxiety about the transition.

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Waldrep told the Press Herald that the vote has nothing to do with the new president. Waldrep said he is looking forward to working with the chosen candidate, who has not yet been announced to the public.

Waldrep said the no-confidence vote was instead the result of a series of changes and decisions Malloy has made, including a decision to spend $13.5 million to renovate a downtown Portland building for a new law school, altering faculty and staff hiring practices by taking power away from university provosts and giving more oversight to the system, and the firing of nine faculty at the University of Maine Farmington (five of whom were tenured).

“The retrenchment of faculty is a very big deal and should not be done lightly,” Waldrep said.

He said faculty across the system are constantly worried that they are going to lose their jobs. “It makes it (the UMaine System) a very difficult place to work.”

Waldrep also is concerned that unified accreditation – accrediting all seven universities together rather than separately – is a way to prepare to cut more faculty positions while retaining subject and program offerings across the system. With unified accreditation, he said, the system could cut a French professor at one university and tell students they can take French at a different university, likely remotely.

“It feels like an attempt to scale back the system and leave students with fewer options,” he said.

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Malloy provided more details on how he plans to respond to the concerns from Augusta faculty, calling for a review of the system’s current employment searches and system policies for how searches are conducted.

USM faculty union president Lydia Savage said she found Malloy’s response demeaning.

“The email he sent to faculty is insulting and labels our concerns as a result of anxiety,” said Savage, chair of USM Associated Faculties of the University of Maine chapter president and chair of USM’s geography-anthropology department. Savage said the email made it sound as though the faculty were “frightened children.” 

“This is exactly the type of leadership in which we can have no confidence,” she said. “Malloy is patronizing and condescending to the very people who have deep knowledge of universities and a deeper commitment to their success. We are not anxious about change and would embrace real change rather than the lack of a vision we have been offered by this administration.”

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