USM President Rescinds Proposed Faculty Layoffs

Those regular readers of this blog will know that we have published several posts on the proposed elimination of faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine ostensibly to close a continuing budget gap but also to allow the administration more “flexibility” in funding programs.

This afternoon, the Lewiston Morning Sentinel is reporting that the president of the university of Southern Maine, Theodora Kalikow, has reversed herself on those faculty cuts: Continue reading

The Top Issues Facing Higher Education in 2014 and Beyond

Writing for Forbes, John Ebersole, the president of Excelsior College, has identifeid the following ten issues as the most significant issues facing higher education this year:

1. Cost.

2. Renewal of the Higher Education Act.

3. Workforce development.

4. Competency-based education.

5. Accreditation.

6. Assessment.

7. Quality assurance in non-institutional learning.

8. Recognition of the new majority in student bodies.

9. Crisis in leadership.

10. The economy.

Ebersole notes that many readers may wonder about his exclusion of MOOCs as an issue, but he feels that the questions about their efficacy for most students and their over-exposure in the media have greatly decreased the consideration of MOOCs as an major innovation in higher education.

I agree largely with that assessment, but I would take issue with a fairly large number of his choices for the list. Continue reading

Higher Education “Reform”: The Price Paid by the Next Generation of Students and Professors

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]

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The increasing awareness of—and outrage about–the size of the debt crushing college graduates is, we must hope, a sign that meaningful action to address it may be possible.

The numbers alone are staggering.  According to recent reports, the average student debt for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is now $29,400—roughly 80% of a young person’s average income in this country. (See more at http://www.edcentral.org/student-debt-review/.)

The implications of these numbers are also frightening.  As we are increasingly aware, student debt is fueling the widening wealth gap in the United States (http://save2limitdebt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Student-Loans-Widening-Wealth-Gap_Fullreport.pdf) and even threatening the health of our overall economy (http://www.kansas.com/2013/08/10/2935730/crippling-student-debt-affects.html).

Less understood is the parallel economic precariousness of this generation of college professors. Continue reading

Please Stand with the Educators and Academic Professionals at Portland State University!

By a 94%-6% margin, the AAUP chapter at Portland State University has voted to strike on April 16 if substantive progress has not been made in their contract negotiations with their administration.

They ask that you show your support for that vote by signing this petition:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/i-stand-with-the-educators-academic-professionals-at-psu

They were initially hoping to get at least 1,000 signatures on the petition. They have already surpassed that goal.

The chapter leadership feels very strongly that Portland State University is headed in the wrong direction. The faculty and academic professionals are fighting for a contract that will refocus the university on academic priorities and, in the process, contribute to the broader defense quality public higher education. Continue reading

Letter to USM President from Women Faculty at Merrimack College

The letter below was sent this morning to University of Southern Maine President Theodora Kalikow, protesting the recent action she has taken against faculty. A total of 39 women faculty at Merrimack College–tenured, tenure-track, and contingent–signed their names to this excellent statement. It clearly points out the institutional sexism (and racism) inherent to a “last hired, first fired” policy.

Dear President Theodora Kalikow:

We write to request that you rescind the cuts you have made to the fulltime faculty in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Southern Maine, cuts which have occurred without a bona fide declaration of financial exigency, without agreed-upon criteria, and which have disproportionately affected women, some of whom are women of color.

It is the faculty’s responsibility in a shared governance system to be a participant in determining whether a financial crisis is, in fact, of such severity as to require faculty reductions and, if so, the faculty has primary responsibility for determining where those reductions should occur (see the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure, specifically Section 4). You and your administrative team have abrogated that right, despite the commitment to shared governance, and specifically the Joint Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities (1966), which accords to faculty primary responsibility for faculty status and which is referenced in USM’s governance document. It is a right of faculty in such a system to have the protections of due process when those reductions are being considered. That right was denied when your administration determined by some measure of your own devising which 12 faculty would be cut and making little effort to find placements within the system elsewhere for them, while simultaneously authorizing the addition of 7 new faculty elsewhere in the university. Continue reading

Cops and Robbers at the University of Southern Maine

This guest post was written by Michael DeCesare, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Merrimack College and President of the AAUP Chapter there.

At a special meeting of the University of Southern Maine (USM) faculty senate on March 14th, USM President Theodora Kalikow announced her plan to eliminate four academic programs and lay off 20 to 30 faculty—including tenured and tenure-track professors—along with 10 to 20 staff. What was the ostensible purposes of these unilateral decisions? To “re-brand” USM from a liberal arts institution into a “metropolitan university” and to make up $7M of a $14M shortfall. Martin Kich reported on these austerity cuts on this blog a week ago.

To this point, neither USM nor the University of Maine (UM) System has declared financial exigency. The supposed severity of the budget shortfall was quickly shown by Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women’s and gender studies at USM, to be a flimsy justification for firing faculty and closing programs. As Paul Krugman put it in his New York Times blog last week, USM’s administration “seems eager to downsize liberal arts and social sciences for reasons that go beyond money.” Continue reading

Three Years Ago, Senate Bill 5 Was Signed into Law in Ohio

This is a post by John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP and the author of Collective Bargaining and The Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) [http://www.amazon.com/Collective-Bargaining-Battle-Ohio-Struggle/dp/1137339179/ref=la_B001KI3NOG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396230324&sr=1-1].
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Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda­, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept. Continue reading

Challenging the Necessity of Eliminating Faculty as an Austerity Measure: A Letter from a University of Southern Maine Alumna to University President Theo Kalikow

What follows is a letter sent by a University of Southern Maine alumna to Theo Kalikow, the university president, in response to his announcement that full-time faculty positions need to be eliminated in response to a projected deficit in the institution’s budget. It is, in some respects, a follow-up to a previous post that I have made very recently on this topic: http://academeblog.org/2014/03/23/students-and-faculty-demonstrate-against-austerity-cuts-in-maine/.

The letter is re-printed here with the permission of its author.

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Dear Theo Kalikow,

I would like to explain to you, using the critical thinking skills I cultivated under the guidance of extraordinary faculty at the University of Southern Maine—skills that got me into a highly competitive doctoral program in Sociology at an R1 University—why as an alum, I strongly suggest you resign immediately.

Having majored in Sociology and Women & Gender Studies (with a minor in English), my analysis of your current predicament is a sociological one. The institution of higher education in the U.S. is facing a crisis. Not a financial one, but a crisis that arose from a larger political and economic shift toward privatization of formerly state-controlled institutions. Continue reading

Tenure, The Presidential Veto and Abuse of Power

Guest Blogger Douglas Boyd is a Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.

The 1966 “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities” (adopted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) (http://www.aaup.org/report/), the Association of Governing Boards of Universities (AGBU), the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU)) stipulates unequivocally that “faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility; this area includes appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint,…” Importantly, many universities including ours (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), as members of these organizations, should follow these espoused principles. That said, a growing concern is that administrations at US academic institutions, including ours, are increasingly rendering tenure decisions contrary to the recommendations made by the faculty body responsible for evaluation of applications.

A presidential reversal of a recommendation made by the aforementioned faculty body has recently been in the academic spotlight with the AAUP investigating the case of an Assistant Professor denied tenure by the President at Northeastern Illinois University despite a unanimous recommendation by their Promotions and Tenure committee (PTC). In their report (Academe Dec 2013) the AAUP sided with the Assistant Professor concluding that the “President’s stated reasons lack credibility as grounds of denying tenure.” The AAUP, following the 1966 Statement on Government, stated that the “final decision lodged in the governing board …should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances and for reasons communicated to the faculty.” Continue reading

Students and Faculty Demonstrate against Austerity Cuts in Maine

An article published yesterday by Portside in Portland, Maine, opens:

“Faculty and students launched an occupation of a Maine university building Friday to demand a halt to mass faculty layoffs and department slashes that they say are part of the austerity cuts devastating public education nation-wide.

“Over 100 people launched a late-morning occupation of the hallway outside the Portland office of the University of Southern Maine provost Michael Stevenson, where many plan to stay at least through the night. People sat on the floor and leaned against walls as chants and even songs broke out amid discussions about “next steps” for holding the university accountable. “We’re using this as a space to organize,” said Meaghan LaSala, student in Women and Gender Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams.

“Meanwhile, students took the microphone to speak out against budget cuts during a nearby university event for gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud.”

The author of the article, Sarah Lazare, then provides more specific details about the cuts and attempt to provide the broader context in which the cuts should be understood as the result both of reduced state revenues compounded by ideologically driven tax reductions and of the corporatization of higher education: Continue reading