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.

Further, since your Board of Trustees is a member of the Association of Governing Boards, whose Statement on Board Responsibility for Institutional Governance (2010) reinforces the tenets of the Joint Statement to which the AGB is a co-sponsor, representatives of the Board of Trustees had the responsibility to do more than appear with you on stage; they had the responsibility to insure that the faculty’s role in governance was protected and that any proposed cuts did not fall disproportionately on any one group of faculty.

It appears to us that the university’s attempt to increase the diversity of its faculty has been dealt a major blow by your actions, which also tell the larger academic community, and particularly your students, that women faculty are “last in, first out” at the University of Southern Maine.

cc: James H. Page, Chancellor
Samuel W. Collins, Chair, Board of Trustees
Martin R. Stevenson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Lynn M. Kuzma, Dean, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Jerry LaSala, Professor of Physics and President, USM Faculty Senate

One thought on “Letter to USM President from Women Faculty at Merrimack College

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