By 2014, the University of Maine will no longer have a public administration department; nor will it offer majors in theater, foreign languages, women’s studies or music if proposals issued today are approved by President Robert Kennedy.
The Academic Program Prioritization Working Group issued recommendations Wednesday to tackle a projected budget cut of $25.2 million. The proposals would save the university more than $12 million between 2011 and 2014, according to a statement issued by the university.
The proposed actions would result in 16 fewer undergraduate majors and six fewer master’s degree programs. Seven other majors would be merged into three. These changes would be in effect by 2014. The colleges would maintain instruction in the disciplines where majors are cut and, when possible, would offer minors. Currently enrolled students would be able to finish their degree in the major they have chosen.
APPWG’s recommendations would eliminate 80 faculty positions across the five colleges by 2014. Susan Hunter, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said it was too soon to speculate if eliminations would mean layoffs.
“Ultimately we’re looking to reduce,” Hunter said. “We may be in a position where we have to eliminate some people, but we may also be in a position where in a number of years, we have enough retirements.”
Hunter said the university needed to prioritize programs to prepare for the future. Budget cuts in the past few years have been partly absorbed by allowing faculty to retire without hiring new teachers to fill the gaps. This, she said, was unsustainable.
“I’m not trying to say this is a wonderful thing that we’re going to have to do,” the provost said, “But we really do have to do some prioritization because we have eroded ourselves over a period of years — constantly taking cuts and basically taking retirements as they come up and not rehiring.”
The recommendations, which include merging sociology with anthropology, and combing physics and astronomy with chemistry to form a School of Physical Sciences, were the result of an assignment to the deans of UMaine’s five colleges to “report on how they would prioritize a 20 percent cut from their respective colleges,” according to the report.
“Reductions of this magnitude will fundamentally change the university,” Kennedy said in a statement released Wednesday. “While this is painful and difficult, it is the hand we are dealt. All we can do is maintain our focus on our core responsibilities as Maine’s flagship university and find ways to continue providing the top-quality, liberal arts-based education that Maine people and others have depended upon for generations.”
“This is a serious, deliberate process,” Hunter said in the same statement. “UMaine is in the same situation as every other public college in the U.S. and we are exhausting every possibility as we work toward a new paradigm that matches available resources with our critical mission.”
APPWG was created by Kennedy last year to make recommendations for re-aligning the academic programs at the university to “show strong support of our highest priority degree programs funded by a reduction in those ranked as our lowest priorities,” as stated in the president’s charge to the group. The group worked for seven months creating criteria to evaluate degree programs and formulating courses of action based on the information gathered by the provost and the deans.
The public is invited to an informational forum at Wells Conference Center from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, March 29.
“[The forum] is meant to be a way for people to really engage in conversation focused on their concerns and questions with the people who can address them,” Hunter said.
After the forum, the group will draft a final report with recommendations for the provost by April 8. Hunter will review the recommendations and deliver the report to Kennedy, whose approval is needed before any official changes are made.