Remember: The primary issue is that USM has a $14M structural deficit.
But, guess what?
According to Inside Higher Education, USM's President, Theodora Kalikow, announced on Friday that she would work with faculty to try to avoid the layoffs, which have been rescinded for now...except for the 34 staff jobs as well as the plans to eliminate three academic programs and jobs of their 7 faculty members.
Why the dramatic sea change?
According to Christy Hammer, a USM Professor of Sociology and President of the local chapter of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine--an affiliate of the National Education Association (read "union")--"Maine was too poor to be the test case for the dismantling of tenure."
That characterization--as well as the grievance filed on behalf of 11 professors on Thursday, threatening additional legal action--must have scared the bejeezus out of President Kalikow.
The grievance alleges that the layoffs violated professors' contractual rights. Okay, that's nothing newsworthy. But, more importantly, what is newsworthy is that the grievance alleges the layoffs had a disproportionate effect on women, ethnic minorities and lesbian professors.
Uh oh! That's one banner headline President Kalikow could never countenance. And that's to say nothing about what could potentially develop into a Justice Department investigation by Attorney General Eric Holder.
To demonstrate "good faith," President Kalikow says that she's now committed to "making sure the faculty and administration work more closely together to find solutions to our budget challenge." For its part, the Faculty Senate has created a list of 27 money-making or money-saving ideas, including:
- asking for voluntary pay cuts from anyone who makes more than the average salary of a full professor;
- eliminating all administrative positions with the word "associate" in the title;
- ending the use of outside consulting firms; and,
- restricting conference travel budgets.
Of these proposals, a USM spokesman, Bob Caswell, said:
They were making a convincing case that we could work together and
cooperate and find needed savings. President Kalikow's thinking was,
"O.K., let’s give them a chance to do that and see where they are at
later this spring."
Sure, give them a chance to save their socialist Utopia, but do the number crunching:
- The "1%'ers" who earn above the average full professor's salary will be asked to take a voluntary pay cut for the sake of the "99%'ers." Let's suppose all of them do. How many budget cycles does anyone think such altruism will last? Also, wouldn't that lower the average full professor's salary as well as the overall average faculty salary so that, in future budget cycles, administrators will base pay increases on a lower pay scale? So, in the long run, everyone will take a hit...for a very long time.
- No doubt about it, eliminating all of those "associate" administrator positions will surely reduce USM's salaries. The presumption, however, is that the work all those associate administrators perform can be performed by those holding the "administrator" positions. Perhaps. But, federal regulators have increased the burden of paperwork upon those administrators, spawning the proliferation of those "associate" administrators to deal with all of that work. Who's going to get it done when there's no time or nobody to do it?
- Why were outside consulting firms hired in the first place? Most likely, administrators and faculty didn't want to do the work, weren't qualified to do the work, and/or were at loggerheads about how to resolve important issues. So, guess who's going to be doing all of that work when no consultants can be hired and with the average salaries of faculty going down, not up?
- Restricting conference travel budgets? Come on! That's nothing more than a drop in the bucket.
The Motley Monk guesstimates that those "solutions" might generate $5M or $7M in cuts. Perhaps eliminating those 3 programs, 7 faculty, and 34 staff members will generate another $3M in cuts. Even so, that's not nearly enough to address USM's structural deficit. And President Kalikow knows it.
At the same time, President Kalikow can't have faculty members, like Professor of Economics, Susan Feiner, running around--especially to the press--saying that USM could become a national test case about whether college administrators could "wreck tenure and bust the union" not just in Maine but elsewhere.
Worse yet, President Kalikow can't have the national media reporting how her "draconian budget cuts" are having a disproportionate effect on women, ethnic minorities and lesbian professors.
It obviously was time to "make nice" and give the stormy petrils a chance to come up with a solution that probably won't work anywhere but in a socialist Utopia.
There is hope for the stormy petrils. Perhaps the potential for all of this negative publicity will enable President Kalikow to squeeze more money out of the University of Maine system, keeping the socilaist Utopia intact for the time being.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Inside Higher Education article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk's previous post concerning USM's budget cuts, click on the following link: