It has been just over a year since former University of Southern Maine President Selma Botman got a new job.
Her position as special assistant to the chancellor on global education was created for her two months after she got a vote of no confidence from more than half the USM faculty. Although that didn’t meet the two-thirds majority to be considered “the will of the faculty,” Botman relinquished the campus presidency at the end of June 2012.
With a year left on her contract, the University of Maine System created the high-level job for Botman, 63.
The result of her new assignment: a 39-page, five-year plan for recruiting international students into the University of Maine System.
The cost of the report: $363,028.
That price included $275,908 for her salary and benefits; $70,022 for her assistant’s salary and benefits; $10,848 for in-state travel (including car and fuel); $2,629 to move out of the USM president’s home and office to another office in the Portland area; and $2,500 for an international recruitment consultant.
The university system, though, did not wait for her report to launch a program to recruit foreign students. In March – while her report was still in the works – it signed a five-year contract with a company that will recruit international students to the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine.
The University of Maine System expects that this company, Study Group, will recruit 400 students each year by 2016 using commission-based agents overseas. In August, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting reported that Study Group would be paid 80 percent of the first year’s tuition for each student it enrolls in the Maine system.
Botman was instructed not to include anything about Study Group in her report, according to UMS Chancellor James Page.
“I wanted them to develop independently so they could work independently so we could do one or the other,” Page said of Botman’s report and the UMS plans to work with Study Group.
Botman could not be reached for comment and UMS staff members said they do not know what she is doing now. Her contract was not renewed and she has not been replaced.
In November, the university system board of trustees will decide between pursuing Botman’s plan, continuing the partnership with Study Group, which is already in place, or letting individual campuses handle their own international recruitment, said Page.
Page said the board will adopt “likely a hybrid of a mixture of the three approaches.”
Botman’s stint as USM president was turbulent. In March 2012, the Portland Press Herald reported that four of Botman’s administrative staff received raises of between 18 percent and 22 percent, while faculty salaries had been frozen for three years.
In April 2012, the USM faculty released a list of grievances they had with Botman.
And Botman’s appointment of a former trustee as vice president for advancement at the University of Southern Maine prompted a new ethics policy requiring a year’s waiting period between leaving the board and taking a paid job in the system.
The contract between UMS and Botman for global recruitment, dated Aug. 15, 2012, lists four responsibilities:
• “Identify and secure international agents who can help recruit students to UMS campuses.”
• “Cultivate relationships … for educational and faculty exchanges.”
• “Articulate UMS’s commitment to global education.”
• “Create gap-year, 2-plus-2, 4-year, and graduate programs where possible.”
Documents provided to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting by UMS under a Freedom of Access Act request do not show that any relationships were secured or any programs created. There is no mention of faculty exchanges.
Page, the chancellor, said he wanted Botman to outline a plan before the system committed to any programs.
“We needed a strategy before we went out and spent a lot of money,” he said. “We didn’t have a picture of how it would all work.”
“It was worth it, given that we had a contractual obligation” to Botman, said Gregory Johnson, a member of the board of trustees and chairman of the academic and student affairs committee.
“I think it reaffirms, in some ways, the work we were already doing. And now that can be refined,” Johnson said.
“They needed something for her to do,” said Howard Segal, a history professor at the University of Maine, in Orono. “My question would be, well, will that be used for future reference or will it just gather dust?”
In addition to the rationale for recruiting international students and the list of recruitment agencies, Botman’s report included a five-year business plan, a rationale for using recruiting agents, a discussion of the tuition international students would pay, examples of how the university might phrase promotional materials, a three-page list of international high schools and other data.
In the business plan, Botman estimated that implementing her strategy would cost the Maine system $287,500 per year. With her projected enrollment of 579 international students, at the end of five years the university system would see a $31 million increase in revenue.
“This would bring increased prominence to the state and much-needed resources to the university,” the report said.
Though she was given a $20,000 budget for out-of-state travel, Botman used only $1,236.41. She went to New York City to meet with administrators from the State University of New York, a leader in international student recruitment, and to the University of Northern Arizona in Phoenix to meet with its vice provost for international education.
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service based in Hallowell. It can be reached via email at email@example.com and can be found on the web at pinetreewatchdog.org.