If the University of Southern Maine is a business, as the chairman of the USM Foundation recently stated (“USM president: School must redefine its mission,” March 20), its business model seems aimed at reducing the quality of their products and hoping their consumers don’t notice.
That works with big-box stores that can drive competition out of the marketplace with their economies of scale. But when those consumers (students) have ample choices, they’ll find the best return on their purchasing power by going elsewhere.
If USM follows business logic, it will seek to reduce its labor costs by increasing the number of “permatemps”: short-term, non-tenure-track faculty with little job security, none of the protections of tenure and no role in the shared governance of the university. And the quality of USM’s product will suffer.
I know: I was a permatemp at USM until my position was defunded in 2013. While I cared deeply about my students’ education, I knew that USM’s commitment to me extended no further than my one-year contracts, so I fulfilled my end of the contract, and no further. I taught excellent classes, but spent my free time advancing my own career rather than that of my students.
I held no unpaid extra office hours during exam week to help my struggling students succeed, nor did I volunteer to mentor a student organization, attend many campus events, serve on campus committees or teach an extra tutorial for the student who asked – all the unremunerated things that my tenure-track colleagues do to provide their students with a quality education.
There are many business models. USM’s leaders seem to want to follow the Gremlin model: reduced quality leading to reduced income, leading to reduced quality … we know where that ends. Just ask American Motors.