Greg Kesich’s column about USM (“If it’s going to have a shot, USM has to be integral to community,” March 26) was a balanced and reasonable view of the current and long-term troubles at the University of Southern Maine.

As a faculty member there, I’ve been deeply saddened by events, such as layoffs of excellent faculty and staff, including some valuable administrators.

I’ve also been disappointed in the response of many of my faculty colleagues. I do not believe that this is a manufactured crisis. USM has been underfunded for years, and with declining enrollments cannot do everything everyone wants it to do.

I do think that USM has been more involved in the community than it gets credit for. Why that role has not been more recognized is a good question.

Perhaps there are not enough USM graduates in the city political and media leadership. Maybe USM really has not brought the community into the university (as well as the other way around).

In other urban institutions, it is often the graduate programs that make the most direct connections. But graduate programs cost money.

President Theodora Kalikow, like President Selma Botman before her, has proposed changes to USM to make it a viable and renewed place of learning, knowledge creation and, offering a vision of change, reaching into the local community and out to the world. It is hard to have a new vision in a time of crisis and hardship.

Many students, too, are eager to defend USM and their right to a decent education, but they, like the faculty and staff, are struggling with competing views of reality.

To act more coherently, the university needs a financial and intellectual bridge to the future. Within USM, we all need to lend a hand. So, too, though, does the community that looks to us to help meet their goals.

Eileen Eagan

associate professor of history, USM

Portland