Thursday, April 24, 2014
PORTLAND — The German studies program at the University of Southern Maine likely will be the first academic program eliminated as school officials look for more ways to cut costs.
A group of students plans to protest the anticipated loss of a nontenured assistant professor at 1 p.m. today in front of the University of Maine School of Law at Brighton Avenue and Falmouth Street.
''It's awful,'' said Nate Smith, a classical literature and philosophy major who is studying German. ''If you want to go into academia in a lot of fields, German is a necessity. A lot of scholars and philosophers wrote in German, and being able to read and write German is a requirement for some graduate programs.''
USM officials confirmed Tuesday that Angela Gulielmetti of South Portland, the only faculty member in the German studies program, probably will be laid off at the end of June 2011.
The proposed reduction is part of the University of Maine System's effort to review, consolidate and possibly eliminate programs that have graduated an average of five or fewer students over the past three years.
USM, with a total enrollment of nearly 10,000, has one active student who is a declared German studies major, and it has graduated one German studies major in the last three years, said Bob Caswell, the university's spokesman.
University officials are reviewing other programs with small enrollments and will make final decisions by the end of March, he said.
USM will continue providing German instruction to the German studies major until his or her degree requirements are met, either by hiring a part-time instructor or by providing access to instruction on another UMaine System campus.
Kate Forhan, USM's provost and vice president of academic affairs, described the process of winnowing smaller programs as ''horrible'' but necessary.
''It's one instructor here, one course there, but the cumulative effect is really big,'' she said. ''We have to be looking at the university as a whole.''
Forhan said it's unclear how much the university will save by eliminating the German studies program. She also said there's no firm target for how many positions must be eliminated. The average annual cost of each faculty member is about $100,000 in salary and benefits.
Forhan said the seven universities in the state system are looking for ways to share resources and eliminate costly duplication of services by consolidating specialty programs on certain campuses and letting students on other campuses take them online or via televised classes.
''This review of under-enrolled programs complements our larger initiative to reorganize USM's schools, colleges, academic programs, and administrative units,'' Forhan wrote in a letter e-mailed to the faculty Tuesday evening. ''Taken as a whole, these efforts have the very real potential to generate savings and efficiencies needed to reposition this university for long-term sustainability and future growth.''
Forhan said money saved by eliminating smaller programs will let USM hire faculty members in programs with greater or growing demand, such as nursing (445 current majors), psychology (326 majors), business administration (283 majors) and biology (255 majors).
Gulielmetti learned of her probable fate late last week, in what she said was a respectful and supportive meeting with Forhan and Sue Picinich, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
''I walked out with little hope,'' Gulielmetti said. ''They offered to help me apply for jobs elsewhere.''
Gulielmetti said she's in her fifth year at USM and would become eligible for tenure next fall. She is teaching four sections of German this semester: two introductory classes, one intermediate class and one advanced class, in tandem with a professor at the University of Maine. At the start of the semester, the classes had 22, 15, eight and four students, respectively.
Gulielmetti lost her previous position, at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., when her department was eliminated.
''USM has some very talented students,'' she said. ''I have very much enjoyed teaching all of them.''
Jeannine Uzzi, chairwoman of the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department, said the potential loss of the German studies program is unsettling to many faculty.
It's a harbinger for other small programs, she said, and it will be missed by the faculty and students in larger programs.
''It's not a popular major, but it serves a lot of other departments,'' Uzzi said.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: