September 11, 2013

Maine university system paid former USM president $363,000 for report

The 39-page report addresses recruitment of foreign students, but the university system contracted with a company to draw students from overseas before the report was completed.

By Nell Gluckman / Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

It has been just over a year since former University of Southern Maine president Selma Botman got a new job.

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Selma Botman, a former president of the University of Southern Maine, was hired by the University of Maine System to produce a report about recruiting foreign students.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Five-year plan to recruit international students to UMS campuses

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 63- year-old Botman.

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 – UMS 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.

UMS 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 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 had been turbulent. In March 2012, the Portland Press Herald reported that four of Botman’s administrative staff received raises of between 18 and 22 percent, while faculty salaries had been frozen for three years.

The USM faculty released a list of grievances they had with Botman in April 2012.

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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