March 2, 2010

USM lays out plan to merge academic units

The positions of three deans and their assistants would be cut as six schools or colleges become three.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - The University of Southern Maine released a draft proposal Monday to reduce its academic structure from eight to five schools or colleges and save $750,000 a year on administration.

DRAFT PROPOSAL

Read a draft proposal for USM academic reorganization.

The proposal would eliminate three academic deans, each of whom is paid about $210,000 a year in salary and benefits and has an administrative assistant who earns $40,000, said USM spokesman Bob Caswell. The proposal doesn't say which deans would be cut.

Designed by a team of eight administrators and faculty members, the proposal will be reviewed over the next several weeks by the university community. President Selma Botman will submit a final plan to University of Maine System trustees at the end of April.

"This is a first draft," Caswell said. "So, it's come one, come all and let us know what you think."

USM has eight schools and colleges: School of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology; College of Arts and Sciences; School of Business; College of Education and Human Development; Muskie School of Public Service; College of Nursing and Health Professions; Lewiston-Auburn College; and University of Maine School of Law.

Lewiston-Auburn College and the law school would not be affected by the proposed reorganization. The other six would be remodeled into three colleges: Muskie College of Public Service, Management & Society; Communication, Culture & the Arts College; and Nursing, Health Professions & STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) College.

The long and complicated names of the three new colleges are merely place holders and likely would be changed, said Jeannine Uzzi, a design team member who is chairwoman of the classics and languages department and vice chairwoman of the faculty senate.

Uzzi noted that the reorganization would break up the massive College of Arts and Sciences, which now has more than 300 faculty members, and distribute administrative support more equitably among the three new colleges.

"This proposal is not perfect, but it would better integrate everything USM does," Uzzi said.

Student leaders met with university officials Monday morning to learn details of the proposal before it was released, said Molly Dolby, student senate chairwoman.

"There's nothing shocking in it," Dolby said. "They're changing the megastructure of the university, and that matters to students minimally."

Dolby said she has heard grumblings because several departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, including economics, philosophy and sociology, would become part of the Muskie College of Public Service, Management & Society. Other humanities, such as English, history and foreign languages, would be in the Communication, Culture & the Arts College.

"I don't really think it's going to be a problem, if it doesn't prevent collaboration among professors in different disciplines," said Dolby, who is an economics major.

Under the proposed reorganization, the School of Business also would become part of the Muskie College. The College of Education and Human Development would be divided into undergraduate education programs in the Communication, Culture & the Arts College and graduate education programs in the Muskie College.

"The draft proposal groups academic disciplines together in ways that break down silos, creating opportunities for greater faculty collaboration and for students to engage in new and exciting interdisciplinary study," said Jim Shaffer, USM's chief operating officer and chairman of the design team.

Shaffer said the proposal's goal is to create an organizational structure that is academically robust and cooperative, serves the needs of students and the state, and helps make USM financially sustainable in the long term.

The proposed reorganization wouldn't bring savings for more than a year, Shaffer said.

"We face an estimated $3 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins July 1," he said, "so other cost-saving strategies will be implemented beginning this spring."

Feedback on the proposal will be accepted at reorgcomments@usm.maine.edu through March 15. A final draft will be submitted to Botman on March 19.

Botman will take additional feedback, make revisions, if necessary, and forward a final proposal to the system's trustees on April 24 to be considered at their meeting May 23-24.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: kbouchard@pressherald.com

 

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