I don’t know details of the University of Southern Maine’s troubles, but I do know something about USM President “Theo” Kalikow, and your recent excerpt of Phillip Shelley’s letter to her in no way reflects her 50-year academic reputation (“About 200 USM students stage walkout,” March 25).

Shelley claims Kalikow will be remembered as “a frontline collaborator in the dismantling of the public liberal arts university during a time period of manufactured crisis.”

His whole letter provides greater insight into his thinking, as he wonders if she’s “simply a hatchet-person, someone whose job is to put the warm-seeming older-woman face on the longstanding neo-liberal plot of a cabal of truly bad men who in no unequivocal terms mean harm to USM … .”

Or, as he admonishes Kalikow for going out of her “way to placate men who are truly our enemies, men who do not understand and do not care what goes on in a university … .”

I am thinking Shelley never read Kalikow’s academic resume. If he had, he’d know that she’s a graduate of Wellesley. The ensuing 50 years were spent at Columbia, MIT, BU and other colleges, and eventually to her University of Maine at Farmington presidency.

Soon after her arrival, UMF was recognized by U.S. News as the No. 1 Public Liberal Arts College in the Northeast. It’s remained in their national and Northeast rankings ever since, while also attaining high national rankings in establishing green, inclusive campus environments. The notion that Kalikow would be in some dark way “dismantling a public liberal arts university” runs contrary to her life’s work.


How infuriating it must be for Dr. Kalikow, a recipient of many academic and civic honors, to be characterized as a puppet for men. Nothing could be further from the truth, and (also risking hyperbole) I’d say it is offensive to all women.

James O’Connor

South Portland


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