I’m in agreement with much of Greg Kesich’s column on the situation at the University of Southern Maine (“If it’s going to have a shot, USM has to be integral to community,” March 26).

Times are hard – for reasons that are quite similar to those faced by John Steinbeck’s Okies, I might add – but the solutions on the table from the university administration are untenable. And I share Kesich’s disappointment that Portland’s business, arts and civic leaders have not been more vocal in their support of USM.

But he’s way off the mark when he suggests “this is the result of years of isolation, where the university did its thing in private.” I’m a graduate of one of the programs on the chopping block, American and New England Studies, and I challenge Mr. Kesich to find a single cultural, educational or arts organization in Portland that has not recently employed an American and New England Studies student.

Off the top of my head, I can think of alumni who have gone on to work for the Maine Historical Society, Portland Landmarks, Portland Ovations, Portland Public Schools, Victoria Mansion, the Tate House, Greely High School, Fryeburg Academy, the Maine State Museum, Bowdoin College and the Portland Public Library. This is not to mention the many K-12 teachers across the state who are American and New England Studies students; as the only humanities master’s degree available in southern Maine, American and New England Studies is the most reliable continuing education program for educators in the area.

It’s a shame Kesich doesn’t know this, and that it’s invisible to others as well. But this is not the fault of the program’s faculty or students, who are already living and working in the “metropolitan university” that we’re told these cuts will make possible.

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