University of Southern Maine Provost Michael Stevenson is stepping down to take a one-year appointment at the system office, the latest academic leader at the Portland campus to step down after a contentious spring marked by student and faculty protests over budget cuts.

“The University of Southern Maine is welcoming a new president whose charge is to position USM for a strong and sustainable future. He brings an ambitious agenda and will need both our support and every available management tool to succeed,” Stevenson wrote in an email to faculty and staff. “While I will miss the day-to-day interactions I have enjoyed as a member of the USM community, I am excited about being part of a transformation that will better position Maine’s system of public higher education for the future.”

Also Wednesday, UMaine system officials are holding a 10:30 a.m. press conference at Glickman Library on the Portland campus to announce the new leadership at USM, an interim president who will replace former interim president Theodora Kalikow.

Stevenson will work through June 2015 as a special assistant on a systemwide evaluation and overhaul of courses offered at all seven campuses. Chancellor James Page and the board of trustees have launched an effort to streamline courses, cutting or consolidating where possible, to cut costs and have each campus focusing on different academic areas.

Stevenson will continue to earn his $175,000 salary in the new role.

The change clears the way for the new interim president to select a provost, who will lead the campus level evaluation of student demand and the cost effectiveness of majors and academic programs.

Kalikow announced she was stepping down for a job at the system office earlier this month. Her two years as interim president was dominated by an ongoing financial crisis fueled by falling enrollment, a tuition freeze and flat state funding.

The campus that has been in upheaval since Kalikow announced this spring that she was laying off 12 faculty members and cutting three academic programs to close a $14 million gap in a $134 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

She went back and forth with faculty on the cuts, eventually rescinding the faculty layoffs, but facing continued criticism after going forward with 26 staff layoffs and the elimination of American and New England Studies, Arts and Humanities at the Lewiston campus and geosciences.

All seven campuses were faced with making deep cuts, but marches and rallies only broke out USM – the only campus to have targeted tenured faculty for layoffs.

In the end, USM balanced its budget with $7 million in one-time emergency funds from the system office, but the campus already faces a $12.5 million gap in the next budget, for the fiscal year beginning in July 2015.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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