A national association that advocates for university faculty formally censured the University of Southern Maine on Saturday, saying officials didn’t properly consult with faculty members on cuts last year.

The American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, has been investigating USM for months regarding USM’s decision to eliminate five academic programs and 51 faculty positions because of budget cuts. The administration has said it followed all university policies and procedures in making the cuts – but faculty members have disputed this.

The AAUP report found that the university violated academic freedom, tenure and due process expectations.

“On a symbolic level, this is significant,” incoming USM President Glenn Cummings said of the group’s decision to censure USM. “It underscores that trust and unity are really job one in rebuilding the university.”

AAUP delegates voted for censure at the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., said local chapter president Lorrayne Carroll, an associate professor of English at USM.

“It’s a signal that the University of Maine System, in particular USM, has not abided by its own governance documents,” Carroll said. “I am very sad today. … Nobody wants censure.”

There is no legal impact on USM for being censured, but AAUP officials say it can affect recruitment and retention of faculty.

Cummings said he thought the cuts last year were necessary, and that the university still faces financial challenges ahead. But he has emphasized that he wants to work with faculty.

“It’s important that we take the position and concerns of faculty very seriously,” Cummings said.

Last year’s cuts were “essential, given the reality” of financial problems, he said.

The system’s $518 million budget that begins in July uses $7 million in emergency funds despite cutting 206 positions systemwide. In the current budget year, which ends June 30, the $529 million system budget required using $11.4 million in emergency funds and cutting 157 positions.

“I do think the university has the right ultimately to make decisions about whether they can carry certain programs based on finances, (but) it has to be a shared decision,” Cummings said.

“We have to make sure there are real substantive conversations about what programs are cut. Going forward, I want to have those discussions in a way that people feel they’ve been listened to and what they said mattered,” he said.

Cummings said recently that USM is already facing a $2.5 million shortfall in the $128 million budget for the year beginning July 1 because fall enrollments are down.

Carroll said she has already requested a meeting with Cummings.

“We are really looking forward to working with President Cummings on remedying the issues that have led to censure and turning it around, and getting censure lifted as soon as possible,” she said.

AAUP lobbies on behalf of professors and other academics. The organization also conducts research and lends collective bargaining support to member chapters and affiliated institutions. AAUP gets about 1,000 complaints a year from faculty, and investigates four or five universities a year.

After Saturday’s vote, there are currently 56 institutions on the association’s censure list.

USM officials are in arbitration talks with the faculty union over the cuts last year.

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

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