SCARBOROUGH — As a nontraditional student, I attended the University of Southern Maine part-time for 10 years before graduating with a degree in economics. While completing my education at USM, I grew a small business in Scarborough that now employs 40 people.

What I learned at USM was invaluable in achieving this success, and it continues to grow with exponential reward every day. I had excellent, caring professors who helped me understand the economy, how the field of economics works and how to use the tools of quantitative analysis in real-world applications.

Today’s USM students don’t have that option, because the University of Maine System is hell-bent on stripping the faculty out of the university system.

There is a fundamental principle of every worthwhile university: to have, at its core, a bedrock foundation of skilled professors who will pass along the institutional knowledge of any field in which it offers a degree. Tenured faculty are the pillars upon which any educational institution is built. The longevity and solidarity of a university and its reputation depend on skilled professors who are invested in its educational ideals.

The University of Maine System, it seems, has sidestepped this fundamental principle and replaced it with a foolish pursuit of low-cost professors and high-priced administrators. USM should be investing in quality faculty, rather than replacing them with temporary and adjunct professors.

Also, it should be adhering to the reciprocal benefits of tenure by continuing to employ those professors who’ve chosen to put down roots and invest their lives in the university and its students.

As someone who studied economics at USM, I’ve been terribly disheartened by the cuts to our own department in recent years. Half of our brilliant and beloved tenured professors have been retrenched, leaving the department a shell of what it once was. Respected professors, including those already approaching a well-deserved retirement after a long teaching career, have been unceremoniously fired.

This is an appalling way to treat people who dedicated their lives to providing a truly deep and inspiring education to the students of USM. I didn’t just learn from my professors – I got to know them personally as well.

Susan Feiner is an accomplished economist who taught me invaluable skills in economic writing and analysis while showing us, by example, how to be effective activists for a cause. Bruce Roberts is a quiet and caring professor who demands nothing but the highest form of critique and thoughtfulness about various economic systems and approaches from his students.

Rachel Bouvier cares very much about the environment and presents the economic value of its protection in such a concrete way that an entire generation of students emerging from her classes will be able to change the world in which we live.

Joseph Medley is an economist and proficient gardener who draws on his deep connections with the local food economy to teach his students about sustainable economic systems.

Michael Hillard not only teaches his students about labor history, but also encourages them to engage with one another outside the classroom in a meaningful way to foster lifelong collaborations they can carry into their professional careers.

Vaishali Mamgain provides caring guidance to her students both inside and outside her classes, carefully assisting them in choosing an efficient career path that is truly tailored to their wants and needs.

These are the kinds of people I learned from. The cuts to USM have ushered in the departures of Bouvier, Mamgain and Roberts – drastically reducing the educational value of USM for current and future students.

These draconian cuts have forced students with incredible potential to transfer to other schools out of state. Those who remain will not receive the same quality education, nor will they have the same opportunity I had at USM.

As a member of the community and a homegrown Maine resident, I am fearful that the future of our state will suffer as a result. My hope is that the University of Maine System will realize its mistake and redirect its investment toward faculty and away from administration.

— Special to the Press Herald


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