Faculty at the University of Southern Maine are urging the University of Maine System to retain their current president before his planned departure next year, citing his contributions and leadership and saying they are worried about the disruptions a change would bring.

During a special session of the Faculty Senate last week, a resolution was approved, 29-0, requesting the system chancellor and board of trustees negotiate a multiyear contract with President Glenn Cummings, who has said he plans to step down at the end of June 2022 to return to a faculty position.

“We want to preserve what has been nurtured and established by Dr. Cummings,” Shelton Waldrep, chair of the Faculty Senate, said in a news release. “To lose his leadership now – in the midst of a capital campaign, a reimagining of our urban campus and the strong growth in the student experience – is not only counter-intuitive, but potentially damaging to the university’s reputation.”

When asked to elaborate on the reasons for the resolution, Waldrep said he could not say much beyond his statement in the news release Monday. Cummings, in response to a question about whether he was asked to step down, said the decision to leave was his own and what he felt was best for himself and his family.

The resolution praises Cummings for “placing USM on a path to success that includes $150 million in philanthropic gifts, some of which are being used to transform the physical plant of the Portland campus” and notes that the university has achieved “seven consecutive balanced budgets and grown reserves to just under $7 million.”

It says that under Cummings, who has served as president since 2015, the retention rate has improved and the number of incoming and out-of-state students has increased. The resolution also notes that the president of the University of Maine at Augusta resigned four months ago so there is already a leadership search underway within the system.

University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings says he will step down at the end of the year and take on a teaching role at the university. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Changing USM’s leadership during significant campus projects and a global pandemic will disrupt, disorient and demoralize, not only the USM community but the system as a whole,” the resolution says.

In a brief interview Monday afternoon, Cummings said the decision to step down from the presidency into a faculty position was “my decision and my decision exclusively.”

“I felt the timing was right,” he said. “I wanted to leave on a high note. I felt it was the right thing for myself and my family.”

Cummings said the faculty resolution was “very heartwarming,” but that he is comfortable with his decision.

“I don’t think that’s likely,” he said. “Obviously, the board of trustees are my employers so if they wanted to talk, certainly, I’d be willing to listen, but it doesn’t change my position. That was something I took a long time coming to and it was personal and private and it felt right.”

Cummings earns a salary of $280,205 and his current contract runs through June 30, 2022. Initial appointments for all UMaine System presidents are usually for two years and are then renewed annually on a “rolling forward” basis, said Dan Demeritt, a spokesman for the system.

The board of trustees is scheduled to consider Cummings’ request to step down from the USM presidency and return to the faculty at a special meeting Wednesday and his salary as a faculty member would be determined following approval of that request.

“President Cummings notified Chancellor Malloy and the board that he believes stepping down from the USM presidency and returning to the faculty is in both his and USM’s best interests,” Demeritt said in a statement. “We all share the USM Faculty Senate’s appreciation for Glenn’s leadership and service.

“At Wednesday’s meeting the UMS Board will consider approving President Cummings’ request to step down, authorizing Chancellor Malloy to work with President Cummings on the arrangements for his return to the faculty and launching a national presidential search, led by a search committee that will include three USM faculty members to ensure an orderly transition to new leadership for the university at the end of this academic year.”

Cummings’ decision to step away from the presidency comes amid a period of transformation and growth for USM. The Promise Scholars program, which helps first-generation students graduate in four years without debt, has built an endowment of nearly $9 million since its formal launch in 2017. The university has also seen growth in its Honors and Early College programs, the latter of which has nearly tripled in size since 2015.

Cummings launched the largest construction project in USM history – a $100 million, 580-bed residence hall and 42,000-square-foot Career and Student Success Center on the Portland campus – that will be completed in 2023.

In June, the university announced a $5 million gift from the Crewe Foundation to support construction of a Center for the Arts, also in Portland, and that was followed last month by a $10 million gift to help build a new home for the school of music.

Waldrep said there was not much more he could say about the circumstances surrounding the resolution Monday other than that Cummings’ departure is something the faculty senate is very concerned about and they’re hoping to convince the board and chancellor to try to keep him on as president.

“Why would a president wake up one day and decide to go back to the faculty when there’s so much success going on that he’s put in place?” Waldrep said.

Eve Raimon, a professor of English and a member of the faculty senate, echoed Waldrep’s concerns, but said there was also little more she could say about the reason for the resolution. “The faculty senate thinks there’s every reason for the board of trustees and chancellor to strive to keep President Cummings in his post on a multiyear contract basis,” Raimon said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.