Faculty members from across the University of Maine System gather Monday morning for UMaine System board of trustees meeting at the University of Southern Maine’s Glickman Library. The professors shared concerns about the system’s administration, with some calling on Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy to resign. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

PORTLAND — Faculty members and students from the University of Maine System voiced support Monday for their colleagues and called on Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy to resign on the last day of a two-day board of trustees meeting.

Most woke up Monday morning to the news that Michael R. Laliberte, the candidate chosen as the next president of the University of Maine at Augusta, had withdrawn from his contract.

His being hired sparked the first of three no-confidence votes in Malloy from three satellite campuses this month, after faculty members learned the chancellor knew but did not inform the UMA Presidential Search Committee that Laliberte had received no-confidence votes at his former university, the State University of New York at Delhi.

At a meeting Monday, UMA faculty said Laliberte’s withdrawal was not enough, and they called for more action, this time against Malloy.

Aiden Saulnier, an environmental justice student at the University of Maine at Farmington, protests silently Monday at the University of Maine System board of trustees meeting in Portland. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

The chancellor’s three-year contract, with an annual salary of $350,000, is set to expire June 30.

Trustees listened in executive session Sunday to an outside firm’s review of Malloy, but did not decide whether to renew his contract at the two-day meeting. Multiyear reviews are common ahead of a contract expiration at Maine’s seven-school university system, and spokesperson Margaret Nagle said the trustees are expected to schedule a date soon to vote on whether to keep Malloy as the system’s top administrator. 

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Professors, staff members and students attended Monday’s meeting for the public comment period, which was originally slated for 10 minutes, but extended to 30 minutes and then an hour.

Eighteen people spoke in front of Malloy and the board of trustees, and many, according to board Chair Mark Gardner, wrote letters to the board, which were not read and will be attached to the meeting’s minutes.

Students from the University of Maine at Farmington stood silently in the corner of the room at the University of Southern Maine’s Glickman Library and protested against Malloy, holding signs calling for his resignation. Paul Johnson, a USM professor, also called on Malloy to resign.

“Chancellor Malloy once said to me, ‘Nothing lasts forever,’ but I would say to him: ‘Nothing lasts forever. It’s time for you to resign,'” Johnson said.

Elizabeth Powers, an associate professor of English at UMA, spoke first and explained how badly campus morale has been “fractured” by the search for a president at UMA.

She suggested using a community-led search for the next president. The UMaine System already committed to not using Storbeck Search, the consulting firm that identified Laliberte as a candidate. Its managing director also knew about Laliberte’s past and did not inform the full search committee. 

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Powers’ colleague, James Cook, also addressed the UMA presidential search and later, at the end of the meeting, read about six of 13 letters by UMA faculty members who were unable to attend before being cut off by Gardner. He received a standing ovation from other faculty members.

“The decision to pay six figures to not work a day in the system does not represent a victory, but is the unfortunate cost to extricate ourselves from the disaster,” said Cook, an associate professor in sociology at UMA.

Cook reference was to the $205,000 the UMaine System trustees have agreed to pay Laliberte upon his withdrawal from his contract. That payment can extend up to three years, if Laliberte is unable to find work, according to statement the system released Sunday. The system has also paid Storbeck Search $70,000 for the now-failed search. 

Faculty members were supportive of one another, with some using the public comment time to endorse the three votes of no confidence in Malloy, from UMA, the University of Southern Maine and UMF. Professors continued to say they had lost faith in the state’s public university system and its leadership.

They also raised concerns about the UMaine System board of trustees, which has largely stayed silent about the recent turmoil and has only acknowledged the Augusta campus’ votes of no confidence in the chancellor and the presidential search, saying they are matters of importance.

Former Professor Susan Feiner called on the board to have more diversity and to represent a broader range of career backgrounds. 

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“We keep choosing from a narrow span of attorneys, businesspeople, bankers and those politically connected,” she said. “That does not serve the state of Maine. Look in the mirror.”

After faculty members spoke, Gardner, the board chair, said, “Mistakes were made” on the UMA Presidential Search Committee.

Gardner confirmed four people, not three, knew about Laliberte’s past votes of no confidence from the State University of New York at Delhi. In addition to Malloy, the chair of the search committee, trustee Sven Bartholomew, and Storbeck Search Managing Director Jim Siriani, a UMA employee who was not on the committee knew as well. 

“We have heard a lot there were three people who knew, but we want to be clear, there was a fourth,” Gardner said. “I’m not going to go any further, but make sure you get the facts right before jumping to conclusions.”

Bartholomew, who chaired the UMA Presidential Search Committee, has not faced a public consequence for choosing not to share the information with the full committee, which violated an ethical agreement he signed.

Regarding the retrenchments or elimination of positions at UMF, Gardner said Malloy did not make the decision. Instead, Gardner said outgoing UMF President Edward Serna and the provost did.

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“Not true!” yelled professors from the audience.

According to Gardner, UMF’s budget for the past five years has “been in the red,” and $2 million more must be cut to get the university to break even. 

The meeting was also USM President Glenn Cummings’ and UMF President Edward Serna’s last after their resignations were formally accepted Monday.

Gardner and trustee James Erwin also attended their last meeting Monday, and two new trustees — Pat Flood and Barbara Alexander — were introduced Sunday evening and are to begin their terms at the next meeting.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the fourth person who knew about Michael Laliberte’s no-confidence votes was a University of Maine at Augusta employee who was not on the presidential search committee. 

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