The University of Maine System and its seven campuses face challenges now and going forward. Demographic shifts mean that fewer students are entering our universities, leading to reduced revenues.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy has supported work resulting in the designation of the University of Maine, above, as a top research school, an R1 institution. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel, File

The needs of the workforce are changing rapidly. Students expect an innovative education that allows them to explore ideas and cultural opportunities, creating a pathway to fulfilling lives and careers. The areas in which students are choosing to study are changing, and some programs don’t attract enough students to be sustainable without collaboration among campuses.

As the incoming chair of the board of trustees, I take my responsibilities seriously and that includes making tough decisions when necessary, celebrating success, and ensuring that the Board of Trustees is being accountable and listening.

Our stewardship over public dollars and tuition revenue requires us to balance budgets. For many years, university budgets have been balanced only by tapping reserves. That is not a sustainable strategy, particularly as investment returns suffer from stock market declines.

Our commitment to access and new workforce opportunities requires us to find new ways to provide wider course availability to learners of all ages, where unified accreditation will be a key tool, ensuring that scarce resources can be shared in creative ways.

We know the important roles of each of our seven campuses. For all of them to be sustainable and to successfully serve students, there must be more collaboration

Advertisement

Building the university system for the future requires the engagement of everyone at our universities, particularly the world-class faculty who are dedicated to fulfilling the mission of public higher education and have the primary responsibility for giving students the tools they need to succeed.

The University of Maine System has embarked on a strategic planning process with the entire UMaine System community, a process designed to chart a course for the future. To do that well, we know that we need to reach new levels of clear communication, consistent transparency and constant accountability.

There’s no question that the university system and the seven campuses have had a difficult few weeks. There has been turmoil and turnover that have profound impact on good people. Members of the faculty have raised serious concerns.

We must work to resolve these concerns so that we are united in our common mission to serve students. While we might disagree about particular decisions, we all share the same goals of providing our students with an affordable, world-class education and college experience. The challenges cannot detract from the extraordinary work underway at each of our universities.

While Chancellor Dannel Malloy has been the focus of much discussion recently, it should be noted that he successfully led the system through COVID-19; supported work resulting in the University of Maine’s designation as a top research school, an R1 institution, and, for the first time in a decade, addressed critical infrastructure needs by committing funds for new facilities for the arts, student residents and engineering, and directing investments in deferred maintenance.

He has advanced a unified accreditation process engaging faculty from across the system; brought new graduate programs to Portland; strengthened the Maine School of Law, and launched a unified course catalog to facilitate student access – all priorities supported by the board. All difficult, but necessary.

The board also recognizes the problems we must address and will not ignore the issues raised by members of the faculty. We are working with the chancellor on a constructive and thoughtful path forward. And we are reviewing our own board practices to assure transparency and engagement.

My promise to the faculty, staff, administrators and, most importantly, the students, is that the Board of Trustees and the chancellor are listening to you and recognize how important having a great public higher education system is to you and to all of us who are proud citizens of the state of Maine. Like university systems across the country, we face significant challenges, but we also see the incredible potential and opportunities before us.

We are eager to do more than just listen. We will work together with the faculty, staff and students to overcome these challenges, build on opportunities and ensure a sustainable future for a strong and vibrant University of Maine System.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login 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.