It does not take a Harvard MBA or a PhD in ethics to appreciate two fundamental life truths: 1) the most valuable asset of any organization, whether for profit or nonprofit, is its work force; and, 2) lying to them is a violation of their trust in the institution.

University of Maine Chancellor Dannel Malloy, omitted telling his own search committee and the faculty of the University of Maine at Augusta that Michael Laliberte had just been handed a vote of no-confidence by the faculty and students of the State University of New York at Delhi. This was a brazen violation of their trust. Given that Mr. Malloy was governor of Connecticut, has a law degree, and would have been an officer of the court had he pursued that career, it seems particularly galling to consider his willingness to deceive the Maine community.

Michael Laliberte is a man with a degree in human development, counseling, and family studies. To imagine it’s okay to omit disclosing to the committee he received a no-confidence vote from his former students and faculty speaks volumes about his style of navigating the world. Had he been a family counselor, would he have advised it acceptable for family members to lie to each other? Sadly, these are emblematic behaviors.

Both actors smack way too much of the corporate modus operandi that it’s not a crime unless you get caught, a winner-take-all credo of corporatization. One would hope this behavior is not the University of Maine’s modus operandi, but history dictates otherwise.

The Maine system, like many universities, operates on a shared governance relationship with its faculty. However, also like many other American universities, there has been a move toward corporatizing it. Fredrik deBoer’s New York Times article from 2015 lays out the hallmarks of the movement and its downsides.

Universities engage in branding that systematically invests heavily in advertising, infrastructure, and administrators, while cutting faculty and programs. One professor told me when he arrived at University of Southern Maine 20 years ago there were 11,000 students and one dean overseeing his college. Now there are 7,000 students with one dean but multiple administrators, each of whom is paid far more than most faculty. The cost of administrators is now equal to half of the faculty. And, the faculty have been reduced such that tenured full time professors only teach 50% of the courses. The other 50% are taught by adjunct professors who earn on average $3,000 per course. Considering the years spent getting PhD’s this is woefully inadequate recompense – hardly a living wage. Hence in California there are professors living in their cars.


Maine has been moving that way. Now half of what students are paying for is the administration of their educations, not teaching.

In recent years the administration has willfully ignored faculty concerns about the direction of the university. The result has been a string of disasters culminating now questionable in cuts  to the humanities at UMaine Farmington and the deliberate deception by the chancellor and his candidate for Augusta’s presidency.

But the real vote of no confidence should really be given to the Board of Trustees. They are ultimately responsible for the problems in the system, which brings me to another life truth: If you want an organization to flourish, all the stakeholders must have a voice and a vote. For the leaders of an institution with 650 tenured faculty and 594 untenured faculty to not even allow faculty to speak at board meetings, much less have voting representation, is a disgrace. It is not shared governance, it is corporatization, and it is poor at that.

Is this what students and parents should spend a lifetime paying for?

— Special to the Press Herald



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.