In an effort to save money, the University of Southern Maine has eliminated five management positions.

As of Friday, the school will no longer have directors of advising, graduate studies or student engagement and leadership. It will also eliminate the director and associate director of its Russell Scholars program, a community-oriented honors program that boasts small class sizes and individualized academic mentoring, effectively ending that program.

The Press Herald attempted on Wednesday to reach each of the staff members being laid off. Only one agreed to speak, but asked not to be identified out of concern that they would lose severance or not be able to get hired at USM in the future.

The toughest part about having their position eliminated, they said, is knowing that students will lose a resource.

“We were there to support students, students looking for advice, looking for mentorship and support through the challenges of being a student,” the staff member said. “Unfortunately, I think these decisions were made for financial reasons and were not focused on our students.”

The elimination of these positions will save the school $359,143 in base salary costs, according to a list of UMaine System employee salaries.


“Our intention is that these decisions will position the University toward future growth,” USM President Jacqueline Edmondson wrote in an email Tuesday announcing the layoffs.

USM, like the entire state university system and other public higher education systems across the country, is struggling financially amid decades of low state investment, decreased enrollment and low tuition.

In a strategic plan adopted by the board of trustees in 2023, the system pledged to improve its financial situation by increasing efficiency and reducing trends of declining enrollment. Each school was tasked with aligning themselves with that plan.

Still, USM faculty leaders said they didn’t see the eliminations coming and are both concerned and frustrated that they were not consulted prior to the decision.

“Losing these colleagues will significantly disrupt the operation of essential units within USM,” Faculty Senate Chair Matthew Bampton said in a statement Wednesday.

Faculty leaders say they knew USM was in a tough budget year, but they didn’t expect the layoffs. They were under the impression that the school had short-term solutions to managing the budget such as saving on non-labor expenses and through attrition.


Michael Cauvel, an assistant professor of economics and USM’s incoming faculty union chapter president, said he’s hopeful that there won’t be more layoffs, but that his concern is heightened.

All of those being laid off “are involved in work that has direct impact and benefit for students and helps faculty and staff in their roles,” Cauvel said Wednesday.

“We don’t know how the work these people did, that was very valuable to the university, is going to get done now that they’re gone,” he said.

USM 2023 graduate Gabby Gonzalez said she is heartbroken to know that the Russell Scholars program is ending.

She said her college experience wouldn’t have been the same without the program and its Director Lisa Hibl and Associate Director Elizabeth Dodge.

Gonzalez was nervous to go to USM. Moving from the Ellsworth area to Portland for school, she was looking for a sense of community and worried that, being shy, it would be hard for her to find one.

So when she heard about the Russell Scholars program, in which students live and take classes together, she thought it would be a good fit.

She was right. In the program she found her two closest friends from college, inspiring classes and academic support.

“(Hibl and Dodge) just really cared about people,” she said. “They made me feel like I always had a place to go.”

Related Headlines

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.