After reading countless comments over the years in response to BDNews articles, editorials, and opinion pieces about public higher education in Maine, I should probably not be surprised at the ridiculous reactions to my blog about yesterday’s State Senate rejection of Susan Dench for the U.Maine System Board of Trustees. In the eyes of most of those who faulted me for not focusing on partisan politics, I failed to do exactly that. Dench was allegedly rejected because she’s a conservative Republican story and most of the current Board of Trustees are allegedly liberal Democrats. WHAT NONSENSE!
I suspect that there are no more than one or two Democrats left on the Board, which is controlled by conservative Republicans with little if any background in higher education. Governor Baldacci, a pseudo-liberal Democrat, appointed current Board Chair Sam Collins, the brother of Senator Collins, and Michelle Hood, CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare and the immediate past Chair of the Board. There was nothing to stop him from nominating Democrats rather than Republicans, for nominating persons with sympathy for unions, for workers, and, not least, for faculty. He had Democratic majorities in both houses. But he chose otherwise.
Meanwhile Governor LePage recently refused to nominate for a second five-year term a Democrat and a loyal UMaine alum, someone who was informed about the issues. He instead nominated a conservative Republican car dealer who had run against LePage in 2010. I don’t believe that this Trustee attended college.
The late Charles O’Leary, longtime head of Maine’s AFL-CIO, fought repeatedly while on the Board on behalf of ordinary Mainers and their children. He was increasingly dismayed at the growth of the System in terms of employees and budgets and the downsizing of the seven campuses. But his was usually a lone voice of dissent.
The argument that Susan Dench was a victim of Democratic liberal bias on the part of the current System Board of Trustees is nonsense. Had she been approved by the State Senate, she would likely have quite comfortable with the values and the policies governing the UMaine System these days.
And as Governor LePage made clear, he’ll renominate her if he gets re-elected.