Reading today’s reports of the pending elimination of some fifty full-time faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine, I once again wonder if Interim President David Flanagan and his hand-picked team of mostly administrators shed any tears over this and earlier plans. One looks in vain for anything about eliminating higher level staff positions, though poorly paid classified employees who are let go almost never complain in public and so are often overlooked–as if things could get worse for them if they did go public.
For example, five classified employees at the University of Maine’s Computer Connection are being terminated later this month. In their place will be two positions, positions for which the “incumbents” may apply without any preference for being rehired. I know this only because one of them mentioned it to me not long ago. I’ve seen no protests by any (tenured) faculty, above all by those passionately concerned with Third World poverty and other crises not readily solvable from Orono, Maine. Protest? “Not in my backyard,” so to speak. The powers that be might get upset.
Meanwhile Interim USM President Flanagan made at least eight millions dollars years ago when Central Maine Power, of which he was then CEO, was sold to another company. When he later ran for Governor against John Baldacci, his golden parachute was alleged to have been sixteen million! But who’s counting? Presumably he could have afforded to receive somewhat less than the $203,000 salary given to his predecessor, Theo Kalikow.
During World War I and II numerous wealthy corporate executives worked as “dollar a year men” for the federal government and took unpaid leaves from their respective companies. Such sacrifice is rarely found in academia these days, and when it does occur–as in a small Kentucky college not long ago–it makes for headline stories precisely because it is so rare.
No one seriously doubts that USM, like nearly all of the other System campuses save Orono, faces grim days ahead amid lowered enrollments, consequently reduced tuition and other revenues, and terrible publicity that only makes the institution less attractive to prospective and current students. No one could possibly envy Interim President Flanagan the challenge that he accepted to turn things around. No one could possibly dispute his impressive prior record of public service.
But financial and other challenges offer academic administrators, even temporary ones, the golden opportunity to demonstrate their toughness to the public, to state government, and, not least, to(other) corporate executives who believe that business models and university models are virtually the same.
Former U.Maine President Robert A. Kennedy abolished the Public Administration Department not because it wasn’t doing its job (it was), not because it was a highly expensive unit (it wasn’t), but simply because he could. A non-controversial unit that had trained countless town and city managers and other municipal employees throughout Maine had to go in order to beef up Kennedy’s resume. I suspect that any tears that Kennedy shed in doing this were tears of joy.