Unless Democrats retain control of the state legislature and, with Mike Michaud, regain the governorship, the ongoing dismantling of the U. of Southern Maine will extend to U.Maine to a significant degree. True, Orono is in far, far better shape financially than USM, and Orono has emerged from a rivalry for student numbers with USM of more than a decade ago as a far stronger institution in all respects (save in proximity to Portland!).
But the corporate, anti-union, anti-faculty, and, above all, anti-liberal arts top folks at the U. Maine System will never allow Orono to become in more than rhetoric the flagship of the System that was envisioned at the founding in 1968. The dumbing down that can lead to the sometimes dubious acceptance by Orono of course transfer credits from other schools– not just the six other campuses–will expand and intensify. So, too, for matter, will the lack of respect for much of the research at Orono that doesn’t generate jobs and outside funding.
Mike Michaud is the only one of the three gubernatorial candidates who has indicated any positive reform inclinations in public higher education. To be sure, his lack of specifics has been very disappointing. And, to do anything substantial, he would have to audit–whether formally or informally–other pillars of the Maine Democratic Party who have led the anti-intellectual crusade to transform the entire seven campuses into post-high school trade schools. The latter is Governor LePage’s pathetic vision of public higher education.
Meanwhile Eliot Cutler’s comments during a recent debate were revealing: the U.Maine System has too many overpaid and underworked faculty who, following the future USM, need to teach more courses (and perhaps take a pay cut from their lofty salaries). Like Angus King as Governor, Cutler is an elitist who has no commitment to public higher education. His own education at prestigious Deerfield Academy, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School–at all of which, by his own confession weeks ago in the Maine Sunday Telegram, he was not especially studious–give him a contempt for faculty at non-Ivy League institutions.
State Senator Emily Cain is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of U.Maine, has worked at the Honors College for years, and knows the importance of both traditional liberal arts and cutting-edge science and engineering. She could do a lot for U.Maine if she’s elected to the House of Representatives. Her 1% opponent would cut public education with joy. Like Senator Collins, he loves the wealthiest Americans.
Meanwhile the Bangor/Orono/Old Town state legislative delegation, currently all Democrats, also understands the crucial role of U.Maine in the economy and, yes, the social and cultural life of the entire state.They would continue to work in the Senate (Geoff Gratwick) and the House (Tori Kornfield, Adam Goode, Ryan Tipping-Spitz, Aaron Frey, and John Schneck) and, I hope, to oppose the relentless efforts by the powers that be to undermine U.Maine.
The only hope to try to turn this tide is to vote straight Democratic.