FARMINGTON – Students and staff at the University of Maine Farmington are issuing a call to action for the University of Maine System, as well as Governor Janet Mills, after significant cuts to programming and professors were announced last week.
A total of nine professors were retrenched, all of them from within the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences; specifically: Philosophy and Religion, Women’s and Gender studies, History, and World Languages. An additional nine senior staff members were encouraged to accept early retirement, and according to Maine Public another 100 professors across the UMaine system did the same.
The cuts were accordingly made due to enrollment and budget issues, but many UMF faculty were shocked by the announcement.
“We were pushed into the switch from four to three credits this year because we were told there would not be any cuts, but here we are,” Professor of English Kristen Case said.
Case has been with UMF for 22 years but feels that more recently the system has not “recognized or supported what UMF stands for.” She chose UMF specifically because it is a public liberal arts college- “the dream.”
But the dream version of a low-cost, public university with the same high standards and programming of a private liberal arts college is getting further and further from reality, in particular because of Chancellor Dannel Malloy’s recent decision to cut a large portion of the humanities department. Changes, according to Case, will depend on whether or not there is a shift in leadership.
“It’s a special thing to offer small classes with an emphasis on liberal arts and mentorship…that has always been taken very seriously [at UMF] and has been something we’re really proud of,” she said.
Students who organized a protest on Saturday following the graduation ceremony echoed Case’s thoughts.
Junior Karly Jacklin said she decided on UMF because of the creative writing program, and because of the on-campus publishing house-Alice James Books. Jacklin was also convinced to move from Ohio to Farmington because of the close-knit community that UMF offered, and because of its well-known support for the LGBTQ community.
“I did find all that to be true here, but when you take away the resources that support those things, it can’t be true in the future,” she said.
Earlier this year UMF cut ties with Alice James Books- a nationally renowned publishing house who has numerous awards under its belt. Over the years, AJB has also offered prestigious internships to UMF students, often offering employment upon graduation.
With UMF’s severed relationship with AJB, and the recent depletion of the Women’s and Genders Studies program, Jacklin said her path with UMF has been severely altered. Aside from simply making Jacklin’s minor de ella impossible to complete, the retrenchments also took away the supervising staff for UMF’s first Jewish Student Union and the feminist zine “Ripple.”
“It’s frankly appalling that they would do this given the current climate in our world,” Jacklin said.
Jacklin and others have been paving the way for a call to action from state and system leaders. On a recently established Instagram account, student leaders are drawing attention to the retrenched faculty and cut programs, saying they will fight back against the decision.
UMF will be in the hands of Interim President Joseph McDonnell beginning in July while a search is conducted for a permanent hire.