Condemn Corporatization of Public Universities

New England University Campus

Target: University of Southern Maine President Theodora Kalikow

Goal: Ensure a balanced distribution of funding within the Maine public university system

When the University of Southern Maine’s president recently announced mass faculty firings and departmental cuts, students, faculty and staff responded by occupying a campus building and holding sit-ins and walk-outs. The protests have captured the attention of people across the country who are upset by a national shift towards a managerial model in which universities are increasingly run like businesses. Despite having millions of dollars in net assets, Maine’s public university system is being gutted in order to ensure profit for a select few. University of Southern Maine President Theodora Kalikow should be held accountable for overseeing an uneven distribution of funding that harms students, faculty, and the community.

At the University of Southern Maine, the escalated austerity measures have taken place against a backdrop of decades of top-heavy university restructuring. The average number of faculty and staff per administrator declined sharply over the past two decades, which has led to a shift towards cheaper contingent faculty and graduate student labor and a decrease in tenure-track jobs.

Nationwide, tuition costs at public four-year colleges and universities have increased by over 150 percent since 1990, and in just the past six years, these costs have increased 20 percent. Every state except North Dakota used the 2008 economic recession as justification to cut per student spending on education. As a result, student debt has risen sharply.

Let President Kalikow know that you disagree with the unfair distribution of funding at the University of Southern Maine. Students’ educational opportunities and faculty’s professional security is being compromised so that administrators can collect large paychecks.


Dear President Kalikow,

Recent events at the University of Southern Maine suggest that your public institution of higher learning places more value on profit than quality education. While faculty firings and departmental cuts are taking place, administrators’ salaries steadily increase. The unbalanced distribution of funding has led to fewer opportunities for students and professors, in the name of profit for a select few.

University administrators have argued that a system-wide funding gap is to blame, and have pointed to a lack of state funding and a tuition freeze. Over the past six years, however, the University of Maine system has increased unrestricted net assets by $100 million, and in 2013 the total reserves of the system reached $283 million.

A public university should not be run as a for-profit business. The Maine public university system serves a predominantly poor and working class population, including many non-traditional students, parents, and workers. Their educational opportunities, as well as their professors’ livelihoods, are being cast aside as the administration reaps financial gain.

I urge you to reconsider plans for future faculty firings and departmental cuts, and to provide compensation to tenured professors who have been fired. Additional austerity measures would only serve to further diminish the University of Southern Maine’s educational standards.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Maeshima Hiroki via Wikipedia

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