Target: University of Southern Maine President Theodora Kalikow
Goal: Applaud university president’s decision to reinstate faculty after student protests and national outcry
University of Southern Maine’s president, Theodora Kalikow, recently reversed plans to lay off a dozen faculty members amid student protests, threats of lawsuits, and national outcry. President Kalikow surprised many when she announced she would work with faculty to avoid the layoffs. The institution has been in the spotlight and is reflective of a national trend of corporatization of public universities. President Kalikow should be praised for her efforts to reinstate the professors and urged to continue to find alternatives to faculty layoffs and academic program cuts.
In March 2014 a dozen professors were informed they were being laid off. Students and faculty responded swiftly, organizing on-campus protests and lobbying efforts. Usually, once specific layoff notices have been delivered, as the case here, such reversals are rare. Critics of the layoffs said they benefited from the campus protests and lobbying efforts, as well as public attention. Thousands of people across the country reached out to President Kalikow and many petitions were filed on behalf of the fired faculty members.
The faculty’s union filed a grievance on behalf of the affected faculty members, alleging that the layoffs violated professors’ contractual rights and had a disproportionate effect on women, ethnic minorities and lesbian professors. In one case the university attempted to fire a professor on the tenure track and then re-hire her as a part-time adjunct. The dozen faculty that were rescinded included professors in arts, economics, English, philosophy, sociology, theater, music, public policy and honors programs.
Administrators at Southern Maine argue they have to deal with a $14 million budget deficit. Faculty members are determined to find creative solutions to the problem and Kalikow is now willing to listen. Let her know that you applaud her decision to reinstate the laid-off faculty and that you expect her to continue to work closely with their union to reach a solution that will benefit everyone.
Dear President Kalikow,
I applaud your decision to reinstate the faculty members that were recently notified that they would be losing their jobs. I am pleased to learn that you are committed to ensuring that the faculty and administration work more closely together to resolve the university’s budget deficit.
Higher education should be about enriching students’ lives, not merely about making a profit. As our nation’s universities continue to fall into a corporate model, students and faculty find themselves losing out. That is simply not acceptable.
I urge you to work with the Faculty Senate to find creative solutions to the university’s budget challenge. Additional faculty cuts and academic department closures only work to hurt the university’s mission.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jellserinne via Wikimedia Commons