BANGOR, Maine — A task force has been formed to review and recommend operational and structural changes to Maine’s 45,000-student state university system.
University of Maine System Chancellor Richard L. Pattenaude announced his appointment of the 12-person task force on Wednesday. The task force is part of a major financial sustainability plan Pattenaude presented to university system trustees at their recent meeting at the University of Southern Maine.
“It is imperative that the system achieve this objective in order to secure financial sustainability for the seven universities and the critical role they play in Maine’s future,” Pattenaude said.
The task force is charged with developing recommendations regarding the size and role of the chancellor’s office; the structure, funding and oversight of common functions serving all universities, including the chancellor’s office, based in Bangor; and funding levels, missions and relationships among universities.
The task force’s recommendations will be considered as part of a broader set of recommendations Pattenaude intends to submit to the UMS board of trustees in July.
Pattenaude said the task force would have wide latitude to recommend changes but will proceed with the expectation that the state university system will continue to operate as an affiliated group of seven universities, each with specific missions.
In October, trustees asked Pattenaude and university presidents to examine alternative strategies that would result in a long-term financial sustainability plan. In addition, the trustees established a set of financial planning guidelines to be used in making any immediate decisions regarding a university, the central office, or the university system as a whole.
Earlier this month, Pattenaude presented trustees with a planning process that focused on administrative, academic and structural changes as well as revenue growth. Pattenaude said the plan would produce “major transformational changes” necessary to reduce overall expenses by $42.8 million over the next four fiscal years in addition to $34.2 million in reductions already adopted to balance the current year’s budget.
Pattenaude, who developed the proposal with the seven university presidents, said the action was necessary because of the financial consequences of the recession on students and the university system itself, rising health care, energy and personnel costs, changing demographics, and the need to invest in technological improve-ments related to teaching and learning, research and university management and operations.
“Incremental cost-cutting — both by our seven universities and within the shared service functions provided by the System Office — will not do enough to attain financial sustainability,” Pattenaude said. “The university system must pursue deeper and broader change that ensures its academic quality and service to Maine, maintains affordability for undergraduate and graduate students, and achieves operating efficiencies and cost-reductions. We have no choice.”
The task force will be chaired by David T. Flanagan of Manchester, the former president and CEO of Central Maine Power Co. Flanagan served on the University of Maine System board of trustees from 1985 to 1995, including one term as board chairman.
Other task force members are: UMS trustees Norman L. Fournier of Wallagrass and Marjorie M. Medd of Norway; Sandra Featherman of Kennebunkport, former president of the University of New England; M. Michelle Hood of Bar Harbor, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems; Allyson Hughes Handley of Readfield, president of the University of Maine at Augusta; Susan A. Gendron of Raymond, commissioner of the Maine Department of Education and Cultural Affairs and ex officio member of the UMS board of trustees; Bertram H. Jacobs of Wilton and Robert W. Rice of Veazie, faculty representatives to the UMS board of trus-tees representing the University of Maine at Farmington and the University of Maine in Orono, respectively; Charles Weiss of Presque Isle, University of Maine at Presque Isle student representative at committee meetings of the UMS board of trustees; James F. Bradley of Mechanic Falls, a staff member at the University of South-ern Maine and president of the Associated C.O.L.T. Staff of the Universities of Maine; Ronald A. Mosley of Machias, a faculty member at the University of Maine at Machias and president of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine System.
James H. Breece, vice chancellor for academic affairs and Rebecca M. Wyke, vice chancellor for finance and administration, will serve the task force as nonvoting, ex officio members.
Pattenaude’s full report, “New Challenges, New Directions: Achieving Long-Term Financial Sustainability,” may be found at www.maine.edu/pdf/NewChallengesandNewDirections.pdf.