ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s department of public administration, along with majors in the foreign language, music and theater departments, could be eliminated under a plan to cut more than $12.2 million from the university’s academic affairs budget.
The plan, released Wednesday, would need to be approved next month by President Robert Kennedy.
The preliminary report from the Academic Program Prioritization Working Group, known as APPWG, follows a seven-month review of academic departments to determine the school’s priorities.
“We are making these decisions that are painful, but we feel we must make some priority decisions,” said University of Maine Provost Susan Hunter, who chaired the APPWG committee. “This is driven by finances. It can get us to a point where we’re more sustainable, I believe both fiscally and academically. I think the two of them are integrally linked.”
The proposed changes would result in 80 fewer faculty positions by 2014. The report also calls for a reduction in undergraduate majors from 86 to 70, with the university retaining undergraduate minors and the capacity for instruction in most of those academic areas. The number of master’s degrees would decrease from 64 to 58.
Seven degree programs would be merged into three.
Whatever changes are approved would be phased in between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2014. Students now enrolled would be able to complete their programs.
The total planned reductions amount to 15.4 percent of this year’s total budgets for colleges that will be affected by the changes. Hunter said the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences took the biggest cuts, at around $4 million.
A public comment session will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, March 29, at Wells Conference Center during which Kennedy, Hunter and others will discuss the report and gather feedback for a final report that APPWG will submit to Hunter by April 8.
Kennedy and Hunter will use the final APPWG report in their academic planning, but the panel’s recommendations are not binding.
If the recommendations hold up, however, the department of public administration, along with its undergraduate and graduate degree programs, will be eliminated.
The department, which is within the College of Business, Public Policy and Health, had the lowest undergraduate enrollment of any department in that college, with 142 students from 2007 to 2009. There were 125 graduate students, also the lowest enrollment, in the same time period.
APPWG committee member John Mahon, dean of the College of Business, Public Affairs and Health, said the decision to recommend cutting a department in his own college was difficult.
“It’s not exactly pretty,” Mahon said. “The good news is we recently started here a School of Policy and International Affairs and the political science [major] continues on, so for folks looking to prepare themselves for a life in public service, there are other outlets for that. Not that they’re better, but other outlets for students to pursue that type of interest.”
Eliminated majors would include women’s studies, French, Spanish, German, Latin, theater, music and music performance. However, instruction — and in some cases, minors — would still be offered in those academic areas.
The music education major would continue to be offered.
The reduction in language offerings would still be sufficient for students who need to fulfill a requirement in another major, Hunter said. Students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in art history, for example, would be able to complete the required six credits of modern language.
But that would not be enough, according to fourth-year German major Clare Jaquith. She credited her studies at UM with helping her receive a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany. Her high school, Morse High in Bath, did not offer German.
“One of the reasons I went to the University of Maine was that it was the land-grant school, so it’s supposed to offer everything,” Jaquith said. “I recommended the University of Maine to a lot of people. I don’t think I would do that anymore.”
Professor of French Raymond Pelletier, chairman of the department of modern languages and classics, said the Spanish, French, German and Latin faculty members were meeting Wednesday to draft a response to the APPWG report.
Pelletier said for his department there were issues APPWG never took into account, such as the approximately 700 foreign language teachers at all levels of education around the state who look to UM for professional development.
“There are a lot of arguments, and we want to make sure we highlight issues that do not appear in numbers,” he said. “Unfortunately as far as I’m concerned, the APPWG committee has made decisions based on numbers that are hard to interpret in and of themselves. I just don’t agree with the conclusions that they’ve reached.”
Hunter said that by reallocating resources from upper-level language programs to introductory classes, more students could be served.
The proposal also calls for the elimination of distinct bachelor’s degrees in aquaculture, wood science, forest operations and forest ecosystems science-conservation. However, they would exist in combination with other programs to offer degree options.
Those programs would become concentrations in larger departments, Hunter said.
Other changes would include the merger of anthropology and sociology, and the merger of physics and astronomy with chemistry to form a School of Physical Sciences.
The APPWG committee has 21 members, including the deans of UMs colleges, UM faculty senate officers, and other administrators and faculty members.
In a written charge to APPWG he made in September, Kennedy said the goal would be to support high-priority degree programs by reducing low-priority programs.
“It is important that we look at this process as a realignment of resources to strengthen our highest academic program priorities,” Kennedy wrote.
The APPWG members used a number of criteria to determine priorities within UM’s academic offerings. Those included the number of student credit hours; the number of degrees awarded; revenue and cost ratios; research grants; and tuition revenue generated by the degree programs and their majors.
Decisions on program eliminations must be approved by the University of Maine System board of trustees.
Hunter said should the program cuts go through, the university’s accreditation should not be affected.
There could also be rearrangements in staffing and at the dean and administrative levels at some point, but plans for those have not yet taken place, Hunter added.
For information on APPWG or the process, or to comment, go to www.umaine.edu/achievingsustainability
To read the interim report go to: http://www.umaine.edu/achievingsustainability/preliminary-report/
Transformative and cost-saving actions under consideration include the following:
• Elimination of the Dept. of Public Admini-stration and its undergraduate and graduate degree programs
• Downsizing the Master of Arts in Teaching program
• Elimination of the Master’s in Instructional Technology program
• Elimination of three undergraduate and three graduate degrees in engineering by restructuring the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Depart-ment, the School of Engineering Technology, and the Spatial Information Science and Engineering De-partment
• Elimination of the Women’s Studies major and graduate concentration, while maintaining courses and the minor
• Elimination of foreign language majors (French, Spanish, German and Latin), while maintaining ca-pacity for foreign language instruction
• Elimination of the theatre major, while maintaining theatre instruction and the minor
• Elimination of the music and music performance majors and the music master’s program, while maintaining music instruction and the music education major
• Elimination of distinct bachelor’s degrees in aquaculture, wood science, forest operations and forest ecosystems science/conservation, while combining those programs with other degree options to create efficiencies
• Merger of three departments into an integrated School of Food and Agriculture
• Merger of anthropology and sociology
• Merger of physics and astronomy with chemistry to form a School of Physical Sciences