PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials at the University of Maine at Presque Isle are proposing the elimination of the sociology major and other changes as they work to balance the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
UMPI President Don Zillman said Monday that the changes came on the heels of an in-depth, months-long process that examined where savings could be found and where cuts would need to be made.
Campus officials made an extensive budget review, looking at programs, positions and services, to determine the most effective ways to stabilize UMPI’s finances for the coming year as well as for the long term.
“We have taken a very hard look at our budget and done as much belt-tightening as possible,” said Zillman. “Our goal throughout is to assure the long-term quality of the campus and to allow decisions that enhance the educational experiences of our students. While these are never easy decisions to make, we believe they are the best way to secure a healthy future for the university.”
The president noted that campuses throughout the University of Maine System have been reviewing budgets and making difficult decisions about programs and services because of cuts in state funding, a declining population, and recommendations that have come out of the system’s New Challenges, New Directions initiative.
According to university officials, the economic downturn has left campus expenses about half a million dollars above the available resources. Zillman said efforts in the last two years have aimed to balance the budget with the resources actually available in 2010-11.
The campus has taken steps to minimize the effect on students and staff in the long term, Zillman said.
He said Monday that the university has restructured its physical plant operations and that retirements there have allowed the campus to reduce its staff by three employees.
In academics, four programs with regularly low student enrollments were reviewed.
“We took a hard look at the recreation and leisure program and the environmental studies program,” said Zillman. “We have restructured our recreation and leisure major, and we have made changes to better fit the needs of students, and already that appears to be working.”
A proposal to suspend the sociology major will be presented to UMS Chancellor Richard Pattenaude. Zillman said he has heard some resistance from a few students about the proposed elimination of the major, but he stressed that students who are in the major already will be allowed to finish their degree requirements. The col-lege will admit no new students to the program, but instruction in that area will continue.
Collegewide, three full-time faculty members and one half-time have retired or will not be retained. Those faculty members’ departments were not identified Monday.
The actions concluded with consolidation in the athletics department with the elimination of one full-time administrative position. No sports programs were eliminated, and no coaches were released as part of the consolidation.
William Casavant no longer will serve as UMPI’s athletic director. The administrative duties of the athletic director position will be covered internally.
“Bill has done an outstanding job leading the athletic department since 2008 and has established a solid foundation for our programs. In the process, he developed a strong vision for athletics and outlined steps to achieve that vision,” said Christine Corsello, dean of students. “With his departure, the university loses an excellent leader and sports advocate.”
Officials are working to ensure that, despite budget constraints, Casavant’s legacy of excellence in athletics continues.
Zillman said Monday he did not know when the chancellor would make a decision on UMPI’s request to suspend the sociology major.