MACHIAS, Maine — The University of Maine System board of trustees approved facilities upgrades at three campuses and agreed to a new information technology program at the University of Southern Maine during its meeting Monday.
Also during the meeting at UM-Machias, Chancellor James Page acknowledged protests that have taken place at the University of Southern Maine over the elimination of programs and faculty positions in order to cut the university’s budget.
“We clearly hear the concerns of our faculty and students at USM and campuses across the state,” he said, according to a prepared statement about the meeting. “These are very difficult times. Our universities are facing unprecedented challenges and the Board of Trustees and Presidents agree that we must redefine the way we do business to better serve our students, businesses, and the state.
“These are not easy or hastily made decisions — they were made following extensive review at all levels of the System,” Page said.
All seven universities are still in the process of creating their budgets for fiscal year 2015, which will be submitted to the system office. The entire system budget will be presented to the board of trustees for a vote in May.
At Monday’s meeting, trustees approved:
— Changes to a funding formula that allocates state money to the seven universities based on how well they perform on certain metrics. Under the changes, universities will be financially rewarded for serving socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
— An expansion in the scope of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The trustees approved a $4.5 million expansion to construct facilities for testing wind turbines in 2012, which will grow to $8 million. The new funds will come from a grant and bonds.
— A $1.2 million renovation of the Dearborn Gymnasium at the University of Maine-Farmington. The university has been planning the renovation for years and has earmarked funds for it, according to meeting materials.
— A $1.2 million project to upgrade science classrooms and laboratories at the University of Maine-Presque Isle. The funds would come from bonds approved last November.
— A proposal to move the University College-Saco Center from its location on Saco Island to the Saco Valley Shopping Center. The new space is about half the size and, at $48,960, about one-third cheaper to rent per year. The renovation and move would cost the University of Maine-Augusta $200,000.
— The creation of an information technology program that would award students a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine, though students would take some classes at local community colleges. Information technology is “the study of specifying, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining computer-based information systems,” according to meeting materials.
The trustees also approved granting tenure to 26 candidates at Monday’s meeting.