AUGUSTA, Maine — University of Southern Maine students will meet with Rep. Ben Chipman, I-Portland, on Wednesday to draft a bill meant to analyze the distribution of funding within the University of Maine System.
“There is a crisis right now in the University of Maine system. This bill will provide a thorough examination of the financial structure of the system and develop solutions to keep our universities sustainable,” Chipman said in a prepared statement.
Chipman will sponsor the bill, which will be presented to legislative council for a hearing on Thursday, the statement said.
The announcement of the bill, tentatively being called “Resolve, an act to analyze the distribution of funding within the UMaine system,” comes less than a week after 12 of USM’s 310 faculty members were laid off. USM President Theo Kalikow said the cuts are necessary to balance the university’s budget for fiscal year 2015.
USM was tasked with eliminating $14 million from its budget as part of a $36 million systemwide budget shortfall outlined by UMS Chancellor James Page.
Kalikow announced a proposal to cut four of the university’s programs and eliminate between 20 and 30 faculty jobs at a senate faculty meeting earlier this month.
“We can no longer afford to carry all the programs we have,” she said. “This is painful and disruptive and horrible to those directly affected.”
Protests ensued on campus on Friday and into Monday, where students and faculty members charged the budget shortfall was fabricated and implored the university system to “cut from the top” rather than eliminate tenured faculty positions, as some signs read.
At issue is $183 million of the system’s budget that is held in reserve, which vice chancellor for administration and finance Rebecca Wyke said has been earmarked for worthy projects.
USM students and Chipman will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the State House in order to garner support for the bill.
“This bill speaks to the need for financial transparency and sustainability within the University of Maine system,” a press release announcing the event said.
“I believe it will be necessary to not only work on changes from within the USM campus, but to look to the state to ensure the health and vitality of our school and the entire UMaine system. We need to support faculty, and in order to do that, we need to have an honest picture of what we’re doing with the resources we’re given,” said USM student Jules Purnell, according to the statement.