USM president announces team to help him cut more than $12.5 million from budget

David Flanagan has being named the interim president at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
David Flanagan has being named the interim president at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 20, 2014, at 6:35 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — University of Southern Maine President David Flanagan has put together a six-person team that will advise him on cutting more than $12.5 million from the university’s budget in the coming months.

The team includes two new hires. Tom Dunne, who worked as a partner at Accenture from 1984 to 2003, will take on a newly created, one-year position called executive director of initiatives. He will be paid $20,000.

“It is his primary task to analyze USM’s cost structure and put together the building blocks for a balanced budget for fy 16 (fiscal year 2016),” a statement released by USM on Wednesday afternoon said.

Chris Quint will replace Robert Caswell, who retired earlier this summer, as executive director of public affairs. Quint previously served as executive director of the Maine State Employees Association.

Also on the team will be the newly announced provost of USM, Joseph McDonnell, who will keep his position as dean of the college of management and human service. McDonnell replaces Michael Stevenson, who left his position in July for a job with the University of Maine System.

The team also will include Chief Financial Officer Dick Campbell, Vice President for University Advancement Cecile Aitchison and Chief Human Resource Officer Martha Freeman.

Flanagan said by consolidating several positions, the reorganization saves the university $135,000 in administrative salaries.

“When I took on this role I set out to assemble a strong and experienced team who shared my commitment to lead USM out of this current crisis,” Flanagan said in the statement.

This year, USM cut $7 million, or about 5 percent of its budget, after a five-year financial analysis showed the university system would be $69 million in debt in five years if nothing changed. In order to pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2015, another $7 million needed to be pulled from the university system’s reserves, essentially putting off those cuts until next year.

The cuts were the largest portion of a trimming process that was shared across all seven campuses and resulted in the elimination of 157 jobs. Nearly $22.7 million was cut from the university system.

“This newly constructed leadership team is ready to get to work to implement a new model for USM — one that is leaner, smaller both in employment and footprint, more agile, less bureaucratic, competitively priced and offering greater flexibility for students,” Flanagan said.

USM Faculty Senate President Jerry LaSala expressed some skepticism.

“I’m a little concerned at the smallness of the team that he introduced,” he said. “I’m concerned about the lack of academic background.”

LaSala also expressed concern about the process being used to eliminate three programs — New England and American Studies, Geosciences, and Liberal Arts — at the Lewiston-Auburn campus. Former USM President Theodora Kalikow proposed the eliminations earlier this year as a cost-saving measure.

“It has been reported to me by several students and faculty members that students are not being allowed to declare majors in the three programs proposed for elimination, and that the undergraduate and graduate admissions departments are not admitting prospective students into these programs,” he wrote in a letter to Flanagan that was shared with the BDN.

Though LaSala acknowledged that no program eliminations were official until the board of trustees voted to finalize them, he said, “if you forbid students from enrolling, then you have foreordained that the program is being eliminated.”

Flanagan said it would be misleading and unfair to enroll students in the programs administrators proposed for elimination.

“We have an obligation to help our current students complete their course work and earn their degrees,” he said. “But we have placed a hold on additional enrollment and major declarations pending next month’s Board of Trustees meeting to make sure we manage both the expectations of students and the financial obligations of the University.”

The board’s academic and student affairs committee will meet Aug. 29 to review the recommendation. If they approve it, the full board will vote on the measure in September.

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