Editor’s note: This story was updated March 29, 2022.
The University of Maine System (UMS) Board of Trustees approved the new collective bargaining agreements with two faculty unions and tenure for several faculty members on March 28 at the University of Maine.
Chancellor Dannel Malloy will execute agreements for the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine (AFUM) and the Maine Part-Time Faculty Association (PATFA) once they have been ratified by both unions. Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Legal Office James Thelen said they were the last contracts with labor unions that represent System employees pending board approval and eventual ratification.
The new contract with PAFTA offers a 3% annual pay increase for all employees represented in both fiscal years of the contract, additional benefits to comply with Maine’s earned paid leave law, extended insurance benefits for surviving dependents, evaluation changes, and a joint task force to study various issues.
The new AFUM agreement also includes a 3% annual pay increase for all employees the union represents, retroactive to July 1, 2021, new language to comply with Maine’s earned paid leave law, an increase in the dependent tuition waiver benefit to 55% for the current fiscal year and 60% for the following fiscal year, changes in the tiering of dental insurance coverage and new special retirement incentives for some faculty.
“The quality of our universities’ educational offerings and the overall success of this System depends on our innovative, world-class faculty,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “After a year of hard negotiations, planning and disruptions caused by COVID-19, I am thrilled we were able to reach agreements with AFUM and PAFTA on contracts we feel will effectively support our vital educators and the academic missions of our universities.”
Trustees also awarded the rank of tenure to 50 faculty members across the System — 28 at the UMaine, 14 at the University of Southern Maine (USM), three at the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), three at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) and two at the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI). Additionally, the board awarded the rank of tenure to Yonghao Ni, the incoming J. Ober Chair in Chemical Engineering at the UMaine, at the time of hire, effective Aug. 1, 2022.
Ni is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and is director of UNB’s Limerick Pulp and Paper Research Centre.
The board took these actions and others throughout a two-day regular board meeting that began Sunday, March 27. It served as the first in-person session for the board in two years.
In other board action, the trustees approved the 2021 Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF) annual report. The fund, established by the Maine State Legislature in 1997, positions the System as the center of statewide efforts to leverage economic development through targeted investments in university-based research and development. The report provides annual financial data for the fund, an assessment of the achievement of the annual goals and objectives, and a summary of the research and development projects that have been financed.
Fossil Fuel Divestment statement update
After hearing from nine students during the citizen comment portion of the meeting, including some members of the group UMS Divest, Kelly Martin, trustee and chair of the board’s investment committee, announced that she and her colleagues will present a statement concerning fossil fuel divestment from the System’s investment portfolio at the May meeting.
The committee and NEPC, the investment consultant for the UMS, have been drafting a statement that will help guide future efforts to decrease fossil fuel exposure in the System’s portfolio, all while maintaining its fiduciary responsibilities.
“The board takes your comments here seriously. We’ve been discussing where we should go and what we should be doing with our investment policy since you’ve first addressed your concerns,” said board Chair Mark Gardner. The investment committee is working hard on understanding all of our options and the complexities associated with any changes in our investment strategies. That committee will be reporting on their recommendations at our next meeting.”
The board approved divesting all of its direct holdings in coal mining companies in 2015 and an Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) investment approach in 2016 to significantly reduce fossil fuel exposure in its portfolio.
Granting financial support to projects throughout the System
The board approved loans and increased financing for several infrastructure projects across the System to bolster research and academic offerings at their respective institutions.
The board authorized construction of a Secure High-Performance Textiles Laboratory in UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Trustees also approved spending $855,000 for UMA to keep using its Cyberbit Range security training and simulation platform for three years, add ProTools to it, upgrade hardware, retain the services of a customer success management and acquire 100 student labs for it. The board approved a $3 million internal loan as well to help finance two new facilities for UMA — the Medical Laboratory Technology program on the main campus and the Veterinary Technology program on the Bangor campus.
Additionally, trustees expanded the budget for the renovation of the facility at 300 Fore St. in Portland, by $1.3 million to a total of $12.8 million. The building will serve as the new home for the UMaine Graduate School of Business, the University of Maine School of Law and the UMaine Graduate and Professional Center, a core UMS TRANSFORMS initiative.
The next board meeting will be held May 22–23 at USM.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMM); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.