I am in receipt of a resolution of the University of Southern Maine (USM) Faculty Senate, approved in the last hour this afternoon to declare no confidence in my leadership as Chancellor of the University of Maine System (UMS). The resolution is included here (PDF).
As I acknowledged when presented with a similar resolution from the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) Faculty Senate earlier this week — which declared no confidence in me as Chancellor due largely to mistakes I made and apologized for in the UMA presidential search — the voice of the faculty is critically important, and I take these resolutions seriously.
I see in the USM faculty resolution clear anxiety about the presidential leadership transition nearing its apex at the university. I am confident that UMS Trustee Jim Erwin led a sound national search and that the president I’ll introduce to the university community Monday afternoon is the right leader to confront USM’s challenges honestly and strategically build on the incredible strengths USM has among our collection of universities.
I see anxiety in the resolution, too, about important strategic initiatives undertaken at the behest, or with the full support, of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. Unified accreditation for our universities is a first-in-the-country innovation that opens new doorways for our universities to collaborate and share resources, and I took the matter to our Board for their unanimous approval only after more than 50 campus visits around the state to talk with faculty and staff from every university in our System about it. I am leading an effort, generously supported by $75 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation and leveraging an additional $75 million in matching dollars, to strengthen USM’s two undergraduate engineering programs through strategic partnership with the University of Maine’s world-renowned College of Engineering, along with computer and information science programs throughout the System. And I am proud to have found a new home for the University of Maine School of Law in the heart of Portland’s Old Port, for which our Board has authorized renovation investments that I believe we will eventually recoup through state-supported bonding and future Harold Alfond Foundation grant investments.
The pace of change in undertaking these initiatives is itself the cause of anxiety at not only USM, but around our System. I appreciate that, and I look forward to working on my relationship with USM’s faculty and its new president so that USM grows in stability and stature to advance these and other Board priorities and strengthen its own unique contributions in our university system.
I am not perfect as a leader. When I’ve made mistakes, I’ve tried to publicly acknowledge them. We as leaders in Maine’s public university system should all approach our challenges with humility and a willingness to work constructively together to advance our mutual interests and better serve the people of Maine. I intend to model these characteristics in my own work, and I hope the faculty at the University of Southern Maine will join me in that effort as we look forward together to welcoming a new president next Monday who shares these values.
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.