Subject: Policy for Establishing and Maintaining Centers

Purpose, Structure, and Function

Generally, centers and institutes are interdisciplinary units of significant size, scale, and scope intended to advance the University’s tripartite mission of research, teaching, and service. A broad spectrum of types of centers exists within the University of Maine System, and for the purposes of this policy, the term “centers” includes other unit descriptors such as institutes, bureaus, and laboratories.

Centers are normally housed within a department, school, or college, but they do not develop or administer academic degree programs. Nor do centers serve as a primary academic home for instructional faculty. In those instances where a center represents cross-college and interdisciplinary initiatives, the center may report to an administrative office above that of dean (e.g., vice president for academic and student affairs or vice president for research).

Centers shall have a charter that stipulates the mission of the center, its sources of funding, its organization and administration, and its evaluation process. A center director is responsible for the administration of the unit and reports to a department chair, dean, or vice president.

A wide range of funding mechanisms for centers can exist within the System: from predominantly or totally externally funded to predominantly E&G funded.

From time to time, centers with large external grants or contracts may require the presence of research faculty whose affiliation with the center is co-terminus with the life of the grant or contract. Faculty appointed to a center under externally funded grants or contracts do not receive probationary or tenured appointments through the center.

Authorization of a New Center

The authorization of a new center requires a two-step planning process that mirrors that of academic program approval. First: The Chief Academic Officers, the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, and the Chancellor must review a Center Intent to Plan. Outcome of this review determines whether permission to submit a full Center Proposal is granted or denied. Second: Following the Chancellor’s approval of the Center Intent to Plan, a full Center Proposal can be developed and permission to seek sources of funding support granted.

I. Center Intent to Plan

  1. The Intent to Plan, when approved by the campus President, will be submitted to the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, who will acknowledge receipt of the document. The Vice Chancellor will make copies of the Intent to Plan available to the President and the Chief Academic Officer of each campus for their information. The Center Intent to Plan should follow the outline of the Center Proposal detailed below.
  2. In their review of the Intent to Plan statements, the Chief Academic Officers and the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs will take into consideration appropriateness of the center based on the following factors: need for the center; whether or not it duplicates another center in the University System and, if it does, rationale for the duplication; and the availability of adequate resources to support the center.
  3. The Chief Academic Officers and the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs will make their recommendation on the Center Intent to Plan to the Chancellor.
  4. Should the Center Intent to Plan be approved by the Chancellor, the Board of Trustees shall be informed.
  5. Upon approval of a Center Intent to Plan, sponsoring agents are authorized to apply for external funds under the auspices of the proposed center. However, no funds can be accepted until the center is established. If the proposed center is to be included as a component of a grant or contract application for support from an external agency, the authorization to plan must be granted prior to submission of the application from the constituent institution to the external agency.

II. Center Proposal

1. Approval of a Center Intent to Plan is to be followed by full proposal development.

Guidelines for Center Intent to Plan and Proposal Development

I. Proposed Center Title and Mission

II. Center Objectives

A. Rationale
B. Goals and Objectives
C. Anticipated Outcomes

III. Evidence of Center Need

A. Evidence Provided
B. Other Similar Centers and Institutes in UMS and State

IV. Description of Center’s Activities

V. Governance Structure

A. Reporting Structure
B. Staffing Patterns
C. Advisory Groups
D. Extent of Cooperation with other entities

VI. Center Resource Needs

A. Personnel
B. Library
C. Equipment
D. Space
E. Other

VII. Proposed Center Funding

F. Budget estimates for the first year of operation
G. Projections for five years following
H. Anticipated sources of funding

VIII. Center Evaluation

A. Center evaluation process

2. Once a Center Intent to Plan has been approved, a status report must be filed in the office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the end of a six-month period in order to keep the plan active if a center proposal has not yet been submitted. An approved Intent to Plan that is not followed by the submission of a center proposal within one year from the time of initial acceptance will be automatically voided unless a specific request for an extension of time has been received and approved by the Vice Chancellor.

3. The Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs will acknowledge receipt of the proposal and distribute copies to the Chief Academic Officers. The Vice Chancellor, in consultation with the Chief Academic Officers and those most closely involved with the proposed center on the originating campus, will appoint an ad hoc review committee, when appropriate to provide independent assessment of the proposal. The ad hoc review committee will report in writing its findings and recommendations to the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs.

4. The Vice Chancellor will make a recommendation on the center proposal to the Chancellor.

5. The Chancellor will recommend Center Proposals to the Board of Trustees for its review and approval. Notice of final approval of Center Proposals will be transmitted to all campuses.

Process for Change

A simple change in the name of a previously established center or institute that does not change the mission or have a significant financial impact does not require Board of Trustee approval, but approval for such a change should be secured by the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs.

Process for Continuing Approvals

A center’s charter is initially approved for a five-year period. Renewal of a charter is subject to a favorable review of a center’s performance for the preceding five-year period and achievements in relation to its mission statement and that of the University. It is expected that the peer review process inherent in the competition for grants and contracts will comprise an important aspect of the reviews of those centers that are predominantly externally funded.

A five-year Center Review document will be submitted to the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for recommendation for continuance or discontinuance. This document will include:

  1. Degree to which center is meeting its mission, goals, and objectives
  2. Documentation of quality of service to constituent groups
  3. Generation of additional funding
  4.  Scholarly productivity
  5. Cooperation with other programs

The Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs will submit his/her recommendation to the Chancellor, who will authorize any re-chartering or elimination of centers. The Chancellor will report annually to the Board of Trustees those centers that have been re-chartered or eliminated.