December 7, 2009
The 21st-Century USM: From President Selma Botman
Our discussions about the necessity of reorganizing USM’s academic and administrative enterprises have offered heartening evidence of dedicated faculty, staff, and students who love this university and want the very best for its future.
Indeed, the energy and commitment that I have witnessed during these discussions have inspired me to provide some additional opportunities for even more substantial input at this watershed moment in USM’s history.
First, Jim Shaffer, Dean of the School of Business, has wisely proposed an economic analysis of the various restructuring and reorganization proposals that will help us understand better in which areas we must disinvest and in which areas we should invest further in order to meet the needs of students and our communities in the 21st century. The goals of this analysis are to ensure that the decision-making process is well informed about the fiscal consequences of competing visions for USM’s future and to make certain that we build on our strengths. Dean Shaffer will head an Economic Task Force composed of faculty and staff from relevant disciplines who will begin work immediately. They will report back on their analytical work by February 1st.
Second, it is now critical for us to move our focus to those institutional and intellectual strengths that best and most productively serve our goal of creatively rethinking USM’s academic and organizational structures: the talents and intellectual gifts of our faculty, staff, students, and community supporters. These groups will have two professionally facilitated opportunities in January and late February to participate in large, all-campus gatherings. We are designing both of these sessions to elicit productive and meaningful exchanges to guide the final decision-making process for reorganizing and restructuring the university.
These additions to the overall process will necessitate a modest adjustment to the timeline for completing the work that I proposed last fall. This will provide a few more weeks for deliberation and collaborative work with broad input from the USM community and its friends. However, the benefits of making a simple adjustment to this process—in exchange for valuable new contributions as well as substantial additional opportunities to hear directly from more members of this passionately committed academic community—are simply irresistible. Our fiscal challenges are increasingly urgent, and state tax revenues continue to fall. However, as I have said a number of times this academic year, a chance to reorganize a university comes along only once in every three or four generations. That means your participation and contributions are invaluable as we envision a new organizational design capable of sustaining USM’s future.
Here is a general outline of how we will work on reorganizing the university through this spring:
- We will hold a professionally facilitated, university-wide convocation after classes resume in January. All members of our campus communities are invited to help us identify the institutional strengths that we need to build on during and after this process. Deadline: late January 2010.
- Dean Shaffer will lead an ad hoc Economic Task Force charged with generating the best economic data possible within the very limited timeframe, providing both a common set of economic perspectives and decision tools. This group will not propose changes, but rather assess the bottom-line impact of changes proposed by members of the campus community, including those who have advanced specific ideas for study. Deadline: February 1, 2010.
- A team of USM’s senior leadership, including the provost and a number of our deans and vice-presidents, will continue to develop a plan to restructure the university that is not only cost effective but also academically sound. I will hold them responsible for synthesizing the work of the Economic Task Force, appropriate institutional data, and the results of the convocation. I will then distribute this first draft for university discussion. Deadline: mid-February 2010.
- At the end of February, we will hold a second professionally facilitated university-wide conference, this time to focus on improving the proposed plan. Deadline: March 1, 2010.
- Once again, I will task a USM senior leadership team to assess the work of the conference and make appropriate adjustments. At the conclusion of this revision process, the team will submit their final recommendation. Deadline: March 12, 2010.
- There will be a period of comment. Deadline March 20.
- The final decision about forwarding any plan to the Chancellor and Board of Trustees is the responsibility of the president. I will weigh carefully the proposed reorganization, making adjustments and changes if necessary and reserving the right to reject it entirely. The university will, of course, honor all of its contractual obligations under applicable labor agreements. Deadline: March 22, 2010.
Fiscal reality leaves us no choice but to reorganize USM’s schools, colleges, academic programs, and administrative units in order to reposition the university for future growth and sustainability. This is difficult but urgent work. As responsible stewards of the public resources entrusted to us, we owe the State of Maine, our students, and their families our best, most creative and responsible efforts. There is great strength within this university, and I believe the process outlined above gives us an exciting opportunity to tap it in support of our goal to advance this precious public educational resource.
I am humbled by my responsibility at this moment in USM history, but your support and continued willingness to step up to this challenge make me immensely proud to be your president. Thank you for your commitment to our university. Working together, we will build a new USM for this new century!
Please visit my Web site for official communications on a range of issues. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at email@example.com. I also invite you to check out my blog at http://blogs.usm.maine.edu/president