- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - Faculty members at the University of Southern Maine have proposed closing one of three campuses to save money and ward off 50 job cuts.

The university is trying to close a $16 million budget gap and administrators have also proposed cutting two academic programs as part of a three-step plan to downsize the public university that has seen enrollment drop almost 30 percent in the past five years. Other cuts are being considered in the administration and staff and the university is planning to reorganize academic programming.

USM has campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston.

The Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/ZUAfpp) reports that the idea of closing a campus has been discussed informally for years, with many noting the difficulties of multiple campuses for students, staff, faculty and administrators. It’s never been floated as a formal proposal to save money.

“My proposal is probably as brutal to good people as is the (administration’s) proposal. The difference is, I propose to isolate the damage,” Tom McDonald, an associate professor of business computing, told the paper. “We have to tell the citizens of Maine we can no longer afford three campuses.”

The Faculty Senate on Friday also endorsed a proposal that would seek a better retirement incentive to trim the workforce.

The latest round of cuts proposed by administrators was intended to close the budget gap for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2015. Fifteen of the proposed 50 faculty cuts are professors who have been or will be eliminated. The rest of the positions will be cut through retirements or layoffs. The university said it will announce specific layoffs by Oct. 31.

USM President David Flanagan told the Senate he would entertain all options but said time is running out. He said he has asked for an analysis of the costs of the different campuses, but accounting practices make it hard to figure out costs by campus.

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Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

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