PORTLAND, Maine — The University of Southern Maine no longer plans to eliminate its recreation and leisure studies program, according to a statement released by university officials on Friday. Instead, the program will become part of USM’s School of Nursing until January of 2015. It is yet to be determined what will happen to the program after that date.

“Therapeutic recreation and community recreation, the two degree studies offered under recreation and leisure studies, now will continue and will report on an interim basis to Director of the USM School of Nursing Krista Meinersmann,” the statement said.

In a meeting with the faculty senate on March 14, USM President Theo Kalikow recommended the program be eliminated, along with American and New England studies, geosciences and arts and humanities at the Lewiston-Auburn campus.

Unlike the other programs suggested, recreation and leisure studies is a revenue-positive program with high enrollment, according to a report created by an advisory committee tasked with making recommendations to the president about how to address a $14 million gap in next year’s budget. However, the growing program only has one full-time faculty member and the university does not have the money to hire more, Kalikow said at the March 14 meeting.

“Recreation and leisure studies is a special case that could benefit from collaborative discussions around the goal of positioning it for long-term success,” she said at the meeting.

“I ask that you join Provost [Michael R.] Stevenson in seeking alternatives to program elimination,” she told faculty members at the meeting.

There is now a proposal to hire a fixed-length faculty member for one year to support the existing faculty member in the recreation and leisure program, according to Judie O’Malley, assistant director of communications.

Kalikow praised the efforts to save the program.

“Thanks to the willingness of folks to sit down and engage in constructive discussions, we’ll now develop ways to integrate therapeutic and community recreation with complementary disciplines,” she said in the prepared statement. “This will sustain enrollments over the long term and better serve students and the health care needs of Maine citizens.”

Meanwhile, USM students were planning a rally Friday afternoon at the Woodbury Amphitheater to protest the fact that 12 full-time faculty members were laid off last week.

At the same time, students from USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, which will lose two faculty members due to cuts, planned an event to honor their namesake’s 100th birthday where attendees will share stories that highlight the significance of the school.

University of Maine System Chancellor James Page told the state Legislature earlier this month that the seven campuses would have to find $36 million in order to pass a balanced budget for next year. That number has proven to be fluid as administrators on the individual campuses hone in on their budgets and learn of retirement and resignation plans.

The UMS board of trustees will vote on all proposed budgets in May.

Nell Gluckman

Nell is the education reporter for the Bangor Daily News, but she will be helping out the political team by covering the 2nd Congressional District election this year. Before joining the Bangor Daily News...