Students at the University of Maine at Farmington at a 24-hour sit-in beginning on Tuesday May 10, 2022 to protest the recent layoffs of nine faculty members. Credit: Courtesy of Karly Jacklin / Maine Public

University of Maine at Farmington students are staging a 24-hour sit-in to protest the recent layoffs of nine faculty members.

The sit-in began at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and representatives estimate that as of Tuesday afternoon, about 20 students were sitting inside Merrill Hall, which houses the school’s financial aid office and its president’s office.

All of the employees who were laid off were in the school’s Humanities and Social Sciences divisions, according to the university system. The layoffs came after nine other employees — and more than 100 other employees across the university system — elected to take special retirement incentives.

Karly Jacklin, a rising senior at Farmington, said that many students were devastated after learning about the layoffs. Jacklin said she is now unsure of her plans to pursue a master’s degree in theology after a professor of religion was let go. She said students are calling for more transparency around the layoffs, and for the reinstatement of laid-off faculty members.

“We want to know, publicly, who made these cuts, why these cuts were made to these specific departments,” Jacklin said.

The students are also calling for University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy to resign.

Jocelyn Royalty, a rising senior at Farmington, said students have already considered transferring from the school — including those whose studies were affected by the loss of faculty.

“A lot of us don’t want to leave, but feel like transferring is the only choice that we have left. Which is a real shame, because the community here was so strong prior to these cuts. And it was something that was a real draw for the school,” she said.

On Tuesday afternoon, university system spokesperson Margaret Nagle said that the layoffs were necessary because of a $5 million budget gap at the school, with no reserves to fall back on, and that officials followed union contract requirements in choosing which faculty were laid off. She said that the system is working to find other appointments for the laid off faculty members.

Nagle added that the chancellor is planning to come to the Farmington campus to meet with community members, including students, though no dates have yet been set.

Nagle also shared a budget planning document for the Farmington university recommending specific positions to be laid off. The report said that “UMF’s financial status was weak and is growing weaker” and notes particularly large enrollment drops for programs in history, philosophy/religion, and geography and environmental planning.

The document also said that the school does not “have the ability to retain a position” in women’s and gender studies, as it no longer directly supports a major, and that in foreign languages, “course enrollment across the board and particularly above the introductory level has declined to the point that UMF can no longer justify full-time faculty in this area.”

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.