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Sarah Hardy, a professor of mathematics, is the president of the Faculty Senate at the University of Maine at Farmington.
Nine faculty members at the University of Maine at Farmington recently retired (three of these were half-time positions). It is not clear which, if any, of these positions will be replaced. In addition, nine faculty were “retrenched,” i.e. their positions were eliminated. One of the eliminated positions has been held by the faculty member for over 20 years, another one just came to UMF last fall.
A “position” is but ink on a page, but every position is filled by a talented and passionate human being that we care about deeply. The position eliminations are not a reflection of the quality of these faculty member’s teaching or the contributions they have made to the university. Each and every one of these individuals has been a valued member of our community. These are people who changed their lives to come to Farmington. They bought homes and are raising families here. And, suddenly, the contents of an email received on a Friday afternoon have irrevocably changed the course of their lives forever. Words are inadequate to express how heartbroken we are by these losses to our university community. Many tears have been shed this month.
Declining numbers of college-age students in Maine combined with increased competition by the flashier, but considerably more expensive, private institutions have hurt UMF enrollment. Stretched resources have negatively impacted our ability to tell the story of the welcoming community, committed faculty members and wonderful opportunities prospective students will find at UMF. Amidst all of these ongoing challenges, UMF, with its significant residential student population, has been hit especially hard by the cost of required adaptations to the COVID pandemic. We have done an amazing job keeping our students safe, but the necessary measures have not come cheaply.
The current situation at UMF has been many years in the making and it is impossible to speculate whether or not different administrative decisions in the past could have avoided faculty cuts of this magnitude. Today the faculty are most concerned with supporting their colleagues and the UMF students affected by these cuts.
I am confident that because of the resiliency and resourcefulness and of the many talented faculty members UMF will continue to be a university where the faculty commitment to students is second to none. But will we be the same? Never.