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UMF lays off 9 faculty members amid enrollment and budget shortfalls

Wesley Fryer
Merrill Hall on the campus of the University of Maine at Farmington.

Nine faculty members at the University of Maine at Farmington have been laid off as the school deals with budget and enrollment challenges.

The University of Maine System said that the faculty members were notified about the layoffs yesterday, which officials say was largely driven by budget challenges, as well as an in-state enrollment decline of 20% over the past five years.

A spokesperson said that an additional nine faculty members accepted early retirement incentives — as did more than 100 other employees across the University of Maine System.

The system said that the laid-off employees will receive 18 months of pay and benefits, and Chancellor Dannel Malloy said that officials will work as hard as possible to help them find new positions on other campuses.

On Tuesday, UMF introduced its new interim president, Joseph McDonnell, who currently serves as a faculty member at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service, and also previously served as a provost and dean.

McDonnell, who will begin a two-year term in July, said that in the midst of the school's challenges, it will be important to implement the school's strategic plan and build on its strengths to attract and retain students in the years ahead.

"And, where appropriate, to integrate this university into the larger university system and take advantages of the programs at the other six campuses," McDonnell said.

Cathy Wimett, the chair of UMF's Board of Visitors, said McDonnell's experience should serve the school well as it works to implement a strategic plan to stabilize its finances in the years ahead.

"As you continue the ongoing work of our strategic plan, I expect your experience in planning, management, and communication, will be critical to UMF's future," Wimett said.

Clyde Mitchell, a UMF professor and faculty representative to the university system's board of trustees, said that the mood on campus has been somber as employees have learned of the loss of several colleagues in recent days.

"It is very, very sad," Mitchell said. "We're hopeful that we'll be able to restructure and become sustainable in the future. And that's the task for the new interim president."

Mitchell said that he's glad that McDonnell will be serving a two-year term, which he hopes will give him time to implement changes that can put the campus on better financial footing.

"There are still a lot of opportunities for the different campuses to collaborate within the system," Mitchell said. "And I think there might still be opportunities to potentially prevent future job losses, to some extent, through those collaboration initiatives. And I think that's what we have to focus on, because that's under our control."

UMF's current president, Edward Serna, is leaving at the end of June to take over as president of Winthrop University in South Carolina, his alma mater.

Updated: May 4, 2022 at 9:09 AM EDT
This piece has been updated with comments from a UMF faculty member.