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University of Maine System faculty say series of controversies has eroded trust

Corey Templeton
Flickr/Creative Commons
The University of Southern Maine's Portland campus in 2016.

University of Maine System faculty members are calling for more changes from system leaders in order to regain their trust.

In recent weeks, faculty on campuses in Augusta, Farmington, and the University of Southern Maine have voted no-confidence in Chancellor Dannel Malloy, and faculty in Machias, Orono and Presque Isle have supported those votes.

The system has faced scrutiny over Malloy's handling of a presidential search at the University of Maine at Augusta, as well as layoffs at the University of Maine at Farmington. On Sunday, the system announced that incoming UMA president Michael Laliberte had withdrawn and they would launch a new search.

But on Monday, several faculty members spoke out at a meeting of the system's board of trustees in Portland. Some said they appreciated the board's plan to launch a new UMA presidential search. But they said the controversies at UMA and UMF, along with longer-term actions putting more authority in the hands of the system, have eroded trust.

"Please acknowledge the depth of how far campus morale has been fractured," said Elizabeth Powers, a professor of English at UMA. "Grant a UMA community-led search process to start to build back trust."

Other faculty called for more structural changes, such as returning more authority back to local campuses, and some called for Malloy to resign.

University of Maine System Board Chair Mark Gardner said that while mistakes were made with the search process at UMA, Malloy is following much of what the board has instructed him to do to ensure a stable future for a university system facing financial and demographic challenges.

"But at the end of the day, the folks on this board, their No. 1 responsibility is the fiduciary responsibility to make sure we can fund and operate our universities," Gardner said. "We need everyone's input to do that."

Gardner said that officials are also looking at ways to improve future presidential search processes.