NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING
DONATE TODAY



  March 24, 2014

Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed


University of Southern Maine student Meagan LaSala and professor Rachel Bouvier explain how cuts disproportionately target faculty and will trigger a decline in quality public education
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here
   

Audio

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter



Since I happily discovered TRNN, I have noticed the great strides it has made with having numerous reporters on the ground in important sites - Jennifer Humiston
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


biography

Meaghan LaSala is an organizer with Students for #USMFuture. She is a Women and Gender Studies major at the University of Southern Maine. Meaghan also organizes with students around the state to divest more Maine schools from the fossil fuel industry.

Rachel Bouvier is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Southern Maine, and has been teaching there since 2005. She teaches several classes that serve the business school and the Environmental Science and Policy Program, and is actively involved in service learning and the general education curriculum. Her specialty is environmental and natural resource economics - her most recent publication is forthcoming in the journal Ecological Economics .


transcript

Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to 
Public Higher EdJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

On Monday, hundreds of students, faculty, and supporters rallied at University of Southern Maine against the announced layoffs of 20 full-time faculty members. Monday's rally follows a Friday occupation of the school's provost's office, who announced the cuts. Additionally, four academic programs will also be slashed.

The cuts are part of a $14 million budget shortfall and a part of broader cuts across the University of Maine system, which expects to cut more than 150 faculty and staff members this year.

Now joining us to discuss all of this are our two guests, directly involved with the rally.

We have Meaghan LaSala, who is a student at the University of Southern Maine.

And also joining us is Rachel Bouvier. She's an associate professor of economics at the University of Southern Maine, and she found out just recently, last Friday, that she was laid off.

Thank you both for joining us.

RACHEL BOUVIER, ASSOC. PROF. OF ECONOMICS, UNIV. SOUTHERN MAINE: Thank you.

MEAGHAN LASALA, ORGANIZER, STUDENTS FOR #USMFUTURE: Thanks for having me.

DESVARIEUX: So, Meaghan, I want to start off with you, because these actions have been described as a student-led and -organized protest. Tell us why you're protesting.

LASALA: Sure. Well, we're definitely working in collaboration with faculty and staff also.

And we're protesting for a lot of reasons. Part of the reason we're protesting is because many of the faculty that are being laid off are tenured faculty, and the faculty have not been properly consulted in these plans about which departments are being eliminated.

But we also think, more fundamentally, that there really is no reason behind these layoffs. Susan Feiner is a professor here. She's done a lot--she's an economics professor and has done a lot of research into the actual financial situation of our university system. We have seven universities in our system. We got a bond rating of AA-, which is the fourth highest possible grade. We got a Standard & Poor's rating that was stellar, saying the outlook for our system is stable over the next two years. And so we really question whether there even really is a financial crisis happening here.

And we want to look at the way money is being spent in the administration throughout the University of Maine system. I think we really see this whole supposed financial crisis as part of a nationwide trend of the corporatization of public higher education and the corporate war on public higher education. And so we're interested in talking about it in those terms.

DESVARIEUX: So, Rachel, you were a tenured economics professor, yet you found out that you were being laid off on Friday. The university came out and they essentially said that the order of layoffs was actually a product of the system's faculty contracts. Those contracts are negotiated by the union. What's your response? And was that interpretation of why you were laid off accurate?

BOUVIER: Well, according to the union contract, yes.

What the administration is doing here is they are targeting certain programs for retrenchment. And then, once they've targeted those certain programs for retrenchment, then it goes by reverse seniority. So even though I have been at USM for nine years--I was hired in July 2005--I am the least senior member in my department. And so I was given a letter that my position would be retrenched, along with the chair, by the way, of the department, Vaishali Mamgain, who has been here for 15 years.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. I want to, though, speak specifically to what the university is saying to why they have to make these cuts. They see dropping enrollment and this budget gap. So at the end of the day, how else are they supposed to deal with leaner budgets if not make cuts? What's your response, Rachel?

BOUVIER: I agree that they do need to make cuts. I think that there's quite a bit of redundancy in the university overall, specifically in the administration. But also I think that even if they do need cuts, even if they do need to make cuts, then they need to do it in a much more intelligent way than what they're doing.

Basically what I've been told is that they looked at the number of majors per faculty member, which is--it seems on the surface to make sense, but they were not looking at the number of student credit hours, the number of students that we actually teach. So, for example, in the economics department, we not only teach economics majors, but we also teach students in the business school, and I personally teach students in the environmental science and policy program. And that was not a factor in deciding where these retrenchments should take place.

So the issue for me is not whether the university should make cuts but where it should make cuts. And I think a lot of the noise, too, around--in these protests has been the idea that the administration should share a lot of the--should share some of the hurt that they're causing here. And there have been layoffs in the administration, but we don't feel that cutting the faculty and cutting the very faculty who are dynamic and involved and bring, you know, fresh ideas and innovation into the university should be where those cuts come from.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Meaghan, I want to turn to you, because you're a student there, and I can imagine that when you decided to become a student, that you weren't expecting to also have to organize and fight this fight. So just describe for us in essence what is really motivating you, what is pushing you. Was there a direct experience that happened to you where you realized that you had to speak out about this?

LASALA: Sure. Well, you know, I consider myself to be a place-based student. I live and work here in Portland, Maine. And part of the reason I'm--I'm also a nontraditional student. And part of the reason I decided to go back to school was because I saw that the University of Southern Maine was such an incredible resource here in my home town.

And what I see happening is people being told that they can no longer have a humanities education here, they can no longer have a thriving social sciences department. I think that this is what we're moving towards, and I really want to stand up for southern Maine's right to have a thriving university here in our area.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Meaghan LaSala, also joining us Rachel Bouvier, thank you both for joining us.

BOUVIER: Thank you.

LASALA: Thanks for having us.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

latest stories

Let's Make Real News!
The European Revolt Against the Neoliberal EU (1/2)
How Progressive is Elizabeth Warren?
Donald Trump: The Raw and Naked Face of a System That Showers Speculators with Obscene Riches
Tariq Ali: Brexit and Migration
Turkey's Night of Long Knives
The Laura Flanders Show: Fighting Islamophobia & Education Apartheid
DNC - Protest Rally Day 1
Defeated at Rules Committee, Fight to End Superdelegates Heads to Convention Floor
Will Sanders Delegates Disrupt the DNCC?
People for Bernie Call For Civil Disobedience at the DNC
Protestors Loudly Demand Entry into DNC Rules Hearing
After Trump's Fear and Security Speech, Damage Control at DNC?
Pocomoke's First Black Police Chief Indicted
Trump Policy Will Unravel Traditional Neocons
Trump's Neo-Fascism Appeals to Victims of Obama/Clinton Economics
Many Sanders Delegates Ready to Fight Over VP Pick
Jill Stein: 'The Politics of Fear has Delivered Everything We Were Afraid Of'
Protests Against Republican Party "War on Women"
Talking Turkey, Kurds and ISIS at the RNC
United States of Amnesia and the Economics of the RNC
The Bought-and-Paid-For Climate Denialism of Mike Pence
Activists to Call for a Clean Energy Future at the DNC
Baltimore Cops React to RNC Sheriff David Clarke and Obama's Call for 'Goodwill and Open Hearts'
Robert Scheer: Neofascist Trump or Corporate Hawk Clinton Are No Choice at All
Ending Tax Dodging by Utilities Can Prompt Clean Energy Transition
Trump Unifies GOP Around Far Right VP Pence, Who Calls for Projecting American Global Strength
Protesters Build Human Wall Around the RNC
Trump and the Enablers of American Authoritarianism (2/2)
Jill Stein: RNC Celebrating the 'Theatre of the Absurd'

TheRealNewsNetwork.com, RealNewsNetwork.com, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting