Letter to the Editor: Fight for UMF faculty, don’t fire them

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On May 7, families and friends gathered to celebrate and congratulate University of Maine Farmington’s class of 2022 graduates. More than 47 percent of these students earned major degrees or minored in some area of the Humanities or Social Sciences, including history, political science, English, philosophy & religion, archeology, creative writing, psychology, political science, business, anthropology, geography, environmental policy and planning, international and global studies, and world languages. The university where these students worked diligently to earn their degrees, however, is about to change. NINE University of Maine Farmington faculty members in the Humanities and Social Sciences were recently fired. Five of these faculty were fully tenured. Three of the programs these faculty taught in, some for as long as 30 years, were entirely eliminated: Women’s & Gender Studies, Religion & Philosophy, and World Languages. These firings gutted the Humanities Division at UMF. The cuts have nothing to do with the excellence of these beloved teachers, dedicated scholars, advisors, and community members. The cuts were made by University of Maine State System Chancellor Dannel Malloy and the Board of Trustees based on bottom line thinking. UMF, like other educational institutions nation-wide, has had difficulty solving critical financial challenges. Demographic shifts and waning federal and state support for public education, especially for arts & humanities, is part of the problem. However, the recent cuts by the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Malloy fatally undermine UMF’ s long-standing national reputation as a vibrant affordable public liberal arts institution that offers our Maine students (many of them the first in their families to attend college) a well-rounded, quality college education. As our students face the uncertain future of our nation and planet, they need what education theorists now call “21stCentury Skills:” creativity, critical thinking, the ability to tell truth from fact, problem solving, perseverance, collaboration, and communication skills. Many leaders in commerce and business, the very people who will create jobs for our students, say these are the skills they seek in new graduates. These skills are the core of what we in the Humanities teach our students: that the world needs them—it is complicated and beautiful and full of people who do not look like them or believe the same things they do, but deserve their attention and respect. If you care about UMF, if you care about the future of the Humanities and the Liberal Arts, please contact Chancellor Malloy, the Board of Trustees and Gov. Janet Mills and ask them to solve this problem in some other way. We need them to fight for UMF faculty, not fire them!

Gretchen Legler

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