USMFuture member Philip Shelley reacts to Flanagan hiring


USMFuture member Philip Shelley at Congress Square Park in Portland.

USMFuture member Philip Shelley at Congress Square Park in Portland.

Note: This is not a formal statement by the USMFuture group, it is merely a candid reaction by USMFuture member Philip Shelley to the hiring of David Flanagan as USM’s interim President.

Unfortunately the comments have been chopped and skewed by at least one major Maine media outlet. So I wanted to give Mr. Shelley a chance to get more eyes on what he has to say about the latest in a series of head-scratchers for the University of Maine system.

Here it is:

“We were tipped off two months ago that David Flanagan would be the interim President and that President Kalikow would step down. So clearly these huge decisions are being made behind closed doors, without any input or knowledge from faculty or students. No transparency, no shared governance. The Flanagan report gives anyone who cares to read it a clear blueprint of what they intend to do now: among other things, it centralizes administrative power in the Chancellor’s office, and promotes egregious solutions to spurious problems, such as incentivizing an increase in online classes.

And meanwhile, both Kalikow and Stevenson get kicked upstairs — almost half a million dollars vanishing into a black hole that has nothing to do with the system’s primary educational mission. During a supposed financial crisis- we don’t even have chalk at USM. Only 27% of the UMaine System budget goes to direct instructional expenses.

We don’t know anything about Flanagan yet, really. But I have read the report, and I do know his history. (His work with the Prison System isn’t especially inspiring.) Flanagan is a non-academic President, which says a lot about the system’s priorities, with no ties of constituency in the USM community. He is here to do the Chancellor’s bidding, and right now that means cut 12 million dollars from the USM budget.

So I think the process has everything to do with what’s really going on here. If they really wanted shared governance, and sincere input from USM stakeholders, they would have sought input from, say, the Faculty Senate before they made their selection.

In his first remarks this morning, President Flanagan misquoted and mis-characterized a USMFuture slogan, and used that misquote as a jumping off point to issue a stern warning to anyone who rocks the boat or seeks redress through outside channels — when time and again inside channels have been proven closed to those who want to preserve a comprehensive public liberal arts university in the most densely populated area of Maine, and who think that all this money being squandered on administrative bloat should be used to solve the financial crisis in a minute. They stand on your neck and then blame the ensuing bad press on your death screams.

It’s a question of will and of values. The Board and the Chancellor’s office have a vision — disempower faculty, centralize power in the Chancellors office, concentrate on STEM, offer more profitable online classes. And they will bring their vision to fruition at any cost — to jobs, to academic reputation, to quality of life, to community cohesion.

The level of disingenuousness is tragic. These outsiders have no stake in USM, in Portland, in Southern Maine, and yet they have the power to dismantle a vital local institution.”

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.