An arbitrator has ruled that the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine System did not violate their contract with a faculty union when Southern Maine laid off 26 instructors in 2014, the university system said in a news release. According to system officials, the arbitrator concluded that Southern Maine acted reasonably and with an "excess of caution" when it imposed the layoffs amid significant financial strain. Maine officials acknowledged that the arbitrator ruled that the university acted prematurely in the dismissal of one faculty member.
“We are grateful the arbitrator affirmed the hard but necessary work former President Flanagan and his team did to reduce expenses at the University of Southern Maine,” said James H. Page, chancellor of the University of Maine System. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with our faculty to improve university scholarship, research and service to Maine.”
Representatives of Southern Maine's faculty union could not be reached for comment about the arbitrator's ruling. But the union's president, Susan Feiner, a professor of economics at the university, told the Portland Press Herald, “While this is not the decision [the union] hoped for, we are glad the decision has been published. The faculty will continue to put students’ interests first. Students, their families and the state of Maine suffer when departments are closed and full-time faculty stripped out of departments. If UMaine System managers hope to recruit and retain students, they must invest in faculty who deliver world-class education. This decision is a serious blow to the academic reputation and future vitality of all UM universities.”
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