Saturday, September 18, 2010

11th Post - An Open Letter to President Botman

Dear President Botman,

I realize the likelihood of you reading this letter is relatively rare, but I feel as if I must make an effort to write down, and share, my feelings about the University I attend.

First of all, let me introduce myself. I'm a Junior Political Science student, who one day hopes to be a political commentator/columnist, while also lecturing part time. I work 9 hours a week for the English Department as a work-study student. I'm a member of the Student Conduct Committee, and the Political Science Student Association. I am a student at the University of Southern Maine, I'm an employee at the University of Southern Maine, and I'm also involved with bettering the community in which the University of Southern Maine provides.

And I have to tell you, I'm concerned. Mostly I am concerned with the future of the program I plan to get a degree from, the Political Science department. I would hope you, as being University President, would know the POS department very well. Currently we have four (4) professors serving full time, with an adjunct lecturer filling a full time professor's shoes for the Fall 2010 semester. Now I have done the math. There are 390 students who are enrolled in at least one POS class this semester. While certainly this does not rival the English Department who has over 2,000, I am still confused. You are asking the ratio of full time professors in the POS department to be 97.5 students/1 full time professor. That certainly sounds like a lot to me, since the POS department lacks an advising coordinator.

Now I understand that the POS department is small, compared to others like English, Nursing, Business, and Music, but in all reality, does that make us less important? The Nursing, Business, and certainly the Music departments have made their names known for being some of the top programs in their field within the state of Maine. But the POS department is still struggling to get air. It certainly has the hope of gaining the same honor that the departments listed above have received, but to do that it needs attention, funding, and a give-a-damn from the University administration. It is the only public POS program in the state worth attending, in my opinion, which I believe is well shared. Thus it has to compete with the likes of Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby, which is certainly not easy to do. The faculty, including Dr. Francesca Vassallo, Dr. Ronald Schmidt, Jr., Dr. Robert Klotz, Dr. Michael Hamilton and Dr. Mahmud Faksh are well published and, frankly, deserve a department that proves that.

To give you some ideas: Dr. Faksh is on sabbatical this Fall. I have been told by trustworthy sources that originally the department was going to be allowed to hire a visiting professor to fill his place, since he taught several popular courses. The department was not allowed to hire a visiting a professor though, because of funding issues. Thus, four required courses were cut down to offering only one section by other professors (one of them also being a "J" class), and one 300 level elective that was very popular is not being offered at all. Another popular 300 level elective is also not being offered this semester because of professors being stretched so thin. Only one program required course is being offered with more than one section (two), and that is because it is a widely taken "J" course.

This leads, I believe, to several obvious conclusions:
1) it should be the wish of the University's administration for USM's POS department to rival those of Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby,
2) it should be the wish of the University's administration for USM's POS department to offer more than one section of all program required courses, and for it to be able to offer fully each semester's usual course listings.
Thus, several obvious solutions:
1) it should be the wish of the University's administration to gather new talent for the USM's POS department's faculty to offer the correct amount of sections and classes, and allow retirement in a few years to several members of the current full time faculty,
2) it should be the wish of the University's administration to allow curriculum and department changes which would allow POS students to choose a "track" to follow, which almost all POS programs around the country offer, for example: political theory, international relations/affairs, American politics, European politics, Ethics, etc.

Now that you have seen my concerns, conclusions, and solutions, I do hope you will take some of these seriously. You yourself have said that the University is in strong financial shape. I would like you to prove it. Take some initiative, and take a department that is almost floundering, and turn it into the stellar program it could be.


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