New University of Maine System Chancellor James Page has barely gotten a chance to find the coat rack and set up some family pictures on his desk, and he’s been faced with challenge after challenge.
Today, after meeting with the system board of trustees executive committee, Page issued his first public comments since a faculty effort to have University of Southern Maine President Selma Botman removed from office flared up last week.
A petition seeking a faculty-wide “no confidence” vote in Botman was signed by 53 full-tenured faculty members and submitted to the USM Faculty Senate. That number of signees, which is greater than 10 percent of the university faculty, obligates the Faculty Senate to set the parameters for the referendum, which that body has yet to do.
Petitioners have been clear that their ultimate goal is to motivate Page and the system trustees to fire Botman. The USM community seems divided on the issue, with some faculty members and students standing up for the president and others lining up against her.
In Page’s remarks, released today, he’s careful not to do either. Here is his statement in its entirety:
The University of Southern Maine is facing challenges that demand significant change. I support President Botman’s efforts to address these challenges, and at the same time I take the concerns raised by the Faculty Senate in its recent action very seriously.
Respecting the Faculty Senate process, I am committed to engaging with all members of the University community to address their concerns. It is nevertheless essential that — at all times and especially now — the University community act in a unified way to serve our students and the people of Maine.
It seems from here that Page is saying his top goal is getting the USM president and the USM faculty to work together for the benefit and progress of the university. It sounds like his first choice would be to broker some kind of workable understanding between Botman and the dissatisfied faculty members, but this statement doesn’t rule out making changes if there’s no way to rebuild a unified front with the current players.