UMaine system administrators approve temporary move of law school to Old Port
The University of Maine system board voted on Monday to authorize a lease agreement for the temporary move of the University of Maine law school to the Old Port of Portland.
The board’s decision was unanimous and means the law school, which is currently located at 246 Deering Avenue, may move this fall.
“I want to thank everyone for supporting this,” said James Erwin, Chairman of the Board. “I think this is a critical step for law school and possibly the very innovative Maine Center for Graduate and Professional Studies.”
The system has already signed a non-binding letter of intent with the Council on International Educational Exchange to take over the premises owned and currently occupied by the council at 300 Fore St. The lease is available at a fixed rate for a five-year term of $ 15 per square foot, which works out to $ 957,000 per year.
The move is expected to be temporary until a new Maine Center building is constructed on the University of Southern Maine campus, although there is no timeline for the completion of the construction of this building. Base operating costs at 246 Deering Ave., which is owned by the network, are approximately $ 550,000 per year, while operating costs at 300 Fore St. are expected to be approximately $ 290,000 per year. plus annual rental costs.
If the Deering Avenue building is vacated, operating costs could decrease by $ 330,000 per year and additional savings could be realized if the building is demolished by demolition, a measure that would require additional council approval. No City of Portland zoning change is required at the Fore Street location, but the system will seek city approval for its intended use of the building.
Cost estimates for any renovations that should be done to the Fore Street building are still being worked out, but the system has funding that could help, including a $ 1 million donation and $ 1 million. $ 5 million in additional funds for law school operating costs that were allocated in the Governor’s Supplementary Budget.
“All things considered, we believe it is in the best interests of the university system and certainly of the law school to undertake this process,” said James Thelen, system vice-chancellor for strategic initiatives and general counsel on Monday. .
The law school’s planned move follows a 2019 report that called for sweeping changes to improve its finances, increase diversity, and boost faculty recruitment and retention. Leigh Saufley, the dean of the law school, said the system started looking for a new home for the law school in 2005, but previous efforts had failed and, in the meantime, a lack of maintenance has contributed to the deterioration of the current building. In 2017, it was named one of the eight ugliest college buildings in America by Architectural Digest.
“The proposed interim placement for the law school will bring a whole new work placement for the law school, graduate and vocational center and several partners who will go into this building,” Saufley said. “This is a real game changer for legal education in Maine and although this is only an interim plan it will make a huge difference in our ability to grow law school.
Only one person spoke about the move during public comments to the council.
Lydia Savage, professor and chair of the geography-anthropology department at the University of Southern Maine, questioned the decision. As a department head, she said she had to be meticulous in her requests for things like hiring a part-time faculty member to teach a mandatory introductory anthropology course. She was asked to provide expected course registrations, tuition fees generated, the cost of the part-time faculty member, and a written justification.
“How does a part-time faculty member who is paid peanuts get such a level of review, but the system can afford to rent this new space and especially in the Old Port and not at Westbrook or Scarborough? ” Said Savage. “I think this is a muffled tone and unnecessary action.”
In other news on Monday, the board unanimously named Mark Gardner chairman and James Donnelly vice chairman for the year 2021-2022 and voted unanimously to authorize a review team to begin contract negotiations. with Chancellor Dannel Malloy, whose current three-year contract expires. in June 2022.
Finally, the board also approved the renaming of the former Little Hall at the University of Maine Orono in honor of Beryl Warner Williams, a Bangor native who was involved with the NAACP, the National Council of Black Women. , the American Red Cross and other civic organizations. The name change comes after the board voted in September to remove the name of Little, a former UMaine president and eugenics advocate, after a task force found that aspects of his professional life was in conflict with the values of the university.
A former college graduate, Williams was a lifelong educator who made significant contributions to higher education and was the first woman to be appointed dean of Morgan State University, a historically black university in Maryland. She was also the first female president of the Penobscot Interracial Forum in Bangor.
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