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September 17, 2019

Reorg approved at Maine Law, while proposal advances to change USM name

Photo / Renee Cordes The University of Maine School of Law, whose campus in Portland is shown here, will become an independent part of the University of Maine System, without operational ties to the University of Southern Maine.

After mulling recommendations of a committee on the future of the state’s only law school, University of Maine System trustees have voted to reorganize the UMaine School of Law as a stand-alone part of the seven-university network.

Beginning with the 2022 fiscal year, Maine Law will have budgetary independence from the University of Southern Maine, whose Portland campus the law school borders. The law school’s dean will also report directly to the chancellor of the system, according to a news release Monday.

In July, a committee formed by UMS trustees issued a report suggesting a variety of strategies to deal with enrollment and financial challenges at Maine Law. Specific recommendations included expanding courses related to technology, introducing a rural semester-in-practice program, creating a clinic where law students work with graduate business students, and offering a cross-disciplinary curriculum that draws on other UMaine faculty.

The committee, chaired by Summit Utilities Inc. CEO Kurt Adams and Maine Law Professor Deirdre M. Smith, left open the possibility of changes in governance, only recommending that a board committee oversee the law school during a three-year “transition period.”

The report also noted recent actions taken by UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy, USM President Glenn Cummings and interim Maine Law Dean Dmitry Bam to address the law school’s challenges, including a 3% pay increase for faculty and staff and the search for a permanent dean and two new faculty members.

In other business, the UMS trustees authorized work on changing the USM name to the University of Maine at Portland, a switch that would require approval by the board and by the Maine Legislature.

The trustees voted unanimously to allow Malloy and Cummings to get the proposal before the legislature when it reconvenes in January 2020.

Cummings led a presentation on the name change, which would bring USM’s identity into alignment with the rest of the UMaine System and strengthen the school’s capacity to attract out-of-state students, according to the release.

The change would initially cost $1.2 million for a new logo, signage, stationery, uniforms, and other items, according to a trustee report. Another $1 million would be necessary over a three- to five-year period for marketing the new identity.

But based on market research commissioned by USM, it’s estimated that the new name would result in enrollment of 80 to 100 additional out-of-state students during the first year alone, meaning USM could pay the fixed costs in three years.

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