A national organization representing thousands of university professors is criticizing program cuts and faculty layoffs at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

In a letter addressed to President David Flanagan, the American Association of University Professors questions the severity of the university’s financial woes. AAUP, which was founded by philosopher John Dewey, says the actions being taken are in “blatant disregard” for tenured faculty.

Citing low enrollment and a $16 million budget deficit, administrators have eliminated five majors and more than 50 faculty members.

Maine isn’t alone. As states defund public higher education, colleges and universities have made steep cuts while also increasing tuition and fees.

Earlier this month, President Flanagan told On Campus that cutting and consolidating programs was emotional but essential to the university’s survival.

“It was going to be necessary to balance the budget in order to have any kind of future as a higher education institution,” Flanagan explained.

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[Cross-posted at On Campus: The WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

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Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.