New degree in Cybersecurity: first stage in One University?

Today’s (Wednesday) Bangor Daily News has a full-page ad touting the new Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity.. The University of Maine at Augusta is the apparent home campus for this degree, but Augusta is only one part of  “a partnership between UMA, UMFK (Fort Kent), U.Maine, and USM (Southern Maine).” EVEN A CUTTING-EDGE HIGH-TECH PROGRAM SHOULD USE PROPER ENGLISH: THREE OR MORE ITEMS AS HERE  USE “AMONG,” NOT “BETWEEN.”

As a member of the University of Maine Faculty Senate, I recall preliminary discussions last spring from the System urging swift approval of this degree by each of the participating campuses. Serious questions were raised about the urgency, where other, less sexy degree programs ordinarily take quite a while to go through the appropriate committees, the Senate, and the campus administration. I asked if there was any rough idea as to how many students might enroll, and no one knew.

We were repeatedly told that the U.Maine System was the only public higher ed system to have been approved to create this degree by the relevant federal government agencies. Two cheers for democracy, as the British writer E.M. Forster once wrote in a different context.

As has been widely publicized in the past year, the University of Maine System is being transformed into “One University” with each of the seven campuses equal to the others, regardless of their rather varying size of student body, faculty, and staff, their enormous range of facilities, and their extremely different missions. The decades-old identification of Orono as the flagship campus is being attacked ever more as arrogant and elitist. Indeed, several members of the System Board of Trustees have led the charge to put Orono in its place as no more important than, say Fort Kent or Machias. As I’ve noted before, try that kind of dumbing down at, say, the University of Connecticut in Storrs or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. You will be regarded as a fool, or worse. But we do things differently in public higher ed in the great state of Maine.

Part of this One University transformation is the ongoing effort to avoid duplication of courses and perhaps programs across the seven campuses. History was one of the seven units chosen to begin this process. Not all of the seven campuses even have separate History Departments, and only Orono offers graduate (MA and Ph.D.) degrees. Some historians want primarily online offerings, where Orono and Farmington want to continue mostly conventional face-to-face courses.

Nothing has been decided, and it is certainly worthwhile for the System’s historians, among others, to discuss these matters, so long as the powers that be don’t intervene and impose their will, as many believe is the real agenda.

The System’s multi-campus initiative regarding existing courses and programs is why the Cybersecurity crusade may provide a glimpse as to things to come. Its “holistic approach to cybersecurity education” and its choice of “completely online” courses or “a combination of live online and ITV classes” may be the de facto template for the future of the University of Maine System overall.

Stay tuned.