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Admins continue to work on teach-out plan

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:02

In wake of five programs being eliminated within the span of a few months, the administration is continuing to work on establishing a two-year teach-out plan so affected students may finish their degrees.

American and New England Studies, geosciences and the arts and humanities program at Lewiston-Auburn campus were eliminated by the board of trustees in September, along with French and applied medical sciences just a few weeks ago. Since the eliminations, the administration has promised that students will be able to complete those programs in a timely manner before closing them completely, but according to some faculty little progress has been made in developing a teach-out plan.

 According to Kent Ryden, chair and professor of American and New England studies, little progress has been made on developing a concrete teach-out plan, at least to his knowledge.

“The dean’s office has been in contact with students, telling them there still will be courses offered, but there are no specifics,” said Ryden. “Our students are very much in the dark.”

Provost Joseph McDonnell explained that, though some argue there are ambiguities with the process, administration is taking their obligation seriously to provide students the opportunity to graduate in these programs.

“We’re working to that objective,” said McDonnell. “We’re trying to make sure courses are in place for the spring semester and beyond that. Because there are so few students enrolled in these programs, it does give the opportunity for individualized plans.”

According to Ryden, the dean’s office has contacted students saying there will be ANES courses offered, but possibly not by current faculty, and with no specifics about what those courses may be.

“A real point of confusion is what’s going to happen with students working on their master’s theses. Students are still frustrated,” said Ryden. “We’re very much in the dark. They haven’t been given any guidance, specific guidance, at all by the administration.”

S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology in the applied medical sciences program, also had limited knowledge on what the teach-out plan will look like, stating in an email, “I wish there were more that I could tell you about the plans being made. Meetings of the CSTH dean with individual faculty members are proceeding. I cannot predict what the end result will be at this point. I don’t have any additional information at present.”

McDonnell noted that not all students take the thesis path, and that conversations are starting to happen regarding their preference for degree completion. He also reassured that the administration is working on securing part-time faculty to teach the required courses, as well as faculty to advise in thesis research.

“I think students need to be able to see a path,” said McDonnell. “Exceptions can be made, but I also think students will want to see what’s being offered to them each semester, rather than having the whole thing open-ended.”

McDonnell explained that it’s about what the university can offer and a students’ schedule; students are not restricted to a two-year timespan.

“We do have the option to tailor these plans for each student,” said McDonnell. “Students ought to know when courses are being offered so they can plan their schedule.”

Still, to some, this plan seems difficult to interpret and unrealistic, given that USM is such a nontraditional school.

“Administrators are taking action and only then figuring out repercussions,” Ryden said.

According to McDonnell, however, some plan is better than no plan. It’s better to have courses planned out over a two year span so students know when they’ll be available than to have it completely up in the air. This way, he believes, students have a visible path to continue on toward graduation, with the understanding that some exceptions can be made beyond the two-year plan.

“These are difficult times for the university, faculty and students,” said McDonnell. “It’s important that we work together cooperatively to serve the students in light of the budgetary constraints we are facing. I deeply appreciate the cooperation of faculty in best serving out students.”

Chronicling USM’s national media attention

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:02

The American Studies Association has launched a new website with a map featuring schools across the nation they believe serve as examples of “assaults on academic freedom.”  USM is on that list.

the ASA is citing USM’s most recent faculty layoffs and elimination of undergraduate and graduate programs as reasons for inclusion.

The project, which is considered ongoing, aims to document all the schools that violate academic freedom, cut departments and programs and participate in research surveillance. They also include schools that practice close policing of protests, especially ones that lead to violence and discrimination. The ASA have called upon the scholars, teachers, administrators and activists of America to pay attention to these troubling patterns in public higher education. So far there are 25 American universities on the online map. 

“We were already sensitive to the kinds of pressures that our colleagues [at USM] were working under,” said Matt Jacobson, former ASA president and acting director of public humanities at Yale. “We’ve been especially alert to situations where high-achieving programs were under threat.” 

According to the introduction on the website, the ASA hopes to call to attention these “crimes against education” and show that these situations are not isolated incidents. Jacobson said that USM’s decisions, like national ones made towards education, are guided by a narrow, utilitarian vision. 

“We hope to raise questions about our educational priorities as a society,” said Jacobson. 

 Immense budget gaps, mass layoffs and the shrinking or elimination of popular academic departments are all issues that are part of larger trends nationally. ASA, along with many other institutions’ blogs and publications, compare USM’s crisis with problems across the country, all of which can have potentially devastating consequences. 

“For the last 50 years there has been a tug-of-war between educators and non-educators for the soul of the American university. Educators are losing to politicians in some places and to corporate board members and regents in others,” said Jacobson. “Local struggles in this setting are most often cautionary tales about the power that non-educators have over educators.”

USM’s steady decline in enrollment and projected budget shortfalls have been documented for many years now. However, instances of USM’s future being discussed, through more national channels, has been relatively recent.

The first wave of attention USM received was back in March when former president Theo Kalikow announced the elimination of American and New England studies, geosciences, arts and humanities at Lewiston/Auburn and recreation and leisure studies. Soon following was the first in a series of layoffs or “retrenchments” of a dozen faculty members. Protests by the new founded campus group, Students for #USMFuture, were held and USM started to peak in the national higher education spotlight. 

The goals and activist initiative of the group prompted a note of support from renowned linguist, philosopher and cognitive scientist, Noam Chomsky, who wrote to theatre graduate, Caroline O’Connor, “Very glad to learn about what you’re doing. Badly needed. I hope you have good success.” The messages of concern and coverage of the protests and administrative decisions trickled in from sources like, Inside Higher Ed,  Naked Capitalism, Occasional Planet, Popular Resistance, The Real News, Aljazeera, Common Dreams, as well as every local media outlet. 

According to Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, everyone has the right to print what they want, but no national writers or bloggers have ever reached out to anybody within USM’s administration for a statement. 

“These national outlets and even in state, have not once contacted me or anyone within the administration, to get our perspective,” said Quint. “I’m sure if they had the opportunity to sit down and talk with us, and hear our plan for how we are making sure our university is financially viable. They would have a different opinion on how we’re doing things.”

Quint said that USM’s administration is in no way restricting anybody’s access to academic freedom. Quint makes decisions based on what is going to keep the university viable and be in the best interests of the students. 

“If they want to print whatever they want without actually talking to anyone, that’s their prerogative,” said Quint. “I can assure you that the president, the chancellor and the board of trustees have no intention of turning USM into some corporate entity.”

According to higher education commentators like New York Times writer Paul Krugman, USM’s story deserves more attention and is representative of problems in public education, like neoliberalism’s infiltration of educational institutions. 

Krugman wrote a short opinion piece and called USM’s fiscal situation an “ugly example” of how a school’s educational qualities can be degraded once valuable professors are fired and departments are gutted. Krugman also attributed sharply rising tuition and sharp cuts in state funding as factors in the financial problem. According to Krugman, USM’s administration is eager to downsize liberal arts and social sciences, which has direct educational consequences. 

Other writers, like Lambert Strether at “Naked Capitalism,” argue that USM, like many struggling public colleges, has become a microcosm of society at large, with top administrators representing the 1% who hold and delegate all the resources. Strether believes that greed and corruption have trickled down from the corporate and financial sector and has dominated some of America’s institutions of higher learning. USM’s administrators need to allocate the funds more strategically, or risk being accused of leading the school towards corporatization, which again is cited as a situation not unique to USM. 

Columnist Madonna Gauding at the Occasional Planet agrees and adds that in an educational environment where the administrators refer to the students as “customers,” where the school’s budget is being spent should be something everybody is keeping an eye on. 

Gauding hopes that the USM student and faculty protests spark a national movement that fights back against educational issues like tuition hikes, lack of funding and silencing of political dissent. 

“Students are being denied a more enriching educational experience,” said Gauding. “If we’re lucky, students will take over where Occupy Wall Street left off.”

“If we care about USM’s future and the future of public higher education, we need to stop flat funding our public universities,” said Dave Kerschner, a USM doctoral graduate. 

Regardless of where the specific source of USM’s budget deficit lies, one thing is for certain: schools are going through similar problems and using USM as an example of what can go wrong, when the administration is forced to cut faculty and programs. 

Lauren Besanko, a criminology graduate and local politician, said that she’d be surprised if USM wasn’t on the radar of players in the social justice and education arena. 

“USM’s story would fit right into the narratives on austerity and the war on education in America today,” said Besanko. 

According to Jacobson, the term austerity has become a buzzword for the easy gutting of values and programs that more Americans don’t want gutted, like a good education for young people. 

“The battle over USM cuts right to the bone of all of this,” said Jacobson. “We’re thinking that Maine will certainly be on our outlook.”

USM combines student services for savings

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:02

USM officials announced a plan to consolidate and centralize student services last Thursday, with aims to cut costs, recruit more students and increase retention.

Staff will begin to transition immediately, working to turn the efforts of 15 separate entities into a single, integrated division. The overall goal is to make student services easier to navigate for both enrolled and prospective students, as well as making sure all departments are on the same page.

Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, said that since he began working at USM this semester he’s heard students equate trying to access student success to a game of ping-pong.

“We found a lot of redundancy within the system,” said Quint. “There’s been no real theme, structure or strategic plan for recruiting and advising students for so long. And since there hasn’t been a plan, individuals across campus have taken it upon themselves to plan within their own department or office.”

Quint noted that most students are bounced between numerous outlets while enrolled, including general, major-specific and minor-specific advisors, and that the offices of undergraduate, graduate and professional and continuing education departments were all recruiting students separately.

“We need to constantly be talking to each other to make sure we’re all working toward the same goal,” said Quint.

Five advising positions and two administrative positions will be eliminated with the consolidation, but no one is being laid off. All but one position has been vacant and one administrator will be returning to a faculty position. Officials have launched a search for a vice president of enrollment management to lead the division.

The savings will amount in nearly half a million dollars after including the salary costs of the vice president position and will go directly toward USM’s projected fiscal year 16 deficit of $16 million.

The administration has repeatedly reported that dropping enrollment is a prominent factor in financial problems for the university and that this reorganization will likely help stop the drop.

“The charge of this new division is to more effectively serve students through one front door and to view all student service functions through the eyes of the student. We will eliminate the barriers that hinder our students’ ability to navigate their way to graduation,” read a letter from President David Flanagan and Provost Joseph McDonnell sent to the USM community last week.

According to Quint, USM typically loses one third of its freshman class each year. To help reduce that rate, each student will be assigned a faculty and professional mentor when they enroll to help guide them through the ins and outs of university life and transition.

An office of career development and community engagement will also be created through centralizing resources, which will allow the university to better connect students with internships and careers with local businesses. Quint said that through meetings with local businesses, officials have found that they aren’t looking for interns at USM simply because they don’t know where to post job openings on a USM website.

“Again, it’s something that individual departments might do well across the campus, but something we need to pull together and do well as an institution,” Quint said. “We hear so often from government officials and non-profits that they need students, but just don’t know how to get them from USM, so they look elsewhere.”

Quint says the division will be complete, organized and running efficiently before next fall.

“The concept is great and we’ve planned it well, but now it’s time for that hard work,” said Quint. “We want to be the one’s to do it right and if we can, this can really transform the university.

USM Preservation Fund meets $10,000 goal

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:02

By: Annie Quandt

As of Friday, the USM Preservation Fund reached its $10,000 goal. The fundraiser, which was started last spring by the protest group Students for #USMFuture, has two initiatives: One is to fund an independent audit, the other is to provide legal counsel to students.

“The independent audit’s goal would be to shed some light on the finances. [We want to hire] someone who’s impartial and from the outside, an impartial accountant, to answer a lot of these questions in terms of how profitable are these programs that are being cut. Faculty that are being eliminated are bringing in a lot of revenue on a yearly basis,” said Meghan LaSala, senior women and gender studies major and student leader for the group.

LaSala discussed the importance of legal counsel, noting that the administration is still unable to tell students how they’ll be able to finish their degrees.

“They’re firing the only professors that have the training and credentials to offer these courses that students need to graduate,” said LaSala. “When students declare a major, that’s a legal contract with the university, that they are obligated to fulfill in terms of providing students the education they signed up for.”

MA’s in applied medical sciences and American and New England studies were both eliminated. BA’s in geosciences, French and the arts and humanities program at the Lewiston-Auburn campus were also cut. 

 “About 25 faculty were retrenched, and a lot of faculty chose early retirement, but not all those retirements were able to save other faculty positions, because if they weren’t in the programs being targeted by the administration, then junior faculty were still retrenched,” said LaSala. “We’ve lost five programs since the start of the semester, but many other programs are losing half of their faculty.”

LaSala believes these are cuts that will have a lasting impact on USM. 

“We’re losing our only tenured classics professor; we’re no longer going to be able to offer a class in the major,” LaSala said.

LaSala also noted the stress some faculty face with the cuts.

“The administration is arguing that senior faculty can just teach more classes but a lot of faculty are already teaching about four classes. It also completely undermines that faculty at public universities, half of their job is to do research and to include students in that process; it’s part of their job contract that they need to do research,” said LaSala. “Faculty that is teaching five courses a semester are not going to be able to do that kind of work.”

LaSala noted that the university is advocating for a shift toward more adjunct professors.

“They’ll just replace these positions with part-time positions, but those positions are underpaid, unstable,” said LaSala. “I know one adjunct professor that calls it her volunteer job. They don’t have an office. They don’t have the resources to support students the same way that tenured faculty do.”

Paul Nakroshis, a physics professor at USM, agrees that the course load put on other professors will be too much.

With a goal of reinstating transparency, sharing governance and advocating for state investment in USM, many have donated to the fund. Not only have professors donated, but LaSala says many alumni, students, families and members of the southern Maine community have also contributed to the fund.

Nakroshis explained that he donated because he believes the students are acting more intelligently than the university governing system.

LaSala emphasized that there’s still hope for USM.

“I think there was and is another path forward for USM. That is to stop this downward spiral train of cutting courses which is only going to make our declining enrollment worse and hurt our bottom line because we’re cutting faculty that are bringing in revenue for the University,” said LaSala “We need to slow this train down.”

“We shouldn’t let this supposed crisis moment define us as an institution,” said LaSala. “The region of southern Maine deserves a first-class institution, and we as a state can afford it.”

Student worries about value of her education

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:02

By: Brian Gordon

The University’s graduate degree program in American and New England Studies has been abolished as part of the cuts handed down by President David Flanagan and the board of trustees. No teach out plan has been available to students or faculty, leaving students wondering how they will finish their studies in the two years the administration is giving them. They are in the process of firing tenured professors and hiring adjunct or temporary workers in their place.

One of the students affected by the elimination of the program is Kimberly Clark, a Gray, Maine native who graduated from USM with a Media Studies degree in 2003. She returned to the school in 2010 to pursue a master’s degree in ANES but now finds herself wondering what kind of a degree she is getting and what the rest of her education will be like.

“I worry about the value of my education, moving forward,” said Clark. “It’s certainly going to be a different quality than what it would have been.”

Clark is taking one class a semester and has two classes left and two internships. She has opted not to try out the adjunct teachers because they might not be up to snuff. “I didn’t want to be a guinea pig for a new professor. I make choices based on who the professor is going to be.”

“I will finish within the two year allotment,” said Clark. “The question is the quality and losing my professors – and who is assigned to me now?”

A search on MaineStreet yields only two classes available to Clark both to be taught in room “TBA,” on days “TBA” and the teacher as “Staff.” 

These types of results don’t inspire confidence in Clark who even used her 401k earned from eight years of working at Time Warner Cable on her education at USM. She didn’t see it as a gamble at the time; it seemed to be a sure thing.

“I invested in my education. I invested in USM because I took that money out of my future,” said Clark. “I believed getting this education would improve my opportunities and my future.”

There was a meeting Tuesday the 11th about the future of the ANES program, but Clark was busy manning the Jumbotron of the Portland Pirates where she’s a technical director of camera operations for all home games. She was hoping to at least get an email about what happened to see if there was a plan.

“The admin and the BOT have no idea what these programs do,” said Clark. “If they did they would be thinking twice.”  

Clark doesn’t think the administration is considering the non-traditional structure of USM. She has high school teachers in her classes, who want to teach a specialized course in their classrooms. There’s also undergrads and non-matriculated students allowed to take courses in ANES program that don’t receive a master’s degree.

“This university is not about just a degree. It’s about an education,” said Clark. “Education doesn’t equal degree. It’s that narrow minded thinking that’s killing the university.”

It was almost five years ago that Clark took an archeology class with Professor Nathan Hamilton who now teaches at the Muskie school. That class got her interested in ANES and Hamilton nudged her into it. Clark was hesitant after being out of school for seven years but took to the program and was glad she did.

The public history and culture track Clark is a part of focuses less on writing and getting a Ph.D later and more about how to present history to the public. Most people get jobs working at a historical site or a museum. Clark notes many graduates are working at area museums, educating people on local history, including the Victoria Mansion, the Scott Dyer Museum in Saco and The Maine State Museum has curators that went through the program.

Right now Clark also works at Maine Irish Heritage Center. She sees her American and New England Studies program being vital to understanding the Yankee identity and the diversity in the region.

“I don’t like feeling powerless about it and I don’t like seeing this program being eliminated.  I’m really so sorry for the future students that won’t have the opportunity to take classes with these professors,” said Clark. “They won’t have the same opportunity that I had.”

Transfer students unaware of budget crisis

Mon, 2014-11-17 12:02

Students visiting USM for an adult, transfer and graduate student open house last week mainly described themselves as being excited to come to the university, but most were completely unaware of any of the program eliminations that have occurred this semester. 

Josh Grassman, hoping to transfer to USM from Sienna College after a hiatus of a few years, was a classics major but will be transferring into the communication program.

Though he is switching majors, he described his feelings as “hurt” after learning about the eliminations of the program he once belonged to.

“I took a couple courses in classics last spring,” said Grassman. “I probably would’ve tried to take more classes if the program wasn’t cut.”

He explained that, although the cuts are saddening, as an outsider he can’t look at USM and criticize.

“Pretty soon my wallet will be a factor and my opinion will matter,” said Grassman. “I can’t complain if I’m not part of the system.”

Tiffany Hart, a student at the University of Maine Orono from 1994-1998 is coming to USM to finish her degree in construction management. She believes that in order for USM to grow as an institution, people need to enroll — not be scared off by the financial crisis.

“If USM is going to get out of it [financial crisis] they need the student numbers,” said Hart. “I’m doing my part to keep my community alive. Maine isn’t going to do well if we don’t have young professionals.”

Lyna Vladimiroff, a California native, was unaware of the eliminations that have taken place over the past two months. As a humanities major, her program was cut just a few months ago.

“Oh my god,” said Vladimiroff. “I had no idea.”

Vladimiroff hasn’t been in school for over 20 years, and has always dreamed of attending USM. She will be the first in her family to go to college.

“I think it [eliminations] are horrible,” said Vladimiroff. “It’s so impish. A lot of people can’t talk to people. They don’t know how. Arts and humanities are so important.”

She described the cuts as “detrimental,” but explained that they do not turn her away from attending USM.

In all three instances, Grassman, Hart and Vladimiroff spoke of the convenience of having a public university so close to their homes.

“It’s just easy to get to,” said Hart.

For many students, seeking an education at a different university is out of the question. Given USM’s non-traditional presence, most students have jobs and, in some cases, families that they cannot uproot to move away.

Bonnie Stearns, director of student services in the college of science, technology and health said that no students have contacted her about applied medical sciences and geosciences, the eliminated programs in her department.

“We are the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] college and that’s to our benefit,” said Stearns. “It’s unfortunate that we’re losing these amazing programs, but it’s still a robust school. STEM majors are going strong.”

All four agree that, regardless of the financial circumstances USM is facing, it’s important to move forward and look to the future, rather than focus on the negativity of the past.

“We’re supporting the programs we have while supporting our AMS and geosciences faculty and students,” said Stearns. “That’s all we really can do right now.”

Car crash near Hiram kills two teenagers, one a USM student

Mon, 2014-11-10 13:04

Two teenagers died in a car accident last Saturday near Hiram, one of whom was a USM student.

Andrew Stanley, a recent graduate of Sacopee Valley High School and a first year nursing student at USM, was riding with three of his friends in a speed zone of 35 mph when the car crashed into a utility pole and killed him.

According to Chris Quint, the USM spokesperson, alcohol was not a factor in the crash, but speeding may have been.

Quint said that the crash occurred around 2 am.

Chief Deputy Hart Daley said that the names of the juvenile driver and passenger who survived, are not being released at this time. According to Daley, Stanley died at the scene while the second passenger, 19 year old Isaac Moore, died later at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Samuel Johnson, a junior education major said that he knew Stanley and spoke with him plenty of times. Johnson described Stanley as polite, genuine and sincere.

“He was also hilarious and always making people laugh,” said Johnson. “He was a smart person with a really bright future.”

Alex Fenderson said that Stanley was his best friend and they grew up together since they were three years old.

“I have countless stories and memories about the times we spent together,” said Fenderson. “He would move mountains for people. Stanley cared deeply about his friends and family.”

 

 

Community members show support to Noyes St. victims through fundraising

Mon, 2014-11-10 13:01

From donation based yoga classes, to student run bake sales and concerts, many fundraising efforts have sprung up in Portland to help the affected families of the Noyes St. fire pay for funeral costs and to provide assistance to the two survivors who lost their possessions.

While the investigation regarding the exact cause of the fire is still ongoing, several grieving community members and philanthropists said that funeral costs are very expensive and money should be raised to help the devastated families of the victims.

Eli Hubble, a friend and a co-worker of the deceased Bragdon Jr. said that the entire Portland community suffered a severe loss in this horrible tragedy.

“These were amazing people that gave nothing but love and compassion to the community; let’s give something back,” said Hubble.

Mary Crowley, the president of the student nursing organization, said that survivors like USM students Kyle Bozeman and Nick Marcketta will need financial help to start regaining the possessions they lost in the inferno.

Crowley had her nursing students raise money by hosting a bake sale in Woodbury Campus Center.

“Our students were amazed at how many people thanked them,” said Crowley. “Anytime anyone in our community is struck by a tragedy, it’s a selfless move to try and offer help in whatever way you can.”

After four hours the students raised over $341, which is planned to be split and given to both the  survivors and the families of the deceased.

“I felt that it was only the right things to do,” said Kayleigh Calvert, a sophomore nursing student who passed out cupcakes to people who donated.

Next to the Woodbury campus center, at the Sullivan gym, another contribution to the cause was gearing up.

Whitney Lutz, a faculty member in the nursing department, redirected her original fundraising plans of community partnership in the Dominican Republic, to instead benefit the Noyes St. victims, with  a black light yoga event. Yoga poses in a dimly lit room led to about $145 raised.

“The switch was very fitting given the gravity of this tragedy involving USM students,” said Lutz. “We felt it would be a good time to bring the campus community closer and have time for reflection and support with one another.”

Opportunities to donate were also made available at every cash register on campus in the form of a box asking customers to “remember the Noyes. St. victims.” The boxes were put out by Aramark.

Grace Tyler, a former USM student has spearheaded two money collecting campaigns outside of the immediate campus community. Using the hashtag #RememberNoyes and a GoFundMe page online, Tyler has managed to raise over $3,000 in four days. Tyler said that it’s important to recognize the wonderful people that had their lives stolen from them.

“I’m trying to show the [affected] families that they are supported by the community,” said Tyler. “This money is in no way going to mend the broken hearts of those who have lost their loved ones and gone through such a painful experience, but it will at least help ease the monetary stress.”

Tyler described Finlay, Thomas and Bragdon Jr., who frequented the events at the Space for Grace community center, as happy, beautiful souls.

Tyler’s fundraising efforts also takes the form of a 12-hour concert, featuring at least seven local bands at her venue on Saturday the 15th. Tyler said the door charge donation will cost $10. According to the event’s Facebook page, over 350 people will be in attendance.

Whitney Carroll, a Portland local, wrote to Tyler on the event’s Facebook page, “You have a way of bringing the community together that is truly amazing.”

Support for those affected also comes from as far away as Bangor, with Andre Hicks Jr., a hip hop musician, donating all of the ticket sales from his next show to the Noyes St. fund.

#207Together Hip Hop Showcase invites everybody to “come together and celebrate the lives of our friends lost in a horrible fire.”

Hicks, who is a native of Portland but is hosting the show up in Bangor to meet up with other musicians, said that he’s never seen anything like what happened on Noyes St.

“I don’t care about the credit or the money, I just want to help out in any way that I can,” said Hicks. “I figured, I have talent, people come to my shows, why don’t I use that to make something fun and positive out of this horrible tragedy.”

Hicks, whose stage name is Dray Junior, said that he’s positive his rap show will sell out.

Several fundraisers believe that the pain of losing a loved one in such a brutal way can never be abated by raising money, but there is something valuable to the community coming together in such a positive way.

Bryan Kessler, a former USM student and electronic musician said he wants to get as many people aware and involved as possible.

“Portland has responded well,” said Kessler. “You can see how well connected the city is after something tragic like this happens.”

 

 

“We’re in it for the long haul,” faculty senate meeting filled with complaints

Mon, 2014-11-10 13:00

President David Flanagan tried to convince the faculty senate last week that the administration’s plan was going to put USM on a healthy, sustainable path, but the faculty continued to ask the question: what plan?

Faculty are still asking the administration to provide data to back up program eliminations, faculty retrenchments, any detailed teach-out plans and a comprehensive report outlining why the university is facing a $16 million budget gap.

“Give us the evidence, give us the data,” said Lydia Savage, a professor of geography, during the meeting, noting that she had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the UMaine System and has yet to receive a report of the deficit. “We [the faculty] have much more vested interest in this than the trustees and the administration. We’re in it for the long haul.”

Some faculty also took issue with statements Flanagan made regarding faculty contracts when he implied that retrenched faculty filing grievances and going into litigation over what they thought were contract violations would only slow down the plan to close the budget gap and put USM into more of a hole.

“This is problematic,” said Rachel Bouvier, a professor of economics who is set to be retrenched. “It assumes we cannot pursue balanced budget and offer contract rights at the same time and that by following our rights, we’re somehow bringing the university down.”

Flanagan said any faculty were welcome to pursue their contract rights, but stressed that it would not help the university in the long-run.

“At the end of the day, if we were to restore status quo and wipe the slate clean, we’d still have a $16 million budget gap and we’d still have to find that money elsewhere,” said Flanagan. “I know that there are still some people, God bless them, who think there isn’t a financial crisis, who think we can walk to the system, knock on the door, ask them for reserves and we’ll be okay. That isn’t the case.”

Flanagan said, that since he was appointed president in August, that his aim has been financial stability and that he wants to keep USM affordable for Maine students. He noted that there is a demographic trend in Maine that suggest the student population is only going to decline and that everyone has to work to increase enrollment.

He criticized faculty who have been involved in recent press conferences that have claimed he’s “destroying the university,” saying that they are the ones driving students away. In turn, Bouvier said that the constant slashing of programs and faculty wasn’t exactly an invitation for students, which resulted in applause from many members of the senate.

Faculty members claimed they felt uncomfortable with the 2-year time limit on whatever teach-out plan the administration is working on and that having to tell their students they don’t know anything about it has been difficult.

“I think you’ve left your barn doors open and I think the cows have left the pasture,” said Stephen Pollock, a professor in the eliminated geosciences program.

Pollock noted that he hadn’t made serious recommendations, but has been talking to some of his students about them transferring to other universities to finish their degrees. Nancy Erickson, the one professor in the eliminated French program said it’s best to be honest with students about transferring instead of having them face a rushed teach-out program.

“I’ve heard from students who are telling their friends not to come here,” said Assunta Kent, a professor of theatre. “I’ve been telling students not to say that, but in reality, what can I promise them?”

Flanagan took in comments from many members of the faculty senate, but stuck to his guns, saying the way the administration is going about closing the budget gap isn’t ideal, but necessary for USM to succeed down the road.

“I know this is a shocking experience and is unprecedented in USM’s history. I heard one professor say recently that we’re tearing the heart out of USM, but all we’re trying to do is save it,” said Flanagan. “I sincerely hope we can find a way through this together.”

 

 

Students petition to save faculty members

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:59

Some students in programs affected by recent retrenchments have jumped at the chance to defend their professors’ jobs and are trying to get them rehired.

Last week there were numerous petitions circulating on campus that demanded that some faculty members either retain their positions at USM or be rehired.

“It’s just horrible, so horrible what’s happening here,” said senior criminology major Laura Dow.

Many students taking classes in the criminology department were canvassing the Portland campus early last week, looking for students to sign a petition to rehire Sandra Wachholz, an associate professor who was notified of her retrenchment the previous week. They sent the petition along to Provost Joseph McDonnell before a meeting with Wachholz. At that time the petition had less than 50 signatures, but it has been growing online.

Dow transferred to USM from a Boston university for the criminology department and was assigned Wachholz as an advisor.

“I just fell in love with her immediately,” said Dow, noting that Wachholz would regularly set aside time for extended advising appointments.

Dow said the goal is to convince the administration to hire Wachholz in a vacant position in the school of social work, a program students feel she would fit into nicely.

Students majoring in physics, a program that faced potential elimination last fall, have also created an online petition to save Julie Ziffer, an assistant professor of physics who was retrenched.

According to students, Ziffer was set to teach the last class in a three class series on classical physics. All three are major-requirements, but students are worried that there will be too much work for the remaining professors to handle.

“If she’s not there in the spring to teach that class, I won’t be able to finish,” said

Deb Hilton, a transfer physics major. “I planned my life around the university’s schedule. They said, here are the classes you’re supposed to take, here’s the schedule, deal with it. I’ve been dealing with it, they’ve messed with it and now I’m basically screwed.”

Spring classes set to be taught by retrenched faculty are still on the schedule, but the instructor for each course is listed simply as ‘staff.’

According to Christopher Quint, the executive director of public affairs, the administration is still working out who will teach those courses, but that it’s likely to be remaining faculty in those programs or part-time hires.

Nick Anna, a transfer physics major, said that the lack of clarity in instructors is troubling.

“It’s indicative of a lack of planning by the administration,” said Anna. “If cuts are needed, they’re not doing it in an intelligent way.”

The petition to save Ziffer’s position is addressed to Governor Paul LePage, as well as the state house of representatives and senate.

“We know they [government officials] can’t come down here and say, let’s save this one professor at a university. We’re hoping this will get someone’s attention so we can tell them if they don’t invest in Maine’s universities and they don’t invest in students, they’re sending this state into an economic death spiral,” said Anna.

Anna said that a major in physics has been listed as one of the most lucrative degrees in many studies, and that making it difficult for students to graduate in the program is a disservice to the state.

Anna also said that with the increased workload the remaining faculty are likely to have, his job opportunities and chances to attend graduate school after graduation will diminish.

“Our ticket to grad school is research and assisting in research. These cuts will leave the professors no additional time for research, which means students aren’t researching, which means they aren’t getting admitted to grad school,” Anna said.

Overall, students described the retrenchment of faculty as confusing.

“There’s so much confusion about what they can and can’t do [with faculty contracts] and they [the administration] aren’t giving anyone time to dig through the details and know what’s actually happening,” said Alex Knight, a double major in math and physics.

Both the group of physics students and Dow said that they would continue to look into ways they can help their professors and that more information needed to be made public regarding the retrenchments.

“The most upsetting thing for us, the students and faculty at USM, is just not knowing what’s happening,” said Dow. “None of it makes sense and it’s difficult to take action as students when we don’t know the specifics or what’s going to happen next.”

 

 

Managing editor of Time magazine speaks at USM

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:59

By: Alex Huber

Bestselling biographer of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson spoke to students and faculty Wednesday evening as part of WEX’s leadership and creativity event series at Hannaford Hall in Portland.

This event was hosted by WEX, a firm specializing in corporate payment solutions.

Currently Isaacson is the president of the Aspen Institute, an organization centered around education and political studies. Isaacson’s lecture to the USM community was centered around the early days of computers and the internet. Isaacson’s focus was not on technology itself, but on the people who collaborated to make the internet into what it is today.

The great minds who invented the first computers and the internet were the subject of Isaacson’s lecture.

Isaacsons remarks stemmed from his recently published book: The Innovators: How a Group of Investors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. The book is a narrative of how the great minds at the forefront of computer science created the web, which is now vital to our society. Isaacson discussed which qualities allowed these innovators such as: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to make their ideas into reality.

According to Isaacson, one such quality was collaboration. Isaacson believes that the internet fosters collaboration because it allows people to connect and share ideas.

Speaking about his experiences with the early years of the web Isaacson said, “It dawned on me, I was part of a crowd. Just another member of the crowd, every now and then offering a tiny bit of wisdom I had…thats an example of the connection of humanities instinct to technology.”

While some see technology as a force that will make human ingenuity obsolete, Isaacson holds a different view.

“I don’t think it’s always been that fruitful to try to pursue the holy grail of replacing humans with machines, instead we should follow the vision of making our technology more closely connected with us,” said Isaacson.

Isaacson said that the internet brings people together.

“It was community, it was about bringing people together. It’s about being on bulletin boards, chats rooms and auditoriums; virtual communities,” said Isaacson.

However the web is not a perfect system. Isaacson pointed out some mistakes with internet culture and said, “We mixed up being free with being ad supported.”

What Isaacson considers worse than ads is how the internet lost its sense of community. Isaacson doesn’t think that the comments should be stuck on the bottom of the page.

“Put the humanity back in the internet,” said Isaacson.

The proceeds of this event have gone to the WEX Scholarship Fund at USM. The fund benefits students who seek to work in fields involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

 

Sustainability still a money-saving focus for one campus program

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:57

By: Annie Quandt

USM is on a track to sustainability.

Tyler Kidder, assistant director for sustainable programs and a member of facilities management is part of a team putting together a plan to set temperatures back during the non-work hours in the largest academic buildings, which will essentially save on heating fuel and put USM on an eco-friendly path.

“Here at USM we have a lot of very old buildings so saving heating costs is tricky,” said Kidder. “Luckily we now have a digital web-based building automated system which allows us to remotely set temperatures for day and night.”

Steve Sweeney, the resource recovery supervisor who is in charge of recycling and facilities management believes that if we consolidated all the winter session courses into one building, the university could save a lot on heating costs. Sweeney said that there usually aren’t many winter session courses offered.

Kidder commented on the idea of consolidation, saying it’s a great idea but requires that the registrar, space and scheduling, custodial, conferences, facilities and student affairs all work together.

“That’s an impressive list of busy people and so far there hasn’t been anyone taking the lead on this,” said Kidder. “But it is totally possible and a very simple way to save money on cleaning, electricity and heating costs.”

Kidder said she is interested in the prospect of communal commuters.

“I am very interested in seeing many more alternative transportation models being made available and accessible to our students, including an effective ride sharing website for cyclists, better deals on the public bus and more options for travel from the Gorham campus like car share and a bike share on the Portland campus,” said Kidder. “These initiatives take time and money to develop, but USM has been making progress toward better transportation connections and options for students over the last few years.”

Kidder also mentioned the prevalence of cost-saving measures not just in the winter months but all year round.

“At USM we have a lot of spaces that are overlit, but I’m not sure it’s the students responsibility to turn off the lights. We could all be doing better by not demanding air conditioning in offices, dressing more seasonally appropriately,like wearing a nice sweater in the winter instead of cranking the thermostat, turning off all the lights when not in use, not opening windows in the winter and more,” said Kidder. “Often, however, energy concerns and comfort conflict, and you can’t blame someone for trying to get comfortable!”

Sweeney noted that it seems like staff are really taking the initiative on recycling.

“Our staff recycles around 70-75 percent, whereas students only recycle around 25 percent,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney added that business and sustainability efforts help keep tuition down.

“Three years ago our recycle rate was 34 percent, our net annual waste cost was $58,000; the following year our recycling waste went to 46 percent and the cost reduced to $38,000,” said Sweeney. “Last year, our cost went down to $24,000. Right now, we’re running at about 60-61 percent recycling, and we’ll be running at about $14,000.”

Sweeney stressed that taking care of the environment can save a ton of money, on both an individual, community and university-based perspective.

Kidder said that if students want to reduce their waste, they should simply start by using less.

“Get a power strip in your dorm room or apartment and plug all your computers, chargers and peripherals (printer, speakers, etc) into it,” said Kidder. “Turn it off when you leave everytime. All of these electronics use a ton of power even when they’re not turned on. You’ll notice a difference in your electricity bill.”

Kidder said sustainability can be for everyone from all walks of life.

“I do think we need to regard sustainability and climate change not as political movements or mind-sets but instead as social concerns which unite, not divide us,” said Kidder. Being politically conservative and caring about the environment are not mutually exclusive.”

Kidder added that institutional sustainability nearly always saves money and makes for healthier and non-toxic places to work and learn.

“I fear that people put sustainability efforts into a box that is separate from the rest of their lives instead of embracing them as something in which we can all participate in,” said Kidder. “We all can and should understand sustainability as something beneficial.”

 

 

Survivors of Noyes St. inferno express grief and shock

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:56

In the wake of a deadly house fire, the cause of which is still a mystery, several fundraising efforts have been started by community members mourning the loss of the six people who perished in the blaze.

According to Jerome LaMoria, Portland’s police chief, David Bragdon Jr., Ashley Thomas, Maelisha Jackson, Chris Conlee and Nicole Finlay all died on Noyes St. from smoke inhalation. The sixth victim, Steven Summers, died of his injuries in a Boston Hospital three days after the fire.

The Noyes St. tragedy, which is the deadliest house fire Portland has seen in 40 years, has unleashed a wave of grief, shock and reflection throughout the Portland community.

According to the Press Herald, Nathan Long, a tenant of Noyes St. escaped the fire with USM student Kyle Bozeman, by breaking a window and jumping from the second floor.

Long, still wearing borrowed clothing and shaking from shock told the Press Herald, “I feel numb.”

Long wrote on his Facebook page the day of the fire, “The smoke was so intense, and coming so fast. The fact that I didn’t have one minute to kick in the doors and save you will eat at me for the rest of my life.” Long referred to Bragdon Jr.,Thomas and Finlay, as “his family.” The three other victims were visitors to the house after a party was held Halloween night.

Bozeman and Nick Marketta, another USM survivor, declined making comments about the harrowing experience to the press because they “needed space to process.”

The survivor’s social media pages were flooded with messages of condolence, support and absolute shock. Many people also expressed immense gratitude that the survivors made it out safely. Bozeman received messages from tens of people that were all just relieved to learn of his safety.

Bozeman kept a positive dialogue going by thanking everybody for their support and good wishes and joined them in their grief over the six perished victims.

“I am beyond lucky to be alive,” wrote Bozeman. “You [referring to Bragdon, Thomas and Finlay] were more than just my roommates. You were my family. I had at least one angel looking over me. Now I’ve got three.”

Shannon Thompson, a Portland local, wrote on Long’s Facebook wall, “I am one of many people who are thinking of you and hoping you can somehow find peace with the loss of your friends.”

Through extensive posts about it on social media, and numerous mentions about it on the street, the Noyes St. tragedy has struck a deep chord in the Portland community beyond the immediate friends and family.

Eli Hubble a friend and co-worker of Bragdon at the Great Lost Bear, said that the entire community suffered a loss with this fire. Hubble said that Bragdon and Finlay brought nothing but joy to the world.

“Dave always had a smile on his face,” said Hubble. “I’ve never met anyone as happy and loving.”

Dustin Saucier, a local musician who’ll be playing in honor of the deceased at a fundraising event at the Space for Grace community center, described Bragdon as “a really nice guy.”

“I was completely shocked to hear what happened,” said Saucier. “I remember I kept thinking over and over again, ‘please let Dave be ok.’”

April Quebedeaux, a Portland local, was friends with three of the deceased and is still having trouble processing what happened.

“They were beautiful people,” said Quebedeaux. “I feel like there’s got to be some way to bring them back and then I realize I can’t. All I can do is hold on to all our beautiful memories.”

Quebedeaux said that she spent a good portion of one day last week sitting across the street from the Noyes St. house and staring at the burnt ruin.

“It was like my eyes were playing tricks on me,” said Quebedeaux. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

 

 

Obama visits Maine to endorse Michaud

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:44

President Barack Obama stirred and energized a crowd of 3,000 people at the Portland Expo on Thursday, endorsing Mike Michaud in Maine’s gubernatorial race just five days before elections.

Obama cited Michaud’s roots and dedication to the average Mainer as reasons for voters to check his box in the booth on Tuesday.

“He ran for the state legislature not because he wanted to be someone but because he wanted to do something, he wanted to fight for something,” said Obama, headlining other speakers from the democratic party. “Mike’s been fighting ever since for ordinary Mainers because that’s who he is.”

According to polls released by Bangor Daily News last week, Michaud will be battling incumbent Governor Paul LePage vote-for-vote on election day, with both of them polling near 42 percent with Maine voters.

Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who has been polling far behind, told supporters last week to vote for other candidates, but did not endorse LePage or Michaud directly. That same day, U.S. Senator Angus King changed his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud, noting he was a more realistic choice at this point in the race.

“You have a chance to choose a governor who puts you first,” Obama said.

Michaud spoke on recent polling, telling the audience that they could sway the election’s results simply by talking to their friends and family about voting and knocking on a door or two.

“What we do over the next five days will have a profound impact in the lives of thousands of Mainers. We are being held back by one person and one person only,” said Michaud, referring to LePage and speaking directly before Obama.

“You are all here today because, like me, you are not satisfied with what you’ve seen over the past four years,” said Michaud. “This is your state. You know we can do better and we must do better. This is your state and in five days you can take it back.”

Obama noted that Maine’s last gubernatorial race was just as tight as this year’s and stressed that just a small number of people can make a difference on election day.

“Four years ago, republicans won the governor’s race in Maine by less than 18 votes per precinct,” he said. “18 votes. Those 18 votes could be the difference between an economy that works for everybody or just for some.”

“Mike’s got a different vision for what the future holds and I think you do too,” said Obama. “In America, prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top. We build ladders for people to get into the middle class. We think the economy works best when it works for the many, not for the few. That’s Mike’s experience. That’s his life.”

Former Maine Senator George Mitchell also endorsed Michaud and spoke on his Maine roots as well, after speaking on the victories of the democratic party throughout history, such as creating Social Security, expanding voting rights and continuing to fight for women.

“Mike Michaud will never forget his roots as a working class man from the town of East Millinocket,” Mitchell said. “He respects others, he listens to people including those who disagree with him. He will never insult or look down on anyone else regardless of their circumstance.”

Both Obama and Michaud encouraged the crowd to go out of their way during the weekend to talk to everyone they knew about voting.

“If you’ve come to this rally, you’re probably going to vote,” said Obama. “You can’t stop at voting, you’ve got to get involved. Talk to your neighbors and knock on some doors for Mike.”

Toward the end of his 27-minute speech, Obama returned to themes of hope that he regularly used during his own campaign speeches, campaigns he says he’ll miss after his second presidential term expires. He urged the crowd to vote for Maine’s future and a hard working candidate instead of succumbing to political cynicism.

“Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon,” Obama said. “Cynicism has never ended a war, or cured disease, or built a business or taught a young mind … Hope is what built America. Show that you still have hope, and go out there and vote on Nov. 4.”

Non-majors vocalize concerns in budget cuts

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:43

Part of the administration’s rationale behind the elimination of the applied medical sciences program was that the major didn’t benefit other programs in the school. According to official census data taken on Oct. 15, 2014, this is not the case.

“In applied medical sciences there are 106 students, total, enrolled in a course in the AMS graduate programs,” said Christopher Quint, director of public relations. “Of those 106, 16 are AMS graduate students and 90 — combination of graduate and undergraduate — are non-AMS graduate students taking a course in the AMS graduate program in the fall 2014 semester.”

In other words, 85% of students taking classes in the AMS program are enrolled in different majors throughout the university.

Tristan Glenn, a student enrolled in the program’s immunology course working on his medical school prerequisites, described the program elimination as being terrible.

“[Applied medical sciences are] so incredibly important, given the time we’re in, with so many new diseases, threats of biological warfare, antibiotic resistance and all that,” said Glenn. “The thought that this subject, in particular, is being considered unimportant seems very myopic to me.”

Glenn also worries about the future of students like him, who wish to pursue medicine as a career.

“If USM makes these classes unavailable to people who do want to pursue a career of medicine, I don’t know where we’re going to go,” said Glenn. “I could go to UNE [University of New England], but it’s way too expensive.”

Glenn explained that, with the elimination of these programs, Maine is being left in a “bind.”

“It’s a fundamental disservice to Maine on an economic and social level,” Glenn said.

Allison Gray, a family nurse practitioner major and part time faculty member, attends classes in two of the five programs slashed in the past two months: applied medical sciences and American and New England studies.

“I have found them both to be so fundamental and enriching that it is beyond disappointing to me that it’s just an across the board cut, instead of how we could look at cross listing,” said Gray.

Gray finds it disappointing that nobody has asked the question “Would you, as a future medical professional, find these courses beneficial?”

“The immunology class I’m taking will completely affect how I practice as a provider,” said Gray. “Even my New England studies class, it’s totally outside what I normally do, but I have to say that even that course has affected me so much that I put in to try to work at the Indian Health Service for my clinicals because I was so moved by the information I gathered in the course.”

Gray believes that much of this could have been avoided or decisions could have been made in a less inflammatory way had there been consultation with students and faculty prior to making the decision.

“They’re teaching major things. They’re looking at vaccinations and preventing cancer and organ transplants,” said Gray. “These are important topics. It’s just disappointing that they [administration and board of trustees] don’t see the value of trying to make that work.”

According to Ah-Kau Ng, professor of immunology, classes are also used by students outside the university at different campuses, as well as by undergraduate students looking to be trained in the laboratory setting.

“The quality of their education depends on these experiences,” said Ng. “They’re very helpful to make them more competitive when they apply for jobs. Students are losing this opportunity.”

Still, faculty and students plan to continue to fight for the department. In meetings to come, S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology, plans to have both AFUM representation and legal representation, for both the students and faculty.

Professors in the program received their official retrenchment letters last Wednesday, sent directly to their homes via express mail at over $18 each.

“That would’ve bought a lot of coffee to have a lot of productive and constructive conversations over the past few months,” said Duboise. “But they didn’t choose to take that approach. They chose to attack.”

According to Duboise, this elimination is unprecedented in the academic world and “way outside” the range of ethical norms.

“It’s all a team effort and they’re essentially attacking us. It seems to be their intent. I think [President David] Flanagan enjoys this, and maybe some other people do too,” said Duboise. “It seems quite sadistic from where I sit.”

Faculty retrenched, some through voicemails

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:41

Last week 24 faculty members were notified that they would be losing their jobs in an administrative effort to balance USM’s budget and address its $16 million deficit.

These retrenchments are the second phase of the administration’s plan to reduce faculty costs, the first phase resulting in 25 faculty opting for early retirements with increased incentives. Targeted faculty received letters regarding their retrenchment, as their contracts require, and phone calls from deans of the college offering one-on-one meetings on their termination.

These phone calls were meant to connect retrenched faculty with deans for support and discussion following notification of layoffs but one dean went too far, reading an entire script meant to be looked over during meetings in a voicemail to some faculty, leaving some with the details of their job loss waiting for them on their office phones the next morning.

“I was fired by voicemail,” said Paul Christiansen, associate professor of music history, at a press conference held by anti-administration groups last Wednesday. “This is pathetic.”

Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, would not name the dean who made those calls, but said that it was a mistake. The script had been put together for one-on-one meetings if faculty chose to speak with the deans and not as a method for faculty to learn of their retrenchment.

“It was never our intention for that to happen and is definitely not a USM practice,” said Quint. “We are embarrassed and disappointed that it happened.”

Meeting with retrenched faculty is not a requirement but simply a good human resources practice to make sure affected faculty are supported. Faculty could either accept or decline meeting individually.

Last spring, when the administration announced the retrenchment of 12 faculty, professors were required to go directly to the Provost’s office to receive their letters one at a time, which resulted in a full day of student protests at the law building.

“This university is just a pathetic shadow of what a university should be,” said Susan Feiner, professor of economics and women and gender studies, at the press conference.

“This school doesn’t have any idea how students in some of these majors are going to graduate. They don’t have the faculty to teach some of the core classes and they don’t have the faculty because they were fired,” Feiner said.

Most of the retrenched faculty will leave at the end of the fall semester, while a handful will stay until the end of the academic year, as per their individual contracts. Spring classes set to be taught by faculty who will no longer work here are still included in the online course guide on MaineStreet, but the instructor is simply listed as “staff.”

Quint says the administration is still figuring out how those classes will be taught but that it will likely be a combination of part-time lecturers, adjunct faculty and remaining faculty in the programs that will help pick up the slack – a direct violation of the AFUM contract. Full-time faculty cannot be replaced with adjuncts in this way.

The administration has been regularly criticized by groups of faculty and students, most directly involved with programs that have been eliminated this year, for lack of leadership and a lack of vision for what USM is supposed to look like in the future.

Quint pointed out that the administrative leadership is brand new and has been forced to hit the ground running. President David Flanagan was appointed in August, Provost Joseph McDonnell in September and Quint shortly afterward.

“We don’t like having to cut back and it’s difficult to let people go who have been here for so long, but it’s what we’ve been tasked to do and what we have to do,” said Quint.

Rachel Bouvier, an associate professor of economics who was slated to be retrenched last spring, has received notice of her termination again. Near tears, she described the situation as “heart-breaking” at the press conference.

“You’ve told me wonderful stories about what I’ve meant to you, your experiences at USM and what the economics department has meant to you,” she said to students. “You need to tell your stories to the legislators. You need to tell them that your education is not just about a diploma, that it’s not just about a degree. Your education goes deeper than that.”

“You need to step up,” she said, “Not for me, but for you and your education.”

 

Flanagan responds to critics of his plan

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:41

When David Flanagan came out of retirement last year to tackle the daunting task of balancing USM’s $16 million budget shortfall, he said it would be obvious that his plans would be met with disapproval.

From faculty outraged over the loss of their jobs and elimination of their departments, to students upset and confused about the future of their degrees, to alumni and community members unsure that the quality and integrity of USM can endure, Flanagan has garnered plenty of dissenters and he knows it.

“I don’t think Flanagan is the right person to lead USM through this restructuring,” said David Colson, a 2007 political science graduate.

According to Quint, despite himself and Flanagan both receiving flak from not coming from an academic background, Flanagan’s experience at the Muskie School of Public Service makes him well equipped to lead USM.

“Most people don’t realize that Flanagan has been involved in some way, shape or form with USM since the early 90’s,” said Quint. “He has a deep intimate knowledge of how USM and the whole system works.”

On top of a law degree from Harvard, Flanagan was also the CEO of Central Maine Power, where he turned the company around from the brink of bankruptcy. USM’s problems with public confidence, rising costs and complex financial structure are not foreign to Flanagan.

“Flanagan knows how to run an organization and has experience with financial insecurity and enduring internal protests from staff,” said Quint.

Flanagan noted that nobody can be perfectly equipped to handle a challenge like USM’s budget problem.

Yet many people like Colson still believe that Flanagan’s resume isn’t enough to reverse the lack of trust and toxic atmosphere stemming from the administration. Nor is it enough to squash the negative reputation that’s lingering over USM.

“Flanagan’s past involvement in academic affairs was arguable a mixed success,” said Colson. “USM should not be looked upon as a business seeking to make a profit.”

“What boils my blood the most is that Flanagan does not care about education for the sake of helping to create a state full of people with diverse educational backgrounds,” said Lauren Besanko, a 2012 criminology graduate. “He cares about education as a business.”

Indeed much of the criticism stems from some people’s fear that USM will dismantle and shrink into a “corporatized tech university” operating strictly on a for-profit basis with a focus on online courses. Flanagan’s role as interim president has been reduced to the title of “hatchet man,” by many anonymous critics on online comment boards.

Flanagan applauded and offered his respects to the efforts and missions of school’s like SMCC, but said that USM has a different goal and that it’s not transforming into a similar institution.

“The corporations are lined up out the door desperate to come here and take over this institution,” said Flanagan sarcastically.

“Flanagan is being transparent about his commitment to the destruction of USM as a serious public university,” said Wendy Chapkis, a professor of sociology. “He exhibits no understanding of the USM community and entirely ignores the alternatives and appeals of the faculty, students and community leaders.”

Quint assures that the administration will not abandon the quest to make USM into a truly robust, metropolitan university.

“I was the executive director of a labor union before I came here,” said Quint. “I have no intentions to lead USM into some corporate takeover.”

With faculty being notified of layoffs through email and voicemail and students left in the dark about the future of their programs, some people like Michael Havlin, a recent business and economics graduate, believe that Flanagan has facilitated a disconnect between the administration and the rest of the community.

“The president wanted to lay off people the way its done in the private sector, quietly and without public disobedience,” said Havlin. “In some ways that disconnect was very intentional.”

Quint said they’ve been practicing complete transparency and that no administrative staff takes matters like layoffs lightly.

“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have thoughts of the people that are going to lose their jobs,” said Quint. “These are people that have dedicated their lives to the university and nobody is questioning their love and commitment to USM.”

“I do reflect on the lives that my decisions affect,” said Flanagan. “I’ve had to lay off people before in my career. It’s never easy.”

Flanagan said that he gets no joy out of making decisions that jeopardize people’s lives and careers.

Quint said, “This job is hard.”

 

GEB discusses possibility of a merge with PEB

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:40

By: Annie Quandt

If you’ve been noticing a lack of events by the Portland Events Board on campus, and have tried calling their representative, you won’t get a response. The office has been empty for about a month now, with no one taking up the title of board or chair holder and no meetings being held.

“The history behind it, is that back towards the end of September, Keith Garson, elected chair of Portland Events Board, said he was considering resigning as he just had too much on his plate. No one was showing up to the board meetings, and so the Student Senate helped and created an ad-hoc committee,” said Daniel Welter, coordinator of student activities.

“We’re waiting for the senate committee to come forward with a recommendation to decide what the best option is for student events,” said Welter.

Welter noted that it’s still a topic of discussion, and that he believes people need to keep an open mind regarding the best course of action for the PEB.

“The merger is one of a few options that are out on the table right now, but there’s an opportunity with the merger for students who have a high level of experience and skill in the GEB to have change made in Portland,” said Welter.

Welter added that if a new PEB were created, it could revitalize the board and would provide “a new, fresh take on things.”

“I don’t think either would be particularly easy, but I support whatever serves the students best,” said Welter.

According to Joshua Dodge, chair of the student senate, the PEB is exploring other options as well, in case the senate deems it undesirable to conjoin the two boards.

“We want to maintain the integrity of the Gorham Events Board itself, and enrich them as well. We want to make sure we have as much success as we’ve had in the past. We would want to serve Portland well, as well. We could have as much success in Portland as we’ve had here,” said Chelsea Tibbetts, a member of student senate.

According to Welter, any changes will not happen overnight.

“It’s being looked into very heavily to make sure we have everything in place. I would suspect by the second or third week of November, right before Thanksgiving, that a decision will be made,” Welter said.

However, Dodge thinks the decision will be made more quickly, possibly as soon as this Friday.

Welter mentioned that there’s no lack of events so far in Gorham, and discussed the type of activities they are planning. Welter said that the Gorham Events Board is operating as normal. This week they’re showing Hocus Pocus, GEB next week is doing an event in Portland called ‘USM’s got Talent!’ in Woodbury and the week after that they’re having a tropical party in Gorham.

“Traditionally we do a little bit more for Halloween, but we wanted to make it engaging but not as staff intensive,” Welter said.

Tibbetts spoke of the possibility of a merger positively.

“I think a merger would enrich both campuses in a different way, we’d be able to bring more of the population of Gorham to Portland,” said Tibbetts. “We have more off-campus activities and events that we could expand upon that as well.”

 

Five dead and one critically injured in a house fire near USM

Sun, 2014-11-02 06:34

A fire engulfed a two family home on 20 Noyes St. last Saturday, killing five people and severely injuring another, who is now in an intensive burn center in Boston.

According to President David Flanagan, seven tenants did escape the structure, one of which was USM student Nick Marcketta. It is unclear whether the fatalities involved USM students, as the police and fire department still are working diligently to identify the bodies, which according to them might take several days.

Flanagan said that another tenant that is a USM student is confirmed to have been out of state at the time of the fire.

The police spokesperson Stephen McCausland originally stated earlier in the day that none of the affected were students.

“The police spokesman has been making some statements that just aren’t true, he is saying there are no USM students involved. I hope to God that’s true, but we won’t know that for sure until they identify the bodies, and that’s going to take a while,” said Flanagan.

Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria spoke during a press conference and said the injured man in critical condition escaped by jumping out of a second story window while on fire. Before being taken to Boston, he was first brought to Maine Medical Center.

“My friend saw one person that was on fire and put it out by rolling on the ground,” said Justin Van-Soest, a neighbor who gathered on Noyes St. after hearing sirens while walking his dog.

Van-Soest said that what was the most striking about the fire was its scale.

“The flames were in every window,” said Van -Soest. “It was an absolute inferno, with flames billowing out of the roof and crumbling the balustrades.”

The fire was so large that Back Bay Skate owner, Bruce Little, thought that the fire had spread to his shop.

“I heard that it went up really quick,” said Little. “It’s so sad.”

According to Van-Soest the building and its owner, Greg Nesbitt, was looked on negatively by some community members.

“The building was starting to deteriorate,” said Van-Soest. “With furniture all over the lawn and frequent parties, the building was considered sort of an eyesore.”

Van-Soest said that the building’s tenants had a history of noise complaints and large parties, one of which allegedly took place the night before the fire.

As of now the Portland police and fire department have not yet determined what the cause of the fire was, but people like Van-Soest believe the party might have played a part.

“One plausible explanation could of been the party,” said Van-Soest. “People could’ve been passed out drunk with lit cigarettes or candles.”

Police officers and firefighters were working all day last Saturday, since the fire was reported at 7:17 a.m.

“We are working on a plan with the medical examiner to remove the bodies,” said LaMoria. “Part of the investigation will also include looking for any code violations that may have caused the fire.”

Portland Chief Fire Marshall Joe Thomas is leading the investigation.

LaMoria thanked President Flanagan and the USM community for opening its doors to accommodate the friends and families of the victims. The Woodbury Campus Center was open for most of the day to serve as a place where the Red Cross can offer their emotional support.

“On behalf of the mayor and the council, we want to express our deepest sympathies,” said LaMoria. “This is an enormous tragedy for this community. We are doing all we can to bring closure.”

This story will be updated.

 

Students upset over ebola costume get police called on them

Tue, 2014-10-28 13:09

When five students from the multicultural center were hanging out and studying during their weekly “Feel Good Fridays” event, the last thing they expected was to be struck by a torrent of fear, anger and confusion.

As Howa Mohammed, a junior health sciences major, peered out of the center she was shocked to see two people walking down the hall wearing Ebola nurse hazmat suits. Howa Mohammed and several of her friend’s minds instantly went to the worst case scenario: there’s been an outbreak.

“It was terrifying, for a second we thought the area was being quarantined,” said Howa Mohammed.

“I remember my heart was beating so fast,” said Hamdi Hassan, a freshman history major. “They could have caused hysteria.”

Upon realizing that the two hazmat suits were just students in costume for the SNOtober Fest, a yearly costume party organized by the student nurses organization, the girl’s fear quickly turned to anger and disgust.

“We kept hoping that they were astronauts and then we were told that they were meant to be ebola nurses,” said Mohammed. “It just seemed so preposterous and insensitive that someone came up with that costume idea.”

According to Idman Abdulkadir, a junior communications major, choosing a costume like that is extremely rude and offensive, especially in a time where the ebola virus is eradicating the lives of several thousand people around the globe. According to the center for disease control, Ebola has killed more than 4,800 people in West Africa alone, and many people in the states have family that are affected by those deaths.

In an attempt to deal with their anger and confusion in a respectful and non-confrontational way, Hassan called upon her friend Leila Mohamed, a USM graduate and intern at the multicultural center, to approach the nurses and convey their discontent. Leila Mohamed, well versed in how to communicate sensitive issues and combat micro aggression, felt well equipped to talk to the nurses and express her and her friend’s feelings in a respectful way.

“I’ve worked for Portland Student Life for two years now, so I’m well trained in civility and how to avoid conflict,” said Leila Mohamed. “I didn’t demand that they take off their costumes. I just peacefully asked them to recognize the impact of their actions, because some students were really shaken up.”

According to Leila Mohamed, seeing a costume of an ebola nurse can act as a trigger for some people.

Leila Mohamed said that she expected the nurses to be apologetic and understanding, but they were instead passive and slightly rude. Instead the nurses replied that they were just having fun and the whole costume was just a joke. According to Abdulkadir, one of the costumed nurses said “This is America, we have rights.”

Then, in what Abdulkadir called “the worst part of the night,” the cops were called.

After addressing the issue and returning to their study center, the multicultural girls were surprised to see a cop approaching them.

“They took it to the next level by calling the cops,” said Leila Mohamed. “It was the last thing we expected them to do, and by doing that, we feel like they made into a race issue, when it originally wasn’t one.”

The campus crime report, reads that a “report of an altercation” was taken that day in Woodbury campus center.

According to Abdulkadir, a cop was dispatched because the nurses felt threatened by multicultural students and considered them to be dangerous. Abdulikar and the rest of her friend group believes that they were labeled as a threat because of their race.

“Why would they feel threatened by some girls approaching them and calmly addressing an issue?” asked Abdulkadir. “ When we’re provoked and don’t respond with anger, we’re still labeled as the aggressors. It’s so unfair.”

Abdulkadir believes that if she and her friends were white that this situation would of been resolved without the police. According to Abdulkadir, many people she knows have to go through this incidents of racial micro-aggression on a daily basis.

“They called the police on the people that were offended the most; it makes no sense,” said Abdulkadir. “This school is supposed to foster an environment where students can feel comfortable and safe.”

After reaching out to Abigail Krolak the organizer of the event and a student nurse that was in attendance, they both declined to comment.

 

 

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