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Food waste on campus: Eat what you take

Mon, 2016-01-25 15:00

As students return from break and begin to use the dining hall on a full time basis, a new campaign is being launched to educate students on the amount of food that gets wasted every day.

On average, a student wastes about five ounces of food every day and an average of 1,000 students visit the dining hall to eat each day, if each of them were to waste five ounces that would be 5,000 ounces, or about 312 pounds, of wasted food every day.

The campaign encourages students to eat as much as they want, but to be sure that they eat what they take.

“We think we can make a change by educating people,” said Steve Sweeney, Resource Recovery Supervisor for USM’s Department of Facilities Management.

On average, 3,000 pounds of food is wasted in the dining halls every week, and close to 600 tons of waste a year. Most of this wasted food goes to a Gorham farmer who picks up the scraps twice a week to feed to his pigs.

The 3,000 pounds of wasted food is coming only from the Brooks Dining Center in Gorham because it is the only place where food waste is collected separately from other waste, though, currently between 300 and 400 pounds of food waste is collected from the Portland campus and Lewiston generates far less food waste because there is far fewer people having meals there, according to Tyler Kidder, Assistant Director for Sustainable Programs.

“Food waste has always been an issue at USM although we are lucky to have been diverting our waste from Brooks Dining in Gorham to farmers for animal feed for over 20 years,” Kidder said,

What about set portions? If a student were to enter the dining hall and just receive the proper amount of food so none of it would be wasted, that would cut down on waste, but as Kidder pointed out, that wouldn’t work in an all-you-can-eat, buffet style, dining hall.

“Over time, more of the stations in Brooks have been staffed meaning that portions are more carefully controlled in some areas. The idea isn’t to encourage students to eat more or less, but just to choose the right amount to put on their plate,” Kidder said.

Kidder went on to say that idea behind the campaign is to educate the consumer and allow them to be apart of the solution.

The campaign is beginning just a little over a month after Representative Chellie Pingree introduced a bill to Congress aimed at reducing the amount of food that is wasted every year in the United States.

If the bill is passed it would create an office of food recovery within the U.S. Department of Agriculture whose mission would be to support federal programs that reduce incidents of food waste.

“Forty percent of all food produced in the United States each year is wasted,” Pingree said in a statement released on her website. “The Food Recovery Act takes a comprehensive approach to reducing the amount of food that ends up in landfills and at the same time reducing the number of Americans who have a hard time putting food on the table.”

If passed the bill would also fund grants for food waste-saving efforts at schools.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded USM with a Regional Food Recovery Achievement Certificate for their efforts in cutting the amount of food wasted in both preparation and thrown away.

But USM has been doing more than that in their part to help protect the environment. In 2011, USM recycled at a rate of 34 percent, which was the national average for that year, and it cost $58,000 to eliminate waste.

In 2012, USM started the Tiny Trash Initiative, getting rid of standard trash cans and replacing them with a much smaller trash can made for wrappers, napkins and food scraps, mostly everything else was to be recycled. That year recycling rose to 46 percent and the cost of eliminating waste dropped to $35,000.

Then in 2013, the Tiny Trash Initiative won the Grand Eco-Excellence Award and recycling rose again at USM to 51 percent and costs continue to fall, costing $24,000 to eliminate the waste. USM saw the same trend again in 2014, recycling rose to 61 percent and costs went down again to $16,000.

According to Sweeney, changes were made in small ways, such as switching from paper towels to hand dryers to save money. USM also started separating liquids, allowing students to pour out their unused liquids instead of mixing it in with the other waste.

USM now reduces its waste by 20 tons, pouring that liquid waste down the drain.

Coffee is big at USM, selling roughly 2,350 cups every week and four tons of coffee grounds each year, instead of throwing those coffee grounds in with the waste it has been repurposed for compost.

USM has also started selling fryer oil for 75 cents per gallon and it collects and sells ink and toner cartridges, bringing in $600 a year.

“We are taking what was once an expense and turning it into income,” said Sweeney.

In an ideal world, there would be no food waste, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. According to Kidder, USM is fortunate that it can divert food to animal feed and compost but even that isn’t a perfect solution due to safety and liability concerns.

“My dream is that in the future USM and other institutions like it are able to send uneaten good quality food to those who need it without any barriers. Some of the people that need it may be right on our campus,” Kidder said. “Anything that could be donated to people or composted would be collected in every building on campus and nothing would go to waste.”

Because of the mass volume of students that eat in the Brooks Center, that’s where most of the effort to limit food waste is happening and Kidder is hopeful that they will be able to cut back on food waste by 20 percent by the end of this semester.



Mon, 2016-01-25 14:59

Local & State

Man found dead in Durham rest area, foul play not suspected

Alan Kelley, 43, was found dead in a Durham rest stop on Tuesday morning, police say that there is no sign of foul play.

Kelley was originally from Durham, but most recent reports show that he was living in a Lewiston homeless shelter.

Five miles from where his body was found, lived his estranged wife and child.

Police say that when they found Kelley’s body he had a hypodermic needle in his clothes and was not dressed for the cold, a medical examiner will conduct a toxicology test before ruling on the cause of death.

Maine Moms Demand Action turn in petitions for ballot measure

Maine election officials are currently going through petitions for a ballot measure that would allow the Maine people to vote on requiring criminal background checks on all private gun sales in the state.

The group claims to have 72,000 signatures, they needed 61,123 valid signatures and election officials have until February 18 to verify the signatures, if valid the measure will be on the ballot this November.

Currently, most licensed gun dealers will offer a background for private sales, but most come with a fee. If passed, the measure would require that private sellers have background checks done on potential buyers through the federal system.

Top health official says Maine needs more data to help fight heroin addiction

On Tuesday, the top health official in Maine said that the state needs better data to help connect patients of addiction with effective treatment.

According to Mary Mayhew, the state’s health and human services commissioner, substance abuse providers that are contracted through the state still have around $500,000 in unspent funds, which she believes is an indication that treatment availability is meeting its demand.

Despite her claims, those who run these treatment programs have been complaining that there isn’t nearly enough treatment capacity to tackle the heroin problem in Maine. Especially those who are uninsured, they have the most difficult time finding treatment.

Mayhew said that more data would give the state the information it needs to make decisions on the strategy for tackling the heroin problem in the state.

“The providers are not submitting comprehensive data to us. We’re not getting the kind of detail we need,” Mayhew said.  


2015 was the hottest year on record

On Wednesday, scientists reported that across the globe, 2015 was the hottest year on record, breaking the record that had been set the previous year in 2014. In the United States, 2015 was the second hottest year on record, with a December that was the warmest and wettest on record.

Scientists say that part of the heat had to do with the El Nino weather pattern which was releasing large amounts of heat into the atmosphere from the Pacific Ocean, but most of the heat comes from global warming due to the large amount of carbon emissions by humans.

It isn’t certain yet, but the back to back record years in heat may put the world back on a path of rapid global warming, after a period that saw relatively slow warming since the last El Nino which was in 1998.

Two astronomers found signs of potential ninth planet

It’s possible that a ninth planet has been discovered by two astronomers that say they have found signs of something that would fulfill the current definition of a planet.

The two astronomers have yet to find the planet, only evidence that it exist. In a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, they lay out their evidence for the planet’s existence.

The planet is most likely located further out than Pluto and an equal to Earth, but it’s likely that it’s much larger, with a mass about 10 times the size of Earth and 4,500 times the mass of Pluto.

Obama finally comments of poisoned Flint, Michigan drinking water

Dozens of Flint residents have been poisoned and hundreds of others are still unsure if they will see any ill effects after lead was found in their drinking water after the city switched it’s water source to save money. The city has since gone back to Detroit for its water.

“I told her that we are going to have her back, and all of the people of Flint’s back, as they work their way through this terrible tragedy,” President Obama said in a White House meeting with Flint Mayor, Karen Weaver.

Just hours before President Obama made this statement, Mayor Weaver stated that something like this never would have happened in a rich suburb. Flint, Michigan is a poor city with a mostly black population.

Hillary Clinton also stated in the Presidential Debate on Sunday, January 17, that there would have been action if this had happened in a rich suburb in Detroit.


20 killed during Taliban attack at a university in Pakistan

Last Wednesday, Taliban members in Pakistan stormed a university, killing at least 20 people, most of which were students and teachers. As of now, reports show that there were at least four attackers.

The attackers used fog for cover as they made their way through fields, scaling the back wall of the university, storming through classrooms and open firing.

Security forces cornered the attackers, which some described as appearing to be teenagers, in two university blocks, sparking combat that reportedly lasted for hours. Officials report that the attackers were killed before they could explode their suicide vests.

1,400 year old monastery in Iraq reduced to rubble by Islamic State

Irbil, Iraq was the home of St. Elijah’s Monastery for 1,400 years before the Islamic State destroyed it on Wednesday, continuing their destruction of ancient cultural sites.

Recently, the monastery was used as a place of worship for U.S. troops.

“I can’t describe my sadness,” said Rev. Paul Thabit Habib. “Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled. We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.”

St. Elijah’s Monastery has joined a list of over 100 religious and historic sites in Iraq and Syria that have been destroyed by the Islamic State.

More Brazilian babies are being born with birth defects due to Zika virus

There has been an increasing amount of cases in Brazil of children being born with abnormally small heads because their mother has the Zika virus. There have been 3,893 cases since October.

This is the largest outbreak on record of the Zika virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites.

Currently, the virus has killed five babies and another 44 cases are being investigated.

Brazil isn’t the only Latin American country being hit by the virus, latest reports show that Colombia has had more than 13,500 cases of the virus reported.

An introduction to the invasive species of Maine

Mon, 2016-01-25 14:57

By Haley Depner

This is the first article in a four part series. The first article focuses on introducing the concept of invasive species. The remaining articles will look at case studies of invasive species in Maine.

Every year damage from invasive species costs the United States billions of dollars more than damage from all other natural disasters in the U.S. combined.

According to the Washington State Invasive Species Council, invasive species in the US impact nearly half of the species listed as threatened or endangered by the US Endangered Species Act.

But what is an invasive species and how do they cause problems? In order to fully understand the answer, we first need to have a little background in ecology.

Ecosystems are never static. The ranges where species inhabit have been altered, spread, and eliminated since the beginning of competitive life on Earth.

Natural disasters and shifting climate have always had influence on where lifeforms can spread and thrive. Natural disasters have the potential to wipe out local populations as well as sweep species into new territories that they had yet to colonize.

Fluctuating climate causes some lifeforms to migrate to more desirable ranges (if accessible) while prompting other species to shift the timing of their breeding or growing seasons.

When an organism is taken away from or a new organism is added to an ecosystem, the change may be felt throughout the system. Such changes could signal the end to some populations in a community and the introduction and proliferation of others. Whenever a population joins or leaves a community or shifts its life cycle according to a change in climate, there is potential for the ecosystem to be significantly altered.

The Pennsylvania State New Kingston University sums up the reasons for this nicely in an entry in their Virtual Nature Trail:

“A consequence of living is the sometimes subtle and sometimes overt alteration of one’s own environment. The original environment may have been optimal for the first species of plant or animal, but the newly altered environment is often optimal for some other species of plant or animal. Under the changed conditions of the environment, the previously dominant species may fail and another species may become ascendant.”

With that being said, it is not surprising when humans bring exotic species from far away places into new communities that the effects of the introduction may be felt throughout the ecosystem. Anthropogenic introduction of species occurs in a variety of ways and for an assortment of purposes. Domesticated and game species are brought to new ecosystems by people who rely on them as resources. Some species are brought in as a form of biological control for serving anthropogenic activities such as agriculture. Other species that are brought in are merely for decorative purposes, kept as pets, or are unintentionally introduced by hitchhiking their way into new ecosystems. All of these situations have the potential for the non-native species to find their way into the foreign ecosystem.

Non-native species can compete with, prey upon, and infect native species with parasites and/or diseases of which they have no immunity to. Executive Order 13112 defines a native species as “with respect to a particular ecosystem, a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.”

A non-native or alien species, on the other hand, is defined by the order as “with respect to a particular ecosystem, any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem.”

If a non-native species has a significant ecological impact it is dubbed “invasive.” An invasive species, as defined by the Executive Order, is “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

The amount of impact inflicted by the non-native species on its new habitat depends on many factors. A good example of this is Oryctolagus cuniculus, a species of rabbit that, according to Flavia Schepmans of Columbia University, writing for the Invasive Species Summary Project , has spread from its original range in Europe to every continent except Asia and Antarctica, thanks to the aid of humans.

The spreading of this species began about a thousand years ago when Romans brought the mammal with them to Italy for food. According to researchers at the World Rabbit Science Association, today introduced populations of O. cuniculus in Italy are relied upon as a keystone species.

While the introduction of O. cuniculus worked out fine in Italy and select other regions, the same cannot be said for other environments that the rabbits have spread to. As Schepmans wrote:

“in Australia (and many small islands where it has been introduced), the rabbit, virtually unchecked by local predators, decimates plants, affects soil composition, and changes entire ecosystems. In Australia, the rabbit competes for food and shelter with native animals such as the wombat, the bilby, the burrowing bettong and the bandicoot, and therefore has contributed to the decline of these native species.”

Schepmans explains that this species has become particularly problematic in Australia largely due to its fitness and the lack of predators:

“The European rabbit is a highly adaptable animal. It is not a picky eater and breeds very fast. In Australia, the rabbit was particularly successful at spreading like wildfire because its natural predators from back home, the weasel and fox, were not originally present Down Under. The dingo and Tasmanian wolf, Australia’s native carnivores (and potential rabbit consumers), were themselves being kept in check by local sheep and cattle ranchers, so they were not effective at keeping the rabbit populations down. The rabbits’ spread was also aided by early hunters whose interest lay in having the animals spread so they could hunt more of them.”

The contrast between the outcomes of the introduction of O. cuniculus in different settings demonstrates that it is not just what species but where it is released that determines the amount of impact on local ecosystems. The same species exists as a thriving nonnative keystone species in Italy, while having detrimental effects in Australia.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are already approximately 50,000 exotic species known to be in the United States. Of these, the US Geological Survey reports that there are currently over 6,500 species that are considered invasive.

During their 2012 fiscal year, the Department of the Interior spent over $2 billion on the prevention and control of invasive species in the United States. This funded activities that help slow the spread and impact of invasive species in the United States through prevention, early detection and rapid response, control and management, research, habitat restoration, education and public awareness, and leadership and international cooperation.

This is a small investment compared to the almost $138 billion estimated by the NOAA to be lost every year due to the impacts of invasive species in the U.S.

Maine residents and companies lose millions every year because of invasive species. These species affect Maine residents by negatively impacting agricultural productivity, the productivity of fisheries, forest and other habitat growth and stability, decrease property values, and disfigure favored tourism and recreational destinations. This damage is caused by dozens of species of plants, invertebrates, fish, microorganisms, and fungus that have found their way into the state.

The age-old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” may be cliché but is a truism nonetheless. The best way to fight invasive species is to not let them become established in the first place. This means taking measures to prevent introduction, such as keeping firewood within 30 miles of where it was collected, making sure boats are clean of any plants or animals before entering new waters, thoroughly inspecting vehicles for insect eggs when traveling out of state and selecting species for cultivation and biological control that are native to the area or support the ecosystem (for example, apples are not native to North America but are relied upon by many species as a food source). These measures do more to reduce damage caused by invasives than trying to rebalance ecosystems after the damage has occurred.

This is not to say that attempts to heal ecosystems affected by invasive species are not important. Clearing away invasive species and reintroducing native species can help an ecosystem reestablish its balance. Actions such as removing invasive plant species from your garden and replacing them with native plants help to reverse the damage.

According to  Sarah Ogden, Program Coordinator at the Maine Wildlife Park in Grey, species are more likely to become invasive if, in the foreign habitat, they have no natural predators (or in the case of plants, have nothing consuming their plant matter), have a quick reproduction rate, and/or are a generalist species (species that are highly adaptable and capable of thriving in a variety of habitats).

This article is the first in a four part series on invasive species in Maine. Three more articles in this series will be published in this paper throughout the spring semester. These articles will look at case studies of three invasive species in Maine that students can easily play a role in their control and eradication. Each article will introduce a species, give its profile, discuss its history as to how it was introduced, explore the impacts it has on Maine’s ecosystems and the Maine economy and provide information as to how that species is spread and how it can be controlled.

The topic for the next article is the potentially invasive red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) and will be coming out in the next few weeks. The two remaining articles will focus on wood-boring beetles and invasive plants you may find in your garden.


President Cummings used first semester to repair and heal USM

Mon, 2016-01-25 14:36

By Bradford Spurr/Free Press Staff & Troy Bennett/Bangor Daily News

Midway through the month of May in late 2015 it was announced that the university had found a more stable solution to the presidency as opposed to the revolving door of interims that has plagued USM for the past four years.

Dr. Glenn Cummings, former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, would replace President David Flanagan starting on the first of July. This was after a presidential replacement had already been announced but the candidate, Harvey Kesselman, was forced to withdraw his application due to unforeseen circumstances at his current university.

The change and decision was not welcomed by all, chief amongst the dissenters were the faculty members who felt particularly alienated and taken advantage of by the administration.

One of President Cummings’ first acts as Commander in Chief of USM was to hold a breakfast forum for the entire USM faculty where he asked those who decided to show up two things: the first was what would you tell the new president to do or to warn against doing and the second was tell me something that you are proud of. It was clear by the responses that community engagement in both Portland and USM was deeply important to them.

President Cummings also promised to dig into the coffers and “eat some reserves, give people a little time to rest but soon we will have to pick up our knapsacks and keep going up the hill,” when layoffs were put on hold for the 2014-15 academic year.

There is still a $3.9 million budget gap that USM is staring at moving forward so the same promise to job security could not be made at this time. All that President Cummings is able to commit to currently is the hope “to create the best strategy around filling that [budget] gap with the least impact on students.”

The University of Southern Maine finds itself at a crossroads where it is no longer tethered to snap decisions and hasty conclusions made by distant authority figures and is instead soldiering on with a President that it can hold accountable and who has concrete and attainable goals for this school.

President Cummings’ goals moving forward through the end of this semester are “to work through this budget, it is going to be a tough one and get ready for the ‘17 budget year and secondly is to begin to, now that the leadership team is in place, reach out to the top 20, 30, 40 chief executive officers in this area and begin to build this alliance.”

With 209 days under his belt the new President has made great strides to “repair and heal” the university, but we are only halfway up the mountain and only time will tell when a conclusion will be reached surrounding the fiscal crisis that the University of Southern Maine has found itself in.


First Somali Woman Police Officer in Portland

Mon, 2016-01-25 14:35

By Seth Koenig

Pious Ali — who was touted as the first African-born man and first Muslim to be elected to public office in Portland when he was voted onto the school board in 2013 — posted on social media that Abu became the state’s first female Muslim police officer.

“The Portland Police Department certainly strives to have our workforce mirror our community,” Chief Michael Sauschuck, whose city is the most diverse in Maine, told the BDN. “We realize the importance of diversity, and how that builds trust and relationships in the community. But our priority is hiring the very best people we can find.

“I don’t care what color they are or what gender they are,” he continued. “I want the best people possible to serve the city of Portland and Zahra Abu is one of them. I absolutely understand the impact when you break down barriers like this. But she may or may not be the first [female Muslim police officer in the rest of Maine] — I don’t know for sure.”

Sauschuck said Abu was not available for interviews Friday afternoon, but said the swearing-in represented a “truly powerful moment.”

“I think internally here, officers went to a swearing-in today because they’re happy and they’re proud to be welcoming new folks into the Portland PD family,” he said. “I believe that our officers, including Zahra, realize it could potentially be a groundbreaking scenario. But they don’t necessarily look at it that way, because we treat everybody the same. I’m proud of all five of our new officers. She’s top notch, as is the rest of the group.”

The chief said Abu’s parents are natives of Somalia, and that Abu herself is a Deering High School graduate who has been in the country since infancy. Katrina Ferguson is a 2009 Deering graduate said she played sports alongside Abu.

“We called her AZ,” Ferguson told the BDN’s Troy R. Bennett. “She was two grades below me, but we had some overlap being on sports teams and such. Very funny girl, big sense of humor.”

Ferguson said she had heard the news of Abu’s hiring as a Portland police officer.

“I’m really excited for her,” she said.

By some estimates, there are between 5,000 and 7,000 Somalis in Portland.

“People were thinking, to be a police officer, you have to be born in the U.S. … you have to be white,” Muhidin Libah, executive director of the Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine, told Reuters last year. “They never thought they could be a police officer.”

Said Sauschuck: “There’s no question that having a person who speaks Somali fluently – the current system is that we have to call in a translator or sometimes conduct three-way interviews over the phone – gives us access to build a rapport [with certain immigrant communities]. You can build that naturally through a mutual language, and that’s incredibly powerful.”

In Lewiston, the state’s second largest city, the police chief said he hoped to attract Somali immigrant candidates as a way to fill nagging vacancies and better reflect the diversity of its constituents.

“When you’re trying to live in a place, then you need to look like that place,” ZamZam Mohamud, the first Somali immigrant elected to the Lewiston school committee, told Reuters. “If we have Somali police officers, Somali lawyers, Somali judges … That is a sign the community is assimilating, people are feeling comfortable.”

Sauschuck said the Portland Police Department ultimately hires less than 3 percent of the people who apply for jobs, saying candidates must get through a rigorous selection process which includes a written exam, a physical test, a board interview, a background check, and medical and psychological tests.

The chief said once candidates are hired — such as the five that were sworn in Friday — they must attend 18 weeks of training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and work through another 14 weeks of field training with local police.

“It’s tough enough to be a police officer today, let alone to be the first of anything,” he said, adding, “We’re looking for communicators, we’re looking for compassionate communicators who really do want to help people. You’re not out here for the pay — you really want to make a difference. This is a profession, a calling, where you really can do that.”

Police Beats

Mon, 2016-01-25 14:32


Reading Books Deemed Illegal

Unwanted person, Glickman Library. Officer located a person that is not welcomed at the library. Trespass paperwork served by Officer.

Buying Books, Also Illegal

Unwanted person, Woodbury Campus Center. Unwelcome person reported in the store. Unfounded, no official restriction in place.

Beating with Books, Awesome

Disturbance, Glickman Library. Staff reports two people fighting. Officer responded. Trespass paperwork issued.


Rookie Cop’s Big Break

Motor Vehicle Stop, Fort Hill Rd. Vehicle defect issued for brake light out.

“I Used My Mouth Hole to Tell Him To Stop”

Motor Vehicle Stop, Campus Ave. Verbal warning for stop sign violation.

Cops Score Crack Pipe Study-Buddy

Drug complaint, Upton Hastings Hall. R.D, Drug paraphernalia found and turned over to Police. Report taken.


Haunted Shaft Dial Cops

911 Call, 59 Exeter St. Emergency phone in elevator. No answer. Handled by Dispatch.


It’s Tricky When They’re Not Moving

Motor Vehicle Crash, G20 Parking lot. Vehicle struck parked car. Report taken.


Mother Called; Wash Your Butt

Attempt to Locate, Parents called about locating son on Gorham campus. Student located.


Poo Box Dumped

Abandoned Motor Vehicle, 88 Bedford St Parking Garage. Vehicle towed. Report taken.


Riveting News

Abandoned Motor Vehicle, G20 parking lot. Dispatch made contact with the owner. Vehicle will be moved in the next two weeks.


Don’t Mess With Lib. Staff

Criminal trespass, Glickman library. Staff reports that a subject known to them is trespassing. Subject was arrested by USM Officer and transported to the Cumberland County Jail.


OK U Broke In; Leave Door Alone

Burglary report, Glickman Library. Staff reports that a known subject had broken into the Library and while doing so damaged an exterior door. Report taken. Officer investigating. Update: Subject identified, criminal charges pending.


Hockey-Booze; Perfect Marriage

Disorderly Conduct and Assault,  Ice Arena, 55 Campus Drive. Report of a Student being disorderly and would like them removed. Student was uncooperative and assaultive. Was arrested for Assault and taken to the Cumberland County Jail. Also charged with Minor Consuming Liquor.



Motor Vehicle Accident, G20 Parking Lot. Vehicle rolled out of parking space and into another vehicle. Report taken.


Noyes Street fire memorial approved by committee

Wed, 2015-10-28 13:43

On November 1, 2014, a fire engulfed a two family home on 20 Noyes Street killing six people. In the aftermath of the tragic event, some people in the local community have proposed a memorial for the victims: six diamonds comprised of small blue lights with a white orb in the center. However, recent neighborhood objections have come up, leaving the possibility of this memorial in the hands of the city’s arts committee.

Ashley Summers is a member of the coordinator committee for the Noyes St. fire memorial and wife of Steven Summers, who died tragically in the fire last year.

“The committee has been working hard since January, so over the past nine months has kept herself busy to not focus on the bad thoughts.” said Summers. “She has been one of the leading team members to get the “Starts of Light” memorial off the ground and into the trees of Longfellow park.

Summers said the team worked together with city officials and worked on the installation of electricity, but it wasn’t long before problems arose. Her team was able to raise $8,000 and install the lighting system in the park, but a day later she heard rumoured complaints from her neighbors who wanted the display taken down.

Summers said when her committee attempted to address the problematic situation, city officials accused the group of not following process. She stated that it should have gone before the committee months ago, and that it just wasn’t an acceptable answer for her.

“A few neighbors ganged up against us because they don’t want the lights in the park, but they are just contacting the city alone,” said Summers. “They are telling people they don’t want to change the nature of the park, but these lights will be in the tree’s above the park – it’s not changing the landscape. I mean, every other park in Portland has electricity.”

“When I heard it was USM faculty member Laurie Davis who was the leader of this anti-memorial group,  I couldn’t believe it. One of her jobs is to connect young people,” said Summers. “It upsets me to know they will say these hateful things about our way of memorializing our families and hide their names and faces from the public. The worst part is, these people are elected officials and they know what they’re doing is wrong.”

Davis was unavailable for comment on her point of view, and city hall failed to respond to our request for information on the subject matter.

Portland local Layne Waddell was extremely close with each of the victims who died in the fire. Although he believes the idea of the lights would be a great way to memorialize the lives of each victim, he’s not advocating for their installation.

“I would love to see [the lights] go up, but I personally memorialize my friends in my own ways so I suppose it wouldn’t make much of a difference if they went up or not,” said Waddell.  “I just am trying very hard to put this behind me and move on. They were all like family to me which is why it’s tough to talk about them.

What Waddell would like to see happen is to see some lights  near the tragic scene: something to brighten up the dump that they have left sitting there. She said that in the summer, it would also be a great idea to have a community garden there.

In an email exchange between occupants of Noyes Street and the City Arts Committee, many neighbors expressed concern on the idea that lights would, “intrusively be shining into their living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms from dusk to late evening every day.”

One member of the email exchange claimed there has been no neighborhood notice of changes to the park despite what claims made on channel 8 broadcast, saying, “there has been NO information provided and NO meetings have been held.”

Portland local April Quebedeaux, who knew three of the victims of the tragedy, can’t understand why they don’t complain about seeing the burnt down piece of property, but have a problem with six lights to help family and friends grieve.

“For them to say that it would ruin the parks character? I mean, what character? It’s a dinky park behind a gas station. Why not add some beautiful lights that many would love and support. It’s absolutely crazy.”

Portland local Marji Swanson only briefly knew Chris Conlee, one of the victims of the fire that engulfed the building on Noyes Street that night, but believes the memorial lights seem harmless.

“I didn’t know him long or well, but still felt heavy when the names of the victims were released,” said Swanson. “I’m unsure why people would want to stop something that shows support for the victims friends and families.”

The panel finally approved the memorial on late Friday evening, just in time for the one year anniversary. The installation can only be up for 90 days, and will only be lit up from dusk to 9:00 p.m.

According to a survivor who spoke on condition of anonymity, hardly a day has gone by since the fire at Noyes street. He explained that, “My opinion on a dispute over the lighting system in the park would be inappropriate,” but does have one thing he wants people to know.

“I treat my life differently. I check smoke detectors. I pay more money to avoid living next to a party house. I hope that regulations might change so that those six people might have had another way out,” said the anonymous survivor. “I hope that Maine actually funds it’s fire inspection system, so that properties with quite so many flagrant violations might not go unnoticed for quite so long. Thus far nothing has changed.”

A memorial celebration is planned for November 1 at 4:30 p.m.  at the park. A reception will follow at HopeGateWay on 509 Forest Avenue.

Metropolitian University: Does it work for USM?

Tue, 2015-10-06 16:55

By Zach Searles

Metropolitan University is an initiative that’s been around for a few years, but really started to surface and take hold last fall. MU has a complicated and entangled history as was evident with the moans and groans from the faculty when MU was brought up at last Friday’s faculty senate meeting.

One problem that Rebecca Tanous, student body president, has with the MU initiative was the timing of it all coming to light last fall.

“The big problem with the timing of MU initiative is that it happened at the same times as cuts, so the number one thing that students find is that it means more cuts,” said Tanous.

Tanous found this to be true when she went around campus asking students what they thought of MU and most responded in a negative way because they thought it was associated with cuts.

Lorrayne Carroll, Associate Professor of English at USM, stated that MU has a lot of initiatives tangled within it, one of them being an identity assigned to USM by the Board of Trustees under their one university model.

One thing that is clear is that there is a lot of confusion surrounding MU, so it begs the question: what does Metropolitan University really mean?

“In my eyes it means more resume builders as a student because we’re committed to helping our community and using that as a forum to get students experience,” said Tanous.

Others may feel that part of the problem lies with how MU was communicated to faculty and staff.

“The problem is that the conversation about MU never got outside this small group of people over the last two years. It never really got outside and explained and it got entangled with all the other things that were happening,” said Carroll.

Community outreach and working with the community to get students real world experience is a big part of the MU initiative, with programs such as service learning that are designed to get students out and working with the community.

“What the president thinks it means is that USM will be actively engaged with its many surrounding communities and community partners,” said Adam Tuchinsky, chief of staff for the president’s office.

Some faculty and staff have expressed concern that by using the term metropolitan, it may put the focus entirely in Portland and leave out the university’s other two campuses.

“It doesn’t adequately capture the full range of work that people do,” said Carroll. She then went on to mention the work that nursing students do in the Dominican Republic, which may not be directly tied to the Portland community but is still work done by students in the community.

President Glenn Cummings has stressed in the past that the MU initiative does not mean that USM is a regional university that only serves the southern part of the state.

As stated earlier, the MU initiative has been underway for a few years. Some may argue even longer than that, since USM has been recognized as a Metropolitan University since the 1980’s.

USM is already heavily engaged within it’s community. There are many programs that require internships and capstone projects, which require students to go out into the community.

Tuchinsky commented that in many ways, the MU initiative is just articulating on what faculty and students have been doing for years.

USM’s transition to this Metropolitan University and getting faculty and students into the community is going to come with a price tag, but how much will it cost exactly?

Last year, the Free Press reported that it was going to cost the university $900,000 annually, which is an estimation based on surveys and observations of other schools that have made similar transformations. That’s a price tag that could potentially cost $150.00 per student.

Tuchinsky was asked to comment on the cost of the MU initiative and if these numbers were still accurate, and responded by stating that it’s difficult to put a dollar value on something like a Metropolitan University.

With these added costs, something has to be done to generate money to afford this. One way this could be done is through enrollment. University advertisements have already begun to broadcast, marketing USM as a Metropolitan University to get the attention of prospective students.

Rebecca Tanous commented that this focus on community involvement could potentially bring students to USM.

“I think that offering the resources that we have from the community to our students is something that we have over other universities, it’s that winning factor for someone to choose here over somewhere else,” said Tanous.

Though it may be something that draws students in, Tuchinsky doesn’t believe that the sole purpose of MU is to boost enrollment numbers.

“In the end, this is about making USM more connected to it’s community and improving learning and making USM a better institution,” said Tuchinsky. “If those things help enrollment then great, but enrollment gains are really secondary to USM becoming a stronger university.”

International Socialist Organization gets new club on campus

Tue, 2015-10-06 16:47

By Nick Beauchesne

The USM branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) held its second on-campus meeting of the semester Tuesday night on the first floor of the Glickman Library.

The word socialism, in and of itself, is polarizing. Long marginalized in the American political system as radical, part and parcel to communism and a threat to democracy, strong stigmas have been attached to the socialist movement stretching back at least to the era of the Cold War.

The group came together to discuss its progress up to this point, as well as its

direction moving forward. New to campus, this group has several hurdles to overcome in order for it to become a viable and active organization among the many other student groups offered on campus.

Each club on campus seeks to establish a mission of sorts: something that it stands

for and represents. The ISO is no different in that regard, though its message has long been established. Pete Franzen, a graduate student studying clinical mental health, spoke about the agenda for the club, as well as the socialist movement as a whole.

“We are looking for a coherent way to make things better. There is this belief that the system that we have in place is working,” said Franzen. “The media conveys this message that all you have to do is pull yourself up by the bootstraps, work hard and you will achieve the American dream. We don’t see things that way.”

When asked about the difficulty in getting people to move past the stigmas and mischaracterizations so often attached to the idea of socialist politics, Owen Hill, head organizer of the USM branch of the ISO, sees the socialist message coming through more clearly now than ever before.

“People are already moving past [the stigma]. The rule of the few over the many has gone on for far too long,” said Hill. Hill spoke clearly about the aims of the movement in general, and the club in particular. “To replace the rule of the bankers and real-estate developers with the democracy of ordinary working people,” said Hill.

With one of the leading candidates for the 2016 presidential election, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, identifying as a socialist democrat, the movement finds itself with a bigger platform from which to work under.

All the while, the USM branch of the ISO will be conducting its weekly meetings, seeking to draw in support, and hoping to get its message heard.


Bayside could be location for future Portland dorms

Tue, 2015-10-06 16:41

By Sam Haiden

An initiative to allocate funds and contracts for a new student dormitory is gaining traction here on the USM Portland campus. John Jackson, Senate Chair of the Student Government Association, has completed his list of petition signatures to move the initiative forward and his comprehensive plan claims that it will improve many lacking aspects of the university infrastructure.

When considering a new dormitory in Portland is, where would it go? According to Jackson there is no shortage of space. “The USM Portland campus is actually very large,” said Jackson. “We actually have more square footage than Harvard.”

According to Jackson, a Portland dorm would be a nascent step in USM’s path to success.

Jackson also suggests that there are plenty of potential building sites for the dormitory that are within walking distance of the campus that are no farther than walking from Upperclass in Gorham to Dickey Wood in Gorham. Jackson says that these sites would be appropriate for a dormitory which would be comparable to Upperclass Hall.

Although he would not specify which sites were most likely to be used, he did mention that there would be no construction costs to speak of, due to the fact that the buildings are already in place. They would simply require a change of ownership and become contracted similarly to other dorms at USM.

For instance, a potential candidate in the decision-making process is the building known as Bayside, which has served USM students on some level for years now. The process of change-of-ownership would essentially entail a lease agreement in which USM provides student housing, but may or may not cover maintenance fees and labor.

“Those are things which will have to be worked out in principle between the owners and the administration before going to the Board of Trustees for final approval and a sealing of the deal,” explained Jackson, adding that it could happen by July of 2016, making it possible for students next fall to be living there.

As a student back in 2012, Tyler Gaylord was an eager freshman studying theatre. After realizing he wanted to live in California for experience, he has returned to Maine in hopes of seeking his life path on the big screen. For Gaylord, the idea of dorms on the Portland campus adds an attractive quality to the entire college experience.

“Being surrounded by an encouraging and exciting group of friends was the only way to balance out the stress of college courses,” explained Gaylord. “These people were the ones who inspired, supported, and uplifted me.  I couldn’t imagine my college experience being anywhere nearly as great without having lived on campus.”

Not only does he think it would increase enrollment, but it would also severely hurt USM’s ability to pull out-of-state people in if they do not choose to create dorms on the Portland campus.

“Portland is one of the nation’s fastest growing “cool” cities in the United States. People all the way across the country are hearing about Portland, Maine, none of them are hearing about Gorham, Maine,” said Gaylord.

Petition circling to bring a bar to Gorham campus: 200 signatures needed, SGA pushing for 500 to send a stronger message

Tue, 2015-10-06 16:40

By Thomas Fitzgerald

A referendum question has been circulating among USM that is asking for student support for a bar to be built on campus. Although there are not very many details regarding funding of this operation, or where it would be on the Gorham campus, students are being asked to sign.

“We are just circulating the referendum to get the conversation started and to see how students would feel about it,” explained student senate member Ashley Caterina. “With their support, we can hopefully use that information and bring it to the appropriate parties. Plans will start being developed once the results from the referendum are in.”

It is the lack of information that is leaving a lot of questions from students and staff that are wondering if this plan is economical for the school. The inability to have answers regarding budgeting and where the bar will be built leaves some unsure about what they are signing.

“It is an interesting concept, but without knowing the specific revenues, costs and risks that USM would be exposed to I really don’t have an opinion as to whether or not it is a good idea for USM,” said business professor, James Suleiman.

When asked about his opinion on the circulating referendums that students are constantly seeing, senior English education major, Dylan LeComte, seemed to have a similar opinion as professor Suleiman. LeComte believes that some of the people circulating the petitions have no idea what they were asking students to sign.

“As far as the petition for a new bar on campus goes, I’d be reluctant to sign it until the whole story behind its funding and location comes to light,” stated LeComte.

Despite the small amount of details that have been circulating, chief of staff Dan Welter offered some insight regarding the recent serving of alcohol at the parents weekend in Gorham.

“Given the small number of 21+ residents, and the cost of serving alcohol, it does not make financial sense to widely host the sale of alcohol at events,” said Welter. “We are continuing to consider pairing the serving of alcohol with events that we are going to have a large number of community members on campus.”

The wide sale of alcohol is likely never to reach our campus, but a pub that is similar to the Bear’s Den pub that is on campus in Orono is a more likely scenario. Orono alumni, Seth Albert, best described it as “how you would imagine Starbucks if they served beer and some food.”

Senior student and Technology management major Dan Jandreau weighed in on the situation as more of a positive lift for the student community.

“I think a campus pub would be a great addition to the Gorham Campus,” said Jandreau. “For students of age, there is not a lot to do in the Gorham area for nightlife, so providing an on campus solution is great. This also means less people going to the Old Port from campus which could result in less driving under the influence.”

Safety is an important focus to consider when thinking about the positivity that added night lift can bring to the Gorham campus. As opposed to students wondering how they will find a way back to campus after a night in Portland, they can instead have the opportunity to enjoy themselves while only a walking distance away from their dorm.

The required 200 signatures have already been reached for the referendum to be passed along, but the senate believes that 500 signatures will send a stronger message.

385 students opt out of sending vaccination records

Tue, 2015-10-06 16:34

By Erica Jones

In recent years vaccines have become a hotly-debated topic, leading to division in schools over whether students should be allowed to be exempt from getting vaccinated.

This year at the University of Southern Maine, 385 of the school’s 7,554 students opted out of sending vaccination records, according to Lisa Belanger, Director of Health Services at USM.

That is approximately five percent of students.

Currently, students do not need to provide any specific argument in order to waive out of sending records of their immunizations, or lack of. The reasons students opt out include religious principles, philosophical oppositions, as well as simply being unable to acquire their records due to significant inconveniences, such as an inability to access their records or no longer possessing them.

“That convenience becomes inconvenient if an outbreak does happen,” explained Cori Cormier, a University Health and Counseling Services staff member, referencing USM’s policy that all students without vaccination records are required to leave campus for the duration of the outbreak.

The concern of an outbreak is not met with the same reaction everywhere, with nation wide anti-vaccination movements expounding the dangers of these life-saving medicines based on refuted, false scientific studies, mainly a redacted paper by former British surgeon Andy Wakefield which insinuated a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

In his paper, Wakefield claimed that vaccines caused autism due to a mercury-containing compound called thimerosal which was an ingredient in earlier vaccines.

Despite there being no scientific evidence in favor of thimerosal’s relation to autism, the compound was eliminated from most vaccines in 1999 as a precaution.

The state of Maine’s vaccination exemption rate is one of the highest in the country at 1.7 percent, more than double the national average, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Low vaccination rates contribute to the spread of diseases such as measles, pertussis, and chickenpox. The dangers of these diseases, all made less prevalent by vaccines, have some Maine citizens concerned about their safety and that of their families.

“I think schools should require vaccinations. Anybody who doesn’t get vaccinated poses a risk for the resurgence of deadly diseases,” said Michael J., a Physics major and junior at USM.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Maine is one of the 18 states that allow parents to waive their children from immunizations for philosophical reasons.

Also reported in the Portland Press Herald were Maine’s school-by-school vaccination rates, released by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The troubling data revealed that 20 percent of students at South Portland’s Small Elementary School were opted out of vaccines by their parents, giving the school one of the highest opt-out rates in Maine.

The realization that the country is not as immunized as it could be has led to action from pro-vaccination movements, including groups within the state of Maine.

“It simply is not safe to have a large population of unvaccinated people,” said an anonymous USM student. “Maine is supposed to be a place where you dream of retiring – not catching measles.”