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Updated: 49 min 17 sec ago

USM activists protest for equality at Maine State House

Sat, 2016-12-03 14:56

Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

On Friday, Nov. 18, a group of protesters gathered in front of Maine’s State House in Augusta in an effort to demonstrate their commitment to progress and equality in light of the recent election. Organized by USM student Emma Donnelly, the gathering was called “We Won’t Go Back,” in reference to a strong unwillingness to revert back to what, in the group’s  opinion, is archaic and unequal legislation and government practices.

The crowd of over 60 individuals assembled at noon, full of positive energy to spread their message. Protesters of all ages attended the event. Donnelly began rallying the participants by briefly speaking to the crowd via bullhorn. Shortly after, members of the group began to share their stories and promote their cause.

Donnelly wanted to “take up space and make our voices heard” through demonstrating.  Inspired by the energy at the event, the protesters made their presence known as individuals chanted, waved signs and commiserated with one another. Individuals who spoke at the event asked protesters to think about the statuses they hold, for example as a woman or as a member of the LBGTQA community, and understand how those statuses have been and possibly will be attacked by politicians.

“This is what democracy looks like!” said Nicole Littrell

As the protest continued, Maine state police officers Jeff Belanger and Lieutenant Bob Elliot oversaw the demonstration from a distance. Their presence was understated. Both officers declared they were there to advocate for the rights of all Maine citizens.

“This is the people’s house and we want everyone who comes here to voice their opinions to be safe,” Lt. Elliot said. “We’re here to ensure that every group who has a permit to gather can do so without harmful interruptions.”

While the protest continued to advocate that groups of minorities stand together in the face of adversity under the new Trump administration and Republican majority government, legislators noticed the demonstration and had varying opinions about their presence.

Owen Casas, one of Maine’s two newly elected Independent state representatives, agreed that the protesters have valid concerns that must be addressed by the new wave of elected officials. While his agreement with the cause was understandable and practical, Casas also argued that he did not personally understand the point of protesting.

“The way that I handle a situation like this is to get involved. That’s why I’m here, working in the state house, to see what I can do to change what I don’t like,” said Casas, as he left the State House.  

Demonstrations continue across the nation, ignited by large groups of individuals who feel as if their rights will taken away by the new administration. Protesters from the Maine State House demonstration encouraged citizens to continue to speak out and voice their opinions, even if these opinions  are unpopular. Donnelly is currently spearheading the project of starting a Maine Student Action chapter for the university. Her goal “is to have student-led demonstrations, rallies, protests, and events” and, above all, to continue to fight for the values and rights she believes in.

The first meeting of the Maine Student Action chapter at USM will be Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 6 p.m. in Luther Bonney 302. More information can be found on the chapter’s Facebook page, Maine Student Action: USM.


Madeline Albright headlines Ed Muskie’s centennial celebration

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:38

USM welcomed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and journalist Mark Shields of PBS to the Muskie School of Public Service on Saturday to discuss late Senator Edmund Muskie, the namesake of the school, and how his legacy lives on today, in a packed Hannaford Hall.

Albright served as Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton from 1997 until Clinton left office in 2001, and was the United States ambassador to the United Nations for the preceding four years. Shields, a journalist, has been on PBS NewsHour since 1988 and served on Muskie’s campaign for president.

A Democrat, Muskie was Maine’s Senator from 1959 until 1980, when he left the senate to become Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter until 1981. Muskie also served as Governor of Maine from 1955 to 1959, ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1968.

Shields, the first speaker, lauded Muskie’s work on the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and his persistence in getting the acts passed. He quoted former Maine senator Bill Cohen, who thought about challenging Muskie in 1976 for senate, but did not for “the people of Maine and America would not be better served.”

Shields continued with several personal anecdotes about his lifelong friendship with Muskie, before commenting that Muskie would’ve been “disgusted” with the politics of today.

Shields also sought to “set the record straight” on an infamous incident when Muskie broke down in tears publically delivering a speech after the Manchester Union-Leader published a “slanderous” piece on Muskie’s wife Jane. The incident is widely thought to have ruined Muskie’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination. Shields said that the Union-Leader was doing the “dirty tricks” of the Richard Nixon campaign, as Muskie was the man that Nixon “least wanted to run [against].”

Shields concluded by declaring that Ed Muskie “reminded us of the eternal values, that each of us has been warmed by fires that we did not build, has drunk from wells we did not dig.”

During Secretary Albright’s remarks, she also contrasted the current political atmosphere with Muskie’s commitment to working with both parties, joking that “Muskie knew that ‘bipartisanship’ is not a four letter word,” but that he “never forgot his values.” She praised Muskie’s ability to craft legislation, making sure it was “fact-based” and that he “knew the issues better than the experts.”

Secretary Albright described him as the “conscience of the senate”, and said that  “it never occurred to him to serve one party at the expense of the other.” She also praised his belief in government, again contrasting it with modern politics. She said Muskie reminds her to “see government as a purveyor of social justice and economic progress.” She also praised his belief in women’s rights, as he famously hired many women for his staff. She quipped that “people thought that a woman couldn’t be secretary of state because an Arab [national] leader would never accept it, but I always had more problems with men in my own country.”

Albright concluded her speech by saying “I truly loved him, because of what he did for this country.”

During the question-answer segment of the presentation, moderated by St. Louis University Law Professor Joel K. Goldstein, Shields denounced the idea that “government hasn’t made people safer and made their lives better.” Albright agreed, saying that “taxes are not a crime,” drawing laughter and applause from the capacity audience.

When asked by moderator Goldstein “one could be an ‘Ed Muskie’ in modern politics” Albright said that people could, and cited money in elections as increasing the divisiveness in modern government. Shields agreed, saying that “we can’t have our elections bought and sold on an auction block by billionaires.”

Shields said during the Q&A that “I think Ed Muskie’s values are less alive today.” Shields went on to say “Ed Muskie believed in war as a burden of all equally,” and criticized US Congress’ distance from the active military, but being more willing to send the military into combat, especially compared to to World War II.

Candidate for governor and former Muskie aide Eliot Cutler was in attendance. In a brief interview, Cutler expressed support for the forthcoming cuts to the Muskie School and did not believe it was inappropriate to be celebrating the school at this time.

How the Sukkah structure on campus provides meaningful space

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:38

A short walk between Luther Bonney and Payson Smith will open your eyes to a strange structure sitting on the grass between the buildings. Made up of different types of wood, it’s roof is covered with the leafy branches of a Beech tree. This small hideaway, called a Sukkah, serves as both a spiritual getaway to students and as a  way to connect community members in one meaningful space.

A Sukkah, often translated from Hebrew as booth, is a temporary structure constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot, something akin to a harvest, or fall festival. It is topped with branches and often decorated with autumnal, harvest and/or Judaic themes.

Using money allocated from a community grant, Asherah Cinnamon is a contemporary artist living in Portland who is the creator of this project and called the Sukkah, “The Dwelling Place.”

The small structure has travelled to different college campuses in Maine over the past few years. It has been here at our campus, to the University of New England gallery, MECA, the Maine Jewish Museum and SMCC. It rotates each year and a formal meal is hosted every year in the Sukkah.

Every year, faculty and staff members at the Jewish Organization “Hillel of Southern Maine” are kind enough to share this with us. This group’s goal is to provide connections between USM students and community members interested in Jewish culture and faith.

Traditionally, it is a requirement that the small architecture be built only from materials growing from the ground. This explains why the walls are made of long pieces of wood and the roof is made of freshly cut tree branches.

Inside the structure is enough space for a small table, where you have the opportunity to connect with the natural world through simply enjoying a soft breeze while the sun shines against your skin. For Cinnamon, the choosing of beech branches was a particular choice.

“Often outlasting the winter, these leaves seem to wrestle with the wind – and I love the sound of it it’s like Maine music to me,” explained Cinnamon. “So to sit in the Sukkah and listen to the leaves rustle is part of the pleasure of being in the Sukkah.”

Part of the symbol of the Sukkah now in modern times is about welcoming the stranger, feeding our neighbors and caring for one another and strengthening the community.

“It’s a reminder that my people were looking for a home and it’s a reminder there are unfortunately people in this culture in this society in this town in this state who don’t have a home,” said Cinnamon.

Ariel Bernstein, a community member who works with the Jewish Community Alliance to advise Southern Maine Hillel and member of the USM Religious and Spiritual Life Council, explained that this big project took a lot of volunteers to build the Sukkah.

“The Jewish community of Portland really came together for this,” said Bernstein. “But the Sukkah is here for all of us to enjoy; it is an extremely beautiful piece of work.”

For Bernstein, the Sukkah acts as a place she can experience all her cultural backgrounds at once through foods associated with them; The combination of Maine’s apple cider with Israel’s love for Falafel and Pita bread, for example.

Sarah Holmes, the Assistant Dean of Students and administrative liaison to the Religious and Spiritual Life Council, believes the Sukkah is a great installation to bring to USM.

“It helps us, as a community, build a bridge between our daily lives, the natural world, and our understanding of the divine,” said Holmes. “We have lots of fall traditions and festivals, and this is one of them.”

Until October 11th people are welcome to go inside – there are picnic benches inside and USM community members are welcome to – respectfully – use the space for meals, studying, conversation, reflection, or other activities which allow them to enjoy the structure and the space.

Paris struck with worst terrorist attack in Europe since 2004

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:37

By Zachary Searles, News Editor

Paris was the victim of the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the Madrid bombings of 2004. At least 128 people have been confirmed dead and 180 injured after gun and bomb attacks that took place Friday night.

Bataclan concert hall was stormed by gunmen who opened fired on the crowd, killing 80 people and taking hostages before security could get into the hall.

“They didn’t stop firing. There was blood everywhere, corpses everywhere. We heard screaming. Everyone was trying to flee,” Pierre Janaszak told the Agence France Presse.

Janaszak also said that the gunmen blamed the president of France, Francois Hollande, for the attacks, claiming that it was his fault the attacks were happening and that he should have never intervened in Syria.

Not far from the concert hall, gunmen stormed three restaurant and a bar. In this part of Paris, 40 people were killed by the attackers.

“We heard the sound of guns, 30-second bursts. It was endless. We thought it was fireworks,” Pierre Montfort, a resident of Paris, said in an interview with the BBC.

At the time of the gun attacks, President Hollande was attending a friendly international game between France and Germany. Two explosions went off right outside the venue and the President had to be evacuated.

Residents in Paris are being asked to stay in their homes and more than 1,000 military personnel have been deployed across the city.

According to the BBC, police are saying that all gunmen involved are dead, with seven killing themselves with explosive vests and an eighth being killed by security forces. Police are still unsure if any accomplices are on the run.

President Hollande said the attacks were an act of war and said ISIS were responsible for the attacks. In an internet statement from the terrorist group, they claimed credit for the attacks, saying they set up precise attacks in the French capital.

The Islamic State also claimed that the attacks were the “first of the storm” and then mocked France, calling them a capital of obscenity and prostitution.

President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, have spoken out against the heinous attacks and have offered their condolences to the citizens of Paris.

Paul D’Amato tries to dispel the myths of Marxism

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:37

By David Sanok

The Socialist Worker organization held a lecture on defining Marxism and Socialism at Payson Smith hall last Tuesday night. The event was organized to educate people about how Marxism and Socialism can be used to fix the economic inequality in America.

“There’s an assumption here in America that people who believe in the ideas of Karl Marx are people who believe in Stalin’s Russia or Fidel Castro’s Cuba. That’s simply not true,” D’Amato said. “What people misunderstand about Marxism is how his ideas, if implemented correctly, could greatly improve our society”.

D’Amato went on to explain that Karl Marx’s economic ideas failed in Soviet Russia because the government itself was not structured in a democratic fashion. This enabled Joseph Stalin to manipulate the system and become the military dictator of Russia.

“Unlike Soviet Russia, our government has checks and balances along with separation of powers to prevent a dictatorship from happening. But people often confuse government structure with economics and think that if America adopted socialism and replaced capitalism, the government would cease to be a republic,” D’Amato said. “ Our goal as an organization is to explain to people why that’s not true and why socialism will work in America.”

In his argument for socialism, D’Amato criticized what he perceives to be the immorality of capitalism by talking about the growing gap between rich and poor in America. He also highlighted Karl Marx’s writings on the gap further illustrate his point. D’Amato blamed the widening gap on big banks being able to gamble with people’s savings, high healthcare and education costs, lower tax cuts for the rich while higher taxes on the middle class and money in politics being used to corrupt politicians.

“The system of capitalism is inherently unfair to average working middle class American,” D’Amato explained. “To achieve a socialist economy, getting big money out of politics is the top priority. Once corporate money is banned, then we must focus on reaching out to all Americans on why we should become a socialist country.”

D’Amato concluded his lecture by allowing the audience to participate in a seminar style discussion. Audience members could ask questions to D’Amato or others in attendance and talk about their own personal views.

Thatcher Platts was one of the audience members who participated in the discussion. Platts expressed his dissatisfaction with the Democratic and Republican Parties for their failure to address the gap between rich and poor.

“Both major parties are being brought off by corporations and that’s why the greedy bankers aren’t in jail. The Republicans are pro-deregulation and business so that’s not the surprising, but the Democrats claim to be the champions of the middle class yet take corporate money and refuse to prosecute the bankers responsible for the recession. So really when you’re voting democrat, you’re only voting for the lesser of two evils,” Platts said.

Despite his dissatisfaction with the democrats, Platts said he supports outspoken democratic socialist Bernie Sanders for president over front-runner Hillary Clinton, even going as far as supporting a third party candidate for president if Sanders is not the democratic nominee.

“If we just keeping voting for the same old establishment politicians, no real change will ever come and socialism in America will never become a reality,” Platts said.

Portland unveils new monument dedicated to fallen men and women

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:37

By Bradford Spurr/Free Press Staff

Located in the heart of the Old Port, a heroes memorial was unveiled to the public last Tuesday just in time for the Veterans day remembrance. The monument is located right off of Commercial Street by DiMillo’s restaurant on the water and was erected in honor of the men and women who have fallen in combat since WWI.

Veterans Day began at the end of World War One as Armistice Day, which marked the ceasefire that fell in the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, in the eleventh month marking the tradition for Veterans day to be celebrated on November 11.

At the unveiling last week, Governor Paul LePage addressed the crowd of proud servicemen and women. He stressed the importance of increasing benefits for our disabled veterans.

“A thank you will never repay what you’ve done for us,” said Lepage as an introduction to his speech. “It’s just a small token of appreciation, we can never repay the freedom that you’ve given this great country.”

Governor LePage explained that it is important for a community to learn something from these men and women, saying that this understanding should be passed onto future generations to inspire respect and appreciation for these brave individuals.

The Easter Seals of Maine have plans to build several more ‘hero walls’ along the waterfront and have even discussed expanding into different cities like Lewiston-Auburn and Gardiner. A spokesperson speculated that about eight independent monuments could fit in the allocated space in the DiMillo’s plaza.

Ponda Stanhope, a resident of Old Orchard Beach was in attendance to commemorate her father Bernard Cilley, whose picture is immortalized on the wall. He died fighting in WWI.

“I thought it would really take off a little bit more than it has because I’ve had [my father] up there on that wall going on seven years,” said Stanhope. “ I’m kind of disappointed that it hasn’t expanded all the way along the waterfront like we had hoped it would, but we love it.”

For Stanhope, the celebration of Veterans day gives her a constant reminder of her father and the importance he played in the lives of others. The unveiling of the monument gives her hope for a safe future and melancholic nostalgia for her husband’s service.

“It means a lot, I’m here, I’m safe, my family is safe,” she said.

New USM program hopes to draw in more international students

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:36

By Thomas Fitzgerald/News Intern

Students at USM may see an increase in the number of people residing on campus in Gorham next fall, as President Glenn Cummings is seeking an approval from the University of Maine System to integrate a two-year high school program that welcomes international students.

The program will initially be open to fifty students who are proficient in reading and speaking English, as well as being able to meet standardized academic requirements. The courses that students would be taking in this program would be very similar to courses that a traditional freshman would be enrolled in, with many different entry level course options.

This idea has been one that President Glenn Cummings has been advocating for even before his presidency. Each student that is accepted and enrolled in the program will be required to pay over $32,000 for the school year that is portioned out between tuition, room and board, but also fees that need to be paid to the Council on International Education Exchange.

The reason that the CIEE is entitled to compensation from the program is because they will be working alongside USM to find people with potential interest. As well as recruiting, the CIEE will also be offering orientation programs in order to ease the transition process for students.

President Cummings has already presented his plans for the program to the academic and student affairs committee of trustees, and if his presentation is considered a success, the recommendation will be forwarded to the entire board to vote for its approval.

“For international high school students in their junior and senior year who are academically advanced, the ability to take post-secondary courses provides them with a perceived advantage,” Cummings stated in his proposal initially reported by the Portland Press Herald. “A U.S.-based education is valued in many different countries for the perspective that the students gain, the opportunities available to the students while abroad, and the students’ language proficiency that is strengthened through studies and extracurricular activities.”’

Bringing more international education to USM will be an important opportunity for foreign students who may not have the same opportunities from where they reside from, and some USM students are intrigued by the idea, but still

“As long as they also have the ability to transfer those credits towards their college of choice I believe that it is a really good idea.” Junior health science major Brian Doyer said regarding the plan. “It would be nice to know where all of that money is going though if President Cummings is saying that there will not be any profit coming from this. It is a great proposal to give our school some added exposure, but having to hire more faculty in wake of all the layoffs that we have undergone makes me a little uncertain.”

Students will in fact leave USM with two years of transferable college credit, but will not have eligibility to participate in a sporting team or intramural events. There is still approval that needs to be cleared by the Maine Department of Education regarding visa issues from students.

Racism at University of Missouri sparks a rally in downtown Portland/150 students gather to bring awareness and with Mizzou and #ConcernedStudents1950

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:34

Last Friday, 150 students gathered in Monument Square to protest racial discrimination on university campus’s across the country. With the conflict growing at the University of Missouri and racial tensions rising, the group marched together down the streets of Portland chanting, “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter”  in hopes to bring awareness to these issues and to stand symbolically with Mizzou.

At the University of Missouri, a lot has unfolded since the start of their semester. Although these issues are just recently coming to light, they have always been a problem. In September, President of the Missouri Students Association Payton Head posted on Facebook about being called a racial slur. Days later, concerned students and faculty started to address the problem that their administrators were avoiding: racial discrimination still existing on an institutionalized campus.

In October, Legion of Black Collegian members from the University stated they were called racial slurs by local authorities during their homecoming practice. Other forms of racism include the drawing of a swastika on campus walls. The list of incidents goes on and on: but the desired influence for change is catching on quick.  Protests soon began: MU student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike and several members of the Mizzou football team refused to play until the President resigned.

This group, who have deemed the online hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950,  created the name to honor when African American students were first allowed to attend the university. On November 9, the University President Tim Wolfe resigned after providing little help in the fight against racism and white supremacy. Regardless, the university still has a long ways to go before it reaches it’s desired goal of creating a more racially diverse campus.

Rallies and protests have been taking place around the country and the one in Portland last week was bustling with people ready to speak out for a cause they believe in. Kendall Schutzner, a student at Bowdoin college, has been working closely with a lot of the people spoke at the rally in Portland. She hopes it will bring to light an issue that is happening not just in Missouri, but across the nation.

“I’ve seen a lot of the emotional reactions to bias incidents on campus and I am constantly asking myself how I can be supportive,” said Schutzner. “The primary answer I got was that showing support and showing up at rallies is the best way to raise awareness.”

University of Southern Maine sophomore Hamida Hassin was the first to speak at the rally, explaining how white supremacy has got to go in order for all individuals to feel free from the struggles of discrimination.

“Those in power are disrupting my life, people of color’s lives and the futures of our children,” said Hassin. “ We must keep on fighting so that those of us don’t have to face poverty, police brutality, deportation, violence and discrimination because of our racial identity.”

Lily Biancho, a student at Deering High School, stood with her friends in the back of the crowd and cheered as Hassin spoke. For Biancho, the realities of racial discrimination are more obvious than ever, and the opportunity to participate in rallies is the chance to share an opinion.

“I come from Sudan, we don’t have rallys and marches about causes so big like this so it’s an opportunity to do something really special,” she stated.

Andrew Mills, a junior criminology major at USM, believes that the teaming up of universities to rally for a movement so important will make cause for change around the world. He’d like to stop seeing people hate on others because of different religious, political and cultural life views.

“A lot of people don’t realize what is happening because it doesn’t happen in Maine like it does elsewhere, but I think if people from everywhere can come together and spread the message that Black lives matter, then we can make a difference,” he said. “We are all humans and that is what it comes down to.”

Jennings Leavell, another student at Bowdoin college, was granted access to a college van and carpooled with student’s to the event. He explained that many students at Bowdoin have reached out to the community and expressed discontent with the status quo at their university.

They have asked allies to speak out, and I’m here to add my voice to the rally,” said Leavell. “We’ve come here to participate, to say we stand in solidarity with the students of mizzou and that we stand with students all over the nation.”

As the speech came to a close, Bowdoin student Ashley Bambosa took the microphone and exposed her opinion. She explained that students can recognize that institutionalized racism has existed in higher education since its conception. Regardless of how many times she’s been told racism no longer exists, she explained that students are still proving it to be otherwise.

“I stand before you today exposed and exhausted. I’ve seen too many of my classmates break down in tears and rage. I have spent too much time responding to anonymous and racist threats,” she stated boldly. “I have spent too many hours trying to explaining to administrators and staff that every solution they have given in their attempts to end the white supremacy’s legacy at our institution has been bandaids on a unhealed wound. We’re tired of waiting. Black lives matter.”

USM to cover $6 million budget gap without making cuts/Majority of the budget gap is due to enrollment still being down 6.5 percent

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:34

USM is currently facing a $6 million budget gap, partly due to a two percent increase in faculty salaries.

By: Zachary Searles/News Editor

Enrollment at USM has been on a steady decline over the past few years, with a 6.5 percent decline this year. This decline has contributed to the almost $6 million budget gap that USM is currently faced with.

This gap is much smaller than what USM faced last year when 51 faculty members and five academic programs were cut to close a $16 million gap in the budget.

Unlike last year, most of the budget shortfall will be able to be covered by leaving open positions vacant for the time being, deferring maintenance on some buildings around campus, cutting budgets in administration and using almost all of USM’s $3 million in reserves, Buster Neel, Chief Financial Officer, said at a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month.

“We were able to find enough to avoid any layoffs this year,” said President of USM, Glenn Cummings. “The idea behind that is to strengthen our employee morale, to give a sense of hope and to get a new public image of USM.”

President Cummings also said that he thinks these plans are working; he thinks faculty are now coming together to strengthen USM.

“As best we can judge, without taking drastic measures, we could get through next year,” Neel said at the Faculty Senate meeting that took place earlier this month. “My concern is that we are starting to run out of options.”

Part of the budget gap is also coming from a two percent increase in faculty salaries, along with the general expense costs going up, so even if USM was to get to zero percent decline in enrollment, USM would still be looking at a budget shortfall of a couple million dollars.

“Even if we make it back to zero percent loss, we’ll still have to make some pretty tough decisions, but we could probably do a number of things that would prevent us from having to do any major layoffs or cuts,” President Cummings said.

President Cummings also said that he believes USM can do better than a six percent drop in enrollment, but if enrollment continues to stay down then President Cummings said there may have to be some cutbacks, but he stressed that they would not be to the magnitude of what happened last fall.

Other than an increase in enrollment, if USM were to face a gap like this in the future, they could look towards private fundraising or state appropriations to cover the gap, or another option would be raising the tuition.

President Cummings does not make any decisions about whether tuition is raised or not; those decisions come from the Board of Trustees.

President Cummings did say that no Board of Trustees member has said anything to him regarding the increase in tuition costs, but he did state it is a topic that will continue to be discussed in the near future.

“At USM, we would like to meet with student leaders and get some feedback from them, some of them might have some strong feelings either way,” said President Cummings.

USM isn’t the only university in the UMaine System to face a budget gap. The University of Maine is looking at a budget gap of $7.2 million, $2.8 million of that is a direct result of the 2 percent increase in salaries.

The gap in the budget comes despite a 7 percent increase in the amount of out-of-state students that enrolled at UMaine this year, students that typically pay three times as much as in-state students.

According to the Portland Press Herald, University of Maine President, Sue Hunter, said that it’s too early to tell how exactly they will close the gap, but the plan is to close it without having to make any cuts.

The University of Maine System as a whole will be facing a $52.6 million budget gap by 2020, according to a five-year projection.

President Cummings said that as budgets continued to be discussed, it’s important to make sure that students are at the center of every decision made.

“As we develop the vision for USM, going forward, what is best for students has to be our top priority and it’s about student success, building a university that can really help students get to their goals and feel like this is a place where they are known, respected and growing academically, that’s the key thing,” said President Cummings

65 schools have now had protests and gatherings, voicing their support for Mizzou

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:32

What started in Missouri has spread to upwards of 65 schools that have stood in solidarity with the University of Missouri, with students and faculty protesting institutionalized racism not just in their university, but universities across the country.

USM is no exception. Last Wednesday students organized a rally to address the problems of racism on our own campus. Not even a month before that, students from Portland and around the state gathered in Monument Square to show their support for Mizzou.

Maine is predominantly white state which had a thriving chapter of the Ku Klux Klan back in the 1920s. The chapter has disbanded, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to resurface, with people protesting at their rallies in the 1980s, 90s and the early 2000s.

USM is predominantly white school as well. The statistics vary from one report showing 81 percent of the student body being white and 3 percent being black, to another that showed 93 percent of the student body was white and just 1.7 percent was black.

These numbers are also reflected amongst faculty, where nearly 82 percent of faculty are white and less than one percent are black, according to

According to the same site, USM was ranked #1453 in ethnic diversity nationwide.

At Mizzou, only 8 percent of students were not white, numbers which reflect fairly closely to USM’s.

Rebecca Nisetich, Honors Program Interim Director and English professor who teaches classes on race and racial identity in literature, said that racism does still exist today because society is structured to the point where if it is blatant racism, then a lot of the time it goes unnoticed.

“I think this generation of students is more attuned to thinking about diversity and using different lenses and really analyzing different situations better. They are able to say that it’s wrong for our president not to address [racism on campus], it’s wrong for our chancellor not to take a stand against this behavior,” Nisetich said.

Nisetich also said that she wouldn’t be surprised if students from other schools started speaking up about these same kinds of activities happening on their campuses, which has already begun to happen with schools like Yale and the University of North Carolina.

Racist incidents are occurring here at USM as well. Just last month a Nazi flag was waved out the window of a bathroom in one of the residence halls in Gorham. The flag was confiscated by two resident assistants just moments later.

“Regardless of the intent for possessing the flag, the intent in waving it out a window, and the protection afforded by the First Amendment, we all must be cognizant of the impact this action has on our Community; especially our Jewish students and faculty and staff, and the extreme harm, vulnerability, and fear displaying this flag has and can have on individuals and on our entire campus,” Dean of Students, Joy Pufhal, said in an email sent out to all students late Tuesday night.

Many protests, rallies and demonstrations have taken place on campuses across the country to display how hateful and hurtful acts likes are, as well as protesting the lack of action by members of the administration when incidents like this do occur.

“I think public protest is an important way to raise visibility on an issue, but I think there’s more of a role of educators to play in this as well,” said Nisetich.

She went on to mention that she hopes students don’t fully understand the true meaning behind what they are doing when they use racial slurs, or hang nooses on the doors of their classmates, and it’s up to the educators to make sure that their students fully understand how hateful and offensive these actions are.

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly being used to orchestrate protests and rallies, along with giving the common person a platform to speak out against the actions they are witnessing. Nisetich said that a site like Twitter allows for more voices to be a part of the conversation.

But while social media sites have been used to do good, the reverse is also true. There were two incidents in Missouri where an anonymous social media site was used to threaten the lives of black students at Mizzou. Some black students asked their teachers to be excused from class because they didn’t feel safe coming to campus for fear of their life.

Last Wednesday, a rally was held in the Woodbury Campus Center to stand with Mizzou and support the fight against institutional racism. The event was sponsored by Students for #USMFuture, as well as many other groups and departments of the university.

“This rally is a call to action to begin dismantling the institutionalized racism that exists on our campus,” said Iris SanGiovanni, opening speaker at the rally and member of Students for #USMFuture, before leading the crowd into a chant of Black Lives Matter.

She went on to claim that of the faculty retrenched last year, the ones that suffered the most were those of color. She also demanded that there be more faculty of color, along with more people of color in counseling services and the administration.

SanGiovanni closed by recognizing that she and many of the speakers and people in attendance were white, giving the reason that black students didn’t feel safe speaking out against the administration.

“I, as a white ally, can not express the intensity of the hurtful experiences students of color have survived on our campus,” said SanGiovanni.

Brooke Bolduc, a history major in her first semester at USM, spoke next sharing her experiences. Bolduc grew up in Maine where she was one of two black students in her elementary school.

“I was bullied and beat up, I felt isolated and alone, and whenever I expressed my anger and sadness about this, people would tell me just to ignore it,” Bolduc said.

When Bolduc was in the fifth grade, she was walking home from school one day when four white girls in an SUV threw a water balloon filled with black paint at her face, it turned out that one of the girls was the principal’s daughter. When Bolduc’s mother went to talk with the principal about what happened, she was told that it wasn’t a big deal and they shouldn’t make a big fuss about what happened.

When she started college at Keene State, one professor was much harder on her than the other students and when she asked him why he said that it was because she was black and life was going to be harder for her, so he would push her harder. Because she had to work so much harder in this one class, the grades in her other classes started to slip and she lost her scholarship and could no longer afford to attend school, causing her transfer to USM.

Bolduc’s finished her story to applause of cheers for how strong she was for having to deal these tragic events throughout her life.

“As cliche as it sounds, nothing will tear me down. Being black in America is not a death sentence, and I will no longer watch my fellow citizens live in a younger society that preaches hate. We are the generation of progression and we are the generation of love,” said Hamdi Hassan, a student at USM who didn’t speak at the event because of the lack of action against racist incidents on campus. Her statement was read by Jordan Henry.

Glenn Cummings, president of USM, said a few words towards the end where he said right now he is going to listen. He has created a diversity council that reports directly to him, but he said he can’t do it alone.

“I would like to tell you in our world and America today that it doesn’t, but [institutional bigotry] does exist. And I would like to tell you we’re special because we’re a university and we’re special because we’re so liberally open minded, but the truth is, in this university, there is work to be done,” President Cummings said.

He closed by saying he was committed to doing that work and would do it by working together with students.

Students and Recovery seek to establish center on campus

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:32

The University of Southern Maine is on its way to creating a collegiate program for university students struggling with substance use disorders. With the hopes to create Students and Recovery center on campus and future plans to discuss sober housing on campus, opportunity is in the works to end the stigma attached to addiction and provide the USM community with resources for continuing recovery.

Andrew Kiezulas, a senior at the University of Southern Maine has dealt with addiction first hand and has seen how the illness affects the people.

The problem with heroin, he explained, it that you feel as if you have to keep using, otherwise you experience withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and migraine headaches.

He is co-founder of the group Students and Recovery, which meets every Tuesday in Payson Smith room 203.

“Not many people really understand what substance use disorder looks like,” explained Kiezulas. “So they see you drinking or they see you doing drugs and they say ‘why can’t you just stop?’ You want to shake them and tell them it runs so much deeper than that.”

Student Recovery Liaison Ross Hicks has been working closely with administration to ensure changes are made to accommodate students seeking recovery.

According to Hicks, a lot of people think substance use disorder means you’re morally weak or don’t have the willpower. He hopes to eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and educate the public on what it means to those who suffer from it.

“It is a medical condition and there is a treatment,” said Hicks. “If we address it as so, we can frame the conversation in a way that will hopefully lead to better access to treatment and for those of us that have been able to accumulate some measure of sobriety, whether it’s days or years, we tend to identify ourselves as long-term recoverers.”

Hicks explained that the push for a Students and Recovery Center started two years ago but after meeting some resistance from administration for bureaucratic red tape sort of things, the effort kind of petered out. For everyone involved in this student group, this semester represents a new effort in the history of USM.

“Our combined efforts thus far has been pushing to establish a recovery center modeled after the other student centers with a full-time coordinator,” explained Hicks. “Based on the conversation we had with the President Cummings last week, he seemed to agree that potentially one of the white houses may be appropriate for it and has been extremely supportive for this cause.”

According to both Kiezulas and Hicks, the current administration seems to understand the urgency of implementing a collegiate recovery program here at USM. Integrating it into the school’s policy would allow for Students and Recovery to be more than just a group on campus. Adding a center for students in Woodbury could provide opportunity for all students on campus who are struggling with substance use disorders to get the extra help and support they need.

“So many kids these days think they’re so broken. We’re made to feel like we’ll have to suffer from the disease of a substance use disorder for the rest of our lives,” said Kiezulas. “I would like to change that perspective. Recovery is this incredibly hilarious amazingly powerful experience that is so awesome. We want to remind people that recovery truly is possible.”

According to Kiezulas, the space they would get in Portland would be named after USM Student David Zysk, who tragically died from drug overdose. His recent passing has been a devastation for all who were lucky enough to know him.

“I’ve lost a lot of people – we all have,” said Kiezulas. “One thing I’m hoping is that they didn’t go in vain. That we as a community we can learn grow from that tragedy, celebrate the time we had with them and grow from that experience.”

For Kiezulas, the road to recovery will continue to be one where he grows and learns. He explained that it’s important for people to realize that his illness doesn’t define who he is as a person.

“I may die a person in long term recovery. I may have an active substance use disorder, but I don’t have to be an alcoholic my whole life. I’m in recovery along with many other incredible people,” explained Kiezulas. “The truth is, I like to think I’m strong and impervious to what other people say and think – but it matters. Language holds incredible strength and sway. That’s why a number of us are so passionate about language because it holds a lot of power.”

Students host “Ask a Muslim” on campus

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:30

By Thomas Fitzgerald

Students of USM gathered at the Woodbury campus center on Wednesday, March 23 to go about their regular routine, but were met during the lunch rush by a bright and inviting group of people who were tabled right at the cafeteria entryway. These individuals were representing the multicultural student center by hosting “Ask a Muslim.” The table that was set up included an array of things that represented their culture such as clothing, headwear and dates that were prepared to give an offering of a native snack.

However, the spread at the table was outshined by the personality and perspectives of the representing students. The table was a great opportunity for students who were Muslim and Non-Muslim to gain information about Islam. The individuals who were representing at the table were all Muslim students of USM, and they greeted students with not just a smile, but a lot of information about how they go along their daily routine.

Among the student representatives was Qutaiba Hassoon, who spent his time at the table informing students about the significance of his Muslim faith and how USM can give assistance.

“We have a prayer room here in the Woodbury center where students can go during any regular school hour,” said Hassoon, who was quick to give directions to its location of room 135B.

Hassoon also stressed a very important thing when asked about what it is like for him to represent Islamic culture on our campus, and that was equality.

“I feel like there is a lot of diversity when you come here on campus, and it shows especially here in the Woodbury center.” He said.

Information that was presented at the tabling had an emphasis on misconceptions that people may have about Islam, and made a point to assure that learning about Islam from sources who are not qualified could be dangerous, and could lead to many misunderstandings. Muslim people share strong and noble values with individuals who are not Muslim, and the depth of knowledge that these students had for their faith only celebrates their culture as one of the many on campus.

From a national perspective, the presence of Muslim students is something that is a very big part of the educational community. There are currently 1.8 million Muslim adults in the United States today, and according to the American Muslim Council, 61.8 of  American Muslims have a college degree of some variation.

If you are facing any misconceptions that you feel like you have about the Muslim faith, ask a student on campus who is Muslim about their day to day life and see just how passionate they are about their beliefs.

The Woodbury center also serves as a bridge to diversity on campus, as it is home to the multicultural center, religious and spiritual life and the center for sexuality and gender diversities. Students are encouraged to find out more information about what organizations are present in the Woodbury center, and can contact Reza Jalali, the coordinator of multicultural student affairs, if interested in hearing more about what offerings the diversity team at USM has.

From the closure of Bedford Street to dorms on campus, changes at USM are in the works

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:28

By Krysteana Scribner

In his presidential breakfast speech at the end of August, President Glenn Cummings discussed the changes that are planned to take place over the course of the next next few years. These changes, which include adding dorm rooms to the Portland campus and blocking vehicle access to Bedford Street, are aimed at providing students with a stronger sense of community connection, both within and outside the university.

According to a survey done last year by the Student Government Association, 82 percent of students expressed that they would live on the Portland campus if dorms were readily available to them, especially if the expense was below the market value of most housing costs in Portland.

Because of this, Cummings and his team took the initiative to get a master plan up and running. The planning, which will take up to 24 months, is only the beginning of the process. If all goes well, the projects themselves could be completed in as early as two to three years.

Under the plan,  Woodbury Campus Center will be demolished and the parking lot located in that area will also be removed. In its place, the university would like to have a grass quad, while the new dorms will be in an “L” shape and the student center would be located where the community garden currently resides.

These extra dorms on the Portland campus could provide up to 400 beds, so students can find convenience in knowing they are located not only on the campus where they have the most classes, but that they are within walking distance of downtown Portland.

With the elimination of the parking lot, President Cummings added that the parking garage will have to be expanded in order to accommodate the extra traffic that would be coming in and out on a regular basis. Along with that, the university plans to implement a project where Bedford Street will be completely closed to the public. This initiative aims to keep traffic within the university available to only those affiliated with USM.

“According to a survey done by Harriman Associates, who are collaborating on the planning, there are over 11,000 cars that pass through Bedford Street each day, yet only 35 percent of those vehicles belong to USM students,” Cummings said. “These are just estimates, but we’ve asked them to go back and do the survey again with their traffic engineer to be sure that the numbers are right.”

Emily Rudolph, a senior psychology major, stated that she would prefer that more parking lots like the one located next to the Woodbury Campus center would be scattered across campus near the main buildings. As a commuter student, she believes that the university’s choice to remove these smaller parking lots could negatively affect the students who commute to campus each day and have to endure the endless struggle of parking in the garage.

“I have a daughter, so living on campus has never been an option for me,” Rudolph stated. “I would like to see more of these lots simply for convenience reasons. I dislike having to park in the garage because it’s a long walk to my classes. Having the parking lot near Woodbury just makes being a commuter student so much easier.”

She also believes that, by adding dorms to the Portland campus, the student enrollment would also increase by tenfold. She explained that dorms here would be much more attractive and more conveniently located for students.

“The Gorham campus is not really central to a lot of people, so having a dorm location on the Portland campus would be a great thing for our university,” Rudolph said. “There is so much more to do here in Portland. It seems students prefer to be here than the Gorham campus anyway.”

With Bedford Street closed off, President Cummings explained that the traffic patterns will need to change around USM as well, but there is still a lot of planning and collaboration that has to happen in order to further the project.

He  suggested that the university is also still looking at ways people can come up Brighton Avenue and continue to Deering Avenue. This plan could eliminate the six-way intersection near the Law Building and make way for a roundabout, which could create  an easier flow for traffic.

“We want Forest Avenue to have multiple entry points, and it’s possible that the street could stop at the uphill end near Abromson and from there, we could create more green space for students to enjoy,” Cummings stated, “but what we have to ask ourselves now, before any detailed planning, is what is the best way to get traffic into the parking garage?”

With the closing of Bedford Street, Cummings said there are no specific plans to tear down the white buildings that are located along the strip. However, if that was something that needed to occur, USM would make the choice to do so.

“We would like to see those white house’s be rented out or leased to non-profits, where students could do internships and have the opportunity to connect with community partners right here on campus,” Cummings said. “If we did so, we would move all the student groups to the student center. These are all just ideas.”

Currently, the hope is to offer this dorm option on the Portland campus to upperclassmen and graduate students, so the space will not be readily available for just any student who is interested in them. Students would need to have 60 credits or more in order to apply for the housing.

“We want to be careful to balance out where we have our dorms located, so we don’t accidently hurt the Gorham campus,” Cummings said, further elaborating that the new dorms are projected to house up to 400 beds for students. “Offering the dorms to upperclassmen and graduates helps keep that balance, and it gives students some incentive to work hard and to have something to look forward to once they’ve reached these qualifications.”

With the six percent increase in student enrollment, Cummings stated that the dorms on the campus are currently filled, with some students living not only with one other roommate, but two. According to Cummings, having to put three students in a room together reflects the need to have more dorm space for students.

“The increased enrollment directly reflects the demand for housing on campus. We have 70 triples currently, and this makes a big case for why we need to add more housing to campus in the future,” he stated. “Most of the tripled dorm room students have been understanding of the situation, but we obviously want to give them more breathing space during their time here.”

Nasra Ali, a senior human biology major, explained that if dorms were available in Portland when she was a freshman, she would have jumped at the opportunity. As a senior, she felt that all the positive changes happening to USM were occurring as she finishes up her last year.

“When I was a freshman here at USM, my father was very ill. If there had been an option to live on the Portland campus, I would have taken that opportunity,” she explained. “I needed to be close to my family, and the dorms on the Gorham campus couldn’t provide me that. I ended up living at home to help care for my father.”

Cummings briefly mentioned that the university has been exploring its options regarding where to place a graduate center in the future. He stated that there is no question about it: This kind of addition would be a great thing for the university. The significant funders of the project, though, are still deliberating where it would be placed and whether or not they want to fund it.

Until then, the university will continue to strive for changes to the campus that would make students feel more welcome, and in turn, increase the popularity of USM over the years.



New dean of students to focus on a stronger community at USM

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:28

By Jonathan Pessant

There are many new faces on campus this year, but one is an old friend returning to Maine and USM. David McKenzie, interim dean of students, grew up in Portland. His deep roots in the city shaped how he values community, leading to a lifetime devoted to serving Portland.

“It always felt very natural,” McKenzie said, referring to the 15 years he spent working as a community coordinator for Riverton Elementary School and Community Center.

He started at the bottom, as a van driver shuttling kids to various events like Red Sox games, the animal farms in New Hampshire and to the movies. As he gained experience, McKenzie eventually had an office at city hall where he would coordinate fitness programs within the city of Portland.

During the mid-70s to the mid-80s, he also led instruction at USM for an adult fitness program for the public called Lifeline.  McKenzie worked at local chapters of United Way and the Child Abuse Council, strengthening his ties to the community.

Much of McKenzie’s feelings on how to serve the community were reinforced by his mother, June. He said she was and still is “very active” in the Portland community, serving as an integral part of the NAACP and her local church. In the 1970s and 80s she devoted her energy to voter registration and to AIDS awareness. McKenzie said she “worked behind the scenes,” but also worked closely with the Talbot family on issues important to the African American community.

The model she provided developed McKenzie’s attitudes concerning the importance of the role of advocacy, something that he has striven to employ in his personal and professional career.

McKenzie left Maine in 1986 to develop his sense of community further. After moving to the West Coast, he continued working to facilitate community, this time with students at the University of Arizona and California State University, Fullerton. As assistant dean for student affairs for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at CSU Fullerton, McKenzie advocated for over 7,000 students When he arrived here at USM on August 2, he brought back home the same character traits that drove him to help students at every stop he made on his career path.

“I would love to be that person that I needed back then,” McKenzie stated, referring to his initial experience in college at age 17, realizing that all students need a little direction and ultimately want to be part of the college community. “I want to serve that role.”

Bringing all aspects of the USM community together is an important goal for McKenzie’s tenure as interim dean of students. Nancy Griffin, vice president for enrollment management, agrees, saying:  McKenzie is “very connected, very involved, and has a strong working knowledge of Portland.” While at CSU Fullerton, McKenzie worked with an increasing number of minorities, especially Hispanic and Asian Pacific Islander.  

“He’s got a lot of experience working with minority students,” Griffin adds, believing him a good fit for dean of students.

With this direction at the Office of Student Affairs, McKenzie is reminded that each and all students are special. “We take them one at a time. We need to help all of them become productive citizens of the world.” McKenzie reiterates, “It’s a blessing to be exposed to all the different cultures here at USM.”

The commitment to bringing different people together in dialogue is an important issue for the new interim dean of students. He wants to put a face to seemingly opposing sides,  to respect their differences and to come together on the many similarities that all students share.

“We have more things in common that we do in difference,” McKenzie said. “We’re not all one thing anymore,” he remarked, speaking about the world as a diverse community.

Community and inclusion at USM are a priority for the Office of Student Affairs. McKenzie said that he’s inherited an amazing staff and wants to find out their own strengths to help them advance those skills to benefit the students and the university. With the recent hiring of an assistant dean of students for diversity and inclusion, Mariana Cruz, McKenzie believes that the university is going in a positive direction to include all students in USM’s community.

He said his office wants to “connect with students, to hear from them and for them to be part of what we do. It is a shared responsibility. We are here to support them. It’s a university for everyone. And we want folks to know that.”

Joshua Casebolt, a freshman veteran majoring in history, said that he met Dean McKenzie recently at a Sea Dogs game. When asked if he knew the new dean of students, he admitted that he did not know fully what the dean of students office did.

McKenzie, when asked about this, said that since he arrived on campus back in August, he has tried to make himself available. “I’ve gone to everything I can, including the Sea Dogs game, the President’s breakfast and freshman orientation.”

He even provided an intro to a movie night on the Gorham campus. He assures that he will be attending many more student activities to highlight the role of the dean of students office. He plans to talk with students in every group to let them know that he supports them and wants them to succeed.

McKenzie’s background is evident when describing what he wants to accomplish during his tenure: “We want to do some good things, some cutting edge things to bring our community together.”

New project seeks to ease burden ofn buying books.

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:28

By Pierce and Nick Beauchesne

Students scramble each year to get ready for the beginning of the fall semester. One of the more stressful aspects of getting prepared to take on the new course load is the process of securing books, often times at a price that breaks the bank. Through a new program offered this year at USM, though, all textbooks from coreany 100- level courses will be available to students free of charge.

This program, the Textbooks on Reserve Project, is part of a partnership between the USM Student Government, Student Body President Muhammad Khan, and the USM’s campus lLibraries. One textbook from each 100 level course will be accessible at the library on the campus where the course is primarily most often offered. If, for instance, the particular 100- level course you are enrolled in is offered primarily on the Portland campus, the textbook for that course will be housed in the Glickman Llibrary on the first floor.

Students should be aware that there is not an unlimited supply of textbooks for students to take for free and forever for any 100- level course that they are enrolled in. Rather, one copy of each text for each class will be housed at one of the three USM libraries on the (Gorham, Lewiston and, Portland campuses).

Each textbook housed at its respective library is available to be reserved and used at the library for two hours at a time. Along with these in-house copies, if the textbook is one that is available in e-book format, it will be accessible as such.

Though thisis program is meant to support those students who are in dire financial straits, though highly beneficial to the student body,it is not intended to entirely supplement eliminate the potential necessity the cost of of purchasing textbooks for all 100- level courses. With there being just one hard copy for each courselisting, students will still be required to purchase their own copy material if they intend to have it for personal use outside of their library’s hours itself.

USM Pprovost Jeannine Uzzi sums up the purpose and limits of the project, highlighting what the program offers and what it does not.

“Keep in mind that we are providing one copy of each book, so it’s not designed to replace the 100 level textbook purchases, but to at least provide a copy for first come, first served use,” Uzzi said.

Despite the limitations of the project in terms of physical textbook availability, the Textbooks on Reserve Project is a significant olive branch offered by the uUniversity to alleviate the burden of purchasing all textbooks, but only if students take advantage of the opportunity.

Student Bbody Ppresident Muhammad Khan, sees this program as a push in the right direction towards in terms of his vision to have textbook prices greatly reduced and eventually eliminated.

“I think, when people look back, they will see this as the first concrete step toward the overall goal,” Khan said. “It is good to dream big, but it is also good to start with a small, practical step. Obviously twelve thousand dollars (the program cost) was not just a small step, and we got it done.”

Aside from the relief provided by the the program to the students body, it is also an impressive example of the student body, the administration and the university library system working together.

David Nutty, dDirector of Libraries and and Continuing Education at USM, sees potential in the project.

“My hope is that the textbooks on reserve are well used and the feedback is positive,” Nutty said. “We are asking students who use the books to do a very short survey for feedback. If the project is successful, Huzma and I will ask the President and Provost for additional financial support to extend the initiative to more courses.”

If students take advantage of the program at the onset, there will be more incentive for the program to be renewed and expanded in the future. Though the days of paying zero dollars for textbooks is still far off in the future, this program is a step forward in that direction.


Sodexo brings healthy, local food to USM

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:26

By Julie Pike

Sodexo, one of the world’s largest food companies, took over USM’s dining services as of July 1, 2016. Tadd Stone, Sodexo’s General Manager of Dining at USM, announced that Sodexo has committed to having 20 percent of its food be locally grown. Aramark, the previous food supplier for USM, was outbid by Sodexo to stay on at the school.

Sodexo will also be the food supplier for every other school in the University of Maine System, except for Orono. As stated in the Portland Press Herald back in February, Sodexo has a contract with the University of Maine System worth $12 million annually.

Sodexo was founded in 1966 by  French businessman Pierre Bellon. The company is also one of the world’s largest employers, providing a wide range of services other than food.

“It was a competitive decision to switch to Sodexo,” Stone said. “It came down to Sodexo’s plan to support local food vendors.”

Some of the various food vendors Sodexo has partnered with are Oakhurst and Central Maine Meats. Most of its produce is from local companies.

“We are proud of our partnership with local vendors,” Stone said.

Sodexo kicked off its first year at USM with a carnival in  Brooks Dining Hall on Sunday, August 28. Sodexo employees featured local vendors and had carnival games, such as fortune tellers and clowns, as a way to introduce Sodexo to students on campus.

While some things will remain the same in the dining halls on campus, such as the “International Station” as well at the “Stir-Fry Station,” Sodexo is implementing their own changes. There are two new entree lines featured in Brooks Dining Hall: the “Maine Course Station” and a line called “Simple Servings.”

The “Maine Course Station” includes items that are all produced or grown in Maine. “Simple Servings” is an entree line that uses food that is free of seven of the top eight allergens, excluding fish .

“Having allergy free stations was so important to us we made it the main entree station,” Stone Stated. “We want people to feel comfortable in our dining halls.”

Portland Pie will also continue to provide the dough used for pizza.

Sodexo has brought on two new positions as well, including a dietician that is available for all students with a meal plan. On the Gorham campus, a dietician is on staff for students who want advice on weight loss, weight gain or on how to deal with dietary restrictions. A marketing director was brought on as well to help promote Sodexo across campus.

“Sodexo is working hard to promote themselves across all campuses, with different events coming up during the month of September, such as a local vendor fair, and partnering with local farms in the dining hall,” Stone explained.

The changes Sodexo has implemented thus far have received mixed reviews from students. Bryhanah Esposito is mainly on campus in Portland and uses the meal exchange program there, which has experienced some changes as well. “Portland doesn’t offer nearly as many choices for the meal exchange program as Aramark did, I don’t feel as if I’m getting my money’s worth,” Esposito said.

Esposito is a vegetarian and claims that there are not as many options for vegetarians.“In Brooks Dining Hall, I often have to resort to eating a salad because most of the time there aren’t many other options for vegetarians,” Esposito said.

Madeline O’Hara also tested out Portland’s meal exchange program and agrees that there aren’t nearly as many options as last year. She also believes the quality of food in Portland isn’t as great as it used to be. Another student who was interviewed, Allison Burns, does not feel as if the food in Brooks Dining Hall is as good as it was last year with Aramark.

Other students, such as Gabrielle Perron, noted a positive change with Sodexo: “One big difference that I really appreciate is that all the food stations have the calorie amounts for what they’re making.” She feels that Brooks Dining Hall looks “cleaned up” and “a bit more organized and modernized.”

As the school year continues, Sodexo will continue to make an effort to promote itself on USM’s campus, keeping their promise to provide local food for students. This year will be a test for Sodexo to see if its changes are meeting the needs of the USM student body.


Regardless of campus rules, students still smoke on campus

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:22

By Mary Ellen Aldrich

Within recent years USM has made a major change to the quality of its air. In January 2013, USM enforced a new policy that banned all tobacco products from being used on campus. Prior to 2011, tobacco use was permitted on campus without any restrictions.

In 2013 there was a hybrid policy, meaning that it was permitted, just not within 50 feet of buildings, and that there were designated smoking spots. Many argue that the designated spots didn’t work, that people ignored them and smoked wherever they wanted. Some students believe the university could have tried a little harder.

The university has approximately 10,009 undergraduate, graduate and law students, and approximately 667 staff and faculty members. According to a study done in 2005 by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health, about 29 percent of all college students smoke.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 21.2 percent of all adults smoke and another 4.4 percent use smokeless tobacco. With these statistics in mind, USM has around 2,841 students using tobacco and approximately 120 staff and faculty members using tobacco.

According to Malinda Scannell, an adult nurse practitioner at USM, the reason for USM’s tobacco-free campus policy is to provide a healthy, safe and clean environment in which students and staff can learn, work and live. It’s also trying to promote the optimal health and well-being of the campus community. As someone who lost her mother to lung and bone cancer due to tobacco use, this is an issue close to Scannell’s heart.

While many understand the effects secondhand smoke has on one’s health, as well as the trouble it causes for those trying to quit smoking or those with asthma or other breathing trouble, others don’t believe this to be USM’s reason for the policy.

Aaron Sciulli, a freshman with an undeclared major, believes the reason for USM going tobacco-free is all just a gimmick, a selling point for parents.

“It’s a gimmick that’s just appealing to one certain moral virtue of ‘ooh healthiness’ but then we’re basically told that as long as they don’t see us do it it’s fine,” said Sciulli. “It’s empty, just completely empty. They don’t actually stand by it. It’s a scam and it’s infringing on my rights.”

Sciulli isn’t the only one to think this way. Korey Paul Wetcher, a non-traditional senior student majoring in technology management, seems to think the same, saying,

“When this was just cigarette ban and their reasoning was that it was to limit carbon pollution. That’s fair. Then they expanded it to chewing tobacco and snuff. This is when I started to realize what was happening, it wasn’t just an environmentally friendly campaign anymore. A couple of years ago they expanded it to e-cigarettes and vaping. These two don’t even have an active flame or give off carbon pollution, no more than lighting a candle or burping a baby. My point is that this campaign to ‘“freshen our air”’ was just a lie to make smokers stand on the side of the road.”

Others, however, agree with Scannell, who said, “I believe that there is no safe tobacco product, and that the harmful effects of all forms of tobacco and nicotine use are detrimental to one’s health and well-being. That said, I do support the use of medically approved and FDA prescribed nicotine replacement for tobacco cessation.” As a nurse practitioner on campus, Scannell readily offers resources to help those who want to quit to do so.

“College is a professional environment, somewhere you go to study,” explained Madison Ochse, a freshman undeclared major who believes the tobacco policy is a good change to USM. “This isn’t exactly the place to be smoking. I mean, there are plenty of public places in this area where you’re allowed to smoke. Why here?”

Wetcher had the opportunity to live on the Gorham campus before, during and after the enforcement of the no-tobacco policy. While he did smoke cigarettes in the past, he no longer does and doesn’t consider himself to be a smoker. Now, he vapes on a daily basis as an alternative to cigarettes.

Around the time USM put the tobacco policy into effect, Wetcher was a sophomore in Dickey-Wood. In front of the building, there used to be a designated smoking spot at a picnic table. Wetcher reminisces about his time at Dickey-Wood before the no-tobacco policy, saying that when tobacco was allowed you could go out there at any time of the night and there would be at least three people sitting there.

“It could have been 0400 during a blizzard and there’d be three smokers huddled together. At earlier times in the night you could see 20-30 people just hanging out, some smoking, some just chilling and talking about their day,” Wetcher said. “I’m not saying I miss having the smell of Marlboro’s in my bedroom, but there was a certain novelty to it, a college feel.”

Sciulli, who only smokes on rare occasions, believes smoking should be allowed as long as it’s done outside. As an adult and an American citizen, he sees smoking as his right. He stated that he doesn’t appreciate USM trying to control that or take it away.

“You can have them in your room and walk around and show everybody ‘hey, these are my ciggs!’ you just can’t smoke them. Just what does that even mean?”

Caitlin Ostlund, a freshman social work major with a pre-track law, believes there should be a balance or compromise. She thinks there should be designated places for smoking. She explained that having to drive or walk off-campus just for a smoke is a major inconvenience to some people.

“If there is no spot, they’ll just smoke wherever because it doesn’t matter, they’re going to get in trouble anyway,” she stated. “If you have a spot to smoke you don’t need to ignore the rules. A designated spot should be able to help with the whole thing.”

Scannell helped devise the policy that is enforced today. She worked closely with a committee that represented students, staff, faculty, administration, police and safety and community members. They worked together to form a policy, based on group consensus from data collected from campus, medical and community partners.

Andrew McLean, coordinator of conduct, stated that the the Dean of Students Office were also a member of the team in charge of the development of the no-tobacco policy. It’s this office that is charged with enforcing university policies.

When asked about potential consequences for breaking this policy, McLean responded, “We rely mostly on education from peers as those who are new to the university aren’t always aware of the policy. If formal action is required because of consistent violations of this policy, they are referred to the Dean of Students Office.” From there it’s unclear what action will be taken against anyone who disobeys the policy.

The expected long-term policy goal is to create awareness about smoking and get folks the help they need to quit cigarettes. It is also in place to create safer and cleaner spaces on campus for those who have a medical aversion to smoke.

Scannell supported McLean’s statement on the disciplinary action to be taken should it become necessary, saying, “The university relies on the campus community to self-enforce the policy. If there is a person who consistently violates the policy the committee recommends their name be given to Andrew McLean Coordinator of Student Conduct or one of his designated employees. Infractions of the policy follow the USM student conduct process, similar to any other infraction of campus policies.”

Sciulli closed his interview with a statement that probably a few people would agree with: “they’re telling people that you’re not smart enough to choose for yourself. What you want to spend your money on, what you want to consume, what you want to do with whatever. It’s this unilateral body that you have no control over that’s setting the standard for you. I just think it’s wild. Just wild.”

Dorms on campus overcrowded, over 30 rooms tripled

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:22

By Julie Pike

This year USM has experienced a 20 percent increase in enrollment from last year for housing. On the Gorham campus there has been overcrowding in the residential dorms to accommodate the 612 new residential students. The Office of Residential Life has created many triples in response to the overcrowding, which will serve to accommodate three students in a standard double room. Converted spaces such as lounges have also been made into large dorms.

Robert Stein, the executive director of Public Affairs, commented on the issue: “There are triples in the Gorham dorms on the account of the largest incoming freshman class in many years.We are expecting that that this is a one-year issue.”

There are currently 30 triples in traditional double rooms on the Gorham campus. Most of the triples reside in Upton Hastings, with some also in Woodward. Quad rooms, which house four students, have been created in the Anderson dormitory. These rooms have been converted from space previously used as student lounges.

“USM is looking to add additional housing on the Portland campus, that should take the strain off the demand for Gorham housing,” stated Stein. The new dorms are projected to take two to three years to complete.

A room on the third floor of Upton Hastings, which used to be a student lounge, was converted into a large dorm room. It can house up to six students, and currently five occupy it.

An older dormitory on the Gorham campus, Dickey Wood, was not considered to house students due to the high cost of renovations it requires. The two towers have been closed down since 2013.

“You have to consider if there is enough demand to warrant the need to open Dickey Wood,” stated Jason Saucier, director of Campus Life.

Housing for first year students was over occupancy by 60 students this year. Dickey Wood fits 400 students, and would not have been a good financial option to accommodate the high occupancy.

The Office of Residential Life first became aware of the major increase in enrollment in June. To help with the overcrowding they predicted, letters were sent out to new students to give them the option to volunteer to be in a triple.

“It’s quite cramped living in a triple,” stated resident of Upton Hastings hall Nicole Lenentine, a freshman with an undecided major. “It’s hard to find space to put all of our stuff in here, but we manage to fit everything so I can’t really complain.” Lenentine was assigned to a triple this year, even though she did not volunteer to be. Her roommates were chosen randomly as well.

“We all get along well and we’ve managed to get all our stuff in here. It’s just a little cramped,” Lenentine added.

Although Lenentine did not have a choice of being housed in a triple, she stated that this experience would not put a damper on her experience at USM.

“I’d have to say that the downsides of living in a triple are worth it. I do plan to continue living on campus next semester,” Lenentine said.

Students who were placed into a triple received several incentives. For the fall semester, those students received $500 off of their housing fees, bringing their fees down to $2000 per semester. They are also given priority housing selection for the next year.

Vice President of Enrollment Services Nancy Griffin awarded students in a triple with priority class enrollment for the spring semester.

Saucier predicts that the triples will only last for one semester, and will be broken up by spring. This is due to students who may transfer, move off campus or study abroad.

“Through all of that we often see enough attrition in the halls to be able to break the existing triples down,” Saucier stated.

About whole process of creating triples and several large dorm rooms, Saucier remarked,“The whole process has gone really smoothly. No issues out of the norm have arisen from the overcrowding.”

The overcrowding in first year housing was due in part to the high increase in returning residential students. In the spring of 2015, approximately 450 students returned for housing. That number jumped to 555 this semester.

Returning students get priority housing over first-year students. With an increase in returning students, the number of rooms available for first years decreases.

“I think the housing market in Portland for the returning students is a huge challenge,” Saucier said. “I believe that has facilitated the increase in returning residential students.”

To move forward, USM is working on creating housing on the Portland campus.

A brochure created by Residential Life was sent out to all incoming students concerning the increased occupancy they would experience in the campus dorms

In this brochure, the following is  stated: “We believe it is important to provide a residential living and learning experience to all first year, transfer, and returning students who require or desire USM housing.”

Residential Life is continuing its work to ensure that all students are able to get housing. No student was turned away this year.

Online classes use Voicethread as a new learning tool

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:21

By Katie Harris

USM professors are relying on VoiceThread, an online communication discussion board,as a means to communicate with students through digital conversation. What makes VoiceThread stand out to professors is that it allows students to communicate through different forms. On Blackboard, students are only able to communicate through discussion board posts. VoiceThread, however, has many features that both professors and students can take advantage of.

Unlike typing in a tiny text box on the discussion board, VoiceThread allows USM students and professors to communicate in many different forms. Like Blackboard, students can still type in a text box to get their thoughts across, but with VoiceThread, students can do a lot more than just type words. Some professors have expressed high praise for this online tool and are impressed with how students are enjoying interacting through it so far.

USM’s Communications Professor Leonard Shedletsky says that students have more variety to interact with their peers.  

“Voice that allows you to approach a normal conversation more closely than the Discussion Board,” Shedletsky stated.

Shedletsky also said he’s been using this tool for years, and that he likes how VoiceThread allows students to post content through video with a microphone, photograph and audio. He uses VoiceThread for all of his online classes that he teaches, but  mainly uses VoiceThread for his Intrapersonal in Communication and Research Methods in Communications classes. By having students introduce themselves at the beginning of the semester through this interface, students and professors are able to connect faces and voices to the words they share with each other throughout the semester. It gives both sides a better feel of different forms of online discussion

The main reason Shedletsky chose this as an online tool is for students to get more involved with their peers in the class he is teaching. He said that most of the students like VoiceThread and hopes that it will enhance the level of discussion in online courses

Media Studies Professor David Pierson uses VoiceThread for his Writing for the Media course. This is the third semester he is using it for this class and, like Shedletsky, he said it is a great tool for students to use that provides more than just one way of communicating. He thinks that it benefits students in the long run, but believes that there needs to be more student involvement. VoiceThread is a great way to ask questions or make comments to both other students and the professor.

“It could help benefit students, and is a good way to ask questions,” Pierson said.

Pierson also says if the student has a question about the course material, the student can always send him an a traditional email for further clarification.

VoiceThread is emerging as an online communication tool for professors to introduce students to another form of communication for their online classes. USM professors like Pierson and Shedletsky are among the group of USM professors that use it as a means to get more student involvement online. The Blackboard discussion board has become more difficult to navigate for students, with some choosing to not be a part of the discussion, which can be frustrating.

If VoiceThread continues to enhance the online learning experience at USM, it may be here to stay. The more USM professors introduce this, the more likely there will be an increase in of student involvement in online discussion in future online classes to come.

The ROCC finds a home

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:21

By Jonathan Pessant, Free Press Staff

In tracking down interviews and information about the ROCC, or Recovery Oriented Campus Center, I was pointed in many directions. On the ROCC USM web page, I was led to the basement of Luther Bonney where the English department maintains space for two full time professors and a host of adjunct professors using a large room for student conferences. Next I tried another location, also rumored to be a place for the ROCC, rooms adjacent to counseling services in Payson Smith Hall. The last rumor was “somewhere on Bedford Street.” This description being so vague I ultimately dismissed the idea. That was Friday.

Over the weekend something miraculous happened, the ROCC found a permanent location: the second floor in Sullivan Gym. This week I entered Sullivan Gym, checked in with the attendant. When I asked if I could go up, she said “Sure, Anna’s up there!”

I climbed the stairs, and upon entering I was warmly greeted by Anna Gardner, collegiate recovery program coordinator. She offered to give me a tour of the recovery center. After seeing her office and the office of Diane Geyer, Coordinator of Substance Use Clinical Services, we entered an empty room at the end of the hallway.

“This will be our peer community room. I know it looks bare now but eventually we will have comfortable furniture. This space will be also used for group presentations and meetings.”

Gardner relayed that in the coming weeks a touchscreen computer monitor would be mounted to the wall in the room to ensure a seamless capacity for peers and  peer leaders (terms for members of the ROCC) to lead group meetings properly. The next rooms were for peers to study in, computers would be installed soon. The last room, the only one with chairs, was large and quiet. Here Gardner said mediation and support groups would be held.  The improvements intended for not only the peer community room but for the entire seven-room space dedicated for the ROCC is funded by a federal grant awarded to the recovery center.

In an email response, Geyer said, “The University of Southern Maine has provided space to house their new Recovery Oriented Campus Center. We are currently moving into the ROCC and expect to be occupying all the space in the next couple of weeks. We are already using our Group room.”

Geyer’s response also illuminated on some confusion about the permanent location for the ROCC. “USM reviewed many spaces over the last couple of month. Some of the spaces reviewed could not accommodate the student’s needs, some space was not readily available or needed to be renovated to accommodate the specific needs of the center’s programming.”

Student Intern and the “face” of the ROCC, Andrew Kiezulas, insists the importance of a permanent location for students in substance use recovery. He said that with the ROCC on campus it brings the group closer to the USM community, and in turn, brings all aspects of the USM community closer to each student in substance use recovery. Being located on the 2nd floor of Sullivan Gym, the recovery center is well situated to provide a successful environment.

“We don’t want students to have to choose between their classes and going to a recovery meeting. They can have both here.”

Kiezulas mentioned that the present administration is far more “recovery friendly” than when the Students and Recovery program, the precursor to the ROCC, started in 2013.

“It’s a very, very different atmosphere.”

Recovery friendly is just the first step in a longer process to destigmatizing substance use addiction and recovery Kiezulas adds. With understanding and education friendly soon turns to being an ally to the ROCC, and eventually with considered effort allies become recovery ready. Allies can be both individuals and groups on campus like the OAM, who combined efforts with the ROCC to provide substance free outdoor activities for both of its members.

“The opposite of addiction is connection,” Kiezulas proudly states. “That’s what we’re all longing for, a belonging, a fitting in, a purpose.”

Around campus students tended to feel the same way about the need for both connection and understanding. Many students see the need for the ROCC as a means for students in recovery to ensure their success at college.

“Substance use addiction can happen to anyone. It is important to have that resource for them,” Tim Gilman, a junior and technology management major, said.

Connection and building community is a big part of the ROCC’s mission. The center itself offers a multitude of services and support for its peers that include Student and Recovery groups, a mindfulness and meditation group called YesPlus, yoga,  and Young People in Recovery groups. They offer recovery planning, counseling, ways for its peers to be leaders in the community.  But a strong part of the center is the outgoing nature of  Andrew Kiezulas.

In an interview with a peer who wished to remain anonymous, they named Kiezulas as one of the ROCC’s best public advocates for connection with the USM campuses.

“Andrew is always giving hugs or high fives or just saying hi to everyone in passing. Reaching out can be powerful,” the peer reiterated, “You never know when someone is having a shitty day and that conversation or high five can lighten them up.”