USM Free Press News Feed
The Portland Events Board has been hosting and co-hosting multiple events during this fall semester, such as ziplining at the Husky Games and co-hosting the rooftop movie night on the parking garage. In addition they co-hosted a roller skating event last week with the Gorham Events Board.
Next week the PEB will be giving out tickets for haunted hayrides. In addition, the following week they will be co-hosting commuter week, which will involve activities including the USM Family Halloween Party, the Royal Majesty Drag Competition and Show, and the WMPG record sale.
The Gorham Events Board has hosted events such as the Husky Games, the “GLOW” dance, Bingo, pie eating contests, and pumpkin decoration workshops. GEB president, Delaney Kenny, stated that they already have next semester’s events all planned out, as well as events for the 2014 fall semester.
In two weeks the GEB will be hosting a laser tag event and arts and crafts. The GEB, according to Kenny, is a very “close-knit group.” “We have each others number so we could all just call each other for help,” said Kenny. The GEB will also be attending an event by the National Association for Campus Activities where they will be given ideas on how to bring in students and will be able to meet vendors and agents. They are also able to see live performances and decide who they would like to have come to USM. All expenses that would be made on the performers will be offered at a discounted rate.
One stolen set of keys has cost the university an estimated six-figure dollar amount, triggered a review of university policy and left many faculty and staff wondering how they will be able to get into their buildings at irregular hours.
After a tool bag that contained a set of university keys was stolen from a facilities van on Monday night prompting security concerns, the university began replacing all of the external doors in Portland and Gorham, said Bob Caswell, executive director of public affairs at USM. There are around 5,500 internal and external doors on campus in 40 to 50 buildings across the two campuses, Caswell said.
“It’s thousands and thousands of doors that need to be looked at and prioritized,” Caswell said. He said that external locks will be replaced for Monday. Several hundred doors had already been fitted with new locks as of Friday.
The process, he estimated, will cost the university more than six figures, and the lock changes this week are only a temporary fix, he said. There will be more to come, he said.
“The next major stage of the process will be to design a new [university-wide] keying system so that there is a finite number of master keys that work on both interior and exterior doors,” he said. In other words, the process is far from over. By mid-week faculty and staff will start to be issued new keys, but until then, public safety will have to let faculty and staff into university buildings after hours, if it is absolutely necessary that someone enter a building, Caswell said.
Beyond that, Caswell said that part of the process will likely prompt a review of policy, though he stated that he is currently not familiar with what facilities’ policies are currently in place to regulate procedures for the storage of university keys. Caswell was not aware of whether or not the vehicle from which the keys were stolen was left unlocked.
“There were no signs of forcible entry,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that somebody couldn’t have worked the lock.”
Caswell said that he didn’t think that the daily operations of the university had been interrupted; however, he acknowledged the inconvenience of the situation.
“It’s a huge pain. There’s no two ways about it,” he said. “I guess we just ask for people’s patience so that we can get a uniform key system in place.”
Of the the voices airing ideas on the subject of education reform this election season, only 2014 gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler is proposing a complete merging of the state of Maine’s community college and public university systems.
In an op-ed for the Sun Journal on Oct. 20, Cutler called for educational reform across the board. This call included a demand for a comprehensive plan for education in the state from preschool through graduate studies. His plan included the idea of merging Maine’s community colleges and public universities. It also called for the elimination of tuition costs for higher education by replacing tuition with the payment of a fixed percentage of graduates’ incomes in exchange for their living and working in the state of Maine for 20 years after graduation.
Cutler’s plan, which he said is detailed more comprehensively in his self-published book, A State of Opportunity, sprung from a speech he made in 2008 as a part of the ‘Policy Soundings’ lecture series. He’d been asked to speak about his work in China, and ended up discussing whether or not Maine’s educational system is competitive with China’s in the global market. According to Cutler, it is not–and since then, he said to the Free Press, the problem of Maine’s educational system has been on his mind.
“None of this is new, it’s just that we haven’t done anything about it,” Cutler said.
According to USM political science professor Ron Schmidt, the problem with Cutler’s proposal is not this desire for international academic competitiveness. “That’s a fair goal,” said Schmidt, when discussing the link between Cutler’s goal and the proposal in his op-ed. “I have no idea how he gets from one to the other.”
One of the points Schmidt objected to was to Cutler’s notion of “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back,” which would waive student payment for tuition while they are in school on the condition that they stay in the state and pay a percentage of their income back to the school for 20 years after graduation. Schmidt described this as creating, “what is essentially an indentured servitude class.”
The section of Cutler’s op-ed to which Schmidt refers states that “[the plan] would allow Maine high school graduates to attend our public colleges and universities tuition-free on the condition that they live and work in Maine and pay the fund back with a minimal percentage of their own incomes over 20 years or so.” Cutler responded to Schmidt’s comments later in a statement to the Free Press. Despite the op-ed’s language, Cutler’s plan would not necessarily keep students involved in the program from leaving the state.
“There’s no way that we could force graduates to stay in Maine, even if we wanted to,” Cutler said. “My intention has been that the legislature would consider a couple of alternatives: (a) a condition that students live and work in Maine for some number of years (say, three to six) following graduation, and then, they could leave if they wanted to, but the percentage-of-income repayment requirement would continue until it is satisfied; or, (b) they could leave right after graduation, but they would have to convert the debt from a ‘Pay It Forward, Pay It Back’ program to a conventional student loan.”
When asked whether there was precedent for his proposals, Cutler cited the state of Oregon’s proposed “Pay It Forward” plan that may or may not be implemented in 2015. “Pay It Forward” is indeed similar to Cutler’s proposal, except that it does not require students to remain in the state to participate.
The other significant change Cutler would make to Maine’s higher education system would be the merging of the public university and community college systems. This change is one that he feels would be particularly financially and practically sound.
“We have two separate systems with two separate superstructures,” Cutler said. “One of the consequences of that is that we don’t have a clearly defined path.” By combining the two systems, he would hope to prevent administrative redundancies and create a single, clear path through all of the levels the Maine public education system has to offer.
Schmidt pointed out that the mission statements of the two systems are different, with the community college system placing a heavier emphasis on job placement while the university system is intended to be a place for research and exploration, as well as the building of job skills.
Cutler said that his plans for education reform are key to his campaign for governor. Schmidt was more skeptical. “If for some reason this strikes a chord with people, it could help him, but I doubt it,” Schmidt said, adding, “it’s entirely possible that it will slip under the radar altogether.”
President Kalikow, Provost Stevenson and University of Maine Chancellor James Page declined to comment on Cutler’s proposal for higher education.
After the release of a new Direction Package on Sept. 24, students around campus have started to question the role USM serves as a public institution.
For junior women and gender studies students Jules Purnell and Meaghan LaSala, their questions about the Direction Package eventually became action, in the face of ongoing cuts, specifically the threat to their major of study.
“Last semester we were basically asked, ‘Why is your program valuable, and why should we not cut you?’ We had to do a sort of song and dance about what’s valuable about women and gender studies and what makes this a valuable field of study,” Purnell said.
Purnell sees cuts to programs as destructive to USM and as backpedaling on the part of the administration, rather than moving forward.
“[Education] isn’t just ‘Let’s see how much money we can make,’” said Purnell. “There’s a different kind of fulfillment to be gained from education, and it’s something that we’ve been missing out on in a lot of ways.”
With this, Purnell and LaSala were given the idea of “When Students Act Administration Listens: A Panel Discussion on Student Activism” by professor Wendy Chapkis. According to LaSala, the idea had been floating around, but she and Jules, alongside Chapkis, were the ones who decided to run with it.
Prior to the event, LaSala explained that the panel served the purpose of trying to engage students to bring more voices to the table and to to offer up different visions to the administration of what the purpose of USM is as a whole.
The worry they have for the lack of clarity of USM’s place in education stemmed from the language of the Direction Package, which they believe is moving further down the path of a corporate model of educational institutions.
“[Administrators] are prioritizing programs based on value systems that are about capital need rather than social need,” LaSala said.
Purnell fears for the future of programs like physics and humanities in general.
“There are a lot of other schools like SMCC that have really great programs for people for jobs in industry,” said Purnell. “So why not be a liberal arts college that’s geared more toward ‘Let’s be global citizens. Let’s think a little bit more about how our impact on the world actually impacts everybody,’ instead of just, ‘Let’s make money, right here, right now.’”
The next planned event, led by Student Body President Kelsea Dunham and Student Body Vice President Marpheen Chann, is Student Vision 2013, a two-day working session open to students only. The goal of the event is to generate student feedback to be used in what Dunham said was a more student-centered Direction Package that will be submitted to the administration.
“I organized Student Vision after I saw the administration’s direction and noticed that, in my opinion, there was a lack of student input and involvement in it,” Dunham said.
“If we could design the perfect university, and tell them what it looks like from a variety of different students: undergrads, grads, residents, commuters, traditional, nontraditional. If we could figure out the ways that we all touch the university and things that could be improved, what would that look like?”
Like Purnell and LaSala, Dunham’s concern is also rooted in the language of the Direction Package.
“It was very vague, and in my opinion, top down,” said Dunham. “It started from the trustee level and how the university is suppose to serve the state and trustees, but it said really nothing about how it’s supposed to serve students, ultimately, and I think we should be the first that are being served.”
“The Direction Package is a part of an international assault on the right to an accessible and affordable education,” said LaSala. “And especially being a public institution, USM is the only path to accessible education that a lot of people have, and to be carving out essential programs and departments from our public institution in southern Maine is completely unacceptable.”
Student Vision workshops will be held in the Faculty Dining Room and the Presidential Dining Room in Brooks Student Center on Friday, Nov. 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and 113 Bailey Hall, also in Gorham, on Saturday, Nov. 2 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences has been facing reorganization issues centered around the new Direction Package for USM, and CAHS professors are uncertain of the future direction of the college’s academic and financial success, but most agree that reorganization is necessary.
The CAHS faculty has had two meetings over the past few weeks: for the most part to address the Direction Package and what needs to be done within each department of the college. Lynn Kuzma, dean of the CAHS, said that the reorganization would be beneficial to the college. Kuzma said one new direction for the college could be professors interacting across disciplines to create a stronger academic bond for the faculty within the university. Added on to the confusion surrounding reorganization is the budget. Kuzma said that the provost recently informed her that there will be $5 million or more in cuts at USM.
Richard Campbell, chief financial officer within USM’s administration, said in a statement to The Free Press that the $5 million cuts are a reasonable number to make up for the budget shortfall due to low enrollment. Campbell mentioned that this number will be refined once financial reports are finalized by the administration at the end of October. The administration, Campbell stated, is planning reductions around USM.
When Kuzma was asked what she might do about a lack of funding, she said that one direction could be that the college would not replace faculty after they retire. Kuzma also pointed to course enrollment management as another area for tightening the budget. If a course doesn’t have high enrollment numbers, usually twelve students or more, she said, it would be canceled for the semester in order to save money. She also mentioned that another way to save money would be to reduce the amount of adjunct professors within the college. However, Kuzma said the specifics of reorganizing the college are still up in the air.
Cheryl Laz, associate professor of sociology feels that the Direction Package, as it has been presented so far, is not supportive of the college.
Laz said that she feels that communication between faculty and the administration has not yet been productive. The university, Laz said, is taking on a business model outlook for students and that the liberal arts that are at the heart of USM will suffer.
“Departments are like political party structures,” said Kuzma. “We want the faculty to get out and associate with each other in order to build cross-disciplinary relationships.”
The CAHS sent out a survey to its faculty members. Part of this survey addressed some faculty gossip and rumors about the new Direction Package. Kuzma said that one of these rumors was that the administration was going to cut out the the language department, uprooting or firing faculty, to turn USM into a replica of a community college. These rumors, Kuzma stated, are not true.
“Lynn spent a lot of time dispelling rumors during the meetings,” said Adam Tuchinsky, associate dean of CAHS. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible moving forward, should the faculty choose to reorganize the college.”
The survey results showed that there were several comments left by professors who were not in favor of reorganization. It was noted that at the next meeting, should the unsatisfied faculty show up, their comments and questions will be addressed. The survey also addressed the need for faculty to decide what parts of the Direction Package they agree and disagree on in order to give feedback to the administration about possible adjustments to the measure.
Laz did not take the survey because she said that she wants to have face-to-face discussions about the issues within the CAHS, rather than attempts to reorganize over survey results.
Kuzma and Tuchinsky stressed that they do not want to reorganize the college in a top-down style. They want to be as inclusive as possible with the faculty. Kuzma admitted that if the faculty does not want to reorganize at all, then they will leave CAHS unchanged, but a majority of the college’s professors, around 65 percent according to the faculty survey, do want to see changes.
Laz said the meetings for the CAHS were about whether the college should respond to the new Direction Package. According to Laz, many questions were not answered during the meetings, and there is still confusion among faculty regarding what the college will do in the future. Laz would not comment on what specific questions were asked during the meetings.
“We are thinking about a content base versus skills base,” said Kuzma. “Content is important, but we need to focus on the skills students need to learn. Skills that help students become lifelong learners.”
Like USM as a whole, the School of Business is in a position where it needs to cut down on classes and faculty. However, the coming semester’s course catalogue has raised concerns that those cuts are harming accounting and finance majors disportionately.
Michael Havlin, a senior business and economics major and an administrative assistant for the business office, believes that USM is not making the correct cuts within the School of Business.
“The most common major within the School of Business is the accounting major,” he said. “The sports management major is the smallest major, and yet they are getting almost as many classes as the accounting major.”
With only one accounting and two finance electives being offered next semester for accounting and finance majors, Havlin is concerned about the quality of his education. “I’ll still be able to graduate, but my education will be hurt a lot,” he said. He believes that in order to have a well-rounded education, there needs to be more elective options to choose from.
According to Havlin, there is one accounting elective being offered for 189 accounting majors. At the same time, there will be five sports management electives for about 70 sports management majors.
“It’s just not enough. There’s no way the demand for accounting electives will be satisfied,” Havlin said.
Jeyhun Ismayilov, an accounting major, is also concerned. “I am pretty sure, among 189 accounting majors, there will be people who would like to have more options than just one elective class for spring.”
Ismayilov is gathering student feedback about the lack of accounting electives, and he plans on presenting his results to the School of Business Dean Joe McDonnell.
Havlin met with Dean McDonnell on Oct. 21 to discuss the spring schedule. “I tried to get to the bottom of why there are so few accounting classes being offered next semester. He answered a lot of my questions with questions.”
According to Havlin, McDonnell told him that, “If there’s demand for the courses, he will offer the courses.”
School of Business Associate Dean Bert Smoluk said that if there was a demand for more accounting and finance classes, “We would seriously look at bringing adjuncts in. But we don’t see it. Some [classes] are offered only in the fall, some are offered only in the spring. Students recognize that and plan ahead.”
“We base our decisions on supply and demand,” said Smoluk. According to Smoluk, students demand more marketing classes than accounting and finance classes.
“I think it’s a non-issue,” said Kerr. According to Kerr, two finance and two accounting courses will be offered in the spring term.
Kerr said that he hasn’t received any complaints from the accounting or finance majors about the electives. “We try to accommodate students as much as possible. In the absence of many more complaints, there’s not much we can do.”
Jeff Shields, an associate professor of accounting, disagreed. “[We’re] down for the first time to one elective this spring,” he said. Shields attributed this to the retirement of Charlotte Pryor, an associate professor of accounting. According to Shields, it became more difficult to offer two electives in the fall and spring with the decrease in the number of faculty.
Smoluk said that the School of Business is looking to replace Pryor, however, “Given the financial situation for the university, we don’t know how that will go.”
Havlin is also concerned about the decision to hire a marketing adjunct instead of an accounting adjunct professor. “The funds are there to hire an accounting professor. There are four full time marketing professors already.”
According to Smoluk, “We have adjuncts right now in accounting.”
Havlin has started a Facebook campaign to get business students to email McDonnell and demand more accounting and finance electives. He believes that a lack of elective options is, “going to hurt the long-term prospects of the school.”
“They can afford to offer more classes and still be profitable,” he said.
Havlin explained, “I want to have [elective] choices to better my education.”
USM has ramped up its online class offerings over the past few years in the face of a system-wide push for more online credit hours.
Because they are the two largest branches of the University of Maine System, USM and the University of Maine at Orono will account for much of the change in a system effort set last January to offer 20 percent of the total system credit hours online by 2015.
At USM, the number of students enrolled in fully-online degree programs has increased from 52 majors in Spring 2012 to the current number, 237––an over 400 percent increase over four semesters. However, USM still ranks as having the third lowest percentage of online credit hours in the system, coming in at 11.5 percent of its total credit hours.
The current percentage of system credit hours online is 13.6 percent, with two lowest contributors, UMaine at 7.2 percent, the University of Maine at Farmington at 0.5 percent. Because of their sheer size and low rankings, if USM and UMaine do not increase their online offerings, the system will fail to reach the goal, said University of Maine at Augusta President Allyson Handley.
Handley, also a member of Governor LePage’s Broadband Capacity Building Task Force, created in 2011, said that in an upcoming report the governor will call for up to 25 percent of all UMS credit hours to be offered online.
“I think we need to get to the 20 percent threshold, and we’ve got a little bit of time to do that,” Handley said. “We’re still seeing growth.”
Amy Gieseke, USM associate director of online program management and advising, believes that USM’s large non-traditional student population would support an even greater increase in online course offerings because, she said, 80 percent of USM students completing an online degree are non-traditional.
The 237 students completing a fully online major are only a small piece of the pie, Gieseke explained. She estimated that an additional 1,200 to 1,500 more USM students are enrolled in at least one online class. What many students look for, she said, is options––online, on campus or blended.
Part of the challenge at USM is, she said, appealing to the incredibly diverse student body. Beyond that, students have a vast range of options. USM’s non-traditional students especially, she said, tend to chose alternative forms of education for their flexibility and convenience. The competition in the realm of online education, she said, is likely a factor in USM’s dropping enrollment numbers.
“They’re not just going to pick USM because it’s in their backyard anymore,” she said. “So I think to compete with the other online schools we just have to be doing it [online classes]. If we’re going to be doing it, we have to make sure it’s high quality so that we stand out.”
Professor of linguistics Wayne Cowart has been teaching the same introductory level course since the 1990s. From his experience, the online experience can be just as effective and enriching for the student if not more, but that doing it well is time consuming and difficult.
“More generally with respect to quality, I think it’s a case by case basis,” he said. “There are dreadful online courses, and there are dreadful live courses.”
According to Cowart, the issue of quality is in many ways a question of how well both instructors and students use the tools and resources available to them. Most instructors, he admitted, are still not comfortable with the online format.
“Right now it’s like semester to semester, the world has changed,” he said.
History Professor Libby Bischof said that the history department is offering five online courses this semester––more than it has ever offered, but the online growth they’ve been experiencing in recent years, she said, has not been a direct response to the system goal. The change, she said, has been a natural development, due to student demand and the history department’s retirement of four tenured professors in the last six years who have not been replaced.
Bischof recently decided to do an experiment. She’s long been interested in the role of the online element in higher education. Last summer, she taught her first online course, the History of American Popular Culture. Overall, she said, she was surprised to find that students showed a higher level of engagement with assigned readings.
“It was a challenge for me,” she said. “Can I deliver a high quality, vigorous, content rich experience, [like] I strive for in my face to face classes, in an online environment?”
She did, and the course evaluations support that, she said. “I have to say that I enjoyed the online teaching experience far more than I initially thought I would.”
Qianru Zhu, a freshman marketing major has taken two online courses at USM. She said that when she first came to USM taking classes face to face was easier for her. Before she traveled to the U.S. from China to study, she said, she didn’t use a computer, so when she had no choice but to take an online class to fulfill a requirement, she was not pleased.
Having now become more accustomed to the technology, Zhu admits that she would actually like more online options, especially in the summer. “If it’s online, maybe I can take more,” she said. “I’m in a hurry.”
Iyann Mohamed, a senior human biology major, feels that the quality of the education she has received from her online classes has been equal to the education she has gotten from her face to face classes. She was, however, extremely frustrated with a lack of responsiveness from her professor when she asked for help.
Handley is confident that the quality an online education can be equal, if not superior to, face to face teaching if it is done carefully and thoughtfully. “The reality is that the technology is here to stay,” Handley said.
Assistant professor of design science and fine arts Raphael Diluzio and his CI2 lab are trying something new, working to combine fine arts with hard sciences.
Diluzio runs the CI2 lab in which he is attempting to incorporate technology into the arts in the form of digital media. He was given an National Science Foundation grant to in order to work on supporting artistic and creative projects for students studying STEM subjects.
The CI2 lab is technically neither a lab, nor a class, but is instead called a “research studio.” It is a working environment, Diluzio explained. He does not assign work to the students, instead allowing them to think of projects that they would like to do through a method called “project based learning.”
The studio is funded by the university and is certainly a part of the school, but Diluzio said that one of the project’s strengths is that it is so radically different in the way it runs compared to a traditional university program.
There are currently 18 students working in the lab, including computer, engineering and design students. Diluzio said they are always looking for more participants. Students in this lab are able to work on what interests them and are even given “mini grants” to work on their desired projects.
The challenge for some students is having free reign to research whatever they want rather than being given an assignment with a deadline, but Diluzio feels that this method is more effective with the type of system he’s trying to run.
“Some people don’t understand how to do things differently,” said Diluzio. “We always say ‘think differently, think out of the box, be creative, be innovative.’ Well, the moment you really are creative and really innovative in a traditional academic environment is really the moment people get scared.”
Diluzio has decided that rather than running this program with very little structure, he will provide the students in the program with a more structured system. Students will now come up with the ideas for the projects they would like to do and submit them to Diluzio, where he can then approve them and provide the student with funding to work on their project.
Diluzio stated that this is to provide a certain amount of structure so the students are not scared by a lack of structure. His main focus is to show the students that it’s okay to come up with their own ideas because that’s what it will be like in the world outside of school.
Diluzio has plemty of his own experiences of lack of structure in the real world. He came to USM after years working in different places across the country, including 12 years of building a media program at UMO. He halted his work there due to the fact that the technology was not advancing because the university would not provide funding for new equipment.
He said he got “burnt out” at UMO, and though it may be the flagship school to the UMaine system, he left to come to USM, where they were willing to provide current technology. “There is no ‘new’ in ‘new media’ unless you shovel money into it,” said Diluzio.
When asked how the studio will help the students involved, Diluzio said that he provides students with a space where they can learn new things based on their own interests. “The more they’re interested, the more they’ll learn,” said Diluzio.
With students able to come into the studio and work on something, whether it be starting and managing a business or researching modern technology, they are building skills for their futures and are provided with the infrastructure and equipment to do so.
Diluzio hopes that more students will become involved in this program and actively shape what they will do with their lives.
“They can define what their future can be, they can make a great future for themselves.”
Media Services, the department responsible for classroom technology maintenance, is moving forward with their effort to cut down on problems that arise from outdated software, and they are receiving support from the faculty, along with criticism.
The university relies on technology in many ways, whether that means expanding the classroom to include online spaces, like Blackboard, increasing connectedness through Mainestreet or simply using classroom computers to display assignments and topics of discussion. While these various types of technology can be seen as beneficial, some professors have problems with it that must be solved by Media Services.
Angela Cook, manager of Audio Visual and Media Services, said that Media Services is called for assistance roughly 30 to 50 times per day.
According to Cook, media services is busiest at the beginning of the semester. “The case is,” Cook said, “that the faculty forget how to use technology over school vacations, but they refamiliarize themselves with it as the semester proceeds.”
“The equipment we have in the classrooms are cumbersome,” said Lorrayne Carroll, associate professor of English. “It takes time for me to get set up in class.”
Carroll admitted that she feels bad for the people who work in media services. The media center, she stated, is understaffed and overworked and under resourced. She described the workers in the media center as “heroic” for all of the work that they do in classrooms around the university.
“For the past several years we’ve been working on consistency in the classrooms,” Cook said. “When I say consistency, I mean that we’ve been trying to place the same technology in all the classrooms, like projectors and sound systems.”
Regardless, Carroll said that even though she familiarizes herself with the technology as the semester progresses, computer troubles still happen that take up valuable class time.
“For one of my graduate courses,” Carroll said, “I walked into the classroom and all of the technology for the projector was changed around. It took up a lot of class time because I couldn’t figure out how to hook up my computer.”
Cook said that another problem with software in classrooms is the changes that computer companies make to new models of laptops every year. Most of the projectors are set up to work with video graphic array outputs to older laptop models.
The latest version of video outputs for computers are high-definition multimedia interfaces. Cook said that a number of technology problems in classrooms are related to students and faculty using computers with HDMI video outputs.
Media services has been able to add HDMI outputs to some of the classrooms to solve these problems, but there are classrooms that do not have updated software, an obstacle that Cook said was due to lack of funds in her department, and this has created issues.
Carroll said that she relies on technology for teaching her classes. She uses the projectors to show students homework assignments and for class discussion.
“I keep files on all of my classes in my computer,” Carroll said. “I’m using the computer more and more because I find that students don’t print out assignments. I also show students websites to help with research. Technology is useful in multiple ways.”
Professor Carroll went on to explain that technology is just a tool, and whether or not its use has positive effects in the classroom depends on how it’s used, and if it works properly.
In the midst of debates over funding and program cuts, USM may have the chance to give some laboratory space an upgrade.
Question 2 on the Nov. 5 ballot will be a bond package that includes $15.5 million to update science labs and classrooms across the University of Maine System, including $4 million to be shared among the lab spaces on USM’s three campuses.
“We’ve received pretty broad, bipartisan support,” said Ryan Low, the executive director of governmental and external affairs for the UMS, who has been working to promote the referendum question. One of Low’s main goals for the “Yes on Question 2” campaign is to impress upon voters how important this election could be for the UMS. “There’s a statewide need [for funding] at a lot of our universities,” Low said. “Some of our labs date back to the ‘70s.”
According to Low, the biggest concern for the “Yes on Question 2” campaign is that, in an election year when none of the larger political offices are being voted on, low voter turnout might work against the bond package.
“A lot of people aren’t even aware that there’s an election,” Low said.
USM Dean Andrew Anderson of the college of science, technology and health expanded on what the bond package could mean for USM. One of the projects that he says will be addressed if the bond package passes would be the introductory chemistry lab in Payson Smith.
“It’s very old, not up to code, not up to standards,” Anderson said.
It’s impossible to tell what specifically can be done with the money until surveys are taken to see how much renovations will cost, said Anderson. However, there are plans to renovate lab space on each of USM’s three campuses, regardless of the surveys’ results.
“In these financial times, everyone worries about spending money,” Anderson said. “I’d like to think of it as more of an investment.” He went on to say that up-to-date laboratories are key in attracting STEM students to USM. “Like it or not, science progresses,” Anderson said of the need for more modern laboratory facilities.
Anderson is not alone in wanting to draw the bond package funding to USM. Question two’s bond package has been a topic of concern underlying various discussions from the beginning of the fall semester. Associate professor of psychology John Broida cited the vote for the bond package as a factor that might encourage the UMS to more quickly come to an agreement over faculty contract negotiations. Not long after, President Kalikow began her participation in the Sept. 20 faculty senate meeting by reminding the senate that the vote on the bond package was fast approaching, and that, were it to pass, it would be a very good thing for USM.
Low has recently met with the Advocacy Subcommittee of the College of Science, Technology and Health’s STEM Advisory Board. The board is a group of local business leaders who, according to USM’s executive director of public affairs Bob Caswell, advocate for the sciences at USM to the larger community. Additionally, a number of USM students, notably student representative to the Board of Trustees Alex Greenlee and student senator Jason Blanco, have been working to promote “Yes on Question 2.”
According to Low, Question 2 has not met with any formal opposition, although he intends to campaign aggressively for the bond package just the same, he said. According to Low, lack of formal opposition is no reason to get complacent. “By no means would we take anything for granted,” Low said.
“You are watched by all sorts of people,” scientific systems administrator Edward Sihler of USM’s “Information and Innovation” program said when describing the subject of the discussion at the most recent Science Cafe.
The subject of electronic surveillance and cyber security, said Science Cafe organizer Jennifer Dean, who is the director of communications at USM, was chosen as the topic of discussion in part because USM is offering and hosting several events and programs on the subject, which is becoming increasingly relevant to USM and the community at large.
Sihler expanded on the timeliness. “There’s recently a lot of paranoia, not unreasonably,” Sihler said. “It’s a hot-button issue. My goal is to bring some sanity to the conversation.”
Sihler is a member of the Maine Cyber Securities Cluster, one of the various initiatives Dean referred to in describing USM’s growing interest in cyber security. The group, which is based out of USM, offers help to small businesses in boosting their security and works with a group of students who are interested in cyber security, among other projects. On Oct. 10, he recounted to the Free Press, he discussed the fact that global cyber surveillance is growing. This surveillance, he explained, does not come exclusively from various government agencies, either.
He cited Google Maps, which can allow users to see, in real time, congestion on the highway. People lose a little privacy for this service, he explained, but they do get a better view of traffic.
“The active discussion was less than ten people,” Sihler said of the discussion on Oct. 10, although, he said, others drifted in and out of the conversation.
In a statement to the Free Press, Dean elaborated, “While we had a relatively small turnout, Edward Sihler’s presentation was fascinating and the cafe participants were actively engaged.”
Sihler will also speak at the next Science Cafe on Nov. 14.
It used to be that men were the only ones allowed to call themselves scientists, in today’s world, gender structures are not so rigid. Even so, female scientists pursuing hard sciences has become a rarity, according to women and gender studies Professor Lucinda Cole.
That is the subject of “Women, Science and the Night Sky: A Panel Discussion,” which will be held Tues. Oct. 8 from 2:45 to 4:00 p.m. in the planetarium, accompanied by a slideshow in the dome, followed by a reception.
The panel resulted from a grant USM received from the National Science Foundation worth over $150,000 to fund the Southern Maine ADVANCE IT Catalyst project.
The grant funds a study to determine how USM can better recruit, retain and advance female faculty members in the sciences, technology, engineering, math and social and behavioral sciences. For students, it serves a different purpose.
“This grant gives us the funds to collect baseline data to see if there are any inequities in the way we’re teaching the sciences,” said Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh, associate vice president for academic affairs for research, scholarship, and creative activity.
Langley-Turnbaugh explained that “Women, Science and the Night Sky” came to be after she was approached by Associate Professor of theater Assunta Kent about the USM theatre department production she is directing, “Night Sky,” which features a female astronomer.
“[She] wants to build enthusiasm for the play,” said Langley-Turnbaugh. “I thought it was a great idea so I brought it to the faculty.” She said that the decision to make the planetarium the site of the panel was directly related to the fact that the play’s character is an astronomer.
The panel, like the grant, is concerned with difficulties women have faced in the sciences.
These subjects are very immediate to Kent, as well as to faculty members of science departments. “My first degree is a bachelors of science,” Kents said. “I’ve not forgotten that.”
“Historically women have been represented in scientific disciplines in smaller numbers than in other disciplines,” said Cole. “15 percent of astronomers worldwide are female, but there’s a lot of geographic diversity. So some countries will have no female astronomers and others will have 50 percent of their astronomers be women.”
Cole attributes the varied numbers to cultural differences in how women are being introduced to not just astronomy, but science in general.
In the United States, only 18 percent of astronomers are women, a significant difference from biological sciences, according to Cole.
“Sometimes the relationship between, like, groundwater and ending world hunger is not necessarily immediately apparent. So engineering might not be an immediate choice for a lot of women,” said Cole. “Women are given something to care about in the biological sciences; that is, they can see how animals and human health and environmental matters are ways of affecting the world.”
Cole, along with the other panel members, hope the discussion will elevate the conversation about women in hard sciences.
“[We want to] make it apparent that yes we do have a problem and it’s a problem that we can address we just have to find ways to talk about it,” said Cole. “I think that it takes historical knowledge, institutional knowledge, and a commitment.”
The Associated Faculties of the University of Maine met again on Friday, Sept. 27 to renegotiate the full-time faculty contract that expired on June 30, 2011. However, no agreements were reached at that meeting.
USM and AFUM are scheduled to meet again on Oct.18 to see if a compromise can be reached. “We all want our concerns addressed,” said John Broida, the USM representative on the AFUM bargaining committee and psychology associate professor.
“The problem is that the playing field keeps changing. We get close to [an agreement], and then somebody will propose something new,” said Broida. At the Sept. 27 meeting, “The administration put a huge proposal on the table.”
This proposal involves health care. According to Broida, the administration would like to pass on the costs of health care to the union members, and the union members want to pass on the costs to the administration. This is the primary problem holding up the negotiations at this moment.
“We’re closer than we were. There is increasing pressure on both sides to get this done,” said Broida. He is hopeful that some conclusions will be reached at the meeting on Oct. 18.
At Friday’s student senate meeting, student body Vice President Marpheen Chann announced an event in response to the direction package called, “Student Vision 2013.”
Chief Student Success Officer Susan Campbell gave an informational presentation to the senate about searches for new positions at the university. One of the three positions that the university hopes to fill is a new Coordinator of Veterans Services that would help secure benefits for veteran students who have not been receiving them. Campbell’s presentation was part of a student senate effort to become more involved in the important decisions at USM, according to Student Senate Vice Chair Will Gattis.
“The student senate is trying to be more involved in more than just approving BSO groups and field trips. We want to have more of a place at the table about what happens,” said Gattis.
The introduction of “Student Vision 2013,” an event to be hosted by Chann-Berry and student body President Kelsea Dunham is a part of a student response to the administration’s new direction package. In a statement to the Free Press, Chann-Berry said that the, “Student Vision Conference is an opportunity for all students, not just student government or student leaders, to contribute to the discussion and craft a common vision of what we would like to see happen at USM.”
Chan-Berry went on to say that the range of students “Student Vision 2013” is intended to reach include commuters, residents, international, LGBTQIA and students from all majors.
In other business, the senate approved a request to donate $1,500 to the Gorham Events Board for their attendance at a conference, reducing the cost each attending student will pay out of pocket. The request pass unanimously.
Nathaniel Margeson, transfer student and former member of the SMCC Student Senate, was voted in as a new member of the USM senate. His past involvement included being president of the game club and the anime club at SMCC, and also being a member of the Representative Administrations Board.
The senate approved the creation of an Anime club at USM, which was initially proposed by Nathaniel Margeson. Additionally, they recognized the Southern Maine Outdoor Adventure Club and the Geology club.
The next Student Senate meeting will be held Gorham’s Bailey Hall, room 405 on Friday at 1:00 p.m.
Two weeks ago the Faculty Commons made its debut, a $30,000 project funded by donations and reallocated faculty development funds.
According to Judith Spross, one of the faculty members spearheading this endeavor, Provost Michael Stevenson went back to old documents pointing to faculty interest in a space for shared ideas and cooperation—as the Faculty Commons is intended to provide.
“The administration was aware of the need for professors to build community outside of their departments and for ongoing faculty development,” said Spross.
Associate Professor of philosophy Jason Read said in a statement to the Free Press, “I think a true commons would be a useful aspect of this university and something worth spending money on. It is not clear to me that this is what the university is developing.”
In a letter addressed to the faculty last spring, Stevenson wrote, “In my review of documents about faculty work, the most common theme was the need for venues for faculty to come together,” he said. “I agree that creating such opportunities is critical—a thriving faculty benefits students and will enable USM to meet the challenges we face in a changing environment. Critical, if modest, investments in this work are essential.”
According to Judie O’Malley, assistant director of Public Affairs, Stevenson and Executive Director of Public Affairs Robert Caswell were not available for comment on Friday afternoon because they were attending a Faculty Senate meeting.
O’Malley gave a breakdown of the approximate funds allocated to the Faculty Commons: $6,000 was contributed by the Davis Foundation; and David Nutty the Director of Libraries contributed $8,000, which was spent on painting, cleaning carpets and reorganizing offices. O’Malley told the Free Press she did not have access to the exact figure that the provost allocated to the commons project.
“The provost reallocated money that had been used for receptions, which will no longer be held, and faculty development. Total funding, including money from other sources, is roughly $30,000. However, Nutty said that number is high,” said O’Malley.
Stevenson wrote that the purpose of the Faculty Commons is “an inclusive physical and virtual space in which faculty across disciplines can learn from each other about how to become even stronger.”
Spross described the Faculty Commons as a way of helping faculty share resources, and said that one of the ways to make sure the project succeeds is simply by ensuring that the faculty know the commons is there.
Spross’s letter sent to the faculty last spring said, “Let’s face it. USM, because of our institutional culture and physical layout, has offered few opportunities to create a sense of community within and among disciplines.”
Furthermore, Spross said, “We have excellent faculty, committed to teaching, who are, as one colleague said, often ‘better known outside USM than within.’”
In the first two weeks after its opening, the general consensus about the Faculty Commons has been positive, said Spross in a statement to the Free Press.
“Most people tell me it is one positive thing [in the current campus climate]. ‘Really glad you’re doing it’ is another type of comment,” Spross said.
Spross also said that while the Faculty Commons space is on the third floor of the Glickman Family Library, different Faculty Commons events will take place in different spaces based on group size and activity.
“USM is in desperate need of a place where faculty can connect and talk. The different campuses, the isolated houses, all work against this. I am not sure if the commons is going to work as a solution to this problem, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Read.
The Campus Safety Project has kicked off the fall semester with hopes of reaching out to students and the community of USM, even though the program faced management challenges after last year’s grant ran out and they were unable to secure funding. The change resulted in the loss of project coordinator Clara Porter.
Despite that loss, at the end of last spring, students and faculty have stepped up to plate this year to make sure it remains a success within the university, and its co-chairs are starting off the year by tabling in the Wishcamper Center to help promote awareness about domestic violence in relationships.
When Porter was still in charge, she was anticipating the arrival of grant funding to help keep the project alive, even in the face of her approaching unemployment.
“The project has so many pieces”, said Porter, in an interview last spring before her contract expired. “All of the pieces will have to be overseen by a group of people instead of a coordinator that students can go to throughout the day, and that is a concern.”
The project was able to secure the grant from the federal government, in the amount of $300,000 for three years of funding. Director of the school of social work and women and gender studies Professor Susan Fineran and Jean Bessette, a research associate at the Muskie school applied for another grant from the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice. “We were fortunate to be selected a second time,” Fineran said.
The grant, which began funding the program on Oct. 1, will be used differently from the previous one. Since the grant came to USM significantly after the loss of Clara Porter at the end of the last grant, USM was unable to hire Porter back, Fineran said. Rather than replace her with another program coordinator, she said that the program intended to hire a project assistant, whose job would be much less hands-on, and spend more of the grant money on programs on campus, such as victim services and prevention education training.
One of the current co-chairs of the project is Sarah Holmes, assistant director of the Portland Student Life center and the Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity. She said that she is relieved to know that the project received the grant funding, and it went into effect on Oct. 1. Holmes’s fellow co-chair of the committee is Lee Anne Dodge, the assistant director of Student Life in Gorham.
“It’s hard to manage the project without a coordinator,” said Holmes. “Lee Anne and I are already working with busy schedules and have a lot of pieces to our jobs. The project is another piece added on top.”
Holmes said that the loss of Porter has been a challenge. The project does not have a coordinator to help maintain the programs that are put on around all of USM’s campuses. Instead, it is now being run by a committee made up of students, university counselors and community advocates from Family Crisis Services and Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, a nonprofit organization.
“The project needed to continue,” Holmes said, “because we have to help ensure students are educated about healthy relationships, domestic violence and sexual assaults, and that they have a safe place to go when they are in need.”
Liz Bilodeau, a senior social work major, is an intern for the Campus Safety Project. She explained that Porter left files for different programs and community resources for the new coordinators to reference and work with for events they host this year.
“For the programs we are putting on this year,” Bilodeau said, “we are taking ideas from last year and trying them out this year to see if they have the same effect on the student body.”
However, Bilodeau said that for this year they are left with some rough patches in the management of the program, and are still trying to figure out what roles students and faculty of the committee will play.
Holmes said that the community advocates and resources, like Family Crisis Services, helps the project achieve its goals of keeping students safe and aware about interrelational and sexual issues.
“A lot of people are happy the project has continued,” said Bilodeau. “I know several people who were afraid that it would be gone once Clara left.”
The main location for the project is on the Portland campus at the Wellness Center, commonly referred to as “the Well” in the Woodbury Campus Center, but it is branching out to the Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn campuses. Holmes said that the project is using different themes every month to focus on domestic and sexual issues, in the same vein as the established spotlight on sexual assault awareness in April. “Hopefully it will contribute to making the university a safer environment for students, faculty and staff,” Fineran said.
Friday night, USM piloted a run of the new late night bus to First Friday Art Walk in an attempt to give students more to do on the weekend.
The pilot will be the first of two test runs to determine whether the new bus will be a permanent addition to Gorham life. Student body President Kelsea Dunham has been working on the new bus schedule since the summer and went through Joy Pufhal, special assistant to the chief student affairs officer, and Student Success for funding and approval. A date for the second pilot run has not yet been set.
The students who took the late night bus were pleased to have an easier way to get to and from Portland on the weekend. “It was still great. It is so nice to be able to know that I have a ride back to Gorham when I need. It’s nice to not have to worry about heavily planning to just see my friends,” said senior art history major Bobbie Pirruccello.
Classics professor and department chair Jeannine Uzzi has advocated for the installment of a late night bus option for residential students for quite some time. “I can tell you that my efforts to engage my EYE, honors and other general education students in co-curricular activities has always been a challenge in part because of the Gorham bus schedule,” she said. “One year I tried to offer my EYE students a film festival to go along with their class, but because the bus returns to Gorham from Portland so early, I couldn’t show a film after people’s evening classes were over,” Uzzi said.
The bus is, in part, aligned with on-going efforts to enliven Gorham student life by persuading students to stay on campus for the weekend rather than travel home or elsewhere. “When I campaigned for student body president a lot of people complained about [having] nothing to do on campus on weekends. A lot of people have friends in Portland. It just made sense to bring these students to Portland,” Dunham said. “I tabled in Gorham on Wednesday and lots of students were excited about this schedule. Hopefully they actually decide to ride it.”
While some students are excited about the schedule change, other think that the schedule could be further adjusted. “I think the bus schedule is a really good thing,” said Julie Clavette a junior in Social Work said. “I just wish that there was a bus that brought students back to Gorham on Sundays.”
The late night buses will run from 7:30 to 11:30 from Bailey in Gorham to Portland’s Monument Square. Students will be able to take the bus back to Gorham now as late as midnight.
Between the roll-out event of President Kalikow and Provost Stevenson’s plan for the university on Sept. 23 and the email Kalikow sent out on Oct. 3, something significant changed. That change caused Kalikow to switch plans in ten days from the process she and Stevenson said, on Sept. 23, they had been refining all summer.
At the direction package event Kalikow and Stevenson invited the USM students, faculty, staff and other interested parties to a “roll-out” event for the “Direction Package” they had been working on since the summer. In an interview with the Free Press before the event, Stevenson stressed that the two events on Sept. 23 were intended not as a presentation, but rather as the start of a conversation.
“We need to talk about the vision,” Stevenson said.
There were two direction package meetings that Tuesday, both on the Portland campus, and both were broadcast to locations on both the Gorham and the Lewiston Auburn campuses. The rolling out of the direction package came directly on the heels of controversy about the possibility of USM cutting its physics major. However, promotional material about the event assured that it had been planned signifactly in advance of the controversy.
During the question and answer period following the slideshow of the second presentation, Provost Stevenson said, “I’ve watched this particular set of slides evolve all summer. We believe this is the right time to expand the conversation.”
The slides in question, which are available on the direction package’s website, propose that the roadmap toward the university’s future success should be guided by the clarification first of vision, then charter, mission, values and finally strategy.
“It’s very rare to go into an institution that doesn’t have a vision statement,” said Dave Stevens, a consultant from the University of Maine System who has been working with the president and the provost on the direction package over the summer.
“I’m especially happy to be here today because this is the start of a process to get the involvement of you folks,” Stevens said, addressing the crowd that filled about a third of the available seating in Hannaford Hall Sept. 23.
His words echoed Provost Stevenson’s sentiments to the Free Press earlier in the week that, “decisions will get made after that conversation plays out.”
The slides presented on the direction package, Kalikow and Stevenson both said, were drawn from a variety of already established sources, including documents that date back to the university’s founding. “Nothing here should be surprising to you,” Kalikow said.
In the question and answer period, numerous faculty and staff stepped forward to express concerns. One of the most well-received comments, made in the second session, by both the crowd and the president, came from Director of Counseling Services Robert Small, who said that rather than discussing the vision and the values of the university, a more student-based approach might be called for. “Our students need vision, they need values, they need hope,” Small said.
In a statement to the Free Press later, Small expanded upon the point, stressing the importance of unity in the university, saying, “due to multiple agendas of administration, faculty, staff and students it is difficult for the USM community (and for many others in our world today), to agree and create a viable harmonious vision,” Small said, declaring that the university’s focus should be on helping students clarify their own visions, rather than being so concerned with vision for the school. “Perhaps programs, faculty and staff who can not help students find meaning and purpose in their education should not be here.”
In a similar vein, student body President Kelsea Dunham and Vice President Marpheen Chann-Berry are responding to the unveiling of the direction package by organizing a student discussion, “Student Visions 2013,” which should take place in November.
“The idea is to invite as many students as we can,” Chann-Berry said.
According to Chann-Berry the “Student Visions 2013” conference is conceived as a means of clarifying and conveying the feelings and ideas of students from all different backgrounds to President Kalikow.
Kalikow said, in her opening address for the roll-out event, that, “If you came here today hoping to see a detailed plan, you’ll be very disappointed,” and a number of respondents in the question and answer period did express disappointment.
“I understood that this was going to be a dialogue, but what it sounds like is a feedback group,” said sociology Professor Luisa Deprez.
Professor of linguistics and department Chair Wayne Cowart expressed a different concern, that the direction package “[has] a missing middle step–how does a vision become a plan we can do things with?”
The “missing step” to which Cowart referred, Kalikow said, was intended to come out of the university-wide conversation that the rollout event was designed to spark. However, on Oct. 3, President Kalikow released an email revealing a change in the plan for the direction package process in response to the concerns of the USM community.
The email, under the subject line “Moving Ahead,” announced that the direction package is transitioning into a newly created phase designed to include students, faculty and staff in the decision making process. This next phase will include the formation of a committee of faculty, staff, students and external partners, although Kalikow will remain responsible for selecting the recommendations which will be acted on.
Kalikow did not respond to the Free Press’s request for a comment by the time of publication.
The Board of Student Organizations approved funding requests for 15 proposals on Friday, including one from the Veteran’s Activity Group for $1,200 to fund a six-student coyote hunt in northern Maine.
There was limited discussion before the proposal passed on Friday at the BSO’s weekly meeting, although several board members questioned the constitutionality of the use of student activity fee money to fund an event involving firearms.
“The problem is that the University of Maine System has a policy that any university sponsored event involving firearms is a ‘no-no’ without approval from the [USM] Chief of Police,” said Ray Dumont, coordinator for the Student Government Business Office. USM’s student organization handbook states that student groups cannot spend student activity fees on “alcohol, firearms or anything illegal.” However, it does not state explicitly that fees are prohibited to be used to sponsor events that involve firearms.
Chris Wagner from the Veteran’s Activity Group who spoke on Friday, explained that no money will be directly spent on firearms, but that the student activity fee money would be used to pay for the outfitter and guide services. He also stated that the group intends to seek written approval from USM’s Chief of Police Kevin Conger once their funding was approved.
Senior accounting and finance major and representative from the Accounting Society Andrew Kalloch was the only BSO member to reject the proposal.
“I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of university [and student] money, gun usage aside,” he said. He also said that he hopes that the university “does the right thing” and draws the line on the trip, which he said is a questionable use of student money. BSO President Katie Belgard would not comment when asked whether or not she agreed with Kalloch in order to remain “unbiased.”
“You would be amazed where students get to go through this process and what valuable learning experiences they gain and bring back to the university,” she said.
The proposal states that the event will be beneficial for the participating students in that it “will enrich members of the student body with regard to their appreciation for coyote’s [sic] and their environmental impact on Maine’s deer herd.”
Without approval from Conger, Wagner said, the expedition will be an event for “photographically capturing” the coyote population in their destination – Masardis, Maine.
The BSO approved just over $16,000 in spending on Friday out of its $35,500 semester budget, leaving $8,941.97 for the semester to be allocated.
Kalloch was critical of the some of the body’s spending practices. “Year in and year out, they run out of money before the end of the semester,” he said.
Belgard said that there has been a notable rise in the number of active student groups this year – exceeding 50 groups. “Our budget has not increased in a way that is proportionate to the number of student groups that are interested in receiving funding through the BSO,” she said. “With the Student Activity Fee not changing in terms of amount, the BSO is bound to run out of their funds much earlier than planned for.”
On Oct. 3, 2013 at the Space Gallery at 7:00 p.m., Nermeen Shaikh, news producer and co-anchor of DemocracyNOW!, a daily and independent global news hour, will speak with firsthand information on how the political process actually works.
For funding for the event, Professor Dusan Bjelić of USM’s criminology department applied to the Maine Humanities Council, but received a “very curious” rejection.
“[The rejection said] that in this proposal it’s not clear how an audience will benefit from that talk. So since I couldn’t get money from them I contacted the Space Gallery and someone suggested to contact ACLU. They were immediately interested, but the Maine Humanities Council couldn’t find the importance of it,” said Bjelić. “It is a hot topic and maybe they were not inclined to support an event that could be controversial.”
Controversy lies in the idea that, according to Bjelić, the questioning of ideas and perspectives is rarely covered by the corporate media, but this event will encourage people, specifically journalists, to put pressure on public figures to uncover what may otherwise remain elusive. Even so, Shaikh attributes the difficulty in doing so to the possible constraints of large news corporations.
“In any context, one can’t assume that those who wield power are those who give the most honest account of it,” said Shaik. “I think, as independent journalists, it’s much easier to be outside of whatever influences the larger corporate media may fall under. The important thing is to go to as many sources as possible.”
“Today more than ever, words are weapons,” said Bjelić. “Philosopher Michel Foucault said to people like ourselves who are involved in writing to ‘treat our truths as weapons’ and not as means to stabilize status quo.”
Shaikh agrees. “So you have to, as an independent journalist, turn to people who are the recipients, who have to live with the effects of whatever decisions are made by those who are in power and over whom…the influence is felt, they often have the least say,” Shaikh said.
For that reason, the event will deal with the potential issues of power, and how that translates to censorship, which essentially affects everybody without their knowledge, according to Bjelić.
“There are very rare instances where there is explicit censorship,” said Shaikh. “What I experience in any case is a sense of quiet outrage at the kinds of injustices that one sees perpetrated against all kinds of people in all kinds of contexts irrespective of my own subject position.”
Even in the classroom setting, Bjelić witnesses students being censored in the educational process.
“I asked my students about holocaust and they immediately will tell me six-million Jews. When I ask them about American Holocaust they have no idea what I’m talking about,” said Bjelić. “We have 40 million Native Americans who have been killed in the United States since Columbus, and it’s a far more significant holocaust for us than European Holocaust.”
Bjelić believes that students in particular, who may justify ignorance of censorship because they don’t see it directly affecting them, are some of the most affected.
“They don’t know about it because of censorship in the educational process,” said Bjelić. “They don’t have vital information about their own history. Censoring a press is just one domain of overall censorship in the educational process.”
Shaikh understands that it is very true that censorship does not affect students in this very moment, but it will.
“The kind of world that we live in and the world that these students will grow up [in] once they graduate and get jobs, they’ll be profoundly affected by all kinds of decisions that are being made,” Shaikh said. These decisions cover a range from waging a war to raising minimum wage.
“Not seeing this as an important fact means also not seeing how important it is to stop global warming; how to stop extermination of natural species; not to stop further gap between wealthy and poor; not to stop melting of polar ice. In other words, not stopping the disintegration and destruction of the planet,” said Bjelić. “That all depends on whether or not power is serving the interest of the people and the planet or corporate and military complex.”