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

Mon, 2014-11-10 13:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Students petition to save faculty members

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:59

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, students described the retrenchment of faculty as confusing.

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

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

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



Managing editor of Time magazine speaks at USM

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:59

By: Alex Huber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaacson said that the internet brings people together.

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

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

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

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

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



Sustainability still a money-saving focus for one campus program

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:57

By: Annie Quandt

USM is on a track to sustainability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Survivors of Noyes St. inferno express grief and shock

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Obama visits Maine to endorse Michaud

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-majors vocalize concerns in budget cuts

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faculty retrenched, some through voicemails

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:41

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flanagan responds to critics of his plan

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:41

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quint said, “This job is hard.”


GEB discusses possibility of a merge with PEB

Mon, 2014-11-03 11:40

By: Annie Quandt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to Welter, any changes will not happen overnight.

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

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

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

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

Tibbetts spoke of the possibility of a merger positively.

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


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

Sun, 2014-11-02 06:34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portland Chief Fire Marshall Joe Thomas is leading the investigation.

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

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

This story will be updated.


Students upset over ebola costume get police called on them

Tue, 2014-10-28 13:09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



AMS professors claim their major is of vital importance in local professional industries

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:40

On Friday, the board of trustees approved the elimination of two university programs, one of which, professors believe, defines the notion of a metropolitan university.

Applied medical sciences was established in 1997. On Nov. 3, 1998, voters of Maine approved a $20 million bond issues to improve the Maine economy by supporting innovative research and development. This bond resulted in the building where the AMS program would survive until Oct. 24, 2014.

Now, however, the building will house that program no longer.

In an email to the board of trustees, S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor and chair of AMS, explained that President Flanagan and Provost McDonnell had never consulted with the faculty of Applied medical sciences until they announced in the second week of this month that AMS would be eliminated.

“Our research programs, our careers and the aspirations and plans of our students are to be totally disrupted by the end of December,” said Duboise. “This decision is outrageous, unreasonable, unorthodox and wrong and does not comport with decent ethical standards of academic leadership.”

One of these standards set forth is the notion that USM should be branded as a metropolitan university.

“I think it’s the ideal metropolitan university program because this program grew out of the community,” said Duboise. “The biotechnology companies and Maine Medical Center and the bioscience research community in southern Maine were involved in the creation of this program. To this day, we have many active connections, including students who are employees of the various companies and research institutions.”

Joan Gordan, president of Maine Molecular Quality Controls, is one of these students.

At the board of trustees meeting she said, “Despite having three children, I was looking for a challenge. I found that challenge in the applied medical sciences program. I love the science, the science was amazing. It was new and on the cutting edge.”

She was almost through the program when the opportunity arose to start her own business. She didn’t finish her degree or her thesis, but the business took off.

“My company literally would not be here today if it weren’t for this program,” said Gordan.

Stephen Pelsue, associate professor of immunology and molecular biology, sees this as a success of the department. He noted that when eliminating programs, more should be looked at than graduation rates. Graduation does not always equate to success.

Faculty of AMS have outreach beyond those within the major. Biology majors and nursing majors take classes in the department, and faculty have even reached out to high schools across the state, working with approximately 12,000 students.

“If that doesn’t show what a metropolitan university should do, then I don’t understand that rhetoric. And I would call it rhetoric because it seems empty in the way it comes from our administration,” said Duboise. “Empty, and perhaps hypocritical.”

According to Pelsue, many students in the program are working in the companies in the southern Maine area while they’re a part of the program. Some of these students declined to comment, as they also represent a company.

“The projects that they do for their research thesis are part of what helps develop company products and new techniques – a variety of important aspects to company development,” said Pelsue. “It’s that engagement with the community that I think really defines a metropolitan university.”

According to Duboise, President Flanagan gave a list of what a public university should do.

“A university needs to create knowledge, transfer knowledge and apply knowledge. We do all of those things,” said Duboise. “Once he and the others have their way, they will destroy research opportunities across this university.”

He added that he believes the board of trustees are breaking away anything that is favorable to AMS to make the numbers seem smaller.

“Essentially, what they say about the five tenured track faculty, is that their five year average annual revenue from grant awards was $856,090 or so,” said Duboise. “On the other side of the chart, five year annual expenses, they have that same number again.”

Duboise said that they’ve charged the money that the faculty bring in to expenses.

“Their contorted reasoning seems to be that if you bring in that money, that that is going to defund the research programs, as though that has nothing to do with the education we’re providing,” said Duboise. “It has everything to do with the education we’re providing.”

Pelsue noted that a teach-out plan had been discussed, but nothing has been set in stone.

“They won’t be able to deliver the program that we deliver now to existing students in the absence of faculty,” Pelsue said.

“The plans that are being concocted by the administration are a fabrication and a sham,” said Duboise. “If they want to eliminate a program, they should be doing it on a two-year schedule so people can really finish the program that they started.”

Duboise questions why administration hasn’t chosen to tap into the willingness of many, such as the AMS faculty, to collaborate and innovate in a better USM.

“It seems, unfortunately, that an agenda of destruction is taking precedence over thought and creative action. All I can say is that I’m very disappointed,” said Duboise. “This is a clear loss for the university, the students studying sciences here and the entirety of southern Maine. I think this is a disservice to the community and just wish they had taken more time to make this decision.”

Student Senate condemns program eliminations

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:39

By: Alex Huber


It took only 18 days for the administration to finalize the elimination of the undergraduate French and graduate applied medical science programs, and the Student Senate fought the proposal every step of the way.

The senate passed two resolutions in their recent meetings that they felt voiced the concerns of the senate and the student body as a whole in regard to the program eliminations. Four senators attended the board of trustees meeting where the programs were cut last Friday and voiced their concerns there as well.

“The student body as a whole  feel the cuts are negative,” said student senator Tom Bahun, who headed the writing of the two resolutions. “We need to be finding alternative solutions. Cuts lead to more cuts.”

President David Flanagan has stated that the program eliminations, combined with 50 faculty position eliminations, would cut USM’s $16 million budget deficit by six-million and that only 50 students would be affected in those programs. Students and faculty at the board of trustees meeting repeatedly told the board that they were only considering majors in those programs and the number of affected students would be much higher.

According to the administration the cuts would affect 50 students; however the number of students who are impacted may be much higher. The proposed cuts have met opposition from both student and faculty groups who believe that there are less invasive ways to close the gap.

The senate formed an ad hoc investigation committee that will aim to address the declining enrollment at USM and poor morale prevalent among the student body. The resolution condemns the program eliminations, as well as plans to eliminate any faculty positions, claims that the decision to axe the programs was made with insufficient time and data and tasks the senate with offering alternative solutions to the financial situation.

The timeline for community input is far too rushed, say student senators.

“We were given 18 days to come up with a solution, we had no possible way to do that,” senate chair Joshua Dodge told the board of trustees. “We want to work with you, not against you, but we need time.”

“I would urge you to give us time to look at the complete data and not with this tunnel vision,” said Bahun.

The senate resolutions, which were both passed unanimously, recognized the student body’s need for credentialed educators, worthwhile courses, and meaningful programs that will result in quality degrees.

“The quality of our education is not ensured unless the program is ensured,” said Bahun, stating that students not only leave USM, but the state if program offerings continue to diminish. “I understand that faculty need to be cut but cutting a program outright is a horrible solution.”

The senate believes the university is being weakened by the elimination of programs and faculty and that the potential long-term effects don’t outweigh short-term problems the university will face.

Dodge said, “We don’t believe these cuts are in the interest of the student body.”


Former US secretary of state backs Mike Michaud for governor

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:38

Hillary Clinton likes Mike.

Last Friday, supporters of Mike Michaud for governor gathered at Scarborough High School to rally alongside former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The lineup of speakers for the event also included other democrats on this years ballot. All had a common vision for the state of Maine: a restoration of prosperity, equal rights and a government where republicans and democrats are able to work together for the common good.

“Hillary is an inspiration to me as a leader, as a mother, as a grandmother and as the women who has put millions of cracks in the glass ceiling facing women all over,” said Emily Cain, state senator.

She added that Mainers deserve representatives in Washington D.C. that are willing to work just as hard as the middle class does to get things done.

“The election comes down to a simple question: Who’s on your side? Who’s going to work hard for you? Who has the value …. to make sure Maine’s economy works for everyone, not just a privileged few?” asked Clinton. “Who will go to Augusta and make it absolutely clear that the governor is the servant of the people?”

According to Clinton, there’s only one answer: Mike Michaud.

“It’s a divided congress who too often are standing on opposite sides of the room,” said Cain. “Two parties who won’t come to the same table. I know the problems facing our country and our state are too big to resolve in just one party platform. That’s what I’ve always known.”

Karen Mills, who served as the 23rd administrator of the small business administration under President Barack Obama added, “Mike can work across the aisle. That’s because he believes in community. In communities you bring people together to get things done.”

She went on to explain that Michaud knows that Maine deserves the best ideas and the best thinkers for our state.

“Mike Michaud is a leader,” said Mills. “Make no mistake about that. Sometimes he doesn’t say too much, but you don’t have to talk loudly to be a strong leader.”

When Michaud took the stage, he recognized the new supporters and continued supporters in the crowd.

“I see college students, young children, professors and teachers, doctors and veterans,” said Michaud. “I just want you to know that I am standing with you. I’ll continue to fight.”

Fight, according to Michaud, to build a better future for the people of Maine.

“I see neighbors here from all walks of life,” said Michaud. “People who, like me, are driven by hope and for a better tomorrow.”

Michaud explained that, right now, Maine is at a crossroads.

“Too many people are out of work or working too hard for too little. Too many students are saddled with debt. Too many schools are underfunded and even understaffed,” said Michaud. “Too many children have too little to eat. Governor LePage will never, ever be able to fix these problems because he’s too divisive and too weathered to his ideologies to listen to anyone who has the audacity to disagree with him.”

He added that Maine is full of opportunities, but one man, Governor Paul LePage, is holding the state back.

“You deserve a governor who knows what it’s like to punch a time clock and will fight for everyone to have the same shot at the American dream that he has had,” said Clinton. “I think Maine needs a fresh start.”

Clinton recognized the family values that “Mainers” have in them. According to her, though she and Michaud grew up in different parts of the country, their families taught them the same lesson: the only direction to move is forward.

“Never quit, never lose faith,” said Clinton. “When you get knocked down, get right back up. We were taught that there is work and dignity in every human being. Everyone deserves a chance, a second chance and even a third chance at a better life for themselves and their families.”

According to Clinton, Michaud knows this “in his bones.”

“Being a Mainer isn’t a label,” said Clinton. “It’s a way of life.”

Clinton acknowledged that Maine was hit hard by the Great Recession, and attributed the slowed economic recovery to a lack of leadership in the governor’s office.

“You haven’t seen leadership,” said Clinton. “You’ve seen gridlock. You’ve seen what happens when politicians operate in what I call an ‘evidence free zone.’”

According to Clinton, Mainers just have to make sure Michaud gets the most amount of votes by spreading the word.

“If you like Mike like I like Mike, make sure everybody knows why and do everything you can to get them to vote,” said Clinton. “Tell them there isn’t any doubt in your mind about who is on your side.”

Faculy and students in the Franco-American community distraught over proposed cuts

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:37

Last week, Nancy Erickson a French professor at USM, logged onto her computer and learned in a mass email that her department and position were slated for elimination by an administration that is attempting to bridge a projected $16 million budget gap.

“The announcement email from the Provost to the entire community was the way I found out that I was fired,” said Erickson.

Erickson, who’s been teaching French at USM for over 18 years, has worked 15 hour days frantically trying to convince the administration to reverse this decision, however the proposal got finalized last Friday at a meeting where the board of trustees voted 9-2 for the cuts. Erickson said however, in an email to her supporters, that this fight is far from over. After the six hour meeting, Erickson spoke to President Flanagan and several trustee members about devising a viable plan to implicate a French major across the entire U-Maine system.

“I will work with my colleagues around the System on our current proposal which the System failed to implement before, and will submit a new proposal in the next few weeks,” said Erickson.

Erickson also created a Facebook page called “Saving French at USM,” which has served as a forum for students, faculty and community members to express their mutual outrage.

Erickson said that she’s received many inquiries from students that are worried about whether they will be able to finish their degree in the spring, to which she wasn’t able to give a clear answer.

The general feeling concerning this issue among several students and community members is confusion. According to upset students, the administration is turning their back to an academic department that appeals to Maine’s largest ethnic group. Maine has 300,000 Franco-Americans, according to 2012 census data, and the majority of them live in USM’s backyard. Taking Flanagan’s new vision for a metropolitan university into account, many students find it “ridiculous” and counter-intuitive to remove French from USM’s curriculum.

According to Thomas Bahun, a newly appointed student senator and senior double major in history and political science, the administration has overlooked the cultural and economic impact of the French department.

“Their strategies are just short term patchworks,” said Bahun. “French is such an integral part of our metropolitan community. It needs to stay; it’s valuable.”

Bahun said he couldn’t think of a legitimate institution that didn’t offer French and this decision is going to negatively impact enrollment and the reputation of USM as a whole.

According to Bahun, professor Erickson has graduated more French majors than anyone else in the state, but at the last board of trustees meeting he attended, the members were claiming that the department is not producing enough major graduates.

Indeed Erickson graduated fiveFrench majors last year, which was fourth in New England among public universities. But according to Erickson, the department services a broad spectrum of students, not just majors.

“I’m not just teaching 10 students, I’m teaching around 150,” said Erickson. “There are a lot of people that value language learning and want to learn how to be culturally sensitive.”

Both Bahun and Erickson said that French is often an elective choice for students and this shouldn’t be ignored. Learning a language arms students with valuable skills that translates over into many different academic and business applications.

Whitfield Palmer, a senior art history major, said that he’s been using his French minor to supplement his major as well as gain a leg up in his military career. Palmer said that learning French actually helped him pick up Italian quite easily while stationed in Sicily for the Navy. His French fluency was put to use as well, while he worked as a translator to the Algerian and Moroccan navy.

“It teaches you how to think,” said Palmer. “It’s vital in my area of study.”

According to Alex Lyscars, a senior political science major, if the administration offered a more comprehensive curriculum it would attract more students to the program.

When asked to address the French community’s concerns with this cut, Chris Quint, the director of public affairs, replied, “ “While we are proposing to eliminate the French major, which is averaging only 4.8 graduates a year, we will continue to meet the needs of those students who want to take a class, or multiple, in French.”

“Entry level French courses are just not going to cut it,” said Lyscars. “If there were more classes and opportunities offered, there would be more graduates.”

According to a poll conducted by the University of Maine in 2012, students with French heritage would prefer to see more courses offered in schools. These students are also more likely to base their enrollment decisions on which school has courses in French language and culture. With thousands of Franco-Americans living in Maine, students like Lyscars are baffled as to why the administration doesn’t capitalize on this demand.

“It’s like their trying to cut the University out from under our feet,” said Lyscars. “It’s ridiculous that such a talented professor [Erickson] is losing her job. She’ll survive, but this is her heart and soul.”

“I will fight this,” wrote Erickson in an email to her supporters. “Thank you so much for your support. I made all the difference in the world.”

Ebola demystified by faculty

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:35

Are you afraid of big bad Ebola? Should you be worried about a campus wide outbreak? Teachers gave a resounding no.

There have been over 4,500 deaths from Ebola in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In America there have been four confirmed cases, three in Dallas, and one recently occurring in New York. One man has died from Ebola in America.

Professor Lisa Moore and Professor Rachel Larsen are microbiologists who teach one of the science labs that nursing students take. They said that basic cleanliness can help prevent the spread.

“Just really careful sterile technique is going to go a long way to preventing the spread of Ebola. And quarantine would also be important” Dr. Moore said. The two professors teach the science behind why you need to be covered and wear gloves when dealing with infectious disease.

They said students shouldn’t worry about Ebola. “Ebola is in your blood. It is not airborne. It’s less transmissible than the flu,” Moore said.

Larsen backed her up.

“The flu is worse as far as being passed from person to person, because it’s airborne and can be passed by a sneeze even twenty feet away,” said Larsen. “Ebola is less worrisome [to catch] because you have to directly touch bodily fluids of a person.”

“I think for the average student walking around campus your chances of getting it are .0000 – I mean, really low,” Larsen said.

Students are aware of all the hype around Ebola. Max Feigenbaum, a sophomore biology major, said, “I think it’s pretty ridiculous. Four people? Four Americans have been infected by Ebola and everybody goes nuts, but thousands of people die from the flu and nobody will get a shot.”

Feigenbaum recognized the media has been playing up the danger of Ebola to get ratings.

By: Brian Gordon


“That’s the messed up thing. I am worried,” said Feigenbaum. “I’m aware of what’s happening [with the media] and I’m critical of it, but I still worry about Ebola.”

While Feigenbaum was critical of the media and the government’s handling of the outbreak, he acknowledged we are much more equipped to handle this than Liberia. “I trust my doctors. Wash your hands and don’t drink people’s blood,” he offered as advice.

Other students weren’t as trusting. Crystal Palmer, a senior political science major, said, “I have issues with the planes not being kept at bay, with people from infected countries. I have no faith in our U.S. government.”

“I think the media has had a big hand in blowing it out of proportion and hyping up all of America. It’s gone overboard,” said Palmer. “Super overboard.”

Dr. Bill Thornton from the psychology department said that the media is just doing their jobs; we’re the ones who take it and run with it.

“People see connections even when they don’t exist. In order to be able to understand the world and predict things. That might further contribute to hysteria,” Thornton said.

“It’s a behavior contagion,” said Thornton. “It’s contagious behavior.”

As for those on the future front lines of the Ebola epidemic, the nursing students on campus are in good hands. They are receiving the training they need to treat and contain an infectious disease according to professor Maricia Goldenberg who teaches a community health course.

“Do not panic,” said Goldenberg. “Do not be hysterical. And if you’re going to worry, worry about the people in West Africa and that’s where your attention should be.”

BoT eliminates two programs, despite outcry

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:34

Just over two weeks after USM President David Flanagan announced the administration’s plan to close two academic programs to battle the university’s budget deficit, the elimination of the undergraduate French and graduate applied medical sciences programs have been approved.

The UMaine system board of trustees approved the elimination plan with a 9-2 vote before over a hundred students, faculty, alumni and community members who had packed into Sullivan Gym to hear their decision.

63 people signed up to speak during the public comment period, which ended up lasting nearly three hours, all in support of one of the programs or against the faculty retrenchments likely to come at the end of the month.

“I’m here to ask you to slow down this train,” Jerry LaSala, a professor of physics and USM faculty senate chair, said to the board, taking issue with the fast-paced actions of the administration. “There was no consultation with faculty or students before the announcement and the deadlines for comment were so quick – it was basically the very least you could do.”

Other speakers complained about the board’s haste in eliminating the programs, saying that the community would gladly assist them in finding cost saving measures, if only they were given the opportunity.

Bryan Bozsik, president of the Bioscience Association of Maine board of directors, told the board of trustees to postpone a vote until it could complete an adequate impact report and study how the eliminations would affect the surrounding community.

“In the proposal you are considering today, both the association and the industry do not feel like these criteria were met,” said Bozsik, echoing the concerns of other leaders in the medical field, including speakers from Maine Medical Center, Maine Molecular Quality Controls and IDEXX Laboratories.

Alumni came to speak about their experiences at USM and how they felt the eliminations would affect the quality of education at the university.

“I am insulted that you have told me that my studies are not important enough to continue here, that my professor is not worth keeping here,” said James Spizuoco, who double-majored in classics and political science, two programs that will be hit with faculty retrenchments this month. “The person who got me into law school is just a number to you, just a position.”

He argued that cutting programs and faculty would not save money, but cost USM in the long-run, as students will leave or stop enrolling because they’re losing their mentors.

LaSala spoke on that same issue, comparing the administration’s situation to that of a bus company.

“When they cut back the number of buses, then there’s fewer passengers because [the buses] don’t go where you want them to,” he said. “And that’s the road we’re going down here.”

Max Reinhold, a graduate student in the applied medical sciences program, said that without the faculty and labs, he wouldn’t be able to gain the real world skills he needs to compete in the job market.

“You don’t ask a carpenter to learn carpentry online and you don’t ask a molecular biologist to learn without a lab,” said Reinhold. “Earning a degree is not the same as getting an education.”

“I come from a non-traditional science background. I’ve worked hard to balance my workload and be a full time graduate student and what I ask from the administration is the same hard work,” he said. “Elimination is the easy way out, but it’s not a long solution. [Instead of working] I could go sell one of my kidneys, but that’s not a good long term solution.”

Despite the hours of student, faculty and community testimony, administrative leaders stood by their plan to eliminate the programs.

“I am here today along with Provost [Joseph] McDonnell, in partial fulfillment of the mandate you gave me,” said Flanagan to the board. “What you asked of me then is that we put this university on a financially sustainable basis so we assure it’s long term future as best we can. I believe the plan we are putting before you today is an important building block and an overall strategy for achieving the goals you set.”

Flanagan noted that there were alternative plans in front of the board, but none of them were viable in terms of the system’s financial situation. He said continuing to offer the same programs would force a tuition raise to at least $10,000 a year and that planning to close down a campus would easily take over a year to plan and execute.

UMaine chancellor James Page, who chose to save his comments until the end of the discussion, stated plainly that the plan put forth by Flanagan was a good choice and was a necessary move to put USM in a healthy financial state.

“Time is now dictating events,” he said. “The structural budgetary gap is real and its effects are now immediate.”

Trustees Shawn Moody and Kurt Adams openly opposed the cuts, citing a lack of time to spend studying the data and concerns raised by industry leaders as reasons to take more time considering the proposal.

All other trustees voted to eliminate the programs.

“This is not an easy decision for any of us,” said Samuel Collins, chair of the board. “However, we cannot ignore the facts. We have to plug the hole before the ship sinks.”

36 professors retire as retrenchment date nears

Mon, 2014-10-27 15:32

In response to a strong urge from the administration and a financial incentive to retire early, 25 faculty members from USM have voluntarily decided to step down from their teaching positions.

The biggest facets of President David Flanagan’s $16-million budget saving plan includes, most recently, eliminations of the French and applied medical science departments and cuts to both the faculty and administrative staff. Judie O’ Malley, the assistant director of public affairs, confirmed that if each department was to meet its reduction specified by the Provost McDonnell, that no retrenchments would be required.

O’Malley noted, however, that that only pertains to this fiscal year, and things could change next year.

According to O’Malley, the administration would have been happy if all 50 positions were eliminated through retirement, but the current number of early retirees also pleases the administration.

The plan originally was to make the early retirement packages attractive enough for even more faculty members to voluntarily decide to take them. Chris Quint, USM’s director of public affairs said that the final decision regarding retrenchments will be made at the end of the month.

“No final determinations have been made regarding specific retrenchments,” said Quint.

According to Rick Abrams, a professor in the English department, the administration is now negotiating retirement deals with interested faculty, whether or not they’ve met the original deadline.

“Well it sounds like they’re offering better deals now,” said Abrams.

Abrams said that he thinks the administration has created a slightly coercive, pressurized environment within departments by pushing retirement incentives to the older faculty members. “I really don’t like the anti-intellectual direction this university has taken,” said Abrams. “They’ve seemed to forgotten the importance of research as well as teaching.”

On top of the 25 faculty members in the process of retiring, there are also an additional 11 from departments that haven’t been targeted, but Quint said those retirements won’t count towards the original quota.

O’Malley said that these retirements will need additional review from the provost, because at least some of them will create vacancies that need to be replaced.

The elimination of 50 faculty, whether it be from retirement or retrenchment is budgeted to save USM six-million dollars, with 3.3 million allegedly saved so far. Some faculty members are skeptical and are concerned that a lot of retirements might cost the school more money than it saves.

“Everybody is asking, ‘how on earth are they going to pay next year’s budget if they are paying out a bunch of severance?’” said Abrams. “At 1.5 times their salary, it would be cheaper to teach.”

Faculty Senate seeks more attractive retirement incentives, suggest closing one campus

Tue, 2014-10-14 10:54

In light of the administration’s plan to eliminate 50 faculty positions and two academic programs, the faculty senate has proposed alternative plans that include better incentives for early retirements and the possible elimination of one of USM’s three campuses.

According to Tom McDonald, an associate professor of business computing, closing off a campus has been discussed before but never in a formal proposal. Flanagan has asked for an analysis on the costs of each different campus to help him identify if this proposal is feasible and worth considering. The senate didn’t point to any specific campus to be targeted for elimination, but proposed that all three should be examined for areas where money could be saved.

“I will take that proposal [to eliminate one of the campuses] to the chancellor and the board of trustees,” said Flanagan. “We’re willing to listen to any proposal, if we have time.”

Offering retirement incentives to over 100 eligible faculty members to potentially reduce the number of retrenchments was also deliberated at length after being proposed by professor of English Bud McGrath. Changing the terms of retirement would have to go through the U Maine system’s Human Resources Department before they would be implemented. Lydia Savage, a professor of geography and anthropology, asked whether or not meeting the proposed retirement quota would save certain departments from retrenchments, but Flanagan declined to answer.

“So retirement may not save a department?” asked Savage. “I need clarity on this issue.”

Jeannine Uzzi, an associate professor of classics and vice chair of the faculty senate, agreed that the issue wasn’t made clear and said that there is a great deal of confusion concerning retirement and retrenchment and how the two pots of money differ from one another. Uzzie asked how is it possible that paying severance to fired faculty is cheaper than awarding early retirement benefits.

The Provost McDonnell responded to Savage and said that it really would depend on where the retirements come from and that we have to look at the larger picture of closing the budget.

“If we get the 50 or 60 retirements we hope for, it’s certainly going to help save the budget,” said McDonnell. “But it may or may not lead to retrenchments.”

Despite the uncertainty the senate voted unanimously that overall the retirement packages should be made more attractive. According to Bud Mcgrath an English professor, an incentive like offering 18 months of pay plus benefits, the amount that a faculty member would of been paid out if laid off, might influence some faculty’s decision to retire early. The Provost said that about 20 faculty so far are on board for early retirement, but they need more.

“Offering incentives are always better than trying to coerce people, either by fear or guilt,” said Joe Medley an associate professor of economics. “I’ve been told by colleagues at the University of New Hampshire, for example, that our current incentives for retirement are ridiculous.”

According to Medley, incentives for retirement is a strategy that is not uncommon in other universities.

After over an hour without making a statement, Flanagan said that he will take any proposal seriously but the time to deliberate is quickly running out and decisions need to be made now.

“We can’t just wish this deficit away,” said Flanagan. “There’s no more time for aspirational objectives.”

Flanagan’s plan to cut 50 faculty positions would take off about $6 million off of the $16 million budget deficit and must be finalized by Oct. 31. According to Flanagan the remainder will come from administrative cuts that will be announced in November.

Flanagan noted that he’s a newcomer bringing serious changes to USM and that he’s aware that he can’t really appreciate USM as much as all the people who have dedicated such a large portion of their life and energy to this academic community.

Still some faculty members feel that the administration could be collaborating and working more closely with the faculty to bring solutions that are supportive of departments, instead of destructive. Uzz,i for example,detailed her efforts to build a classics major over the past year that could be franchised across all seven campuses. According to Uzzi, she saw plenty of enrollment, even from students in Farmington and Presque Isle, and worked hard to establish a comprehensive classics curriculum but now is simply being fired.

“Last year I was asked to build a system and I did it, and it’s working, but now it’s over and I’m being retrenched,” said Uzzi. “The system did nothing to support me. I just want to know why I was asked to do all this work, just to be fired.”

Uzzi said that she thinks there is no real plan apart from just frantically trying to save money. She believes that programs like hers could work with a tiny bit of support, but there is just no real collaboration with the administration.

“Where is all our work going?” asked Uzzi.

Savage also spoke out for a closer relationship between the administration and faculty, noting that several departments have already gone through several reconstructions over the past six years without any real advice from up top.

“All they’ve said is that these departments [French and applied medical science] are just too expensive,” said Savage.

Savage said that she asked the President last week what will happen when we lose the $3.5 million from tuition once the 50 faculty members are gone in the spring. Flanagan simply said that “we’ll just have to cut more.”

“I don’t know what’s left to cut; we’re bare to the bone,” said Savage. “We’re competing with SMCC and in good faith I would tell students to go there. It’s half the cost and if we can’t offer more than them, how can we ask them to incur debt to get a degree that lacks integrity, rigor and the faculty that can sustain an education.”

The recent plan to cut the undergraduate French program and the master’s program in applied sciences would affect five and three faculty members, respectively. The topics of these cuts were also met with much displeasure from members of the faculty senate, including Nancy Erickson, an associate professor of French.

“I’m here to ask the faculty senate to help me convince the administration that French be considered important and be granted a stay of execution,” said Erickson. “We’re not low hanging fruit to just be picked off.”

Erickson said that her department trains students that stay in Maine and graduates twice as many French majors as the national average.

The senate meeting extended for an extra 30 minutes and the members didn’t even have a chance to talk about specifics on the budget agenda. They did, however, get a chance to read through the student senate resolution that stated the student members would be more actively involved in finding solutions to the budget deficit. Several members of the faculty senate applauded the students for their tenacity, proficient use of language and grammar and a well developed understanding of USM’s extensive issues.

“Can I just say that the students here kick ass,” said Uzzi.