USM Free Press News Feed
In the weeks between the initial presentation of USM’s budget on Nov. 15 and Dec. 9, when the estimate was revised, the structural gap between the funds available and the funds required to keep the university running for the coming year has grown from $11.9 million to $13.9 million.
Dick Campbell, USM’s chief financial officer, attributes the majority of this budget shortfall to declining enrollment. When Campbell presented the increased estimate for the budget gap to the Direction Package advisory board, he said that the increased estimate is based on higher costs in the employment contracts for USM faculty and professional and classified staff.
A certain amount of increase in compensation for faculty and staff was factored into the first budget projections, Campbell said, but the contract for the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, which was approved provisionally in November and finally ratified in early January, was higher than anticipated. The full-time faculty of the universities of Maine have been working under the terms of an expired contract while negotiating with the university system since 2011, and the projections for what that contract would entail have fluctuated over the course of negotiations
These higher than anticipated costs enumerated in the new AFUM contract had further effects as well. “Based on the settlement of the AFUM contract, the costs of settling contracts with other bargaining units and the increases to non-represented employees were revised,” Campbell said.
Another reason for the change in estimated shortfall, which grew by approximately $2 million per fiscal year for the next five years in the three and a half week period, Campbell said, is “the expectation that the campus will invest more in maintaining the physical plant.”Ellen Spahn
To kick off the spring semester, several students donned bright blue and yellow scarves to signal to new students that they were welcome ambassadors for USM.
These 50 volunteers, primarily from the Board of Student Organizations and Student Senate, wore the scarves as an indicator that they were available to answer questions about the school.
Chris O’Connor, the director of Portland student life, and Bryn Gallagher, a junior sociology major and president of the sociology student association, felt that it was important to welcome the approximately 220 new transfer students to USM this semester. In particular, O’Connor wanted to “engage current students in the welcome week experience” with this brand new program that involved current students helping new students acclimate to the school.
“I think it’s important to relate student to student. To have that peer-ambassador relation, I think it can add a great sense of comfort, and it can open the door to new friendships,” Gallagher said.
On the Portland campus, a table was set up Monday through Thursday with free coffee and informational pamphlets. The table moved to a different part of the school each day, starting in Abromson and ending in the library. A table was also set up on the Gorham campus on Monday and Tuesday. Current students were also free to help themselves to coffee and information.
“Our major goal is to have welcome week each year. [To have] a warm atmosphere when people come to campus. It’s nice to start the year on a positive tone,” said O’Connor.
The volunteers have committed to wearing the scarves and buttons that say, “Ask Me” for up to two weeks. They are there to answer questions such as, “Where is my classroom?” or “How do I access my schedule?” or “What is the bus schedule?”
“Even if there aren’t a huge number of people asking for help, it is still nice to have a visible reminder that there are students there, standing ready to help,” said Will Gattis, a senior economics major and Vice-Chair of the Student Senate.
“Having there be a friendly face and a warm welcome is essential to having people feel welcome on their own campus,” said Gallagher.
O’Connor made it his goal to show the scarves to new students at orientation so that they would know who to approach if they should need help. “Whether or not they’ve used it, they knew it was there,” he said.
Gattis explained his interest in becoming a welcome ambassador, “I have been trying to volunteer more with the university. Even though I’m paid to do what I can to help make USM better as the Vice-Chair of the Student Senate, volunteering to do what I can with a school I care about has been rewarding even if I haven’t had many people approach me for help.”
Another welcome ambassador, Stephanie Brown, a junior elementary education major, explained that she wanted to give back to the USM community. “I feel really great about it. I’m so glad people are willing to help each other out here,” she said.
O’Connor hopes to continue using the scarves as a way to welcome and assist new students in coming years. He also plans to follow up with the welcome ambassadors about their experience. “It will be interesting to see if they’ve been approached. We don’t know if new students are actually using the scarves.”
In setting up the program, O’Connor felt that it was important to have a welcoming presence on campus. Overall, he felt overwhelmed by the amount of support the program received from the student volunteers. “It was kind of a phenomenon of the scarves,” he said.
The holiday season is exciting, with presents, food and drinks, winter break and a little quality time with the family. Many USM students have at least one quirky holiday tradition or twist on a classic tradition to look forward to when they’re celebrating the season.
A lot of times, old-fashioned holiday activities that our ancestors would have been excited for remain active in families today. Other traditions have fallen out of style—for instance, oranges were once the greatest prize for anyone on Christmas day, and are now common. Some traditions however, may not be popular any longer, but have not died out completely. “My family hides a pickle in our Christmas tree,” Caitlyn Vieth, a senior history major said. The pickle in a tree is an old German tradition where one member of the family hides the pickle and whoever finds it gets a prize, Vieth explained.
Other families may have less historically rooted holiday rituals. “We also open just one present on Christmas Eve, which doesn’t always work so well. Once, I only got one slipper and had to wait until the next morning for the other,” Katie Meuse, an undeclared sophomore, said.
Some will tell you that the holidays are about including everyone and appreciating even the furry members of the family. “Every Christmas my mom wraps our pet’s gifts and puts ‘From Santa’ on them and gives them to the pets to open when we open our gifts,” Heather Gebhardt, a senior English major, said. Gebhardt said that the animals are mostly unphased by their gifts, but her family still enjoys doing it.
With the weather outside making it hard to be active, some people naturally turn to cooking and eating to pass the time. Patience Bryant, a senior art major, and her mother, however, may be more ambitious than most. “My mom and I bake a ton of different cookies that are from our family history, mostly from Germany and Holland,” said Bryant. She listed Leckerlies, Zimtsterne, Pfeffernusse and Springerle as a few of the traditional European cookies she and her mother make.
The holidays are a festive time in which people do special activities together, and no two families celebrate them in quite the same way.
As student enrollment drops, students become more involved
Participation in student groups and organizations has been on the rise, and group members, along with Student Life faculty, are encouraging students to get involved to make more connections in the university community and to build skills that will transfer to future careers.
Jason Saucier, director of Gorham Student Life, said that over the past few years student groups have been seeing larger participation numbers. Saucier also mentioned that in this semester alone there have been roughly 30 new student groups that are officially recognized within the university, ranging in variety from new greek organizations to scuba diving club.
“We have a plethora of opportunities for students that are interested in joining a student group,” said Saucier.“It all depends on the focus and appeal of the group. The groups are student controlled, which is a good thing, and it’s great to see that they’re on the rise.”
On the Portland campus, the situation is no different. Chris O’Connor, director of Portland Student Life, shared an account of his own experience regarding group opportunities for student involvement. O’Connor gave his own personal story about his undergraduate career at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he became involved in student groups like the school’s marching band and the RA program. He said that his involvement in those groups gave him transferrable skills for the job market that helped him create a successful career.
“A big benefit from my experience with student groups during my undergraduate studies was creating connections with other people,” said O’Connor.
Saucier said that being a part of student groups allows students to get hands-on experience in different disciplines and that this experience reflects well on resumes when students graduate and search for jobs. He said students can develop “soft skills”—being able to talk professionally with other people and make deadlines—and he said group involvement helps students perform better in school.
“Students should join groups,” said Rochelle Soohey, a sophomore political science major and vice president of the International Relations Association. “Being a part of a student group has definitely made me a more well-rounded student.”
Through the IRA, Soohey has been able to travel to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Pennsylvania State University for Model United Nations conferences. Soohey said that she has gained many skills from these experiences that she can take with her into the professional job market, like working with people who have political and social views that contrast with her own personal beliefs and maintaining a professional attitude.
“Being in a student group helped me grow as a person,” said Soohey. “I learned how to host events, professionally negotiate, and I developed strong listening and organizational skills.”
“Groups allow students to take a sense of pride in school,” said O’Connor. “A big benefit is that students get to make connections with a lot of people and become excited about coming to campus for something other than class.”
Saucier said the liveliness of student groups and organizations is not reflective of the recent steep decline in enrollment that the university has seen this fall.
For the IRA, Soohey said that attendance changes every week, that it can range between five and 30 people, but on the whole, there are always a good number of students who attend group meetings.
“Connection to the university’s community is the number one thing for students,” said O’Connor. “It helps them take a sense of pride in school, and student groups help create this connection.”
With the holidays fast approaching, it can be hard to figure out what to get for everyone on your list. There are the big players—family, close friends, but what about that girl down the hall who you didn’t think you were that close with, but who got you something? What about your lab partner who helped you move your furniture that time, or the professor whose class had an unexpected effect on your life? You don’t want to do anything huge, but you want to do something. Not to worry, the Free Press has you covered.
1. Mini Oven: No matter how much you love ARAMARK, there’s no substitute for a home-cooked meal, so if your home is your dorm room, a mini-oven is a great substitute! If you want to make a dorm friend extremely happy, look no further than a mini oven. Available online at canadiantire.ca.w
2. CVS Plush and Sherpa Blanket: A last minute gift you can pick up at the drugstore on the way over to a secret santa or yankee swap event? Sure, maybe, but this incredibly soft blanket will see a lot of use this winter now matter what.
3. Texting gloves: For the text-o-phile in your life—maybe we do spend too much time on our phones, but that’s not reason not to be toasty-warm and look snazzy while we do.
4. Hot chocolate mix (along with a cheap mug and marshmallows): ‘Tis the season to drive the cold away with excessive amounts of sugar. You can also get a cheap mug and decorate it however you like to make it a more personalized gift!
5. Stapler and hole punch: Odd stocking stuffers, certainly, but they’re surprisingly practical! Maybe they’re not exactly what you picture when you’re ripping through wrapping paper, but they’ll probably have a longer and more useful life than lots of more colorful gifts.
In the face of a potential shortfall of $11.9 million for fiscal year 2015, university officials stand behind the work of the Direction Package advisory board as the best way forward.
Besides the $5 million in cuts the university is making to meet budget in the current fiscal year, Chief Financial Office Dick Campbell also estimated last March that the university would be required to make a $3.75 million reduction for fiscal year 2015. That estimate more than tripled after enrollment rates came in at 6.6 percent below budget. Low enrollment, Campbell explained, in combination with other factors, may result in an $8.2 million drop in revenue for the fiscal year 2015, and costs could increase by $3.7 million dollars on top of this, he added, bringing the total estimate to $11.9. Part of those costs are from the university’s recent four-year commitment to increase financial aid by $1 million a year.
This, Campbell said, is “if we do nothing.” He stressed that the projection is still a working number, and it will likely change with the incorporation of spring enrollment figures and other variables, like the result of the faculty contract negotiations, which may be resolved in early January.
The University of Maine System also recently released a four-year financial analysis that projects a potential system-wide shortfall of $60 million from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2019. That will be the case if enrollment, state appropriation, tuition, capital investments and workforce remain at their current levels, according to system Chancellor James Page. In the analysis, which was presented at the November Board of Trustees meeting, it was reported that each of the seven branches of the system could face a shortfall in the next fiscal year.
“There’s a lot we can do to change those trend lines,” said Page. “We’ve got to do something.” Page explained that more collaborative academic work across the system could help ease the financial burdens of each campus.
Across the system, he said, classics, for instance, has been stripped down “so that they are almost extinct, and that’s unacceptable.” Funding classics at each campus, he said, is currently financially unrealistic, but classics could be offered virtually through USM’s professor Jeannine Uzzi.
“We have to look at everything,” Page said, when asked what other solutions there may be going forward. “I can’t think of any sacred cows,” he said. The solution will likely be a combination of efforts, from attempting to increase enrollment, making cuts and looking into state funding. The system has to increase revenue and cut expenses, he said.
USM is facing a similar process in the process ahead. “That’s a very tough number, 8.6 percent of our operating budget,” wrote President Theo Kalikow and advisory board co-chair Jerry LaSala in a release to faculty and staff. “We do not yet have the answers on how we will address USM’s challenges, but the Direction Package Advisory Board is meeting frequently through February,” they wrote.
The board is made up of 32 members of faculty, staff, students and community members who, LaSala said, are tasked with defining a long-term direction for the university and helping to identify specific areas for budget reductions to meet the shortfalls.
Campbell stressed that the Direction Package will be a vital part of the work successful move forward. “The purpose of the Directional Package work is to tell us how to be looking at what we’re going to be doing in that future,” he said. “We will have to do additional modeling once we have a better understanding of what that looks like.”
USM is not unique in its financial struggles or its efforts to come up with a solution with work like the Direction Package. Campbell added. He explained that there is also a push from the for more collaboration between campuses.
It’s also clear that the university’s financial struggles are far from new. “I don’t remember a time when I was here when we didn’t face a budget problem,” said Mark Lapping, distinguished professor from the Muskie School of Public Service. Lapping came to USM first in 1994 to act as provost and has since acted in various capacities at the university. “I don’t that we were ever adequately funded,” he said. “We’re not cutting any fat. That went away years ago. We’re now cutting into the bone,” he said.
LaSala agrees with Lapping that funding for the university has always been inadequate. “Fundamentally, this is a problem that goes back decades,” LaSala said. The geographic nature of USM, with its three distinct campuses, he said, has made funding a challenge.
“When I came to USM … there was a real sense of movement. This place would sing,” Lapping said.
With reorganizations and cuts a common theme at the university, “a lot of people are tired,” he said. “The process is nevertheless important,” Lapping said.
“People thirst for honest and open conversation.”
LaSala and Kalikow stressed that they want the Direction Package work to be as transparent as possible in the November release.
All of the classes and the three majors associated with the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures are still running after the department was effectively dissolved in late October. While ‘dissolving a department’ may sound like another cut, the move was largely organizational, and left the majors intact.
No courses and none of the three majors have been cut, nor, said Dean Lynn Kuzma of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, are there any plans in place to do so. However, Spanish Professor Charlene Suscavage argues that the loss of the departmental structure places her program, Hispanic studies, in a precarious position.
“We have no visibility,” Suscavage said. Visibility is important for Hispanic studies, Suscavage explained, because it is listed as a contract major, which falls under the umbrella of the “self designed” major, though there is an established curriculum required for Hispanic Studies students. “One of the reasons we’re a small major is that no one knows that we’re there,” Suscavage said.
Suscavage said she has tried to make Hispanic Studies a traditional major and that it has been voted in as one by the Faculty Senate three times, but it has never gone further than that. “Our provost would have to send it to the Board of Trustees, and he doesn’t want to,” Suscavage said.
When asked in an email why he has not explored this option, the Provost told the Free Press, “I am hopeful that the University of Maine System will find a way, much like Dr. Erickson is doing with French, to marshal resources from across the system to support a Spanish major.” He noted that since USM’s Hispanic Studies major is not listed as a system-approved major, the University of Maine at Orono is the only campus in the system that officially offers a Spanish major.
French Professor Nancy Erickson described the work Provost Stevenson mentioned. “I have been working with all the UMaine System campuses on a proposal to deliver the French major to campuses which do not have one and to share resources among the campuses that do but are strapped for resources. I met with the Provost and the Dean in mid-December to give my report and discuss this. My report is ready.”
When discussing this move toward inter-campus language programs across the UMS, Suscavage described the situation as “very dicey,” stressing the importance of in-person instruction for the first three semesters of a language class and the extremely small numbers of students who have opted to take the online version of her own blended class so far.
The three majors, French, Hispanic studies and classical languages and literatures, will each be taught by one full-time faculty member once Peter Aicher, the second remaining full-time classics professor at USM, reaches the end of a phased retirement next year. Each major is looking into different ways forward, following the decision that a department of three faculty members, all of whom teach different subjects, is not sustainable. “Essentially, we lost two-thirds of our faculty over the last 11 years,” said Associate Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures Jeannine Uzzi. “When people retire and aren’t replaced, you essentially kill the program.”
Uzzi added that classics, her own department, in some ways has more in common in terms of curriculum with history, philosophy and other liberal arts fields than with French or Spanish language classes. “There is no curricular reason why we should be together as one unit,” Uzzi said.
Administration for the three majors is currently going through Dean Kuzma’s office. “The Dean and the faculty are now working together to determine next steps in finding appropriate academic homes for the relevant programs,” said Stevenson.
However, what those departmental homes might be is far from being decided. “Everything is speculative,” said Erickson, who was adamant that, despite the administrative changes the three programs have undergone since Oct. 23, the dissolution of the department is not certain.
“You can’t just dissolve a department, that’s not how things are done,” Erickson said. She went on to say that no further meetings had been scheduled to determine the future of the department, a fact that she confirmed again two weeks later. She said that that the department’s status would remain undefined until further steps were taken. “I don’t know what is likely to happen,” Erickson said.
Suscavage is similarly uncertain. “We’re all in limbo,” she said. “The next step is reorganization.”
One thing that is certain is that, as an administrative unit, the MCLL department is no longer functioning. Kuzma confirmed that administrative work for the three majors is being done through the dean’s office while further arrangements are explored. “The changes in MCLL are purely administrative. I cannot emphasize that enough,” said Kuzma in an email to the Free Press in November.
An agreement on faculty union contracts may be closer than it has been in two and a half years after a tentative agreement was reached in November.
The proposed contract covers a four year span, including the past two and a half years and a year and half into the future.
“I feel like we’re finally turning the ship around,” said Christy Hammer, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences and president of the USM branch of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine.
The agreement was reached on Nov. 15, and was the final addition to the November Board of Trustees meeting on November 17 and 18. On the second day of the meeting, the motion to allow the Chancellor to ratify the proposed contract passed unanimously.
“It’s a tentative agreement until all parties agree,” said psychology Associate Professor John Broida, who is the USM representative to the AFUM bargaining committee. The next step, Broida said, is the Dec. 7 meeting of the AFUM bargaining committee, who will vote on whether accept or reject the agreement. No matter how they vote, the contract will go on to be voted on by the union members. If the union members do not approve the agreement, the contract will go back into negotiations. “The idea of the council is that they have all the information and will be able to help others,” Broida said.
The contract, which has been stalled largely over questions of pay raises and health benefits, comes in the context of budget shortfalls across the UMS. In a press release sent out following the Board of Trustees meeting Nov. 18, Leonard said, “The settlement with AFUM occurs in the context of an overall Trustee strategic change package designed to close a significant financial gap while meeting mission responsibilities … Costs associated with this agreement will not be borne by students or their families, but by reductions and efficiencies.”
One of the provisions in the contract which addresses the system’s fiscal situation is a financial incentive for older faculty to retire, with a greater incentive for retirement at the end of the current year, and a lesser incentive for retiring at the end of the 2014 to 2015 year.
“One thing [in the contract] many faculty think will help rebuild a stronger USM in the future is that there is an enhanced retirement incentive,” Hammer said.
Broida also mentioned that the retirement incentive could have a significant effect on the UMS. “If the contract is ratified, we may see a significant turnover in faculty.” Broida said
“Ultimately, that may free up some resources so that maybe we can hire more faculty,” said Hammer, echoing a discussion at the Nov. 8 faculty senate meeting, where engineering Professor Carlos Luck expressed concern that it was becoming too late in the year to begin searching for new faculty members for the next year, and that no new faculty searches are currently under way.
Broida expanded on that concern, explaining the reason for the retirement incentives. “One of the concerns of the faculty and administration is how old the faculty are getting.”
Broida said the tentative agreement follows the recommendations of the arbitration report which was released in September as the last step recommended by the Maine Labor Relations Board for the span of the first half of the tentative agreement, through June 2013. The period of the contract after June 2013 was not covered in the arbitration report, and required further negotiations.
“The last big obstacle was healthcare,” Broida said. The question of where the burden of payment for increasing healthcare costs would be assigned required a significant amount of negotiation and, said Broida, “It was interesting to watch people who know numbers get very confused by the final solution.”
The final agreement, which, Broida said, may be used as a pattern for future health care agreements with other unions in the UMS, is based on the projection of a four percent increase in health care costs for each year covered by the contract. The contract says that for the first 4.5 percent increase per year, 90 percent of that increase will be paid by the administration and 10 percent will be paid by the faculty, assuming certain qualifying conditions are met. If the qualifying conditions are not met, 80 percent will be paid by the administration and 20 percent will be paid by the faculty. If the cost of health care rises above 4.5 percent up to 13 percent, the cost will be split, paid half by the administration and half by the faculty. Any increase in healthcare costs higher than 13 percent will be paid by the faculty.
“It’s wonderful that we got the contract tentatively settled,” said Hammer. She went on to describe her surprise on seeing the results of a survey conducted by AFUM which showed that a number of faculty had needed to take on summer jobs over the course of the two and a half year contract negotiations without a pay increase. “Nobody goes into higher ed to get wealthy,” Hammer said, mentioning that many younger faculty have their own student loans to pay off.
The agreement as it stands, if approved, will provide a retroactive pay raise of one percent for the 2011 through 2012 school year for any faculty who were employed by the UMS at that time, a two percent raise retroactively from Jan. 2013, and two more two percent raises to be implemented June of 2013 and Sept 2014 respectively.
The date of the union vote on the contract following the Dec. 7 bargaining committee vote has not yet been set, but Broida said he expects the vote will take place in early January.
Students are still taking issue with the implementation of USM’s tobacco ban in Gorham since the university went tobacco-free last year.
Students at USM want to see administration work and listen to them to make the tobacco ban more suited to the needs of the Gorham campus.
In the second semester since USM put its campus-wide smoking ban into effect, some people still stand behind it as a good idea while others continue to argue that it is a violation of smokers’ rights. However, both smokers and nonsmokers have said that its execution has been far from flawless.
Many students have said that the ban’s implementation in Gorham specifically needs change, whether that mean more lenience or more enforcement of the rules so that it will actually be obeyed. “When I lived in the dorms, before the ban went into effect, I found it difficult to deal with the change. [The] administration needs to make some improvements or compromises on the ban for the Gorham campus because people live there,” said Jessica Rogalus, a junior history major.
The ban’s aim was to stop all tobacco use on campus and even prohibits non-tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes. “The new Tobacco-free Policy states that e-cigarettes are not allowed to be used on campus. The state of Maine, along with the FDA, view e-cigarettes as a tobacco product as it contains nicotine and uses a similar delivery device as a cigarette.” Suzanne Roy, USM’s health promotion manager, said shortly after the ban was put into action.
“Staff have told me they know students who, because of the ban, have taken the step to quit smoking. Those of us who don’t use tobacco are relieved to see a cleaner, tobacco-free campus. Others, who have allergies to smoke, are very relieved as well,” said Judie O’Malley, the assistant director at the USM office of Public Affairs.
The lack of compliance on the Gorham campus put stress on non-smoking students who lived in dorms. “No one used to smoke near buildings because you had to be 50 feet away. Now it’s like the 50 foot rule doesn’t exist. It took two months for Residential Life or even the police to do anything about it. Every night we would have to yell out the window for smokers to get out from under our window,” said Stephanie Dodier, a senior communications major.
“The USM Dean of Students and USM Police Safety staff, continue to monitor areas where smoking violations are taking place on campus. They have spoken with persons who are using tobacco on campus grounds to remind them to refrain from using tobacco,” Roy said of the process in dealing with continued smoking on campus.
For some students, the ban made them want to move off campus entirely. “The ban was a small factor in the reason I moved. It surprised me how it seems that the student body has little to no say in campus issues such as the smoking ban,” said Rogalus, who is a smoker.
“We feel the tobacco ban has been a success on all three campuses. Occasionally, I ask my colleagues around USM how it is going and I’ve heard that while there may be small pockets of non-compliance, for the most part, the tobacco ban is being observed,” O’Malley said.
Though some see things they would like to change, other students are relieved that USM is now tobacco-free. “My dad has had lung cancer twice in his life; right now it’s stage four, and he’s never smoked a day in his life. Secondhand smoke is actually really damaging, and cigarette butts everywhere are gross. The world is not your trash can,” Dodier said.
When the tobacco ban was first introduced, a group of students worked hard to try and prevent it from becoming a reality. “I am not trying to stop the tobacco ban anymore. It’s pointless, and I can’t do anything to change it. I feel almost defeated about it,” said Ana Worthing, a senior psychology major who was one of the students who protested the ban. “The president has made up her mind,” she said. “At this time it’s a done deal and set in stone.”
The ban is a group effort of everyone who attends USM. “One of the ways to succeed in creating a safe and healthy environment is for each of us to own our responsibility to respectfully approach persons who are ignoring the tobacco policy to remind them that this policy has been adopted to protect the health of everyone from exposure to secondhand smoke, a serious health hazard that is avoidable,” said Roy.
Now that the ban has been put into action, both the pro-ban and anti-ban students agree that a lot remains to be done with the ban. Both sides have a lot of ideas for what they would like to see happen in the future and hope that the administration will eventually talk to them and consider their opinions.
Paul Nelson, first year political science major, has already been working to make changes at USM and hear all student voices.
Nelson is originally from Old Town and is a 2012 graduate of Old Town High School. Right after high school Nelson enlisted in the National Guard where he worked in the United States to support operations overseas for a year and a half. Nelson still spends one weekend every month training with the National Guard, and the National Guard helps him pay for his education.
“I had friends who went into the political science major and loved it. I know that this was the best decision for me as a person and my future,” Nelson said of his choice to attend USM.
After USM, Nelson plans to continue his military career from what he’s learned as a political science major. “I plan on going into active duty. I plan on pursuing my military career for fourteen or more years so that I can give back on an even bigger scale,” he said. “I want to see things be different and be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to be able to say ‘I helped people, I saved lives,’” Nelson said.
Usually, student senate members campaign in the fall and are elected in the spring. Because this is Nelson’s first semester, the process went a little differently for him. “I was asked what I could bring to the table. My goal was to give back and get to know and support other students.”
Nelson explained he had more than classroom experience in leadership. “I also was in charge of 1,500 people when I was in Texas for the military, so I had experience leading. Then I was elected,” Nelson said.
As a senator, he said, he has already worked to make his goal of helping others a reality. Nelson works to gain students’ respect and trust by simply getting to know them. “I make it a point to meet one student every week. I go up to someone, give them a handshake and introduce myself,” he said. “I always ask what they would like to see change at USM and work to make it a better place. I want students to know that their voices are heard. USM is a large, diverse school, and it‘s important to include everyone,” Nelson said.
Outside of working in the student senate, Nelson is also a part of the fraternity Phi Mu Delta, which helps him stay involved in the events of the university, like a Rock-a-thon that raised money for St. Joseph’s hospital. The fraternity also acted as security for USM’s Royal Majesty Drag Competition, which took place on the Nov. 22. “Working with Phi Mu Delta is about promoting unity and philanthropy,” Nelson said.
At 19 years-old, Paul Nelson is one of the youngest senators at USM, and he feels that he already has made some accomplishments at USM. But Nelson also has a lot more that he plans to do to help others. He said that he wants to continue listening to students so that he can improve USM, and he urges people to attend senate meetings on Fridays to be heard.
On November 15, the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine and University of Maine System came to a tentative agreement on faculty contracts which have been under negotiation since the expiration of the previous contract on June 30, 2011.
The contract negotiations, which have been stalled over numerous issues, notably healthcare and cost of living raises, have undergone a series of steps for arbitration by the Maine Labor Relations Board, culminating in September.
The new version of the contract, which is described as a tentative agreement on the AFUM website, will be voted on by the UMS Board of Trustees as the final item on the agenda of today’s Board of Trustees meeting at the University of Maine at Farmington. It will then be voted on by AFUM at the Dec. 7 meeting of the AFUM Bargaining Council.
According to Executive Director of Facilities Management Robert Bertram over $7 million has been spent on renovation projects at USM this calendar year. This number will increase to over $12 million when the projects are totally finished. Some of the most recent projects have been the installation of the stamped asphalt outside Luther Bonney Hall and Masterton Hall in Portland, which cost $158,000.00, and repaving on the Gorham campus, which cost $191,008.
When students were asked how they felt about the large amount of money being put into cosmetic renovations, the majority agreed that they had hoped Facilities Management would spend money on more student-oriented projects, such as fixing the drafty windows in the dorms. First year undeclared major Caroline Doherty told the Free Press that work should be done on the elevator in Dickey Wood Hall, which has on multiple occasions gotten stuck with students inside.
Facilities Management has done over 100 projects in the 2013 calendar year. The next cosmetic renovation that they have planned and already funded is on the entrances to the science building, both the entrance off the courtyard and the entrance off of Falmouth street. Facilities Management will be renovating both of the entrances and plan on doing work to upgrade the interior space. “We’re going to break it up, replace the lighting, and make it look more appealing,” said Bertram.
When first year undeclared Stephen Colby was asked about his opinion on the renovations, he said, “I wish that they would spend less money on renovations and more money on the curriculum so we don’t have to lose classes.”
“I understand about spending money on the necessary stuff, like fixing the pipelines, because those were having problems,” Colby said. He also said that money should be spent on the curriculum so it would help the entire USM student populace, not just the students in the dorms or on putting in new stamped asphalt.
The risks of losing the physics the department was also troublesome to first year undeclared Emily Collins. “Physics is something you need. It’s too important to cut from the state university,” said Collins. Collins believes that if money could be spent to repave and improve the interior of the Science Building, that money could be more well placed trying to fix problems with the curriculum itself.
Facilities Management does not have any new projects planned for the rest of the 2013 calendar year. Planning for the 2014 calendar year will be taking place in early 2014. “We typically plan our projects beginning after the first of the calendar year to be done over the summer.” Bertram said
Other projects done by Facilities Management this year include the efficiency lighting program in Corthell Hall, which costed $400,000 over the span of three years. There was also a complete replacement of the boilers in Gorham costing $2.7 million. Some of these projects are not funded by the university. Projects such as the efficiency lighting program were paid by grants. The majority of the projects done at USM are done over the course of a couple years.
Sophomore math and physics major Alexander Knight, said “I wish they would spend money to make it better for the students already there as opposed to prettying it up for prospective students.” Furthermore, Knight said, “They should make the process better, not the advertising to get students in.”
USM Executive Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell was contacted for a comment on student criticism of the renovations. He did not reply by press time.
The Direction Package Advisory Board met for the first time on Friday in the Brooks Student Center in Gorham to discuss tactics and strategies for creating a cohesive direction package that will be presented to the Board of Trustees.
Approximately 30 people were assembled at the meeting in order to represent a broad cross-section of the university community, with participants from the Student Senate, faculty, Alumni Board, Faculty Senate Budget and Strategic Planning commitee, Professional Staff Senate, Academic Deans, Graduate Student Leadership, advisors and more. “This is our chance to come together and work on how USM is going to go forward into the future,” President Theo Kalikow said to the group.
The first meeting consisted of making introductions, creating a schedule of meeting dates, clarifying objectives and establishing ground rules for discussing the direction package.
The meeting opened with a speech from Justin Alfond, Maine state Senate president. He said his hope is that the Advisory Board could establish a single vision for the future USM. “My hope for you all is to really do this together,” he said. He also offered his support to the group.
Two main objectives were identified for the board to address. First, the difference between how much money USM takes in and the amount it costs to keep the school running must be addressed. They want to come up with strategies to close the gap. This includes finding ways to increase enrollment and increase revenues.
The second objective is to develop a clear vision of what the future of USM is going to look like. This includes answering questions about where the university is headed and what its key goals are.
“Most of the financial problems are long term systemic problems that we’ve tried to address through cuts. We can’t cut our way to brilliance. We need to see the things we do best and do them better,” said Jerry Lasala, the chair of the physics department and co-sponsor of the Advisory Board with university President Theo Kalikow.
Kalikow expressed her hope for what the group will accomplish. “We will achieve a large degree of consensus and understanding,” Kalikow said. She also expressed her opinion that the Board needs to listen to students and discover what they need.
The board addressed concerns about the time constraints they are facing. Despite the 23 meetings that are scheduled for the next four months, the group was concerned that they might not have enough time to come up with a unified consensus and recommendations.
A major concern for many of the participants was whether or not to allow the press to attend future meetings. For almost two hours, the participants weighed the costs and benefits of press coverage. While many expressed their desire for the process to be as transparent and open as possible, many feared the possibility of negative press. Some believed that if the press were to attend the meetings, the members would not feel safe to openly express their opinions. They said that they feared that the board may be misrepresented or have their preliminary thoughts published.
Many believe that recent negative press has been detrimental to the image of the school and that the university is losing applications because of it. They want to present a positive image to the students and faculty.
Some, like Kelsea Dunham the student body president, said that the press is necessary to keep the student body informed about the decisions being made in the Advisory Board meetings.
The Board did not reach a conclusion about whether or not to admit the press. While they want to keep the student body informed, they were unsure about how to do so. Some options included having private executive sessions or presenting relevant information to the press through press conferences.
The meeting ended with a short speech from the Chancellor Jim Page. ”I’m here to voice my strong support to the University of Southern Maine,” he told the group. He offered the board support and a helping hand. “The work of this group is going to have implications well beyond this school,” he said.
Last Tuesday’s election may not have been the flashiest or most controversial, but the passage of one of the referendum questions on the ballot is good news for USM.
University of Maine System Chancellor James Page thanked voters for the passage of Question 2, the bond issue for funding for STEM classroom and lab renovations throughout the University of Maine System, in a statement.
“Those upgrades will create immediate local construction jobs, and they will create a better learning environment for our students to receive education and training for careers that Maine needs, Maine employers have, and Maine students want,” Page wrote.
Dean and Professor of Technology Andrew Anderson told the Free Press in an email, “We are very appreciative the citizens of Maine have chosen, through approval of the bond, to support higher education in general and the needs of USM in particular. While USM continually works to find resources to maintain laboratories and equipment, funds such as those available through this bond are needed to make more significant upgrades.”
Detailing how much money will be allocated to six of its seven campuses, the Chancellor stated that USM will receive $4 million that will be used to renovate some of the labs at its Portland, Gorham and Lewiston campuses.
Regarding where the money will be spent, Anderson said in an email, “The actual bond indicated that funds would likely be used for the Bailey Science Wing in Gorham, Payson Smith Hall in Portland, the Science Wing in Portland and facilities in Lewiston. We will likely be able to complete a few major laboratory renovations and less extensive upgrades to several others. The actual number of laboratories that can be upgraded will be dependent on engineering studies of the spaces to determine associated costs. There are plenty of candidates and we will attempt to make the broadest impact possible with the resources available.”
USM needs to update equipment and renovate lab and classrooms in all of the science departments. Mike Callahan, lab manager for the Biology 106 class, said, “If the biology department does get any kind of money, the labs still have old microscopes that need updating. There would be a slew of emails going around to get some monies for improvements in the department.”
Anderson explained the lab manager position, “Each department has its own lab manager, who set up labs, might do lab teaching sometimes and provide support. Different units have different demands.” Associate Dean Charles Fitts added, “Lab managers order supplies, set up labs and run so many lab sections. There are a large number of majors and lab classes that it makes sense to have someone do it.”
According to an email from Anderson, “While we have a pretty good sense of areas of need, we will seek input from faculty and staff in further defining need and establishing priorities. While this is a substantial amount of funding, it will not meet all needs.” He further clarified via a phone call that none of the funds will be used for job positions.
Anderson indicated in the email that it is not known when the renovations will take place because they don’t know when the bond money will become available for the individual campuses. After the design work has been completed, scheduling will be the next issue that needs to be addressed since the rooms where courses currently occur might have to be moved.
When asked about the effect upon students at USM, Masina Wright a part-time faculty member in the nursing department, who teaches Botanic Therapies said, “Having more up-to-date equipment means you are on a more level playing field with richer schools.”
Dave Champlin, associate professor of biology, said, “Some professors have been here for 30-40 years and have not seen some of the labs renovated. It’s expensive to update science labs and is hard to justify with budget cuts. It will be money well spent. The number of science students is increasing. This is good news.”
Fitts confirmed that many of the lab spaces haven’t had major updates. “Bailey Hall was built in 1970 and hasn’t had a significant renovation, and Payson Smith has a lab that hasn’t been renovated either.” Although Anderson doesn’t have renovation records, he said, “We haven’t had major renovations in decades. Clearly, if you go around to the labs, you can see they haven’t had serious renovations in a long time.”
When asked about an increase in science students, Anderson said in an email that data tracked for the last three years shows growth, “Since 2011, the fall enrollment in sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geosciences and Physics) has increased from 516 to 551 (3.2 percent). There are other areas that have also experienced growth: Computer Science increased from 103 to 132 (28.2 percent); Engineering from 144 to 207 (43.75 percent); Linguistics from 59 to 80 (35.5 percent); Exercise Health and Sports Sciences from 351 to 385 (9.7 percent); and Recreation and Leisure Studies from 34 to 52 (52.9 percent).”
The effect of renovations on department interdisciplines is positive. “Another thing that’s exciting
Faculty aired many of the same concerns they expressed in the October senate meeting at last week’s senate, but this time with University of Maine System Chancellor James Page in attendance.
Page, who was invited to attend the meeting by Faculty Senate Chair and physics Professor Jerry LaSala, arrived in Gorham in time for some of the latter part of the Direction Package Advisory Board meeting. At the Faculty Senate meeting, which followed the Advisory Board meeting, he expressed his support for the Direction Package process. “The work that this group is doing deserves our collective support,” Page said. “It needs to be done and it needs to be done right.”
Page said he would keep his remarks brief in the interests of leaving more time for questions, and the questions that followed lasted most of the rest of the two hour meeting. The first question, posed by English Professor Nancy Gish, addressed concern for the lack of new hires and staffing gaps at the university. The particular example she brought up was the history department’s lack of a European historian, but the issue came up several times, in the contexts of a range of particular departments.
Page responded, “I am a strong believer that we have to find ways, find resources, to bring in young scholars.” He also stressed the importance of the humanities, which, he said, were easy to lose track of in the current educational and financial climate.
Page summarized the issue the university is faced with, saying, “As a university system, we do not have the luxury of saying those things [the humanities] are not important.”
“The trick,” Page went on, “is how do we resource those?”
Page’s answer to that question, which took the language departments at USM as an example, focused around collaboration within the university system, rather than trying to find solutions for one school alone. USM’s department of modern and classical languages currently consists of three full-time faculty members, with a fourth going into phased retirement over the course of the next year. The department has recently voted to cease functioning as a single administrative unit, at the request of Dean Kuzma of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. According to the dean, they are currently under the administrative umbrella of the dean’s office while other options are explored.
“Those programs are hanging on by their fingernails,” Page said, but went on to say that were they to be cut, it would be an unacceptable loss. He then pointed to the work Jeannine Uzzi, professor of classics, and French Professor Nancy Erickson are doing to develop system-wide language programs as a way to begin to consolidate resources.
Professor Carlos Luck of the engineering department brought the conversation back to the lack of faculty and lack of current hiring going on in the system. Luck cited his own finding from observation of records from the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, pointing out that dropping enrollment, one of USM’s major problems, has fallen in roughly the same pattern as faculty numbers have dropped. Classics Professor Jeannine Uzzi corroborated those numbers later in the meeting, adding, “When you lose faculty, you do lose students.”
“Provost Stevenson made it clear that he can’t approve any new faculty searches if we don’t have the money to pay for it,” Luck said.
Stevenson, who was in attendance at the meeting, did not comment. Luck then went on to say that the Direction Panel advisory board was not expected to reach any conclusions before February, and that if the university waits until then to begin a staff-search, the graduating class of scholars from 2014 will already have been hired elsewhere. Luck said that a university-wide freeze on hiring even in departments where the number of students is growing is not sustainable. “This spiraling down is dangerous and ultimately catastrophic,” Luck said.
“I can’t sit here and make any promises,” Page said to Luck, noting that the Board of Trustees will not sign off on any “blank check” financial support for the university. “I don’t argue with the strength of your concern,” he said.
Other topics of note during the question and answer period with the chancellor included the need for the Board of Trustees to advocate for higher education in the upcoming gubernatorial race, and the geographical limitations to the kind of departmental collaboration within the system which Page offered as a partial solution. Maine, several professors, including Gish and professor of Hispanic studies Charlene Suscavage pointed out, is too large for travel to different campuses to always be practical. Suscavage in particular noted that online classes are not always a viable solution, particularly in the case of dialogue-based upper-level language classes.
EDTalks, a public forum in the format of question-and-answer sessions for students who want to have a voice in education on a local and state-wide level, is being brought into existence through The Free Press in collaboration with the student body vice president, Marpheen Chann.
Chann emphasized that the event is a place for students to address their concerns and inquiries regarding their education at the University of Maine System and what the legislature’s plans are for education around the state. Politicians in the Maine Legislature, from the Portland and Gorham area, are coming to the University for the EDTalk session. Students will be able to ask these legislators about the problems surrounding the Maine education system. Chann hopes that students will tackle some of the main issues that are currently causing complications around USM—budget cuts and funding.
“These public forums are meant to help students to get a better grasp of policies around USM and Maine,” said Chann. “It also allows students to express their concerns to state leaders.”
Azia Gilbert, a senior English major, thinks that these talks will help students find out what the state’s priorities are for education. Gilbert said that in most of her classes, professors and students are voicing their frustration about all of the proposed cuts to departments at USM.
The impact that the talk can have, Chann stressed, is measuring how much the administration and the state government in Augusta are able to back up what they say. This EDTalks session is a way for students to express their concerns about their education to the people that actually make decisions regarding public education and have it lead to action in the long-term.
John Correll, a freshman music performance major, thinks the EDTalks is a great idea. Correll said that he feels like the school administration activities are not in depth or discussed in an informative way. He said that he wants to have a discourse with his fellow students in order to see different points of views on education funding and cuts.
“This event will help bring the issues closer to the hands of the students,” said Correll. “It will spread awareness to students about what is happening at USM and hopefully give them encouragement to take action.”
Essentially, the concept behind this question-and-answer session, according to Chann, is to look beyond the university political structure. This talk will help students find for information outside of the answers university officials have been giving to the faculty and student body.
“I don’t think it’s an idealistic event,” said Gilbert, after being asked what impact she thought the talk would have on students. “Hopefully it encourages people to try to change things. If anything, it will expand the minds of students and possibly empower us, as members of the university, to take action and make changes.”
Gilbert said that one of the statements she’d make to the legislators, should she attend the talk, would be her concerns about the direction for USM as a university. Gilbert believes that the university is leading itself into becoming a “glorified trade school” that merely wants students get an education to fill positions in white collar jobs. She would like to hear how the legislators would respond to this concern, and also hear what other students have to say about this opinion.
“Just because the university says we have to do something about the budget and funding doesn’t mean that the administration has the final answer to solve problems,” said Chann. “I want students to be able to find out the source of the budget cuts and where our funding is going.”
Correll agrees with Chann when it comes to learning about school funding. When Correll was asked about the inquiries he has for the EDTalk, he said that he wants to know how much of the school funding comes from the government and how much the school makes on its own. Correll also said that he thinks the impact this talk will have on the university will be small, but he appreciates the opportunity to ask questions and to see what’s going on in state funded education.
There are currently three state legislators that will be at the session on Nov. 21. Students will be able to discuss the issues with the Maine Senate president Justin Alfond, the Democratic state representative from Gorham Andrew Mclean, and the Democratic chair of the education committee in the state Senate Rebecca Miller. Chann is still trying to find one more state legislator from the Portland or Gorham area to join the discussion.
“These state representatives and senators have a responsibility to listen to students,” said Chann, “and consider what they have to say. We want students to help contribute to statewide debates on education.”
Shadiyo Hussainali is a third year biology major with a focus in pre-med at USM. Hussainali currently is living in Portland and spends a lot of her time on the Portland campus. The places she frequents vary every semester, but she consistently spends much of her time in the multicultural center located in the Woodbury. Hussainali does a lot of work there as well as in the Science Building. She is a member of the multicultural club, the pre health club and is the vice president of the Muslim Students’ Association of USM as well as doing after-school help for other students, both tutoring and advising.
Hussainali works at fundraisers and does community service for these clubs to raise awareness of various causes. Recently, Hussainali worked with the pre health club to host a salsa dance where all proceeds went to a charity. The group also raises money throughout the year for world health costs. Currently the group is hoping to partner with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for an event.
Through the multi-cultural club, Hussainali works to host events so that students can get to know one another and simply hang out and enjoy themselves. She also meets with ESL students to help teach them and encourage them to try and get a college education. As the vice president of the Muslim Association of USM, Hussainali puts together small events and things like food tables to catch students’ attention. “As a Muslim, I want to change pre-notions of what being a Muslim is. I want to educate other students who may know not know much about us. We want to help with any questions people may have. Don’t be scared to come to our events or drop by the multicultural center” Hussanali said.
After USM, Hussainali has aspirations of attending Tufts university in Boston for graduate school. Ultimately, Hussainali wants to become either an emergency physician or emergency OB GYN and get a job at Maine Med. Hussainali has already worked outside of school to make this dream a reality when she worked as an assistant for an emergency doctor at the Mid Coast hospital in Brunswick, where she mostly filled out patients’ documents for the doctor.
The Muskie School of Public Service and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute hosted its last presentation in the series “Politics Then and Now, In Maine and the Nation” for 2013, which began in September. Next March, they will have gubernatorial candidates speak. Former state Senator Cynthia Dill, Representative Kenneth Fredette, the current Republican leader in the Maine House and Amy Fried, professor of political science at UMO, who also wrote Pathways to Polling, spoke about the current challenges in politics and government on Thursday evening.
“The last house session was very tough. There was a bill to sell the Blaine House and a bill to eliminate the governor’s pension,” Fredette said. He said the bills pointed to a certain amount of friction in the house. He alluded to Governor LePage’s off-color comments about Senator Troy Jackson, of District 35, a logger from the Allagash, a small town in northern Maine.
Fredette moved on to discuss the discrepancies in campaigns by comparing clean election candidates running for the state house, who get $4,500, versus other candidates who spend $60,000. He said, “People have figured out how much power the state has and are trying to get into the House or Senate.” When Seth Goodall stepped down, Fredette said, “$100,000 was spent on both sides for the state senate race.”
“Money and influence of independent expenditures has changed the playing field. We need reforms that both Democrats and Republicans work on together,” Fredette said.
He provided an example of bipartisanship that he experienced with former Speaker of the House John Martin, a Democrat who worked with Republicans. “I served with John Martin, a legend in Maine, he was in the legislature for almost 50 years.” Being a Democrat didn’t stop him from working across party lines, Fredette said.
Part of the solution to the problems in Maine government is having fresh insights from young people. “John Martin recruited people at colleges for the legislature.” Fredette said, before reitorating that getting young people involved is something both Democrats and Republicans must do.
Because representatives and senators sometimes refuse to work together, Fredette called upon every citizen to act for change to occur. “We need to be accountable. Obviously, we need reformers: I am, you are, we are.”
Yes on Question 1 means you approve a $14 million bond to pay for maintenance, modernization and improvements for Maine Army National Guard readiness centers, and for buying land for training for the National Guard. If it passes, it could draw matching funds from the federal government for the same purpose. No on Question 2 does not approve the bond.
Yes on Question 2 means you approve a $15.5 million bond for improvements of laboratories and science classrooms across the University of Maine system. No on Question 2 does not approve the bond.
Yes on Question 3 means you approve a $100 million bond to be used on reconstruction, repairs and improvements for Maine’s highways, bridges, ports and harbors, railroads and air travel. If passed, it will be matched by $154 million in federal and other funds. No on Question 3 would not pass the bond.
Yes on Question 4 means you approve a $4.5 million bond for building a new science facility for the Maine Maritime Academy. This bond, if passed, will be matched by other funds. No on Question 4 wouldn’t pass it.
Yes on Question 5 means agreeing to pass a $15.5 million bond to be used for upgrading buildings, classrooms and laboratories across the Maine Community College system. No on Question 5 would not pass the bond.
Yes on Question 1 is a vote to make it legal for people 21 and older to posses up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and paraphernalia, as long as it is off of school grounds, public spaces and public transportation. It is also a vote to support marijuana legalization, taxation and regulation at the state and federal level.
Students gathered Friday and Saturday to create a letter detailing what they consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of the USM Direction Package at the Student Vision 2013 Conference.
The goal of the two-day student organized event is to prepare a letter out of their discussions to give to the administration in an attempt to increase student involvement in the formation of the Direction Package. On Oct. 8, student body President Kelsea Dunham, sent out a call to action to all USM students asking them to participate in the conference. It stated, “This is an issue that requires as many of our voices as possible. It is time for us to speak up. We can either let others determine the future of this institution, or be a driving force for the university.”
According to Dunham, the main issue that students take with the Direction Package, which establishes a vision for the university, is the vagueness of the first draft. In particular, they were displeased with the last section, which leaves the “Tactics and Initiatives” of the Package “to be determined at a later date.”
“The plan is for us, as students, to touch on what our ideal university is and give that to the administration,” said Dunham. Her goal was to have students, “come together and come up with things that matter the most to us.”
Bob Caswell, executive director of Public Affairs, said in a statement, “the university exists for students. So an event designed to generate student input on our path forward is really important.”
While the administration and faculty knew about the event, Dunham asked that the conference only have students in attendance. She wanted the students to have a comfortable environment to share their feelings and opinions.
“We talked about our concerns about USM and what USM is doing well that we like. From that we moved into drafting a letter, which outlined some of the stuff that we were concerned about,” said Marpheen Chann, student body vice-president.
According to Dunham, some important goals were make USM a more attractive place for faculty to work, and creating more community responsibility. They also hope to come up with more alternative fundraising in order to avoid cutting more programs.
“USM shouldn’t be an alternative to other schools. It should be a leading institution. Whether is academically or socially, [it] should be a place where students want to go,” Chann said, as he explained his goals for the conference, he believes that USM should be a first choice in a school, not a last resort.
However, turn-out at the event was lower than expected. While 30 people registered for each day of the event, there were only about 15 attendees on day one and eight attendees on day two.
“I was disappointed at the turn-out, but it was interesting to to learn about the many types of experiences students have at USM,” said Dunham.
“It was a good start. [But] there needs to be more students represented,” said Christian Evans, a senior linguistics major. Evans also suggested that USM needs to have annual or semester meetings to gather student feedback about their expectations for the university.
“The outcome we want from this is a unified student body that speaks with one voice and has one vision. I hope that the administration actually listens to students. Or at least includes us in their conversations,” said Chann.
The attendees hopes to submit their suggestions to the administration before the next Direction Package Advisory Board meeting on Nov. 8. Their main goal is to have their suggestions realized and create a brighter future for USM students, Dunham said. “I think I have enough to present the administration with something. It may not be as comprehensive as I’d hoped, but it will be a start,” said Dunham at the conclusion of the conference.