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UCU opens campus branch: students ready for convenient banking

Thu, 2015-01-29 14:52

Last week, University Credit Union celebrated the grand opening of an on-campus branch in Gorham, giving residential students a quick and convenient banking location.

“We know that managing your finances can be confusing, so we want to be there for USM’s students, staff and faculty if they need any assistance at all,” said Amy Irish, UCU’s assistant vice president of member development.

The Brooks Student Center has housed an official UCU kiosk for years where members could deposit checks, manage their accounts and withdraw cash, but now a branch with regular business hours will provide students with more assistance if needed.
“Not only are we there to open new accounts, but anyone on campus can come to us to talk about loan applications, computer or car loans, budgeting assistance and loan payments, too,” said Irish.
The one-employee branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment during the week and the kiosk will be on and available whenever the student center is open.
Having a credit union on campus means that residential students will no longer have to trudge down to Casco Federal Credit Union on Main Street to access their account.
“Especially in the dead of winter, it can be a pain to leave campus,” said Irish.
“I’ve had late fees charged on my credit card just because I couldn’t bring myself to walk down to the credit union when it was below freezing out,” said junior marketing major Chris Egan.
While they haven’t been in to set-up an account yet, undeclared freshman Melissa Boone and Ashley Shaw said that they planned on looking into it.
“I’ve always been told that credit unions are better places to put your money,” said Shaw. “And since there’s one set-up practically on my way to lunch everyday, I’ll probably stop in.”
The new branch has a table of free UCU items to lure in passersby and Irish says she hopes that the branch will be able to serve more and more of the USM community as time goes on.
“We’ve always had students and staff tell us over the years that we should just open up on campus,” said Irish, noting that UCU has a branch open in Portland just a short walk from campus. “The opportunity presented itself late last year and we’ve been working on it ever since. We’re here to serve the community in any way that we can.”

UCU opens campus branch: students ready for convenient banking

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:14

Last week, University Credit Union celebrated the grand opening of an on-campus branch in Gorham, giving residential students a quick and convenient banking location.

“We know that managing your finances can be confusing, so we want to be there for USM’s students, staff and faculty if they need any assistance at all,” said Amy Irish, UCU’s assistant vice president of member development.

The Brooks Student Center has housed an official UCU kiosk for years where members could deposit checks, manage their accounts and withdraw cash, but now a branch with regular business hours will provide students with more assistance if needed.

“Not only are we there to open new accounts, but anyone on campus can come to us to talk about loan applications, computer or car loans, budgeting assistance and loan payments, too,” said Irish.

The one-employee branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment during the week and the kiosk will be on and available whenever the student center is open.

Having a credit union on campus means that residential students will no longer have to trudge down to Casco Federal Credit Union on Main Street to access their account.

“Especially in the dead of winter, it can be a pain to leave campus,” said Irish.

“I’ve had late fees charged on my credit card just because I couldn’t bring myself to walk down to the credit union when it was below freezing out,” said junior marketing major Chris Egan.

While they haven’t been in to set-up an account yet, undeclared freshman Melissa Boone and Ashley Shaw said that they planned on looking into it.

“I’ve always been told that credit unions are better places to put your money,” said Shaw. “And since there’s one set-up practically on my way to lunch everyday, I’ll probably stop in.”

The new branch has a table of free UCU items to lure in passersby and Irish says she hopes that the branch will be able to serve more and more of the USM community as time goes on.

“We’ve always had students and staff tell us over the years that we should just open up on campus,” said Irish, noting that UCU has a branch open in Portland just a short walk from campus. “The opportunity presented itself late last year and we’ve been working on it ever since. We’re here to serve the community in any way that we can.”

Number of adjunct professors on the rise at USM

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:14

By: Brian Gordon

The university has been firing tenured professors and replacing them with adjuncts or temporary workers as part of executing their vision of a “metropolitan university.” The administration has been carrying this out in the name of saving money.  The national average of adjuncts teaching is 50 percent  at 4-year public universities. USM uses more than 50 percent to teach their classes and is headed towards more as they let more full time professors go.

The adjuncts are paid per class, per semester. On average they are paid $3,215 per class, for a three credit course for a four month semester. Most adjuncts have to work second and third jobs to make ends meet. Still the adjuncts were adamant about their love of teaching and realized they wouldn’t become rich from it.

Michele Cheung has been teaching part time at USM for twenty years. She holds a master’s in Celtic languages and literatures and is also president of the Part Time Faculty Association union.

To make teaching adjunct work, she freelances, does marketing writing and has a share in a local cleaning company.

“It’s a stereotype that we’re not good enough to be full time faculty, this is a lurking attitude,” said Cheung “Most adjuncts don’t want to be full time; we want a life that’s a bit of this and a bit of that. However we do feel that we should be paid on par as full time.”

She used to teach four classes but now they’ve been done away with. This semester she’s only teaching one section of creative writing.

The administration has been pushing to get tenured professors teaching a full load of four classes, rather than two or three. But at the same time, the administration is cutting classes leaving the tenured professors fighting over classes with the adjuncts.

Cheung notes that adjuncts used to only teach introductory classes but now the tenured professors may need those courses to satisfy their own requirements set by the president and provost.

While some adjuncts are being brought in to replace full-time faculty who have been retrenched, in other departments they have been given fewer sections. This situation creates its own problems. As Cheung notes, adjuncts with the most seniority are the only ones left standing.

“The lesser temps can’t find work at USM. There’s no way for a person to make a living teaching one class; they’d have to pump gas or get government aid,” said Cheung.

Elizabeth Peavey was an USM adjunct teacher of public speaking for 20 years before her class was neutralized last fall.

“I knew I was going to dedicate an enormous amount of my week to this one class so then I had to find something to offset that,” said Peavey. “I did advertising work for years.”

“Anybody who goes into teaching, does it with their heart. It’s public service,” said Peavey. “You don’t aspire to teach for money or because it’s going to be easy.”

Andrew Barron just finished his master’s degree at USM in statistics. He is in his fourth semester as an adjunct teaching at USM. Barron would like to get hired on full time but knows that might not happen due to a campus-wide freeze of hiring tenured track professors. For now he’s content teaching adjunct as much as he can at USM and SMCC but realizes if he does want to get a full time job he might have to move out of state.

As for the pay, Barron isn’t complaining because he loves to teach but “you always pretty much have to do something else.” For Barron that something else was bartending and managing at local bar LFK.

“I can make more bartending two nights than a semester of teaching 12 credits.” said Barron. “It’s not the most efficient way to make money. So you have to like it.”

Susan Feiner professor of economics and women and gender studies thinks the use of adjuncts on campus is too prominent. She believes they are taking jobs that should go to tenured-track professors.

Feiner said there is a place for adjunct teachers on campus where they have a lot of experience in their field of expertise. For example, “A nurse, software designer, the judge in the law school,” said Feiner.

“I’m not saying they’re not good in the classrooms, but they are not teacher-scholars,” said Feiner, meaning they haven’t received their Ph.D and they don’t have a research background.

Do students notice a difference in the teaching quality between adjuncts and full time tenured track professors? “When I’m teaching, I’m teaching and my focus is on that. On the other hand I’m not teaching four courses so I can put more energy into the one or two I do,” said Cheung.

Crystal Lancaster, a Health Sciences major who notes she’s had nurses teaching her said, “I respect the adjuncts a lot more because they’re the ones that go out and do it, rather than someone that just blabs from a textbook.”

Some students have noticed a difference in teaching styles like Iris SanGiovanni, a political science sophomore. Her Spanish 201 class taught by an adjunct relied too heavily on English language Youtube videos, whereas a 202 Spanish class taught by a full time professor used more in class discussion taught in Spanish.

“I feel a little like Goldilocks because 201 was a little too relaxed and 202 was too strict. Perhaps if the adjunct professor had more time to commit to classroom preparation, they wouldn’t have needed to rely so heavily on videos,” said SanGiovanni.

Caleb Coleman, a senior economics major has had adjuncts with mixed success.

“Almost every full-time professor I’ve had has seemed more passionate about the content they are teaching.”

Coleman noted he had a great adjunct professor last year but he left for more money.

“It feels like adjuncts are usually there to just teach the class and would rather avoid spending too much extra time helping students, understandable, given their pay.”

Feiner believes relying too heavily on underpaid workers isn’t fair to the adjuncts or the students.

“This is the problem of administrators seeing everyone as assembly line workers. It’s a very diminished view of education,” said Feiner. “To make the part time worker the norm, rather than the exception is very very detrimental to the academic enterprise.”

“As conditions for full time faculty grow worse and more like the conditions for adjuncts faculty, theres going to be more and more alliances and coalition building and backing each other up. I’m all for that,” said Cheung. “It’s just another way the university is not investing in the school by not investing in teachers.”

Students still prefer the classic classroom experience

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:11

In the fall, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences issued a survey to ask students in the department which kind of learning they prefer. A resonating 92 percent answered that they prefer in person instruction, with two percent preferring online, and five percent preferring the blended classroom concept.

Leonard Shedletsky, professor of communication, has focused his teaching efforts online but does enjoy both.

“While the two contexts differ in many ways, there are ways in which they share significant features,” said Shedletsky. “What I have in mind is the potential more and more to meet live or synchronously online, to discuss, hear one another’s voice, see one another, share documents, view texts and videos together and to feel the immediacy of one another.”

Shedletsky noted the results of the survey, but advised that they be considered very carefully.

“These data should not be taken too literally without deeper examination,” Shedletsky said. “I believe that when people imagine the comparison there is a tendency to imagine scenarios that are not realistic. There is a tendency to romanticize the classroom, a world of give and take, authentic talk, engaged debate. Little of that is actually true, however.”

Matthew Killmeier, chair of the department of communication and media studies, explained that the survey was taken in class, which may cause some bias. He also recognized that when the department offers online classes, they fill up quickly.

“The bias is this survey is one we did in class,” said Killmeier. “When we offer an online section of something it usually fills up right away. There is demand. There is a considerable number of students that do do exclusively online.”

Killmeier went onto explain that one of his students, a blueberry farmer in Washington County, completed his communication degree completely online.

“It’s got potential if you do it right, recognizing that online is not for everybody, and I think a lot of students would attest to that,” said Killmeier. “It demands a lot more of the student. They have to be very self-disciplined because it is asynchronous.”

Ashley Belanger, sophomore biology major, believes there are pros and cons to online learning.

“[Online classes are] easier in some aspects because it’s more time friendly and convenient but also harder because it is not the first class you think of and it can be harder to focus,” Belanger said.

Belanger doesn’t believe that students should be able to complete a degree solely online, because that may deprive students of the hands-on aspect that some require to thrive. However, she does think offering online classes to those who may need it is a good route to go.

“I believe that it would be a good idea [to offer more classes online] since a great portion of our students work while going to school or have a family to take care of,” said Belanger. “It would fit better in almost everybody’s schedule.”

Lexi Huot, an undeclared freshman, is currently enrolled in her first online class at USM, but explained that she already knows that she prefers a face-to-face educational environment.

“With my class right now it’s very confusing to know what is due and how the professor wants it done,” said Huot. “Whereas, in a classroom environment they explained how the assignment should be done.”

She added that online classes are helping her manage her time better, since they are more independent.

Huot recognized that online classes are not how everyone learns.

“Many students, like myself, prefer to see the material done in front of us,” said Huot. “I also feel it is easier to engage in a class discussion when you have everyone else in front of you instead of going back to check your computer to see what your other classmates opinion is on the topic.”

Regardless of the preference, all agreed that online learning has potential, but is certainly not something that should be required, as students all have different needs.

“A quality academic experience, whether online or face-to-face is the goal we need to seek,” said Shedletsky. “It can be done if we set our minds to it.”

Michael Berube chairs the AAUP investigation

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:10

Last week, a team was sent to USM by the American Association of University Professors to investigate claims against USM’s execution of academic freedom and shared governance.

Chairing the investigative committee was Michael Berube, director of the institute for arts and humanities at Pennsylvania State University.

According to Berube, hundreds of requests for intervention come before the AAUP every year, regarding what he described as “shady practices in American higher education.” From those, only a handful are selected.

“The investigative process is very labor intensive,” said Berube. “We try to take the ones that we think are the most important for the future of higher education.”

USM fell into that category.

“What’s going on in Southern Maine, it seems, is pretty drastic,” said Berube. “It seems to have pretty far-reaching implications and that’s why it was authorized for investigation.”

Berube explained that the process of investigation includes two main components. First, the committee must read every document relevant to the investigation.

“I’ve read massive amounts of material, ranging from the faculty bylaws, to the constitution; I’ve gone through email exchanges, reports from the administration, various information about financial disaster,” said Berube. “We just try to get the lay of the land here.”

Berube explained that, in an investigation, the team wants to hear as much from administration as it does from faculty.

“We come in as outsiders,” said Berube. “We come in as impartial observers.”

Berube addressed the idea brought up time and time again by USM administration that the AAUP has no standing, and reiterated that it is only true in a “narrow” legal sense.

“The AAUP is in fact a nationally recognized authority on what academic freedom and governance actually are,” said Berube. “So we don’t take this stuff lightly, but we don’t come in with any preconceived notions either.”

Another member on the committee as well as a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, Howard Bunsis is in the process of the financial analysis.

Berube explained that this step has been difficult, because USM has not published all of the information or made available the numbers that they’re basing the financial crisis upon.

“President Flanagan did go over some larger scale demographic and financial projections for the state of Maine,” said Berube. “We have been able to go over published financial information of the system as a whole, but Howard Bunsis has only recently been able to get ahold of specific information about the University of Southern Maine.”

Christopher Quint, executive director of public affairs, explained that USM has been “nothing but transparent” throughout the process of closing the financial gap.

Berube also noted the difficulty in determining the financial status of USM because the numbers they’re looking at are projected, and have been for quite some time now.

“The administration’s approach on this is ‘Yeah, we’ve had a looming problem for quite some time. We’re not making this up, this is a systematic problem.”

The third challenge, Berube said, is not about the numbers or about the money.

“Even if these projections and these predictions are true, is this anyway to run a university?” asked Berube. “Is this really the way we go about retrenching faculty and cutting programs? And that’s a procedural question, but a really important one.”

Berube explained that even if the numbers pan out, the AAUP will still be looking at whether or not the process to filling the budget gap was done in a “proper and professional manner.”

A censure, according to Berube, could have any number of effects, and depends on how willing the administration is to get off the censure list once they’re put on it.

When asked whether USM would make an effort to be removed from the censure list if the university is indeed censured, Quint said, “USM is focused on implementing the Metropolitan University concept and ensuring that we remain an affordable, accessible and quality institution for our current and future students.”

He said that the state university of New York system has been on the censure list since the mid 70s, and will be on the list forever. They have a clause that allows them to fire faculty at will.

On the other hand, Louisiana State University was censured and immediately began working to be removed.

“It’s not like we censure you and we’re done and we never talk to you again,” said Berube. “The idea is not to censure people and show that they’re bad. The idea is to get institutions to stop doing the kinds of things that are getting them censured.”

The vote on whether or not USM will be censured will go before the AAUP during their annual conference in June.

Senate works to retain and train new members

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:08

The student senate shot down a motion last week that would have changed the senator application process for the remainder of the semester. Throughout the year the senate has occasionally questioned whether or not applicants should have to gather signatures from the student body in order to become a senator. On Friday the senate decided that the signature process should remain, but only after thorough discussion.

“The petition process was put in place when the senate was set to have a busy election and thought that the seats were going to fill up instantly,” said senate parliamentarian Joshua Tharpe. “As we all know, that hasn’t been the case.”

The senate has been under seated all year and has suspended the rule requiring signatures in order to appoint senators on occasion. The requirement used to be 100 signatures but was later reduced to just 25.  Recruitment was key in the discussion, as some senators said petitioning could be getting in the way of recruiting new members while they have only 14 of 21 seats filled.

“Not everyone has the go-getter attitude necessary to talk to so many strangers and get signatures,” said senator Emily Rose.

Other senators felt that the petitioning was an important part of the process.

“You should have to work to be on senate,” said senator Ashley Caterina. “If you can’t bother going out and talking to students you’re going to be working for, you shouldn’t get the job.”

“I know it can feel like a hassle and a pain,” said senator John Jackson. “But it forces you to get out there and connect with the community. It really helps put a face to our names, which is something we’ve been working to do.”

Josh Dodge, former senate chair who stepped down to take an out-of-state internship, was in attendance and explained why the signature process was created in the first place.

“There was a point a couple years ago when senate was this empty and we started appointing senators without an election just to fill seats, but there was a little bit of an outrage because people thought senators were abers of certain clubs,” explained Dodge. “With the petitioning, we at least have something saying this handful of students wanted you to be a senator. It’s not an election, but it backed our decisions up.”

There was a motion on the floor to suspend the petition requirements until the senate had at least 18 senators, but was shot down, with only four senators voting to do away with the rule.

The senate has been working to increase the size of the senate, but decided to start from the inside. This week the executive board introduced a senator retention program, pairing up veteran senators with freshly appointed ones to guide them through a handful of meetings and help them get used to their duties.

The senate also assigned senators to each of its entities, including the board of student organizations, the campus events boards and the student communications board, in order to maximize relationships with other student groups.

“I feel like this will help everyone keep on track,” said senate chair Judson Cease. “We’re moving in a good direction.”

 

‘We are on the verge of being censured.’: Faculty senate worried about possible AAUP sanction

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

In response to recent cuts by administration, as well as the threat of a sanction by the American Association for University Professors (AAUP), a special faculty senate meeting was held on Friday to discuss the role of the senate moving forward.

In an almost unanimous vote, the senate passed a resolution to ask for a rescindment of recent acts by administration, as well as a request for administration to work in collaboration with governance documents and the AAUP.

The senate proposed a resolution regarding what they perceived as violations of the USM governance constitution. In response to this, an investigative team will be on campus Sunday and Monday.

According to Nancy Gish, professor of English, there are approximately 1,000 concerns from universities presented to the AAUP each year, and only four or five are selected to investigate, USM being one of those.

“We are on the verge of being censured by the AAUP,” said Carlos Luck, professor of electrical engineering. “Do we know what that means?”

According to the senate, though the AAUP has no legal standing, it will effect the university as a whole in the future. Concerns regarding recruitment and retrenchment were brought up.

In an interview with The Free Press, Chris Quint, executive director of public affairs, explained that USM has reached out to other universities sanctioned by the AAUP and there has been no significant impact on enrollment or recruitment.

“It’s inconsequential,” said Quint. “It doesn’t impact us. It’s in existence for them to promote an agenda.”

“The best people in the field will not apply for jobs here,” said Susan Feiner, professor of economics and professor of women and gender studies.

Mark Lapping, professor in the Muskie School of Public Service, said that people will look at the list of censored institutions and simply not apply.

“Let’s face it, it’s a buyer’s marker,” said Lapping. “It’s a blemish on the system. There are potentially more actions like this that could happen to the system.”

Lucinda Cole, director of the women and gender studies department, explained that USM would not be able to fulfill the universities purpose under these circumstances.

Quint explained, as he has in the past, that the AAUP has no standing in the matters of the university.

“They have zero legal standing. We are meeting with them as a courtesy and there will be no one else meeting with them from administration,” said Quint. “If they accept, they’ll have an opportunity to ask whatever questions they need to.”

“This is a misunderstanding of the word ‘standing.’ Most people think only or imagine only of the legal standing,” said Gish. “The AAUP has immense national standing, professional standing, moral standing, ethical standing, academic standing.”

She went on to explain that the word “standing” is much broader than whether or not there are legal implications.

“If, for example, my doctor were to cause me to be permanently disabled and the AMA took a stand on this, it wouldn’t be legal in court but it would certainly have standing,” said Gish. “If it was made public in the state, it ought to have a powerful impact on people’s views of the university.”

Luck explained that the idea that censure by the AAUP only puts a “damper” on recruitment doesn’t seem like a big enough punishment. However, others explained that there are long term repercussions to take into account.

Jerry LaSala, chair of the faculty senate, explained that governance is one of things considered when becoming accredited.

“I suspect that that would read down upon our accreditation,” said LaSala.

Luck also brought up the issue of recruiting local students in the area.

“What will our potential students do once they hear that USM is being sanctioned?” he asked.

Gish explained that one of the most important things that people could do was read the preamble of the constitution, which includes information about USM’s relationship with the AAUP.

“To say that the AAUP is not and never has had any participation in the policies of the governance system is incorrect,” said Gish. “The BoT is violating its own policies against the constitution.”

Quint rebutted that the only mention of the AAUP is in the preamble, which is simply an acknowledgement.

“There’s one mention in the USM constitution. That’s it,” said Quint. “We don’t have to meet with them, but we’ve offered.”

Quint said that once the investigation is through, he suspects USM will be censured, but that they’ll find exactly the same information that’s been given out since September.

“The same information [President] David [Flanagan] has given to the faculty senate meeting every time,” said Quint. “That information is we have a $16 million structural gap. They’ll find that the numbers are real. Whether they believe it or not, they’ll find that we’ve followed the processes in place.”

Quint believes the visit has a predetermined outcome, and that the AAUP did not plan their visit well.

“We’re closed on Monday and we’ve got other things to do,” said Quint. “If their intention was truly to have an informed investigation, reach out to us on days when we’re not closed or busy.”

Enrollment continues to decline this semester

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

Classrooms this spring semester will have 374 fewer students in them than last year, based on the current headcount released by the academic affairs. 

While not completely final, because students may still add or drop courses during the month, the numbers of enrolled students in the spring these past three years show a steady declin–6,717 students have enrolled so far this spring, compared to 7,652 two years prior. 

The general opinion, after gathering 20 individual responses from both past and current students, is that USM often serves as a prospective students “back up school.” Many said that USM’s biggest attraction is its affordability, an area that the administration wants to focus on when marketing to potential applicants. Despite its competitive price in the higher education market, USM has served as a “last resort” to students like Brianna Wolfe, a risk management graduate. 

“I settled on USM,” said Wolfe. “If I could go back, I probably would have not chosen to com here, although I’ve met some great people here.”

In Wolfe’s opinion, news of program eliminations, faculty layoffs and student protests may have scared off potential applicants. According to Wolfe, USM could also use a “facelift” on its “nasty 60’s and 70’s buildings,” which might help attract more students. 

“If I were applying now to colleges and I heard about USM, I wouldn’t even waste my money on the application fee,” said Wolfe. “Why waste my precious money on a place, like USM, that is going to be dead in only a matter of years?”

Douglas McIntire, an English graduate, also said that the bad press is driving away students and USM wasn’t even on his radar when he was researching grad school. McIntire’s first choice for college was USM, but “wishy washy” guidelines for his then art major and a lack of guidance sent him away to St. Joeseph’s College. According to McIntire, the only reason he came back to USM was because of finances, but after majoring in English he had no regrets. 

“The English department is the best,” said McIntire. “It’s like finding a diamond ring in Goodwill.”

Sarah Gelber, a recent English graduate, agrees and said that her program was a “hidden gem,” but the school overall has a bad reputation it needs to work on. Gelber said that students in high school are hearing rumours that USM is an example of how higher education shouldn’t operate. 

“What ultimately saved my opinion of USM was my program; I can’t tell you how much I loved it,” said Gelber. “I hope USM will remain the same, as I remember it, for future students.”

Although Gelber loves the city of Portland and it influenced her decision to come to USM, she believes that the lack of cohesion with Gorham may contribute to the declining retention. 

“Another big issue at USM is a lack of community,” said Gelber. 

John Finison, an English graduate, also came to USM because of its prime location in Portland, although it was his backup school. Finison said he was originally searching for an “authentic” college experience out of state. 

“I say authentic because it seems USM tries to “reinvent” itself every few years by hiring a new marketing team, when what the school really lacks are traditions,” said Finison. 

Students fresh out of high school, like Colin Broadbent and Emily Cabana, have been accepted to USM, but are still on the fence as to whether or not they’ll attend. Broadbent said that USM’s location and the athletics department are some of the influencing factors in his tentative decision to attend. For Cabana, who plans on being an operating nurse at Maine Medical Center, USM’s nursing school is piquing her interest in becoming a Huskie. 

“I love the atmosphere of the Portland campus,” said Cabana. “My friends that go here already recommended it to me, and I heard the nursing program is really great.” 

The reasons for leaving USM, or never even considering it as a higher education option are diverse and complex. Students cited everything from the lack of academic guidance, to the split campuses as reasons for the slow exodus of prospective Huskies. According to Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, all of the administration’s current initiatives, will capitalize on USM’s strengths and intrinsically attract more students. 

Quint said that the administration has been working to recruit and market to out of state students in the New Hampshire, Connecticut and Northern Massachusetts. USM recruiters are also working to “establish a foothold” in York county, because according to Quint a lot of students from that area choose to go to UNH. 

“The biggest things we’re pushing are our cost, our location and our quality programs; these are our strengths,” said Quint. 

Apart from just an increase in targeted marketing, Quint cited the latest aligning to a metropolitan model, and the consolidation of student services as other initiatives that will help attract and keep students. 

“We’re going to be focusing on the programs that are already doing well,” said Quint. “But there are a number of programs on the precipice of greatness. We want all our programs aligned with the metropolitan model.”

According to the enrollment comparison report, the art education, music performance, theatre, English,  history, philosophy, computer science, political science, engineering, chemistry and environmental science departments were the only ones that showed an increase in students. 

Paul Dexter, the learning coordinator at the learning commons in the Glickman library, said that declining enrollment and retention is a complex issue and there were many forces that contributed to it. 

“This isn’t a campus centric issue, and there’s no one way to resolve it,” said Dexter. “That’s why it’s so important to think of new ideas.”

Dexter said that increasing accessibility to the learning commons, a tutoring space for students, will increase a student’s confidence with their academic path and in turn help with retention. Dexter wants to change the culture of tutoring, to mean less about remediation and more about engaging in concepts learned in the classroom. 

“Tutoring at the library is directly related to a student’s success; it isn’t just for people who are struggling,” said Dexter. “We’re trying to make learning and the appropriate levels of support as efficient and accessible as possible.”

As of now, a student can go online and see the tutoring schedule for the entire semester, and choose from a multitude of subject areas, with a team of over 50 tutors, at no additional cost to them. According to Dexter, the learning commons saw 2,500 different tutoring appointments last year. 

“Students leave for a multitude of reasons, and as a University we need to have a response,” said Dexter. “We need to identify those students early on and make sure we engage them and offer enough support.” 

USM professors help The Phoenix rise from ashes

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

USM professors Ronald Schmidt and Jason Read have been filling holes left in the wake of the mass exodus of Portland Phoenix writers to the new alternative weekly in town, Dig Portland. The two professors have had more or less regular columns in the Phoenix, which comes out every Wednesday in Portland and the surrounding area.

Schmidt, a political science professor by trade who specializes in American politics and political theory, writes about local politics in his column titled “The Red Pencil.”

When Dig started, Dan McLeod, Phoenix editor, got Schmidt on board to replace the old political writer, Al Diamon. They met for coffee to hash it out. McLeod is a former USM student and Free Press alumni. He also recruited Read because he was a fan of his personal blog.

Read is a philosophy professor who writes his monthly column “A Closer Read” which has been about movies and how they can be interpreted from a philosophical view point. Read said he’s not going to write strictly about movies but ties in philosophy with culture, politics and maybe television, all with a Maine connection.

 “I try to name drop a philosopher in every column,” Read said, in the hopes someone will pick up on it and explore it further.

Both authors found the newspaper style liberating in contrast to their academic writing which is rigidly confined and tends to be a lot lengthier.

“I like the idea of being able to write in a different vein and reach out to a different audience than I usually deal with,” Read said.

“My writing style is geared towards at least long papers or short books. With the column, you need your point to be clear in a couple of sentences. And you need to get out. It’s a challenge, but its a fun challenge,” said Schmidt.

Read isn’t going to be quitting his day job anytime soon. 

“No one could make a living writing a column,” he said.

They both said they were having fun and would like to do it as long as possible, but they’d like a bit more feedback from the reading public. 

Read noted, “I want to generate my first angry letter at some point.” Schmidt has received some “really nice emails,” but alas no angry ones.

As for when they find time to teach classes, grade papers and write a column? Schmidt has been squeezing it in when his daughter goes to bed. “You make time. Sometimes I’ve worked on it at 3 in the morning ‘cause that’s the time block I could find.”

Neither could speak to whether or not their involvement in column writing is the idea of rebranding USM as a “metropolitan university.”

“Community service is part of what we’re evaluated on and I think of trying to explain politics in public venues is a big part of my community service,” said Schmidt. “I do hope that over time Jason’s and my column will reiterate that USM is part of Portland and that engaging with other people in Portland and around the city about events going on in the state, is part of what a community is.”

Obama proposes two free years of community college

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

Less than two weeks ago, President Barack Obama announced a proposal that would make two years of community college free for student workers in an effort to make college as accessible as high school is for Americans.

The program would require action from a Republican-dominated Congress and the details of the plan haven’t been released but White House officials estimate that 9 million students would participate and save up to $3,800 a year.

“For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class because they’re local, they’re flexible. They work for people who work full-time. They work for parents who have to raise kids full-time. They work for folks who have gone as far as their skills will take them and want to earn new ones, but don’t have the capacity to just suddenly go study for four years and not work,” said Obama during a press conference at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Community colleges should be free for those willing to work for it — because in America, a quality education cannot be a privilege that is reserved for a few. I think it’s a right for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” he continued.

The details of the plan, how it can unfold and it’s cost, should be announced during the State of the Union Address this Tuesday. The plan is modeled after the Tennessee Promise — a state-level free-college plan starting this fall, paid for with Tennessee Lottery proceeds. According to officials, the execution would require collaboration states, community colleges and students in order to pick up the cost.

While nothing has been approved, some students are excited for the plan.

Junior psychology major Kelly Kean said that two free years would’ve given her a comfortable amount of time in college to hash out her interests and pick a major without feeling pressure.

“Those first few semesters are when students take all of their general ed. credits anyway,” said Kean. “If I had the option to get those out of the way for free and they transferred easily, I definitely would’ve gone to a community college.”

“It’s a great idea,” said sophomore history major Daniel Plante. “Everyone deserves to at least have the option of going to college, but obviously the money and time to take classes isn’t always there. We shouldn’t stop free education at the high school level.”

Some students like the idea, but are disappointed that they’ve missed out.

“Free tuition is great and all for those lucky enough to land it, but I’m already paying my bills, so I’m just trying to ignore it,” said senior history major Joe Derks. “I’ve been dealing with financial aid and all that year after year and now some kids just get two years for free? That’s annoying.”

“It’s one of those things you wish had happened just a few years earlier,” said undeclared sophomore Patrick Hawthorne.

Others believe that the idea is doomed to fail and won’t be approved by Congress.

“It’s an absolute pipe-dream,” said undeclared freshman Ashley Braley. “I mean, it’s nice, but it would cost so much money.

White House officials have said that serving the estimated number of students would cost American taxpayers $70 billion.

“Because in the end, nothing is more important to our country than you, our people. That’s our asset.  We’ve got very nice real estate here,” said Obama. “We’ve got this incredible bounty, the God-given resources that we enjoy in this country. But our greatest resources are people.”

Interview process for new president to start soon

Mon, 2015-01-12 14:11

University of Maine System administrators will soon be interviewing candidates who have applied to be the next president at USM after current president David Flanagan leaves at the end of the spring semester.

The window to apply for the position closed in mid-December and the candidate pool has been whittled down to a workable number. Applicant details, such as name, prior experience and background will remain confidential until they are chosen as a last-round candidate and are invited to visit the USM campus, which will happen in February.

Search consultants met with small groups of USM students, staff, faculty and community members throughout the fall semester in order to gauge what USM needs in a president and leader, which resulted in the drafting of an official leadership statement which was posted along with the job description and application.

According to the statement, the new president will be tasked primarily with continuing to implement the metropolitan university vision and strategy, building enrollment by reversing headcount declines, raising retention rates and being more engaged with students and faculty.

“We want someone to be an agent of change, someone who will continue the process we started,” said James Irwin, a UMaine system trustee who has led the search committee, in an interview with the Free Press in December. “We need someone to articulate why USM matters in this community.

Flanagan has repeatedly told the Free Press that he is only on board for the remainder of the academic year and has no intention to stay at USM or apply to extend his contract into the following year.

According to Irwin, the goal is to have a new president start during the summer and be comfortable by the start of the fall semester.

Majority against academic calendar change

Mon, 2015-01-12 14:09

When the faculty senate reached out to the USM community in early December for input on possible changes to the academic calendar, survey participants said they wanted everything to stay the same.

The idea to align the academic calendars of all seven UMaine campuses has been brought up regularly throughout the fall semester by system-level administrators as a way to unify the many arms of the system. System administrators are looking into changing USM’s spring start date, changing the dates of breaks and possibly moving from having two one-week breaks to having one two-week break instead.

The USM community says they’re content with our current schedule though, with 67 percent of 753 respondents saying they prefer multiple one week breaks over a longer break.

Right now, USM’s academic schedule is molded to match that of the local K-12 programs. Because the university has such a non-traditional student body, many respondents noted that being able to share vacations with their children is an absolute must.

“For faculty who have children in schools, having our break align with the K-12 school breaks as much as possible is optimal,” commented one respondent. “This is also true for our non-traditional students who are parents.”

If parents’ schedules didn’t match up with their children’s breaks, they would have to find childcare coverage, which can quickly become expensive in many cases.

“Not having the same time off will greatly impact their attendance in classes,” wrote another respondent on students with young children.

Other comments noted that switching to a two-week break would halt any progress being made in class and that students can forget a lot in or find it hard to get back into the swing of things after two weeks of vacation.

“The one two-week break makes it seem like school is done,” wrote a respondent. “Going back after [would be] really difficult.”

“You should definitely keep the two separate one week vacations. It provides us students with the opportunity to get a small break in between stressful classes,” wrote another.

There were some supporters of the two-week break among the replies, most citing the want to align our spring break with other colleges for serious vacation time and general unity of the campuses. Some supporters of the change still recognized that this would be an inconvenience to parents.

When the survey was distributed, there were some in the community who were alarmed, thinking that USM was going to alter our breaks for the coming semester, which would affect vacation plans which some people plan months ahead of time.

Christopher Quint, the executive director of public affairs, emailed all students, staff and faculty, reiterating that the administration was gathering input on possible changes to vacations in future academic calendar years, not the spring of 2015.

Administrators layout goals for the spring semester

Mon, 2015-01-12 14:08

Now that the framework to balance USM’s budget has been drafted, the administration has focused its efforts to securing a bright future for the school, through four main initiatives that they hope to have completed before President David Flanagan steps down at the end of the semester.

 

“The budget is balanced and the hardest part is over,” said Quint. “We’re shifting our efforts to the future now.”

One of these goals includes putting together the framework behind USM’s new persona as “Maine’s Metropolitan University.” Quint said that he wants to get the right people involved and engaged in their advising group, and is always open to feedback from faculty and the community.

“We’ll be hosting a series of ‘lighting chats,’ which will be an opportunity for us to exchange questions and ideas with community members,” said Quint.

According to Quint, the ultimate goal during Flanagan’s time here is to send USM along a path that leads to the receival of the Carnegie Designation by 2020. According to their website, the Carnegie Designation is the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in American colleges. It’s what Quint described as, “the gold standard of what it means to be a metropolitan university.”

A second goal for the administration this spring semester is a redesign of some of the academic departments. While Quint didn’t get into specifics, he did say that the three colleges will be restructured to align themselves with the metropolitan model.

“Does this program make sense in this department? What classes or programs could we combine to create administrative efficiencies? Those are the kinds of questions we’re asking ourselves,” said Quint.

The third administrative project under way is an amelioration of student services. According to Quint, the administration is in the process of recruiting a new vice president of enrollment management that would be overseeing athletics, student life, admissions, financial aid and academic advising. The other effect an increased attention on student services would be an easier time for students to engage with the community and find internships.

“The idea is that when a student walks on campus, they’ll have both an academic and professional advisor,” said Quint. “This will make it easier for a student to plan for both life in college and life afterwards, which in turn will help with retention.”

Retention and recruitment is something that Quint believes should always be worked on. This semester Quint said the administration is going to have a “laser-like focus” on ways that USM can increase its applicants and keep them from leaving.

“We’re out in the field aggressively working on it, from marketing to admissions,” said Quint. “We’re going to deploy 900,000 more dollars right now to current students through financial aid. We don’t want them to get to a point where they feel like they have to leave because they can’t afford to stay.”

Quint said that in the future he hopes that USM is able to widen their advertising reach, and progress from email and Facebook ads into more radio and television spots.

Men’s head ice hockey coach retires mid-season

Mon, 2015-01-12 14:05

After 28 years as head coach of the men’s ice hockey team, Jeff Beaney retired over the winter break and the reason why has been left unclear.

According to  Chris Quint, USM’s executive director of public affairs. Beaney would have ideally finished up the rest of the season with his team, but a “variety of factors” spurred talks of Beaney’s early retirement amongst Bean and President David Flanagan.

Quint mentioned an anonymous letter that was sent to both Bean and Flanagan expressing some concern with the longtime hockey coach. Quint said he didn’t care to get into the full details of the letter, but that it was first mentioned in the press by the Maine Hockey Network.

“Now, after Coach Beaney announced his retirement, we’re looking towards the future and the hope of rebuilding this team,” said Quint.

Beany declined to speak about his retirement to the Free Press, but told the Maine Hockey Journal that the decision to retire was not entirely his.

“The decision was made [President] David Flanagan. I didn’t choose to leave now on my own. There are six weeks left in the season, and I would have liked to finish them out. [ Athletic Director] Al [Bean] is taking the blame, but the decision was not his,” Beany told a MHJ reporter.

The Division III Husky’s are 1-9 this year and have suffered nine consecutive losses. Beaney has been working with the hockey team for 30 years and 28 as head coach. The last time the team had a winning season was in 2008. Since Beaney’s time at USM, the Huskies have been 260-380-50 and without a championship title.

“The hockey team has been struggling for some time now,” said Quint.

In the meantime, former player and assistant coach, Ed Hardy will take Beaney’s place as coach, but just temporarily. According to Hardy, he was the last person to know of Beaney’s retirement and received a phone call saying the hockey program was “in a bit of a jam.” After meeting with Bean, he agreed to take over Beaney’s position.

“Hardy’s our new interim coach,” said Quint. “He’s here to stabilize the team and start building towards a new season. Once that’s over, we’ll announce the search for a new, permanent coach.”

As of now, Hardy plans on submitting his name for consideration as the new, permanent head coach.

Hardy has coaching experience with the Lewiston Maineiacs as well as at North Yarmouth Academy, Casco Bay Youth Hockey and the New England Wolves junior team.

According to Hardy, his goals are to make sure the four seniors on the team get the most out of their last season playing, citing that college is supposed to be the best years of a person’s life.

“I don’t want them to leave here with a bad taste in their mouth,” said Hardy. “Win or lose, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to have some fun doing it.”

Players like freshman double major in international business and marketing, Victor Ivarsson thought highly of former coach Beaney and are sad to see him go.

“This is an unfortunate situation for us all, but we’ll rebuild and get even stronger,” said Ivarsson. “I enjoyed having Beaney as a coach and I’m positive many others did as well.”

Quint is also optimistic about the future, adding that although they’ve faced some challenges, the team still has a lot of potential.

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