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‘USM needs to be invested in, not cut:’ Faculty, students respond to announcement of faculty cuts

Mon, 2014-10-06 14:53

Students and faculty gathered in opposition to the cuts released earlier in the day by the president and provost.

Susan Feiner, professor of economics and vice president of the faculty union AFUM, announced that AFUM speaks out strongly against the ill-advised cuts that, according to her, completely compromise USM.

“Programs are explicitly detailed in the course catalog,” said Feiner. “With the faculty cuts, most programs don’t be able to deliver the degrees. Faculty are not pieces on an assembly line.”

Feiner explained that AFUM opposes the cuts and will support faculty with grievances.

Paul Christenson, professor of music, echoed Feiner.

“We all have our own areas of expertise,” said Christenson. “We are not cogs on a machine. The classes we teach are specialized and cannot be taken on by our colleagues.”

Jerry LaSala, professor of physics and chair of the faculty senate, agrees that USM cannot be sustained with the additional 18% reduction in faculty, on top of a 25% reduction in the past five years.

“Another 18% makes it virtually impossible for students to complete their degrees,” said Feiner. “Programs cannot be delivered with these faculty cuts.”

In addition to faculty cuts, two programs have been identified for complete closure. The undergraduate degree in French and masters program in applied medical sciences are both up for expedited elimination

“That’s five majors cut in the space of one month,” Feiner said.

Neal Young, a political science major, explained that he came to USM and left for a private education. He’s returned to USM to finish his degree because he feels that USM has given him a stronger foundation than the private counterpart.

“When you cut departments, you’re depriving students of skill sets they desperately need,” said Young. “It’s not about regurgitating a textbook. It’s about making students passionate.”

With the small faculty-to-student ratio, competitive with what students may find at a private institution, Alex Night, a physics and math major, explained that his life goals have changed as a result of creating close ties with faculty.

“Teachers can only give us love when they have energy to do it,” said Night. “[With proposed cuts] if I want to continue with life plans, I’ll have to leave. And I don’t want to do that.”

Christy Hammer, co-president of AFUM, agreed with the sentiment of a low faculty to student ratio, and expressed that she doesn’t want to see USM privatized.

“He [President David Flanagan] wants to privatize USM,” said Hammer. “Why would they cut faculty who are the revenue generators?”

In the three programs that were cut, according to Hammer, it only cut seven faculty members. One of the programs, American and New England studies, was the only master’s program in humanities for all of Southern Maine.

“That shows USM has been systematically starved,” said Hammer. “USM needs to be invested in, not cut.”

Wendy Chapkis, professor of sociology and women and gender studies, asked the people of Maine: “What do you want in terms of options for yourself and for your children? We just cut the only public humanities master’s program in southern Maine. Is that your vision for southern Maine?”

Chapkis questioned why the vision of branding USM as “Maine’s Metropolitan University” is better than as a comprehensive university.

“We are programs central to the life of the university,” Chapkis said.

Meaghan LaSala, senior women and gender studies major, emphasized that the issues USM are facing do not just affect faculty and students, but everyone in Maine.

“A comprehensive university is an economic driver,” said LaSala. “We need the people of Maine to agree that we need to invest in USM, not cut.”

The faculty cuts presented today are only phase-one of a three phase plan by the president. Later phases include looking at administrative costs.

“We [faculty] are the revenue generators,” said Feiner. “The heart of the university is with  the faculty and with  the students in the classroom. Curriculum are not prepackaged. Its not like ramen noodles.”

Admin yet to ease uncertainty in teach-out plan

Mon, 2014-10-06 12:15

Programs eliminated by the board of trustees are still waiting for administrative action to proceed with the enactment of a teach-out plan for students. Progress has been made, but uncertainty still remains.

According to Kent Ryden, professor and director of American and New England studies, the dean’s office sent out a letter to all current students asking if they plan to finish their degrees, and informing them that they would have two years to do so.

“The dean’s office has been able to plan out the sequence of required courses for students, but not the elective courses,” said Ryden. “They’ve just indicated that there will be elective courses available each semester, but at this point nobody knows what those elective courses will be, nobody knows who will be advising students on theses and independent studies and internships.”

Ryden indicated that the teach-out plan as it has been developed thus far has had no consultation with the ANES faculty.

“Our students are still left with a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns, and I’m still not able to answer them. It doesn’t seem like their needs and interests were fully taken into account,” said Ryden. “A lot of our students are pretty upset.”

David Jester, a current ANES student, expressed concern at the uncertainty of it all.

“Since I’m doing a thesis track, it could take me a year and a half or even two to three years to finish,” said Jester. “When I entered the program we were supposed to be given six years to complete, so that would’ve allowed me until 2017. As of right now, it looks like they’re only giving us two years which goes against the student guidelines.”

Stephen Pollock, professor of geosciences, was unable to comment on the teach-out plan for his program, indicating that everything is “too preliminary” to release at this point.

“What happens ultimately rests in the upper ranks of the administration. The provost or president will eventually sign off,” said Pollock. “We may know something more after the provost releases his academic restructuring plans on Monday.”

Ryden attributes the uncertainty to a “poorly thought out elimination process.”

Ryden explained that it is possible to complete the program in two years, but many students are nontraditional or part time and only take a class or two per semester. A student in this demographic may require the allotted six years for completion.

“If this is the case, I feel the students have legal recourse. When I entered this program I entered under the auspices that I had six years to graduate,” said Jester. “Theses take a long time, sometimes longer than just a semester. I feel like they did this very brashly and they wanted to do this without thinking and just want people to lay down and play dead.”

If Ryden was involved in the teach-out plan process, he explained, he would take into account the needs of the students more.

“I would try to involve the students in the process or at least get a good sense of what would work best for them and would try to bring more specificity to the teach out plan,” said Ryden. “That is, eliminate a lot of the uncertainty. Establish what the faculty resources would be and what the curricular resources will be.”

“I’ve already invested enough of my life’s money into this,” said Jester. “I would definitely be seeking legal action if I was not allotted the amount of time promised.”

President Flanagan announces 50 faculty cuts, two program eliminations to combat budget deficit

Mon, 2014-10-06 12:00

President David Flanagan announced today that the university would be eliminating 50 faculty positions and two additional programs by the end of November to combat its growing budget deficit, which is estimated at $16 million right now.

The administration has increased early retirement incentives and are looking to eliminate many positions through retirement by Oct. 20, but will resort to layoffs at the end of the month. According to a letter from

Provost Joseph McDonnell to staff and faculty, 100 faculty are eligible for retirement.

The administration will also propose eliminating the undergraduate French program and graduate applied medical sciences program, which Christopher Quint, the executive director of public affairs, says will impact 50 students.

“This is the first phase of our sustainability plan,” said Flanagan in a prepared statement this morning. “The proposal we are announcing today — totaling approximately $6 million in savings towards our $16 million goal — are decisions we are obligated to make at this time as set forth in the faculty (AFUM) contract and USM governance documents.”

According to Flanagan, these cuts are the first steps in turning USM into “Maine’s Metropolitan University” and is necessary to keep the university affordable and accessible for current and future students.

“We are being strategic and decisive to ensure USM remains a vibrant and affordable university serving the needs of our students and our communities,” he continued.

McDonnell wrote in his letter that these cuts are the alternative to eliminating numerous academic programs entirely. He asked the faculty to help reconfigure small departments into more interdisciplinary programs in order to save money and continue offering the same courses.

“This plan is not merely a way to deal with a budget crisis, but an opportunity for a cosmopolitan university to connect the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences with each other and the professional programs in Business, Technology, Health, and the Environment,” wrote McDonnell.

McDonnell outlined a plan for “program realignment” in his letter, a plan that aims to keep available  credit hours the same with fewer faculty. He listed faculty reductions by department: seven faculty will be cut through the  program eliminations last month, which included geosciences, American and New England studies and arts and humanities at the Lewiston-Auburn campus. Five faculty will be cut from the applied medical science program and three from languages when the two new proposed program eliminations go through. six-to-seven positions in the Muskie School of Public Service will be eliminated in the community planning and development and public policy and management programs. The English department will be reduced by four-and-a-half faculty and the education program will cut two-and-a-half faculty. Computer science, criminology, economics, music, psychology and sociology will each lose two faculty members. Communication and media studies, history, leadership and organizational studies, natural and applied science, philosophy, political science, social and behavioral science, technology and theatre will each lose one faculty member.

The administration is waiting to see which faculty members will retire by Oct. 20 before they consider layoffs, which will be announced by Oct. 31. If a faculty member in a specific program retires in will count toward that department’s cuts.

“The university will be intact by handling the budget situation this way. We’re trying to restore financial stability without putting the burden on students,” said Flanagan in an interview with the Free Press. “There are always going to be people that say we can’t change, but in this world you either change or you die, and I’m here to make sure USM survives. We’re going to make this university stable and make sure it continues to exist.”

The plan also includes numerous suggestions for combining and condensing programs in the future. According to Flanagan, phase two of their plan will consist of cutting down on administrative costs and looking for additional revenue streams for the university.

Shortly after the annoucement, Joy Pufhal, dean of students, sent out an email to all students reminding them the health and counseling services were availble if students needed them.

“Some of you may be feeling directly impacted by program elimination and /or may know the employees that could be impacted,” wrote Pufhal. “We will be providing stress relief opportunities and other events over the coming weeks to connect and support one another.”

“The transformation of the university presents the entire university community with serious challenges but also exciting opportunities,” wrote McDonnell in his conclusion. “It will require hard work and enormous energy but we will be rewarded by making this university a vital institution in the state, region, and the communities where we are located.”

Flanagan noted that these changes would be happening much quicker than eliminations have happened in the past.

“We have to act with a sense of urgency,” said Flanagan. “The system doesn’t have the money to bail us out again.”

Students demand earlier bus

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:40

By: Brian Gordon

The 8:45 bus that runs from Woodbury Campus Center in Portland to Gorham is often late getting students back to the dorms.

A quick search on MaineStreet yielded nine classes that end at 7 p.m. or just after, forcing those students who are heading home in Gorham to wait nearly two hours, as they miss the 7 p.m.

Waiting in the warmth of Woodbury Campus Center was Lydia Kaply, a freshman nursing major. She had been waiting for the bus since 7 p.m. Her anatomy and physiology class was supposed to go until 7:55 p.m. but her professor often cuts them early.

She noted that there’s a lot of classes that conclude at seven and those students miss the bus ride home scheduled for 7 p.m.

Kaply was joined by Niko Milanoski, a freshman accounting major, who waited an hour for the 8:45 p.m. bus to bring him back to Gorham. His astronomy class ends at 7:50 p.m. and he settles in for a good hour wait twice a week.

Joy Pufhal, dean of students, was receptive to student complaints. She said that the seven p.m. bus would become the 7:10 bus, beginning Oct. 6.

Kyrie Ovady, president of the Queer Straight Alliance, and a junior media studies major, said the group has to plan their meetings around the bus schedule.

Alena Kiel, a senior liberal studies major who joined the group said that USM ought to call the bus the 8:55 because that’s when it usually shows up.

“It’s a long time on a dark bus with bad music,” said Gabby Bousquet, a freshman nursing major. She also added that there was a lot of confusion as to why the bus stopped at the mall on its commute to Gorham.

No one waiting for the bus could remember anyone ever getting on or off the bus at that stop. The driver just stops and doesn’t even open the door.

“If there is no longer student interest [at the mall stop] I do not see a reason to provide the service,” said Pufhal. She also added that the stop would be made on a request basis. “It is easy to identify students who wish to be dropped off at the Maine Mall, but more challenging, although not impossible, to set up a system to know if anyone is waiting at the Maine Mall to be picked up and brought back to campus.”

Regarding the overall lateness of the bus, Pufhal said she would pass along the complaint to those in charge and hopefully fewer students are seen waiting in the dark.

Students stress importance of voting

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:34

By: Annie Quandt

There’s been a lot of presence on campus of voting and political activists recently. It’s no coincidence that their arrival signifies that voting season is approaching. These votes will pertain to everything from elections in the senate, the race for governor, tactics in bear hunting and 6 bond issues, some regarding clean water, agriculture and biotechnology.

Apparently only 31% of citizens aged 18-29 voted in the last midterm election, while 65% of those aged 30+ voted. That is a literal 2:1 vote. Yet millennials comprise the largest generation, even beating out the baby boomers.

Regarding the importance of voting, Carrie, an anonymous USM student, stressed the importance of the freedom in choosing our leaders.

“When we don’t vote, we’re basically throwing away our freedom and saying we don’t care,” Carrie said.

Ben McCormack, a USM student, works to get students to register to vote with the New Voters Project and Environment Maine Research and Policy Center.

“Politicians won’t cater to young people’s needs if their voices aren’t heard,” said McCormack. “A lot of people feel discouraged by their lack of awareness of politics, but they should still get involved.”

According to McCormack, a lot of young people seem disheartened and even cynical about the democratic process at times. Young people aren’t voting, even when celebrities like Beyonce, Jay Z, Pharrel and even Modest Mouse encourage young people to “rock the vote.’”

Louis Stafford, a junior at USM, agreed with that sentiment.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say their vote doesn’t matter,” said Stafford. “It’s kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Yet if only 31% of those under 30 are voting, issues they care about may not get recognition. There have been instances where voters changed the entire outcome of an election.

“It’s our right in this country to vote, and people are fighting for this right every day,” said Stafford. “Other countries don’t have that right and a lot of young people don’t vote. If they went out and voted it could swing the whole ballot.”

Even experts and news headlines say that that with a higher youth turnout it could change the entire outcome of elections.

Students can now register online easily within five minutes, according to McCormack, who stressed the importance of voter registration.

Online registration is only available until Oct. 14, and after that it must be done in person or on the day-of. Students can find out where to vote after registration, or by calling the city clerk’s office. Elections will be held on Nov. 4.

McCormack said, “If we all voted, we could have a massive impact.”

Student Senate continues to fill empty seats

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:31

By: Alex Huber

The primary goal of the Student Senate so far this semester has been filling vacant seats and increasing their presence on campus, and they’re beginning to make progress.

At last week’s meeting the senate added two new senators and quickly replaced the treasurer position that was left vacant due to internal conflicts. During the previous meeting former treasurer Jason Blanco accused two executive board members on unconstitutional actions and resigned immediately afterward.

In the wake of Blanco’s resignation the senate is pressing on by voting in Senator Ashley Rose, a member of the senate’s finance committee as the new senate treasurer. Rose and Senator Tom Bahun were both nominated for the position, each having significant experience in dealing with finances. Rose was already a part of the finance committee and Bahun serves as the treasurer of the Board of Student Organizations. Both Bahun and Rose have experience with accounting for numerous groups outside of the university.

Bahun’s position with the BSO was brought up during the deliberation by Kyle Frazier, the student body president, who did not think it was wise to have Bahun leave his position at the BSO for the senate.

“I don’t think rocking the BSO again is the best option right now,” said Frazier, noting that the BSO has been running smoothly and it would not be wise of the senate to make them look for a new executive board member.

Constitutionally, students are not allowed to hold multiple stipend positions, so Bahun would’ve had to resign from BSO to receive a stipend for the senate treasurer position.

Senator Matt Wilkinson, who also chairs the BSO, said he was comfortable letting Bahun take the position, even if it meant he had to find someone to take his place.

“I’m fully confident that we could find someone capable,” Wilkinson said during discussion while the two candidates were out of the room.

No one had any doubt in either of the candidates’ abilities; however, senators wanted to make sure that they were looking out for the entire Student Government Association, not just the senate.

A secret ballot was cast where Rose was elected by a majority vote. As the senate treasurer, she is now responsible for overseeing the SGA’s budget and advising other groups on financial matters.

In addition to filling the treasurer spot, two new senators were appointed to the senate. Scott Reiner and John Jackson joined the senate filling the empty seats left behind by former senators who were removed due to attendance issues this semester. The two new senators were elected by a nearly unanimous vote. Senator  Jackson was appointed to the student affairs committee while Reiner was appointed to the public affairs committee. Both cited the recent budget deficit and dismissal of faculty last spring as reasons for joining the senate.

After the appointments, the senate spoke at length about increasing their presence on campus, speaking about ideas such as creating public profiles of themselves, creating a forum for students to voice their concerns without having to attend senate meeting and better tending to senate entities and student groups.

Alleged Student Senate violations tossed aside

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:30

Two weeks ago the Student Senate treasurer denounced decisions made by the senate chair and parliamentarian to withhold his paycheck after multiple absences.

Treasurer Jason Blanco recommended that Joshua Dodge, the senate chair, and Joshua Tharpe, the parliamentarian be removed from their positions for violating the constitution, which does not give them the authority to alter stipends.

According to members of the senate’s executive board, Blanco never filed the proper paperwork to the Violations Inquiry Committee to warrant investigating his claims and call for Dodge and Tharpe to be removed and that he quit immediately after that meeting.

“There was nothing properly submitted, so, officially, there’s nothing to talk about,” said Tharpe.

Dodge, Tharpe and Judson Cease, the senate vice-chair, declined to discuss the specifics of Blanco’s accusations because they were discussed within an executive session. When a senator is appointed, they are asked to sign a confidentiality waiver restricting them from speaking about what is discussed in those sessions. The senate generally goes into executive session to discuss personal problems including promotions, demotions or dismissals.

Dodge did say that the issue with Blanco’s accusations were strictly procedural and the decision to not act on his concerns was indeed not biased.

The Student Government Association constitution requires anyone accusing an individual of violating the senate’s rules and regulations to file multiple copies of a formal complaint including a full description of the violation, names of witnesses, contact information and their signature. After a formal complaint is submitted, the VIC has ten days to notify the accused party, another ten days to convene and investigate and 30 days to conclude their findings and choose an appropriate penalty.

Because Blanco did not file a formal complaint, the VIC is unable to investigate, let alone act and remove anyone from their position.

“If he had filed a complaint properly, it would’ve been investigated but he walked away,” said Tharpe.

Dodge declined to comment on Blanco’s request to have him removed from his position, saying that there are two sides to every story and that he didn’t feel comfortable speaking on the situation to the press. He suggested that any student who wanted to know his thoughts on the issue to come speak with him during his office hours in the SGA office.

Portland Events Board’s existence is at stake

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:29

The Portland Events Board, a student group that organizes programming for commuter students, may no longer exist because the last executive board member, the group’s chair, turned in a letter of resignation last Friday. Rebecca Tanous, the student body vice president, raised concerns at last week’s Student Senate meeting, informing the senate that Heath Garson, the chair of PEB, had chosen to resign. The majority of the senate seem completely unaware of the membership issues facing PEB, which were problems before the resignation of the chair. “I’m seeing a lot of confused faces. I think you should be aware of this right now and this is a bad sign,” said Tanous. “What are you going to do if PEB falls apart, what if no one is going to step up?” Senator Jordana Avital admitted ignorance to the problems in PEB and even how it was run. She said that she had always thought that faculty were in charge of running the event programming and that work-study students helped set up the events. “I know that sounds ignorant, but I have no way of knowing otherwise,” said Avital, claiming that she had not often seen fliers marketing open seats on PEB or for their events. Tanous chalked it up to recent changes in leadership, noting that she hadn’t seen PEB attend any of the tabling events that have been organized for student groups this semester. PEB serves as the commuter counterpart to the Gorham Events Board, which plans weekly programming for students living in the residential halls in Gorham. Because of their different target audiences, they focus on different kinds of events. GEB brings many performers, like hypnotists, comedians, musicians and games to the campus, while PEB has always focused on taking commuter students away to do something, like snowtubing, giving out free tickets to local sporting events and general social events to allow commuters to meet each other. Both are entities under the Student Senate and their budgets and constitutions are maintained by the senate. Ashley Caterina, a senator and former member of GEB, explained what the senate had for viable options for dealing with the state of PEB. We either have to appoint a senator to run the Portland Events Board or we can vote to combine the two entities,” said Caterina. “Or we can think of something else, but Portland Events Board is no longer and we need to do something.” Kyle Frazier, the student body president, suggested that the events board move in the same direction as the university’s Student Life Office. Over the summer, the university merged Gorham Student Life with Portland Student Life to create one unified office to assist with the student experience on campus. “I think that it would make sense to mull over the idea of having us do the same and try to have some continuity between student government and the university,” said Frazier. No decisions about the future of either events boards were made at the senate meeting. Tanous said that she will be meeting with both groups, if the former PEB chair will make himself available, to discuss their concerns. The Free Press was unable to get in touch with Heath Garson for this story.

LGBTQ community and Christians discuss love on campus

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:28

In an effort to provide a comfortable and welcoming space for members of the LGBTQ community to explore and discuss their faith with other Christians, a six-week series of discussions has been planned, centered around the idea that “love is an orientation.”

Sarah Holmes, the assistant director of student life and diversity and coordinator of the center for sexualities and gender diversity, has teamed up with Reverend Rus Willette, the leader of the Christian Navigators group, to bridge the potential gap between these two communities that share a history of misunderstanding with each other.

According to Holmes, there are many students in Maine and across the country that are either gay and don’t feel welcome in their church, or are practicing Christians that are hesitant to come out due to social stigma. Sometimes people are targeted and roped into hurtful stereotypes, by those closest to them, like their friends and family.

“I have worked with gay and lesbian students over the years that come from strict, conservative backgrounds and did not gain the support of their family,” said Holmes. “They often use religion as the reason for their lack of support.”

Holmes believes that the source of discrimination comes from a mix of misunderstanding, fear and old traditions. Both Willette and Holmes have said that they absolutely understand that these issues can be very sensitive to some people. They are both working to ensure that whoever shows up to these meetings are made aware that they must come with a welcoming and inclusive attitude. The talks aren’t meant to be a debate, but a discourse that will hopefully lead to increased understanding that love is the underpinning of our society.

“Love is what ties communities together,” said Holmes. “What love actually looks like is more important than what form it takes place in.”

Willette leads about 75 students in the group, the Navigators, where they participate in community, fellowship and Bible studies. This is the first year they’ll be meeting in the Center for Gender and Sexuality Diversity to discuss a mutual definition of love in a formal way. Willette said that despite being a Christian who’s accepting of non-traditional sexual identities, he still recognizes that these topics can be controversial.

“Having these types of conversations can be hard as the two sides will not always agree,” said Willette. “The key is to make sure no matter what is discussed, both ‘sides’ walk away from the table feeling cared for and not beat up.”

Holmes has said that, overall, Christian groups like the Navigators have evolved to become more accepting of queer folk.

Still there are Christians on campus that are less accepting of people from the LGBTQ community, but Holmes noted that most of the groups that harass gay students come from outside the community. Holmes mentioned the Westboro Baptist Church who has picketed at USM in the past, as well as Guy Hammond, the founder of Strength in Weakness Ministry, who preached last year that with proper faith you can “pray away homosexuality.”

“I get that a person’s religion is very important to them,” said Holmes. “But the search for a truly open and inclusive faith community is even more important.”

The Bible says that believers are supposed to love the sinner and hate the sin but according to the holy text, homosexuality is viewed as  a “detestable” sin. The infamous passage in Leviticus 20:13 clearly condemns homosexuality by saying: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” It’s this 2,100 year-old quote that has fueled discrimination against LGBTQ members in those that interpret the Bible literally and as an infallible, word-for-word truth.

Horace Jones, a student member of the Alpha Omega Christian Fellowship, said that no further interpretation of this passage is needed, because the Bible and its language makes it “plain and clear.”

“I do not believe that one can be a practitioner of the Christian faith while living that [LGBTQ] type of lifestyle,” said Jones. “Just like there are other ways that people live that Jesus would not approve of in those that follow him.”

Jones said that LGBTQ members can express their faith, but their sexual orientation does hinder their ability to fully commit to that faith.

Alpha Omega has not responded to inquiries and invitations about future “Love Is an Orientation” discussions.

Ryan Biggs, a junior theatre major, disagrees by citing another famous Bible quote, “love thy neighbor.”

“I believe that you don’t choose who you fall in love with, it just happens,” said Biggs. “I think people in general should be more accepting of everyone.”

Biggs is optimistic for the future of discussions like “Love Is an Orientation,” and said that it could really help people get to a higher place of acceptance and understanding. And that’s exactly the hopes of the organizers and students too afraid to fully express their faith or sexuality, during this ongoing journey to end discrimination.

“What can we do to start to heal some of the hurt that’s been done?” said Holmes. “People just need to focus on living with kindness, love and gratitude.”

USM to host teach-in focusing on ISIS activity

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:27

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, commonly referred to as ISIS, has made headlines around the world recently for making violent threats against the United States and its allies, and the beheading of two American journalists.

On Wednesday, the office of Multicultural Students Affairs is hosting a teach-in for the public, focusing on the political and militant atmosphere in Middle Eastern countries, the history of unrest and violence in those areas and how ISIS activities are affecting the global community.

“Part of the mission of any higher learning institution is to train tomorrow’s leaders and global citizens, and in order to produce that, you have to make them aware of this larger world that exists beyond their own country,” said Reza Jalali, coordinator of the office.

The teach-in will include a panel consisting of Jalali, Ali Abdullatif Ahmida, a professor of political science at the University of New England, Senem Aslan, an assistant professor of politics at Bates College and Ali Al Mshakheel, a journalist formerly based in Iraq, where he wrote for the Times of London and ABC News.

Each panelist is scheduled to speak briefly about their views on ISIS, Middle Eastern history and the possibility of direct U.S. intervention before opening up to take questions from the audience. Jalali says the goal is to provide students and the community with a forum to ask questions, raise concerns and learn more about the conflict.

“We try to create a safe-zone so that people can ask any questions they want, because they’re not going to be judged,” said Jalali. “Not all learning takes place in the classroom — some of it happens in hallways, in student groups, some in lecture halls — and this is one place where people can just walk in and get some information for free.”

Jalali said that he wants students to understand that while this violence and conflict is happening far from the U.S., it can easily still impact them.

We’re not asking you to take sides, but regardless of how you feel, if there’s a conflict out there you may be called there to fight for your country or the price of gas may go up at home,” said Jalali. “As part of this global community, what happens there impacts us here.”

Aslan suggested that students explore a wide range of news sources to fully understand what’s happening regarding ISIS activities.

“They can read newspapers that have reporters on the ground in the region. They can read foreign newspapers to get a sense of how U.S. actions are affecting other countries or how they are perceived by citizens of the Middle East and beyond,” she wrote in an email to the Free Press.

Jalai said he hopes that discussion will lead toward the history of the situation as well, noting that widespread terrorist groups do not simply sprout up overnight.

“Students should start to develop that historical consciousness about U.S foreign policy because today’s decisions will continue affecting their lives in the years to come,” wrote Aslan. “The problems that we face today in Iraq and Syria have a lot to do with the U.S. occupation in Iraq in 2003, for example.”

Recent polls from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal show that 72% of Americans believe that the U.S. will send combat troops overseas against ISIS militants, even though President Barack Obama has spoken against it on many occasions. Jalali said that he feels while Americans are willing to send armed forces into Syria, most don’t know where Syria is.

“To me that is horrible, because we ask our brave young men and women in uniform to go fight this war, but we don’t bother ourselves to know where we’re sending them,” said Jalali. “We’ve kind of divided these countries into friends, foes and people we really don’t care about. With that kind of generalization and stereotyping, events like this [the teach-in] become really important.”

The teach-in will be held in the Woodbury Campus Center amphitheater from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday and there will be light snacks available.

Flanagan pitches USM to local businesses

Sat, 2014-10-04 21:23

President David Flanagan gave more details about his strategy to “vanquish USM’s daunting budget challenge” during a brief speech to an audience of over 300 local business and education leaders at an “Eggs and Issues” event at the Holiday Inn in Portland.

The monthly business forum, organized by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, invites community members from many sectors to gather and discuss important issues. Last week, the forum served as both a brief overview of USM’s financial deficit and, apart from many strategies, an extended invitation to form a more symbiotic relationship with many of the local businesses in the greater Portland area.

“To succeed we will need your help as corporate partners, as intern generators and advocates for restoring our funding in Augusta,” said Flanagan. “We must find and adopt a new business model.”

Flanagan, who was recently appointed as a member of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, stressed that USM needs to become more entrepreneurial and work towards an increase in community engagement, which he believes will benefit both students and local business leaders. Flanagan wants to increase appropriation funds from the state legislature to around $6 million, the amount that’s been gradually lost since 2008.

“We need to get more funding for the whole UMS system,” said Flanagan. “So the bulk of the cost of education goes to the state instead of to the students.”

Jim Page, the chancellor of the seven colleges of the UMaine system, spoke alongside Flanagan and cited that in-state tuition in Maine has increased 365% over the past 25 years. This is part of the reason that the system is suffering from a $69 million structural gap.

“The university system is broken and must be changed and transformed,” said Page. “We have outstanding expertise across all our institutions and we need to unlock their full potential.”

Page said that in order to compete with the fierce competition on the higher education market, USM needs to increase and spread its inspiring educational capabilities.

“We must be second to none when it comes to research in economic development and public service,” said Page. “We want to be a critical partner in our region.”

Both Page and Flanagan noted the efforts of the students and faculty working in the new cyber-security lab as a prime example of departments that are leveraging their resources to serve the community. The lab was recently featured in a national spot on the CBS evening news.

“Our pioneering efforts in cyber-security illustrates how well USM can contribute to the needs of our students and the economic development of our town,” said Flanagan.

According to Flanagan, gaining community partners will open the doors for more internships and work-study opportunities for students and actually provide them with some real world experience. A more complex relationship with USM would also give local employers a database of skilled laborers. This ties in directly with the administration’s new “metropolitan” vision.

Flanagan said that the metropolitan university, above all, means concentrating on “purer areas” like music, health, business, science, technology and engineering. These are the academic areas that are experiencing the most growth and are always seeking out new practitioners, scholars and workers.

Katie Zema, a junior women and gender studies major and student representative at the event, said that USM’s plan for increased involvement with the city of Portland is fantastic, but she’s also concerned that community engagement will be limited to just the business and political sectors.

“I would love to see the university and city I have come to love, work together toward a better future,” said Zema. “However, we need social scientists and critical thinkers just like we need doctors and lawyers from this university. I fear that ‘metropolitan university’ is simply just a fancy phrase for getting rid of the humanities and some close professional relationships that are so meaningful to making USM a great university.”

Flanagan ensured that the humanities and social science concentrations will still be a part of USM’s curriculum, just in a more economical and efficient way.

Flanagan wants to add to the existing corporate partnerships USM has with companies like UNUM, Texas Instruments and IDEXX, and said that he’s anxious to talk to as many business leaders as he can. So far ideas have been flowing with a company called Connect Ed as well as with District 3’s City Councilor Edward Suslovic.

After the two speeches and a brief Q-and-A, Suslovic pitched the idea of a partnership between USM’s private bus system and the city of Portland’s. Suslovic posed the question that instead of having a private bus that USM pays 100% of the cost of, why not have the Metro operate it and give students access to the whole region?

“Wouldn’t it be great if a commuter could just get anywhere around Portland just by flashing their student ID?” asked Suslovic.

“I’m totally open for it,” said Flanagan. “Send me an email about it. Transportation between Portland and Gorham is a major issue.”

Flanagan closed his 14 minute speech with optimism and a request for the audience to become involved in USM’s future.

“I ask you to invest in USM,” said Flanagan. “It will be among the most rewarding and enduring actions you can take anywhere this year.”

English professor Nancy Gish returns from historic Scottish referendum

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:00

In light of Scotland rejecting independence from the U.K. by a vote of 55 to 44 percent during a recent referendum, USM is hosting a free panel discussion to determine the impact and educational value of such a monumental political event.

The panel discussion will feature three experts: Donnie Jack, a Scottish Affairs counselor for the Americas, Owen Traylor, a former diplomat and Nancy Gish, a professor in the English department who has just returned from Scotland having witnessed the climate of the country during this “major time of change.” According to Gish, it’s important for all of us to understand the ramifications of this referendum, even if we’re half a world away.

On Sept. 19 Scotland had the chance to end a 307-year-old union with the rest of the United Kingdom but decided against it, which will result in the tabling of this issue for at least another generation. Still the country remains divided in political opinion with the Scottish National Party spearheading the initial movement for independence. According to Gish, who spent time in the country with supporters from both sides, Scotland is distinctly different than the rest of the U.K., with its own set of values.

“Independence supporters were very upset with the results,” said Gish. “If I was Scottish, I would of voted yes.”

According to Gish, the movement for independence started two years ago and was led by politician Alec Salmond, but there’s been a longing for Scottish autonomy since the 13th century. Gish said that Scottish interests are and have been predominantly liberal, and the largely conservative British parliament, led by prime minister David Cameron, do not grant Scotland enough political representation.

Nationalists on the “Yes, Scotland” side wanted independence because of concerns of being exploited by the British for their resources like oil as well as the nuclear facilities which store British weapons on Scottish soil.

The opposition to the independence movement, led by the “better together” campaign argued that most of the Scottish budget relies on oil revenue which is a quickly diminishing, finite resource. Scotland breaking away from the union would have also resulted in it having an even more diminished voice in international affairs because the country would have to start the European Union membership process all over again. Unionist parties have promised to give more power to Scots in Parliament if they voted no. Time will tell if that will happen and Salmond issued a warning saying that the British must “make good” on that pledge.

According to Gish, a lot of people showed up to vote, with over a 90% turnout in some big towns like Glasgow and Edinburough, showing that people do care to vote on big issues. Gish said that the outcome was interesting because “no thanks” voters were dominated by older retirees and women, the two groups that are the most cautious about financial and domestic issues.

Gish said that the result of the referendum showed that when prompting people with a binary question, most of the population will stick with the status quo.

“When asked for a yes or no vote, undecided people will usually go with cutting their losses instead of making a gain,” said Gish.

Ellen Skerritt, a junior linguistics major, studying abroad at the University of Winchester in England, said that she believes the majority of Scottish people think there is nothing wrong with the country’s current relationship with Parliament and there’s no need to change it.

“The United Kingdom would not be the same without Scotland,” said Skerritt. “This may be a stupid reason but I like our connection with the royal family.”

According to Gish, discussing these legal and diplomatic issues along with their implications, links real world events with lessons learned by students in the history and political science departments at USM.

Gish said that tuning into and conversing about the political atmosphere of the U.K. and the effects of self determination on the Scottish people, helps contribute to USM’s vision of becoming a “metropolitan university,” and teaches students how real world problems are solved.

Francesca Vassallo, a political science and history professor and an organizer of the panel discussion, said that it’s so rare that a real world event, like the Scottish move for independence, matched issues that she teaches from her curriculum.

“I helped bring this discussion to campus because I thought it would be useful for students to see self determination in action,” said Vassalo. “It helps us connect our local community with the international community and helps us understand how to solve big societal problems.”

Vassalo also mentioned that students knowledgeable about current events like this are much more likely to be taken seriously when looking for a career.

Gish, who is also a fellow of the Association of Scottish Literary Studies, plans on offering the perspective of a person who has observed a stifled culture under a union with Britain and Wales as well as first hand accounts on what the voting process was like. Gish traveled with a poet, a painter and a composer on her journey and said that her focus will be a cultural argument. Most of the people heavily involved in the Scottish arts community were “Yes” supporters.

“Culture in Scotland has always been supressed,” said Gish. “I have personal experience with that.”

Gish extends the invitation to the seventh floor of the Glickman Library on Thursday to hear about those experiences during these dramatic and trying political times, even if only to broaden one’s own knowledge.

Gish said, “No American really knows anything about Scottish culture, history or politics, except for what they’ve seen in Braveheart.”

College campuses across the nation join the fight to end domestic violence

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:00

In this country at least four women are murdered by abusive partners daily and 25% of female college students have reported a violent rape, according to a crime victimization survey done by the National Institute of Justice.

With an estimated one in five college women attacked, USM’s faculty and students are working to spread awareness about the disturbing prevalence of domestic violence in Maine and in the rest of the country.

Last Monday a film titled “Private Violence,” which chronicled the lives of two survivors and their attempts to leave their abusers, was shown in Hannaford Hall supported by the USM efforts from the Campus Safety Project and the Women and Gender Studies department. SPACE Gallery, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Family Crisis Services also helped to co-present the documentary film.

“It’s a very powerful film,” said Amy Taylor who is on the board of directors of Family Crisis Services. “It’s emotional, daunting and really tastefully done.”

“The people who hurt you the most often can be the ones you love,” said Taylor, who dealt with an abusive father in her childhood.

The film brought to light that the most dangerous place for a woman in America is her own home, by telling the dramatic tales of two survivors: Kit Gruelle and Deanna Walters. Kit Gruelle has 25 years of experience advocating for battered women and remains dedicated to shattering the harmful stereotypes that surround domestic violence and its survivors.

Gruelle said that one stereotype is the notion that only poor and uneducated women are being abused, when in fact domestic violence can happen in any household, regardless of any differences. For Gruelle, looking past isolated incidents and examining our patriarchal society as a whole may be the key to ending violence against females. She explained that we have to take a hard look all over the world, at how different communities interact, and how the criminal justice system is responding or not responding to these acts of violence.

“The issue is about privilege and a sense of entitlement that some men have,” said Gruelle. “It’s an issue where men think they are masters of the castle and get to call the shots. Men are violent to women because they believe they have the right to be violent and society gives them that right.” She posed the question: “Why do men feel like they can control, harass and intimidate women?”

According to Gruelle, some people wait until a woman has a visible injury like a black eye or a broken nose to speak up, and even then they try to find ways to justify it.

Gruelle said that the typical response among people when asked about solutions to domestic violence is, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

According to Sarah Holmes, the assistant director of student and university life for diversity, it’s not that simple. She said that for some, leaving might result in some women losing their money, children, pets or possessions. Holmes encouraged to log on to Twitter and search #whyistayed to see all of the diverse and deeply personal reasons women choose to remain a part of an abusive relationship.

“Everyone has their own complicated and important reasons for not leaving an abusive relationship,” said Holmes.

Matthew Perry was the first male employee in the state to work for the Family Crisis Service hotline and has been working to end violence against women since 1999. Perry said that apart from all the financial and social reasons women choose to stay, the majority of women stay because they don’t want to be killed. According to him women are 75% more likely to be murdered if they try to leave an abusive relationship.

“Men have yet to listen to women when they’ve been pleading for thousands of years, ‘don’t kills us, don’t rape us,’” said Perry. “I don’t speak for women; I speak next to them.”

“It’s a product of human conditioning,” said Kelsey Michaud, a sophomore theater major and women and gender studies minor. Michaud said that she unfortunately does know individuals affected by what she called “a bigger problem than most people realize.”

According to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV), over 37,000 hotline calls were placed in the first six months of last year. Of all assaults in the state of Maine last year 47.4% were attributed to domestic violence and 5,593 arrests were made for that crime.

“Domestic violence is a big problem in Maine,” said Holmes. “A lot of people are impacted by this kind of abuse, but it’s not just individuals who are affected; it’s also their friends, family and peers.”

Holmes said that there are victims of relationship-related violence on USM’s campus, and she’s done a lot of work over the past four to five years making sure there is help and resources available to them. Some aid includes talking to a counselor or an advisor as well as calling an anonymous hotline that’s posted in campus bathrooms.

“We can combat this problem through education,” said Holmes. “We all know someone who’s been a victim of domestic violence.”

Perry agrees.

“If you can give information and talk about it [domestic violence] early, that’s prevention” said Perry. “I firmly believe it’s every person’s role in the community to help end the abuse.”

Students from the women and gender studies department frequently discuss gender based violence and its impact on communities, according to Kate Zema, a student in that major.

“We’ve been talking about issues in current events like the Ray Rice incident,” said Zema. “I’ve been focusing specifically on sexual assault and consent education.”

“We do learn about domestic violence and discuss it on a regular basis,” said Michaud.

On a national scale, the number of women killed from domestic violence since 2001 is 11,766, more deaths than those killed in terrorist attacks and battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama recently stated that these statistics are “totally unacceptable,” and launched a new, star studded online campaign called “It’s On Us,” which urges viewers to stop being bystanders to the problem and become part of the solution. USM is committed to this cause.

For students on campus that may be affected by this national problem, aid and counsel are available through an anonymous hotline at 1-866-834-4357.

Faculty concerned about metropolitan universty’s $2 million price tag

Mon, 2014-09-29 08:59

Last month the Metropolitan University Steering Group released their interim report, outlining what the university can do to transform into a highly-engaged institution with strong ties to the community and a focus on service learning.

The report, which lists suggestions for administrative responsibilities, leadership roles and how to centralize engaged learning efforts, estimates that the cost of implementing the plan over the next five years would cost around $2 million in funds to complete.

The dollar amount raised concerns and questions at last week’s Faculty Senate meeting, where faculty members discussed the cost and specifics of the report.

“If this committee is proposing something with a $2 million price tag, we’ve just upped out budget deficit to $18 million, and I can’t imagine that we want to do that right now,” said Jeannine Uzzi, a professor of classics. “It just seems so wrong-headed.”

Libby Bischof, a professor of history and member of the MUSG, reminded the senate that the interim report was a working document and that they were willing to take suggestions for revisions.

“We’re looking for feedback, we’re looking to improve this,” said Bischof.

Some faculty questioned the plausibility of the report’s goals in USM’s current economic situation, and Bischof told the senate that MUSG was charged with a strategic focus and that figuring out how to implement that strategy would come later.

When Richard Barringer, chair of MUSG and research professor, spoke with the Free Press earlier in the month, he said that the financial plausibility of the plan was the responsibility of the administration.

Wayne Cowart, a professor of linguistics, openly wondered if the metropolitan university plan was distracting administrative and faculty efforts from this year’s budget deficit.

“There’s obviously a major bloodletting coming, we may very well attract national attention for the scale of that bloodletting,” said Cowart. “This is going to be damaging to the reputation of the institution and, as far as I’m seeing, the only thing that looks like a response, has been this metropolitan university idea.”

The senate considered passing a resolution stating that any funding for this project should be taken from a system-wide fund to avoid widening USM’s structural gap, but decided against it because the report isn’t finalized.

After the meeting, Bischof explained that the costs were estimates based on other metropolitan universities that the group has been studying, including Rutgers University, the University of Massachusetts in Boston and the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, among others.

Nancy Gish, a professor of English and women and gender studies, voiced concerns about the language in the report.

“This [the report] is to a large extent completely abstract, so it depends entirely on how you interpret things,” said Gish. “When I look at engaged, I think ‘what do you mean by engaged and who’s going to decide whether it’s engaged or not.’ What I see as a serious problem is that it can be read to shift all of the decision making into an administrative structure.”

Bischof said that the group has been having similar concerns and questions in their own meeting and that it was good to hear similar voices in the senate. She said that the group hopes to make revisions and have a final report by December.

Despite concerns raised in the meeting, a lot of faculty members still noted that the idea of a metropolitan university was appealing.

“This is a very difficult time for all of us and I think that even though it may not be the best time to put forward something that’s going to cost $2 million, the idea helps,” said Rachel Bouvier, a professor of economics. “I think that it’s at least a glimmer of hope.”

Student senate treasurer denounces student leadership

Mon, 2014-09-29 08:58

By Alex Huber

The student senate went into executive session last week to discuss the potential of taking disciplinary actions against the senate chair and parliamentarian.

Jason Blanco, the senate treasurer, decided to address leadership concerns in the senate after he went to pick up his stipend check last week to discover his pay was being withheld.

Joshua Dodge, the senate chair, and Joshua Tharpe, the parliamentarian asked employees in the Student Government Business Office to put Blanco’s paycheck on hold after one unexcused absence without consulting the rest of the senate.

“I have lost all confidence in both the parliamentarian and the chair,” said treasurer Jason Blanco at Friday’s Student Senate meeting. “It is my recommendation to the senate to have a vote, to remove them from those positions.”

The constitution of the senate states that after three absences a senator is automatically removed. Blanco has been absent from senate meetings this year for work purposes, but all but one absence was excused by the senate. He was not removed from the senate, but his pay was witheld, an action that proved to be unconstitutional in the senate after further investigation.

Stipends can only be altered by the Personnel Review Board of the senate, not the chair or parlimentarian.

That board is headed by the Kyle Frazier, the student body president, who told Blanco that the senate was in violation when Blanco approached him about it. Blanco then asked the Judson Cease, the senate vice chair for a violation inquiry committee but said he received no response and no committee was convened as the executive board did not feel it was necessary.

“If that’s the kind of senate we’re going to run, where two individuals can make their own rules… this senate is going to fail,” Blanco said.

The senate has been facing attendance issues since the beginning of the year and Blanco is not the only senator with multiple absences. In their previous meeting, the senate didn’t have the correct amount of senators present to make quorum and vote. Blanco said that with his 12 years of experience in the Marine Corp, he believes that there is a fault in leadership.

Blanco motioned for a vote of no confidence in Dodge and Tharpe.

Following the motion,the senate went into an executive session, meaning that all non-senate members had to leave while they discussed the issue.

A week must pass before the senate can proceed to vote. In order to remove the two individuals from the senate a two-thirds majority is required of a quorum of the senate. During the vote the two parties will have to recuse themselves from the executive board due to conflict of interest.

Dodge and Frazier declined to comment on the meeting.

Programs slated for elimination finalized

Mon, 2014-09-29 08:57

The three programs slated for elimination, American and New England Studies, geosciences and arts and humanities at the Lewiston-Auburn Campus were approved for elimination by the board of trustees last Monday in Fort Kent.

After no discussion, with the exception of the citizen comment period, the board’s vote was unanimous.

“We do have to face the dire circumstances that are before us,” said Samuel Collins, chair of the BoT. “The structural gap isn’t going away.”

President David Flanagan admits that the programs eliminated only account for 3% of the target USM has to make, even though the university will realize some $500,000 in savings.

Rose Cleary, an associate professor of arts and humanities, found the lack of discussion by the board “disheartening.”

“They didn’t take seriously other options than eliminating programs. They should be looking at ways to invest rather than cutting,” said Cleary. “I was quite disappointed with the lack of deliberation.”

Kent Ryden, director and professor of American and New England studies, was not surprised by the unanimous vote.

The program eliminations were part of a consent vote, which entails several items on the agenda of the meeting being bundled together for an up or down vote.

“That struck me as a way to avoid having conversations, by not having it on the agenda as a separate item, but bundled in with unrelated things,” said Ryden. “Perhaps they were trying to avoid the possibility of discussion, and they had probably made up their minds already.”

Cleary explained that, though the vote at the board was the last procedural step to eliminating the programs, it’s not yet finalized because the Associate Faculties of the University of Maine, AFUM, has filed a grievance about the multiple contract violations over the procedures that have been followed.

According to Cleary, the grievances have been validated, so they are now entering into a preface of arbitration.

“Depending on the outcome of that, the vote of the board of trustees could become invalidated, if it’s found that the procedures administration followed violated contracts,” said Cleary. “They’d have to redo the process and the board would have to vote again.”

According to Jerry LaSala, chair of the faculty senate and professor of physics, the proposals before the board were much more detailed than the proposals presented to the faculty senate earlier in the year.

“The idea that this did not require full review by the faculty senate is very difficult to understand,” said LaSala. “There is lots of new information, some of which we’d challenge is inaccurate. The requirements of the board of trustees manual have not been met.”

LaSala also claimed that public comment was minimized by the fact that the meeting was moved to Fort Kent.

Susan Feiner, professor of economics and professor of women and gender studies, attended the meeting.

“I talked with trustee Moody before the vote and he told me that he was prepared to vote against the program eliminations. He was sort of blind-sided by the process,” said Feiner. “He thought that there would be another step in deliberations.”

Though the vote was unanimous, regardless of confusion among board members, Flanagan explained that more cuts need to happen to fill the gap.

“People somehow seem to have this idea that this is elective, what we’re doing. But it’s not. We have no choice,” said Flanagan. “We cannot run a deficit. We have to pay people. We have to pay our bills.”

According to Flanagan, the arts and humanities program is already covered completely by other programs, and the other programs will be taught out, so students are still given the opportunity to graduate.

Clearly disagreed, noting that the rationale to eliminate the program was because it duplicated another, but explained that that was not true.

“Arts and humanities was redesigned to be an applied program that had community engagement as a critical component of the new curriculum,” said Cleary. “That’s supposed to be what characterizes a metro university. It doesn’t make sense to me to eliminate the program.”

Flanagan explained that some faculty in the affected programs will be given the option to stay to help students finish their degrees, unless they elect not to.

“This isn’t like some guillotine dropping down and ending people’s professional lives,” said Flanagan. “I think some people are trying to create concerns where they need not exist.”

Flanagan also explained that faculty are some of the most protected employees in the country, and cuts that will be made outside of program eliminations will be based solely on a contractual basis.

“We cannot fire people at will,” said Flanagan. “What you can do is eliminate programs where you can’t financially support them, or where they don’t fit in with the university vision. At the end of the day, there does come a time when, if you don’t have money you can’t pay people, and that’s the situation that we’re in.”

Contractual basis is a matter of seniority.

Regardless of the cuts, students may elect to take legal action. The questions there, according to Ryden, is the status of the university catalog as a legal document.

“When a student matriculates into a program, language and requirements for the degree program as of the date of their matriculation are listed in the catalog and are the ones that apply to them throughout their course of study, even if the requirements change,” said Ryden. “The argument is that, basically, a promise has been broken.”

According to Ryden, though, students would have to initiate an action like that.

“Probably all it would take would be one student,” Ryden said.

Flanagan explained that he has continuously acknowledged the reciprocal need for cutting and investing in USM.

“We have to offer new courses and new interdisciplinary majors. We have to be more innovative and relevant in what we offer. I’m here to bring the university into a new era when it will be financially sustainable, affordable, accessible, quality and relevant,” said Flanagan. “That’s my job.”

BoT votes to eliminate three USM programs despite vocal faculty

Wed, 2014-09-24 11:33

In its meeting on Monday, the UMaine System board of trustees unanimously voted to approve the elimination of three programs at USM.

The elimination of geosciences, American and New England studies and the arts and humanities program at Lewiston-Auburn College has been an ongoing debate since last March, but the board of trustees finalized the decision at their meeting in Fort Kent without any formal discussion.

USM faculty members made the 300-mile trek to Fort Kent to speak on behalf of the programs during the opening public comment section of the meeting, but their speeches did not sway the board to change their decision.

“Those are very difficult decisions,” said BoT Chair Samuel Collins of the USM eliminations. “It’s with great deliberation that the board of trustees looks at eliminating any programs, but we do have to face the dire circumstances that are before us and the cost of doing business. the structural gap is not going away.”

No new students will be allowed to enroll in the eliminated programs. Administrators say that students in the program will be able to finish their degrees, but there is no plan in place yet. Faculty working in those programs will be phased out as students finish the program requirements.

Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women and gender studies, questioned the business-sense of the board’s decision, pointing out the USM is offering 185 less sections as they did last fall.

“If you have fewer sections, how can students enroll in the community?,” Feiner asked the board at the beginning of the meeting. “How can they earn their degree? No one has been tracking the relationship between revenue and cost.”

Jerry LaSala, chair of the faculty senate and professor of physics, said that the proposals before the board were not the same proposals looked over by the faculty senate earlier in the year. LaSala claimed that the faculty senate only saw a portion of the proposal and far less data.

“The idea that this did not require full review by the faculty senate is very difficult to understand,” said LaSala. “There is lots of new information, some of which we’d challenge is inaccurate.”

No one on the board responded to LaSala’s comments on inaccuracies during the meeting.

“There’s a sense of great fear at USM over what’s going to happen to these peoples’ career and the years they invested at USM,” said Paul Johnson, a professor of social work. “These program eliminations have been a disaster. I know we’re talking about a new direction, what we should do and a way forward, but I don’t believe cutting programs is helping us.”

Johnson also praised students who have become more involved with USM over the past year and have been vocal about the university’s financial troubles.

“They’ve proved how much they care about the university,” said Johnson. “They’ve done this through writing to the newspapers, going to demonstrations, connecting with the press, and I think they’ve made a very strong case as students. It’s unfortunate they couldn’t make it up here to Fort Kent, because they are far more eloquent when they speak about this than I am.”

The meeting on Monday was originally supposed to take place at USM, but the location was switched to Fort Kent, the location of their November meeting, for weather considerations. This location switch has been criticized by students and faculty, which was addressed by LaSala during his remarks.

“Public comment on this is minimized by the fact that this meeting was moved to Fort Kent,” said LaSala, “and people from the outside perceive this as a way to suppress public comment.”

“It’s been a wrenching experience for a lot of people at USM to go through the elimination of these programs, but we have to make tough decisions to fix this structural gap,” said President Flanagan, pointing out the the program eliminations will put USM only three percent closer to a balanced budget.

Flanagan is likely to announce more program cutbacks and faculty retrenchments at the end of October.

News Editor Emma James contributed reporting to this story.

This story will be updated in the Sept. 19 edition of the Free Press.

The cost of convenience: comparing food costs

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:58

By: Brian Gordon

Students could save money on food by taking a quick walk to the Back Bay Hannaford, but still some prefer the convenience of on campus dining, like the Luther Bonney cafe and the Woodbury Campus Center cafeteria.

Those that were grabbing lunch in the cafeteria had either meal plans or were just content to shell out a bit more cash. Tai Infinte, a junior biology major, said that he didn’t feel like walking to Hannaford. He thought that his $5.79 large chicken panini sandwich was a “pretty good deal.”

Rion Lister, a senior women and gender studies major, used to work at Hannaford and doesn’t think there are major price differences. Lister also noted that there wasn’t much time in between classes, so he felt grabbing a sandwich or salad at the cafe was more convenient.

Nick Kenney, a junior finance major, was stocking up with a chicken caesar salad, a bowl of noodles and some side items on Tuesday night just before his meal plan was set to expire. He thought that the food was a little expensive but since he has a meal plan, he was putting it to good use.

“[Dinner is] like $15 without the meal plan; I could eat a whole chinese buffet for that,” Kenney said.

Kenney also searched for a few healthy options, noting that the cafeterias have salad but it’s difficult to fill up on. The redundant food options sometimes left him groaning.

“Ugh, not another burger,” said Kenney.

Kenny shared his costly bounty with his friend Jessica Avery, a junior criminology major, who no longer had a meal plan. Avery said that she shops at Hannaford all the time but was perfectly content sharing one of Kenney’s meals.

In the end, they both agreed that it was cheaper to just pack a peanut butter sandwich and plan their meals ahead.

While salads and sandwiches are generally close in price at both campus dining services and Hannaford, fruit, yogurt and granola bars are not. At the Woodbury cafeteria, $1 buys you one banana. At Hannaford, that same dollar will buy you four bananas. For $1.32 you could have three yogurt cups from a variety of different flavors at Hannaford. However at USM, $1.29 gets you one cup. Granola bars are one for a buck at USM, while at Hannaford a box of 12 sets you back $2.79.

Not all students choose between Hannaford or the USM cafes. Noah Codega, a sophomore English major, said that he just eats a big breakfast and then hurries home to eat. “It’s cheaper at home,” said Codega.

Emma Steinbach, a sophomore sociology major, agreed with this sentiment.

“I think it’s [the cafeteria] expensive,” said Steinbach. “I used to have a meal plan but now I’m a commuter so I just go home to eat.”

The food at USM comes from Aramark, a national company that provides food services to hospitals, baseball parks and college campuses nationwide. Chris Kinney, the USM dining general manager, acts as a liaison with Aramark’s Communications Department and had shed some light on why the prices are so high. “The pricing of whole fruits, beverages, chips, candy bars and those types of items are reflective of pricing at convenience stores in the local area.”  They also noted that they weren’t in the business of competing with grocery stores.

Although a students dollar goes further at Hannaford, for most, you just can’t beat the cost of convenience.


New cyber-security lab will be a sandbox for student hackers

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:57

In a world where cyber attacks and heists pose a very real threat, USM is arming its IT students with the knowledge of not only how to repel them but how to release viruses themselves.

Thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation and Maine Technology Institute, a new Cyber Security Lab has recently opened up on the Portland campus and is serving as a place where students can learn all the tools and tricks of the hacker trade.

According to Stephen Houser, the director of IT, a research based private network was funded to become a sandbox for student hackers to infect with virus ridden software, spy on other users, create traffic to fake sites and hack into programs. Part of Houser’s job is to make sure their experimentations don’t leak out onto USM’s actual working system network.

“They’ll be launching live viruses on this isolated network,” said Houser. “The best way we can learn about the vulnerabilities is to do a bit of reverse engineering and see how they’re built.”

Edward Sihler, the technical director of the cyber-security lab, said that in order to truly understand what a virus is made of, you have to build one from scratch.

“If you haven’t actually tried to write an encryption algorithm, you just won’t understand the risk,” said Sihler.

Sihler delicately showed a quadcore Linux computer chip that had a gigabyte of ram in it. He said that it could be physically placed on any device you’re trying to tap into. and it will dial home through a network and give a hacker full control of the device with a full version of the Linux software.

“This sucker is powerful,” said Sihler. “Would you even notice this device if it was dangling to the side of your printer or computer?”

According to Eric Dubois, a senior informations and communications technology major, the cyber risks extend far past external devices compromising your laptop. Dubois is currently working on an “experience a cyber event” demonstration, where he will inform attendees on the dangers of using a public wifi.

Alex Weeman, a sophomore in the same major, who plans to be a network analyst with the skills he’s learning in the lab said that if he were sitting in a Starbucks he could steal people’s banking and credit card information, even if both the computer and the wifi are password protected.

“Don’t do your banking over wifi,” said Weeman. “Hackers can get in through port scanning and packet sniffing.”

Michael Guesev, a junior computer programmer, said that once this information is stolen, it’s uploaded to marketplaces on the dark web, which he himself could access.

‘It’s actually quite easy,” said Guesev. “It’s pretty frightening because there are hundreds of these sites, stealing and profiting from your data.”

According to Houser, we live in a time where now, more than ever, people are worried about their privacy and security online. According to Houser, Shaw’s, Home Depot and OTTO’s Pizza just recently suffered data breaches. Last year, a hacker attack left the retail store Target responsible for the loss of 42 million customer credit cards, some of which belonged to Mainers and were being sold on black market web stores. Houser said that people who know skills like online theft prevention and digital forensics are becoming highly desirable in today’s booming tech industry.

“I’m mostly worried about a new type of virus that can infect your computer and encrypt all your files so you can’t open any,” said Houser.

USM’s Division of Information and Technology is expanding its cyber security curriculum to also include classes in the philosophy and communications departments. Houser said that it’s important to learn about these issues from a variety of angles.

“We need to make sure students are aware of what’s right and what’s wrong by interjecting some ethics,” said Houser.

Maureen Ebben, a professor in the communication and media studies department, will serve as the faculty research associate for the cyber security cluster and offers a course called human communication in the digital age. Students in this course will examine cyber security from a communication and public relations standpoint, learning the best way to disseminate sensitive and upsetting information to the public in the least damaging way possible.

“These cases of cyber-attacks usually result in a breach of privacy, so the delicate and appropriate level of communication during such a situation is vital,” said Ebben.

Houser said that he remains optimistic that students will learn valuable and extremely relevant skills in this new cluster, noting that the word hacker used to be a compliment. According to him, it’s now a derogatory term for an internet thief, but it used to refer to people that tinkered and tried to upgrade their own hardware.

“Good hackers aren’t trying to invade someone else’s computer,” said Houser. “They are trying to experiment with a system trying to find out what technology can really do for them.”

However, Houser said that people will always try to break into computers regardless of what they teach people. According to Houser, the internet, much like anywhere else in life, is not 100% safe from threats. And even if you don’t choose to put something online, it’s probably online anyway and technically at risk.

“Even if you don’t bank online, your bank banks online,” said Houser. “Your money isn’t cash tucked in a safe somewhere, it’s in bits and bytes.”

Houser referred to a quote by Helen Keller, that he described as “incredibly relevant,” to help illustrate the point that true security, unfortunately, is nothing more than an illusion.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all,” wrote Keller.

All of the students in the lab are committed to intensifying Keller’s “illusion of security,” by looking for jobs in related fields once they graduate. Kyle Perreault, a senior IT major,  considers himself a white hat hacker, which means he’ll be applying his knowledge towards good purposes.

“Hackers and crackers have been misinterpreted,” said Perrault. “Not all are doing bad things.”


‘It’s never been this bad’: Student Senate attendance issue worsens

Mon, 2014-09-22 10:09

Filling seats at Student Senate meetings is still an issue for the organization. At last week’s meeting, four senators were absent, two defaulted and were kicked off the senate for attendance issues and the senate initially was unable to make quorum until one senator arrived late.

On Friday, the senate voted to suspend an article in their constitution requiring senate applicants to gather 100 supporting signatures from the student body before being appointed in order to appoint two new senators.

Tom Bahun, a senior commuter student and treasurer of the board of student organizations, and David Sanok, a junior communication and media studies major, were both appointed to the senate after a public interview process.

“I motioned to suspend it [the rule] for this meeting only, however, if we continue to get genuinely interested students and the signature process is getting in the way, we could do so again,” said Joshua Tharpe, the senate parliamentarian.

Both of the newly appointed senators had been at senate meetings before, Bahun as a BSO member and Sanok purely out of interest in the organization. Bahun was able to acquire 51 signatures from the student body, while Sanok had not collected any.

Tharpe explained that the rule was originally created to combat new senators being appointed “left and right” while the senate wasn’t sure they were dedicated to the position.

“Last year we had some senators leave within weeks of their appointment,” said Tharpe.

“We need senators who are qualified, of course, but we do need to fill seats to be a working senate,” said Joshua Dodge, the senate chair, in an interview the following day. “In my four years on the senate, it’s never been this bad.”

Both of the new senators cited university financial troubles and administrative handling of the budget deficit as reasons they wanted to become involved with the senate.

The senate discussed the candidates and the signature process while they were out of the room and considered asking Sanok to at least attempt to gather signature before appointing him, but it was decided to appoint him based solely on his interest in the position.

The senate discussed altering the rule as well. Some senators suggested lowering the number of signatures applicants would have to gather or getting rid of the signature problem altogether.

Judson Cease, the vice chair of the senate, suggested using the signature gathering process as a gauge to measure an applicant’s interest and commitment to senate procedures, but not require it.

“We can make the signatures just a factor in our decision to appoint instead of a requirement,” said Cease.

“If people are making a legitimate effort to go out and get signatures, express genuine interest, but come in and say ‘hey, I only got 62 [signatures], I’m more than comfortable making that proposal at future meetings as well,” said Tharpe.

The senate decided that changing the application process would require more discussion than they were able to take part in at the meeting, which was nearing two-hours long, and added it under the ‘concerns’ section of their next meeting.

Dodge said the senate agreed that the issue needed another week for discussion before they make any alterations to the procedure.