Two teenagers died in a car accident last Saturday near Hiram, one of whom was a USM student.
Andrew Stanley, a recent graduate of Sacopee Valley High School and a first year nursing student at USM, was riding with three of his friends in a speed zone of 35 mph when the car crashed into a utility pole and killed him.
According to Chris Quint, the USM spokesperson, alcohol was not a factor in the crash, but speeding may have been.
Quint said that the crash occurred around 2 am.
Chief Deputy Hart Daley said that the names of the juvenile driver and passenger who survived, are not being released at this time. According to Daley, Stanley died at the scene while the second passenger, 19 year old Isaac Moore, died later at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Samuel Johnson, a junior education major said that he knew Stanley and spoke with him plenty of times. Johnson described Stanley as polite, genuine and sincere.
“He was also hilarious and always making people laugh,” said Johnson. “He was a smart person with a really bright future.”
Alex Fenderson said that Stanley was his best friend and they grew up together since they were three years old.
“I have countless stories and memories about the times we spent together,” said Fenderson. “He would move mountains for people. Stanley cared deeply about his friends and family.”
From donation based yoga classes, to student run bake sales and concerts, many fundraising efforts have sprung up in Portland to help the affected families of the Noyes St. fire pay for funeral costs and to provide assistance to the two survivors who lost their possessions.
While the investigation regarding the exact cause of the fire is still ongoing, several grieving community members and philanthropists said that funeral costs are very expensive and money should be raised to help the devastated families of the victims.
Eli Hubble, a friend and a co-worker of the deceased Bragdon Jr. said that the entire Portland community suffered a severe loss in this horrible tragedy.
“These were amazing people that gave nothing but love and compassion to the community; let’s give something back,” said Hubble.
Mary Crowley, the president of the student nursing organization, said that survivors like USM students Kyle Bozeman and Nick Marcketta will need financial help to start regaining the possessions they lost in the inferno.
Crowley had her nursing students raise money by hosting a bake sale in Woodbury Campus Center.
“Our students were amazed at how many people thanked them,” said Crowley. “Anytime anyone in our community is struck by a tragedy, it’s a selfless move to try and offer help in whatever way you can.”
After four hours the students raised over $341, which is planned to be split and given to both the survivors and the families of the deceased.
“I felt that it was only the right things to do,” said Kayleigh Calvert, a sophomore nursing student who passed out cupcakes to people who donated.
Next to the Woodbury campus center, at the Sullivan gym, another contribution to the cause was gearing up.
Whitney Lutz, a faculty member in the nursing department, redirected her original fundraising plans of community partnership in the Dominican Republic, to instead benefit the Noyes St. victims, with a black light yoga event. Yoga poses in a dimly lit room led to about $145 raised.
“The switch was very fitting given the gravity of this tragedy involving USM students,” said Lutz. “We felt it would be a good time to bring the campus community closer and have time for reflection and support with one another.”
Opportunities to donate were also made available at every cash register on campus in the form of a box asking customers to “remember the Noyes. St. victims.” The boxes were put out by Aramark.
Grace Tyler, a former USM student has spearheaded two money collecting campaigns outside of the immediate campus community. Using the hashtag #RememberNoyes and a GoFundMe page online, Tyler has managed to raise over $3,000 in four days. Tyler said that it’s important to recognize the wonderful people that had their lives stolen from them.
“I’m trying to show the [affected] families that they are supported by the community,” said Tyler. “This money is in no way going to mend the broken hearts of those who have lost their loved ones and gone through such a painful experience, but it will at least help ease the monetary stress.”
Tyler described Finlay, Thomas and Bragdon Jr., who frequented the events at the Space for Grace community center, as happy, beautiful souls.
Tyler’s fundraising efforts also takes the form of a 12-hour concert, featuring at least seven local bands at her venue on Saturday the 15th. Tyler said the door charge donation will cost $10. According to the event’s Facebook page, over 350 people will be in attendance.
Whitney Carroll, a Portland local, wrote to Tyler on the event’s Facebook page, “You have a way of bringing the community together that is truly amazing.”
Support for those affected also comes from as far away as Bangor, with Andre Hicks Jr., a hip hop musician, donating all of the ticket sales from his next show to the Noyes St. fund.
#207Together Hip Hop Showcase invites everybody to “come together and celebrate the lives of our friends lost in a horrible fire.”
Hicks, who is a native of Portland but is hosting the show up in Bangor to meet up with other musicians, said that he’s never seen anything like what happened on Noyes St.
“I don’t care about the credit or the money, I just want to help out in any way that I can,” said Hicks. “I figured, I have talent, people come to my shows, why don’t I use that to make something fun and positive out of this horrible tragedy.”
Hicks, whose stage name is Dray Junior, said that he’s positive his rap show will sell out.
Several fundraisers believe that the pain of losing a loved one in such a brutal way can never be abated by raising money, but there is something valuable to the community coming together in such a positive way.
Bryan Kessler, a former USM student and electronic musician said he wants to get as many people aware and involved as possible.
“Portland has responded well,” said Kessler. “You can see how well connected the city is after something tragic like this happens.”
President David Flanagan tried to convince the faculty senate last week that the administration’s plan was going to put USM on a healthy, sustainable path, but the faculty continued to ask the question: what plan?
Faculty are still asking the administration to provide data to back up program eliminations, faculty retrenchments, any detailed teach-out plans and a comprehensive report outlining why the university is facing a $16 million budget gap.
“Give us the evidence, give us the data,” said Lydia Savage, a professor of geography, during the meeting, noting that she had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the UMaine System and has yet to receive a report of the deficit. “We [the faculty] have much more vested interest in this than the trustees and the administration. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Some faculty also took issue with statements Flanagan made regarding faculty contracts when he implied that retrenched faculty filing grievances and going into litigation over what they thought were contract violations would only slow down the plan to close the budget gap and put USM into more of a hole.
“This is problematic,” said Rachel Bouvier, a professor of economics who is set to be retrenched. “It assumes we cannot pursue balanced budget and offer contract rights at the same time and that by following our rights, we’re somehow bringing the university down.”
Flanagan said any faculty were welcome to pursue their contract rights, but stressed that it would not help the university in the long-run.
“At the end of the day, if we were to restore status quo and wipe the slate clean, we’d still have a $16 million budget gap and we’d still have to find that money elsewhere,” said Flanagan. “I know that there are still some people, God bless them, who think there isn’t a financial crisis, who think we can walk to the system, knock on the door, ask them for reserves and we’ll be okay. That isn’t the case.”
Flanagan said, that since he was appointed president in August, that his aim has been financial stability and that he wants to keep USM affordable for Maine students. He noted that there is a demographic trend in Maine that suggest the student population is only going to decline and that everyone has to work to increase enrollment.
He criticized faculty who have been involved in recent press conferences that have claimed he’s “destroying the university,” saying that they are the ones driving students away. In turn, Bouvier said that the constant slashing of programs and faculty wasn’t exactly an invitation for students, which resulted in applause from many members of the senate.
Faculty members claimed they felt uncomfortable with the 2-year time limit on whatever teach-out plan the administration is working on and that having to tell their students they don’t know anything about it has been difficult.
“I think you’ve left your barn doors open and I think the cows have left the pasture,” said Stephen Pollock, a professor in the eliminated geosciences program.
Pollock noted that he hadn’t made serious recommendations, but has been talking to some of his students about them transferring to other universities to finish their degrees. Nancy Erickson, the one professor in the eliminated French program said it’s best to be honest with students about transferring instead of having them face a rushed teach-out program.
“I’ve heard from students who are telling their friends not to come here,” said Assunta Kent, a professor of theatre. “I’ve been telling students not to say that, but in reality, what can I promise them?”
Flanagan took in comments from many members of the faculty senate, but stuck to his guns, saying the way the administration is going about closing the budget gap isn’t ideal, but necessary for USM to succeed down the road.
“I know this is a shocking experience and is unprecedented in USM’s history. I heard one professor say recently that we’re tearing the heart out of USM, but all we’re trying to do is save it,” said Flanagan. “I sincerely hope we can find a way through this together.”
Some students in programs affected by recent retrenchments have jumped at the chance to defend their professors’ jobs and are trying to get them rehired.
Last week there were numerous petitions circulating on campus that demanded that some faculty members either retain their positions at USM or be rehired.
“It’s just horrible, so horrible what’s happening here,” said senior criminology major Laura Dow.
Many students taking classes in the criminology department were canvassing the Portland campus early last week, looking for students to sign a petition to rehire Sandra Wachholz, an associate professor who was notified of her retrenchment the previous week. They sent the petition along to Provost Joseph McDonnell before a meeting with Wachholz. At that time the petition had less than 50 signatures, but it has been growing online.
Dow transferred to USM from a Boston university for the criminology department and was assigned Wachholz as an advisor.
“I just fell in love with her immediately,” said Dow, noting that Wachholz would regularly set aside time for extended advising appointments.
Dow said the goal is to convince the administration to hire Wachholz in a vacant position in the school of social work, a program students feel she would fit into nicely.
Students majoring in physics, a program that faced potential elimination last fall, have also created an online petition to save Julie Ziffer, an assistant professor of physics who was retrenched.
According to students, Ziffer was set to teach the last class in a three class series on classical physics. All three are major-requirements, but students are worried that there will be too much work for the remaining professors to handle.
“If she’s not there in the spring to teach that class, I won’t be able to finish,” said
Deb Hilton, a transfer physics major. “I planned my life around the university’s schedule. They said, here are the classes you’re supposed to take, here’s the schedule, deal with it. I’ve been dealing with it, they’ve messed with it and now I’m basically screwed.”
Spring classes set to be taught by retrenched faculty are still on the schedule, but the instructor for each course is listed simply as ‘staff.’
According to Christopher Quint, the executive director of public affairs, the administration is still working out who will teach those courses, but that it’s likely to be remaining faculty in those programs or part-time hires.
Nick Anna, a transfer physics major, said that the lack of clarity in instructors is troubling.
“It’s indicative of a lack of planning by the administration,” said Anna. “If cuts are needed, they’re not doing it in an intelligent way.”
The petition to save Ziffer’s position is addressed to Governor Paul LePage, as well as the state house of representatives and senate.
“We know they [government officials] can’t come down here and say, let’s save this one professor at a university. We’re hoping this will get someone’s attention so we can tell them if they don’t invest in Maine’s universities and they don’t invest in students, they’re sending this state into an economic death spiral,” said Anna.
Anna said that a major in physics has been listed as one of the most lucrative degrees in many studies, and that making it difficult for students to graduate in the program is a disservice to the state.
Anna also said that with the increased workload the remaining faculty are likely to have, his job opportunities and chances to attend graduate school after graduation will diminish.
“Our ticket to grad school is research and assisting in research. These cuts will leave the professors no additional time for research, which means students aren’t researching, which means they aren’t getting admitted to grad school,” Anna said.
Overall, students described the retrenchment of faculty as confusing.
“There’s so much confusion about what they can and can’t do [with faculty contracts] and they [the administration] aren’t giving anyone time to dig through the details and know what’s actually happening,” said Alex Knight, a double major in math and physics.
Both the group of physics students and Dow said that they would continue to look into ways they can help their professors and that more information needed to be made public regarding the retrenchments.
“The most upsetting thing for us, the students and faculty at USM, is just not knowing what’s happening,” said Dow. “None of it makes sense and it’s difficult to take action as students when we don’t know the specifics or what’s going to happen next.”
By: Alex Huber
Bestselling biographer of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson spoke to students and faculty Wednesday evening as part of WEX’s leadership and creativity event series at Hannaford Hall in Portland.
This event was hosted by WEX, a firm specializing in corporate payment solutions.
Currently Isaacson is the president of the Aspen Institute, an organization centered around education and political studies. Isaacson’s lecture to the USM community was centered around the early days of computers and the internet. Isaacson’s focus was not on technology itself, but on the people who collaborated to make the internet into what it is today.
The great minds who invented the first computers and the internet were the subject of Isaacson’s lecture.
Isaacsons remarks stemmed from his recently published book: The Innovators: How a Group of Investors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. The book is a narrative of how the great minds at the forefront of computer science created the web, which is now vital to our society. Isaacson discussed which qualities allowed these innovators such as: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to make their ideas into reality.
According to Isaacson, one such quality was collaboration. Isaacson believes that the internet fosters collaboration because it allows people to connect and share ideas.
Speaking about his experiences with the early years of the web Isaacson said, “It dawned on me, I was part of a crowd. Just another member of the crowd, every now and then offering a tiny bit of wisdom I had…thats an example of the connection of humanities instinct to technology.”
While some see technology as a force that will make human ingenuity obsolete, Isaacson holds a different view.
“I don’t think it’s always been that fruitful to try to pursue the holy grail of replacing humans with machines, instead we should follow the vision of making our technology more closely connected with us,” said Isaacson.
Isaacson said that the internet brings people together.
“It was community, it was about bringing people together. It’s about being on bulletin boards, chats rooms and auditoriums; virtual communities,” said Isaacson.
However the web is not a perfect system. Isaacson pointed out some mistakes with internet culture and said, “We mixed up being free with being ad supported.”
What Isaacson considers worse than ads is how the internet lost its sense of community. Isaacson doesn’t think that the comments should be stuck on the bottom of the page.
“Put the humanity back in the internet,” said Isaacson.
The proceeds of this event have gone to the WEX Scholarship Fund at USM. The fund benefits students who seek to work in fields involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
By: Annie Quandt
USM is on a track to sustainability.
Tyler Kidder, assistant director for sustainable programs and a member of facilities management is part of a team putting together a plan to set temperatures back during the non-work hours in the largest academic buildings, which will essentially save on heating fuel and put USM on an eco-friendly path.
“Here at USM we have a lot of very old buildings so saving heating costs is tricky,” said Kidder. “Luckily we now have a digital web-based building automated system which allows us to remotely set temperatures for day and night.”
Steve Sweeney, the resource recovery supervisor who is in charge of recycling and facilities management believes that if we consolidated all the winter session courses into one building, the university could save a lot on heating costs. Sweeney said that there usually aren’t many winter session courses offered.
Kidder commented on the idea of consolidation, saying it’s a great idea but requires that the registrar, space and scheduling, custodial, conferences, facilities and student affairs all work together.
“That’s an impressive list of busy people and so far there hasn’t been anyone taking the lead on this,” said Kidder. “But it is totally possible and a very simple way to save money on cleaning, electricity and heating costs.”
Kidder said she is interested in the prospect of communal commuters.
“I am very interested in seeing many more alternative transportation models being made available and accessible to our students, including an effective ride sharing website for cyclists, better deals on the public bus and more options for travel from the Gorham campus like car share and a bike share on the Portland campus,” said Kidder. “These initiatives take time and money to develop, but USM has been making progress toward better transportation connections and options for students over the last few years.”
Kidder also mentioned the prevalence of cost-saving measures not just in the winter months but all year round.
“At USM we have a lot of spaces that are overlit, but I’m not sure it’s the students responsibility to turn off the lights. We could all be doing better by not demanding air conditioning in offices, dressing more seasonally appropriately,like wearing a nice sweater in the winter instead of cranking the thermostat, turning off all the lights when not in use, not opening windows in the winter and more,” said Kidder. “Often, however, energy concerns and comfort conflict, and you can’t blame someone for trying to get comfortable!”
Sweeney noted that it seems like staff are really taking the initiative on recycling.
“Our staff recycles around 70-75 percent, whereas students only recycle around 25 percent,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney added that business and sustainability efforts help keep tuition down.
“Three years ago our recycle rate was 34 percent, our net annual waste cost was $58,000; the following year our recycling waste went to 46 percent and the cost reduced to $38,000,” said Sweeney. “Last year, our cost went down to $24,000. Right now, we’re running at about 60-61 percent recycling, and we’ll be running at about $14,000.”
Sweeney stressed that taking care of the environment can save a ton of money, on both an individual, community and university-based perspective.
Kidder said that if students want to reduce their waste, they should simply start by using less.
“Get a power strip in your dorm room or apartment and plug all your computers, chargers and peripherals (printer, speakers, etc) into it,” said Kidder. “Turn it off when you leave everytime. All of these electronics use a ton of power even when they’re not turned on. You’ll notice a difference in your electricity bill.”
Kidder said sustainability can be for everyone from all walks of life.
“I do think we need to regard sustainability and climate change not as political movements or mind-sets but instead as social concerns which unite, not divide us,” said Kidder. Being politically conservative and caring about the environment are not mutually exclusive.”
Kidder added that institutional sustainability nearly always saves money and makes for healthier and non-toxic places to work and learn.
“I fear that people put sustainability efforts into a box that is separate from the rest of their lives instead of embracing them as something in which we can all participate in,” said Kidder. “We all can and should understand sustainability as something beneficial.”
In the wake of a deadly house fire, the cause of which is still a mystery, several fundraising efforts have been started by community members mourning the loss of the six people who perished in the blaze.
According to Jerome LaMoria, Portland’s police chief, David Bragdon Jr., Ashley Thomas, Maelisha Jackson, Chris Conlee and Nicole Finlay all died on Noyes St. from smoke inhalation. The sixth victim, Steven Summers, died of his injuries in a Boston Hospital three days after the fire.
The Noyes St. tragedy, which is the deadliest house fire Portland has seen in 40 years, has unleashed a wave of grief, shock and reflection throughout the Portland community.
According to the Press Herald, Nathan Long, a tenant of Noyes St. escaped the fire with USM student Kyle Bozeman, by breaking a window and jumping from the second floor.
Long, still wearing borrowed clothing and shaking from shock told the Press Herald, “I feel numb.”
Long wrote on his Facebook page the day of the fire, “The smoke was so intense, and coming so fast. The fact that I didn’t have one minute to kick in the doors and save you will eat at me for the rest of my life.” Long referred to Bragdon Jr.,Thomas and Finlay, as “his family.” The three other victims were visitors to the house after a party was held Halloween night.
Bozeman and Nick Marketta, another USM survivor, declined making comments about the harrowing experience to the press because they “needed space to process.”
The survivor’s social media pages were flooded with messages of condolence, support and absolute shock. Many people also expressed immense gratitude that the survivors made it out safely. Bozeman received messages from tens of people that were all just relieved to learn of his safety.
Bozeman kept a positive dialogue going by thanking everybody for their support and good wishes and joined them in their grief over the six perished victims.
“I am beyond lucky to be alive,” wrote Bozeman. “You [referring to Bragdon, Thomas and Finlay] were more than just my roommates. You were my family. I had at least one angel looking over me. Now I’ve got three.”
Shannon Thompson, a Portland local, wrote on Long’s Facebook wall, “I am one of many people who are thinking of you and hoping you can somehow find peace with the loss of your friends.”
Through extensive posts about it on social media, and numerous mentions about it on the street, the Noyes St. tragedy has struck a deep chord in the Portland community beyond the immediate friends and family.
Eli Hubble a friend and co-worker of Bragdon at the Great Lost Bear, said that the entire community suffered a loss with this fire. Hubble said that Bragdon and Finlay brought nothing but joy to the world.
“Dave always had a smile on his face,” said Hubble. “I’ve never met anyone as happy and loving.”
Dustin Saucier, a local musician who’ll be playing in honor of the deceased at a fundraising event at the Space for Grace community center, described Bragdon as “a really nice guy.”
“I was completely shocked to hear what happened,” said Saucier. “I remember I kept thinking over and over again, ‘please let Dave be ok.’”
April Quebedeaux, a Portland local, was friends with three of the deceased and is still having trouble processing what happened.
“They were beautiful people,” said Quebedeaux. “I feel like there’s got to be some way to bring them back and then I realize I can’t. All I can do is hold on to all our beautiful memories.”
Quebedeaux said that she spent a good portion of one day last week sitting across the street from the Noyes St. house and staring at the burnt ruin.
“It was like my eyes were playing tricks on me,” said Quebedeaux. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
President Barack Obama stirred and energized a crowd of 3,000 people at the Portland Expo on Thursday, endorsing Mike Michaud in Maine’s gubernatorial race just five days before elections.
Obama cited Michaud’s roots and dedication to the average Mainer as reasons for voters to check his box in the booth on Tuesday.
“He ran for the state legislature not because he wanted to be someone but because he wanted to do something, he wanted to fight for something,” said Obama, headlining other speakers from the democratic party. “Mike’s been fighting ever since for ordinary Mainers because that’s who he is.”
According to polls released by Bangor Daily News last week, Michaud will be battling incumbent Governor Paul LePage vote-for-vote on election day, with both of them polling near 42 percent with Maine voters.
Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who has been polling far behind, told supporters last week to vote for other candidates, but did not endorse LePage or Michaud directly. That same day, U.S. Senator Angus King changed his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud, noting he was a more realistic choice at this point in the race.
“You have a chance to choose a governor who puts you first,” Obama said.
Michaud spoke on recent polling, telling the audience that they could sway the election’s results simply by talking to their friends and family about voting and knocking on a door or two.
“What we do over the next five days will have a profound impact in the lives of thousands of Mainers. We are being held back by one person and one person only,” said Michaud, referring to LePage and speaking directly before Obama.
“You are all here today because, like me, you are not satisfied with what you’ve seen over the past four years,” said Michaud. “This is your state. You know we can do better and we must do better. This is your state and in five days you can take it back.”
Obama noted that Maine’s last gubernatorial race was just as tight as this year’s and stressed that just a small number of people can make a difference on election day.
“Four years ago, republicans won the governor’s race in Maine by less than 18 votes per precinct,” he said. “18 votes. Those 18 votes could be the difference between an economy that works for everybody or just for some.”
“Mike’s got a different vision for what the future holds and I think you do too,” said Obama. “In America, prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top. We build ladders for people to get into the middle class. We think the economy works best when it works for the many, not for the few. That’s Mike’s experience. That’s his life.”
Former Maine Senator George Mitchell also endorsed Michaud and spoke on his Maine roots as well, after speaking on the victories of the democratic party throughout history, such as creating Social Security, expanding voting rights and continuing to fight for women.
“Mike Michaud will never forget his roots as a working class man from the town of East Millinocket,” Mitchell said. “He respects others, he listens to people including those who disagree with him. He will never insult or look down on anyone else regardless of their circumstance.”
Both Obama and Michaud encouraged the crowd to go out of their way during the weekend to talk to everyone they knew about voting.
“If you’ve come to this rally, you’re probably going to vote,” said Obama. “You can’t stop at voting, you’ve got to get involved. Talk to your neighbors and knock on some doors for Mike.”
Toward the end of his 27-minute speech, Obama returned to themes of hope that he regularly used during his own campaign speeches, campaigns he says he’ll miss after his second presidential term expires. He urged the crowd to vote for Maine’s future and a hard working candidate instead of succumbing to political cynicism.
“Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon,” Obama said. “Cynicism has never ended a war, or cured disease, or built a business or taught a young mind … Hope is what built America. Show that you still have hope, and go out there and vote on Nov. 4.”
Part of the administration’s rationale behind the elimination of the applied medical sciences program was that the major didn’t benefit other programs in the school. According to official census data taken on Oct. 15, 2014, this is not the case.
“In applied medical sciences there are 106 students, total, enrolled in a course in the AMS graduate programs,” said Christopher Quint, director of public relations. “Of those 106, 16 are AMS graduate students and 90 — combination of graduate and undergraduate — are non-AMS graduate students taking a course in the AMS graduate program in the fall 2014 semester.”
In other words, 85% of students taking classes in the AMS program are enrolled in different majors throughout the university.
Tristan Glenn, a student enrolled in the program’s immunology course working on his medical school prerequisites, described the program elimination as being terrible.
“[Applied medical sciences are] so incredibly important, given the time we’re in, with so many new diseases, threats of biological warfare, antibiotic resistance and all that,” said Glenn. “The thought that this subject, in particular, is being considered unimportant seems very myopic to me.”
Glenn also worries about the future of students like him, who wish to pursue medicine as a career.
“If USM makes these classes unavailable to people who do want to pursue a career of medicine, I don’t know where we’re going to go,” said Glenn. “I could go to UNE [University of New England], but it’s way too expensive.”
Glenn explained that, with the elimination of these programs, Maine is being left in a “bind.”
“It’s a fundamental disservice to Maine on an economic and social level,” Glenn said.
Allison Gray, a family nurse practitioner major and part time faculty member, attends classes in two of the five programs slashed in the past two months: applied medical sciences and American and New England studies.
“I have found them both to be so fundamental and enriching that it is beyond disappointing to me that it’s just an across the board cut, instead of how we could look at cross listing,” said Gray.
Gray finds it disappointing that nobody has asked the question “Would you, as a future medical professional, find these courses beneficial?”
“The immunology class I’m taking will completely affect how I practice as a provider,” said Gray. “Even my New England studies class, it’s totally outside what I normally do, but I have to say that even that course has affected me so much that I put in to try to work at the Indian Health Service for my clinicals because I was so moved by the information I gathered in the course.”
Gray believes that much of this could have been avoided or decisions could have been made in a less inflammatory way had there been consultation with students and faculty prior to making the decision.
“They’re teaching major things. They’re looking at vaccinations and preventing cancer and organ transplants,” said Gray. “These are important topics. It’s just disappointing that they [administration and board of trustees] don’t see the value of trying to make that work.”
According to Ah-Kau Ng, professor of immunology, classes are also used by students outside the university at different campuses, as well as by undergraduate students looking to be trained in the laboratory setting.
“The quality of their education depends on these experiences,” said Ng. “They’re very helpful to make them more competitive when they apply for jobs. Students are losing this opportunity.”
Still, faculty and students plan to continue to fight for the department. In meetings to come, S. Monroe Duboise, associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology, plans to have both AFUM representation and legal representation, for both the students and faculty.
Professors in the program received their official retrenchment letters last Wednesday, sent directly to their homes via express mail at over $18 each.
“That would’ve bought a lot of coffee to have a lot of productive and constructive conversations over the past few months,” said Duboise. “But they didn’t choose to take that approach. They chose to attack.”
According to Duboise, this elimination is unprecedented in the academic world and “way outside” the range of ethical norms.
“It’s all a team effort and they’re essentially attacking us. It seems to be their intent. I think [President David] Flanagan enjoys this, and maybe some other people do too,” said Duboise. “It seems quite sadistic from where I sit.”
Last week 24 faculty members were notified that they would be losing their jobs in an administrative effort to balance USM’s budget and address its $16 million deficit.
These retrenchments are the second phase of the administration’s plan to reduce faculty costs, the first phase resulting in 25 faculty opting for early retirements with increased incentives. Targeted faculty received letters regarding their retrenchment, as their contracts require, and phone calls from deans of the college offering one-on-one meetings on their termination.
These phone calls were meant to connect retrenched faculty with deans for support and discussion following notification of layoffs but one dean went too far, reading an entire script meant to be looked over during meetings in a voicemail to some faculty, leaving some with the details of their job loss waiting for them on their office phones the next morning.
“I was fired by voicemail,” said Paul Christiansen, associate professor of music history, at a press conference held by anti-administration groups last Wednesday. “This is pathetic.”
Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, would not name the dean who made those calls, but said that it was a mistake. The script had been put together for one-on-one meetings if faculty chose to speak with the deans and not as a method for faculty to learn of their retrenchment.
“It was never our intention for that to happen and is definitely not a USM practice,” said Quint. “We are embarrassed and disappointed that it happened.”
Meeting with retrenched faculty is not a requirement but simply a good human resources practice to make sure affected faculty are supported. Faculty could either accept or decline meeting individually.
Last spring, when the administration announced the retrenchment of 12 faculty, professors were required to go directly to the Provost’s office to receive their letters one at a time, which resulted in a full day of student protests at the law building.
“This university is just a pathetic shadow of what a university should be,” said Susan Feiner, professor of economics and women and gender studies, at the press conference.
“This school doesn’t have any idea how students in some of these majors are going to graduate. They don’t have the faculty to teach some of the core classes and they don’t have the faculty because they were fired,” Feiner said.
Most of the retrenched faculty will leave at the end of the fall semester, while a handful will stay until the end of the academic year, as per their individual contracts. Spring classes set to be taught by faculty who will no longer work here are still included in the online course guide on MaineStreet, but the instructor is simply listed as “staff.”
Quint says the administration is still figuring out how those classes will be taught but that it will likely be a combination of part-time lecturers, adjunct faculty and remaining faculty in the programs that will help pick up the slack – a direct violation of the AFUM contract. Full-time faculty cannot be replaced with adjuncts in this way.
The administration has been regularly criticized by groups of faculty and students, most directly involved with programs that have been eliminated this year, for lack of leadership and a lack of vision for what USM is supposed to look like in the future.
Quint pointed out that the administrative leadership is brand new and has been forced to hit the ground running. President David Flanagan was appointed in August, Provost Joseph McDonnell in September and Quint shortly afterward.
“We don’t like having to cut back and it’s difficult to let people go who have been here for so long, but it’s what we’ve been tasked to do and what we have to do,” said Quint.
Rachel Bouvier, an associate professor of economics who was slated to be retrenched last spring, has received notice of her termination again. Near tears, she described the situation as “heart-breaking” at the press conference.
“You’ve told me wonderful stories about what I’ve meant to you, your experiences at USM and what the economics department has meant to you,” she said to students. “You need to tell your stories to the legislators. You need to tell them that your education is not just about a diploma, that it’s not just about a degree. Your education goes deeper than that.”
“You need to step up,” she said, “Not for me, but for you and your education.”