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.
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.
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.”
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.
The Student Senate spent more time discussing a proposal to fund a shark fishing expedition than any other item on their agenda or topic brought up, including USM’s budget deficit, program eliminations and senate attendance and recruitment issues.
The proposal, which was brought to the senate by Chris Wagner, a student leader in the veteran student organization, asked the senate to approve $2,400 in funding to bring disabled student veterans fishing for sharks.
The proposal was eventually passed, but only after nearly half an hour of debate on the topic. There was confusion over who would be benefitting from the event and why Wagner had not brought the proposal to the Board of Student Organizations in his VSO capacity, instead of coming to the senate as an individual. Some senators were concerned that the funding would only benefit students already involved in a group that has access to funding, but Wagner explained that he didn’t know who would attend yet.
“I’m coming here as a member of the veteran community, not as a student involved in the VSO or BSO,” said Wagner. “There are over 500 veterans at USM, so any of them could join the trip.”
There was a lot of miscommunication during discussion of the proposal, and Wagner did not seem to understand that the senate was asking him to explain why the proposal was not sponsored by the VSO. This led to multiple arguments over semantics as Wagner admitted he was becoming frustrated with the discussion.
Joshua Dodge, the senate chair, told Wagner to refrain from using the term “third annual” to describe the trip because it implied the senate had to fund it and that it was already in process.
Discussion became heated and Kyle Frazier, the student body president, explained that he felt it was unfair that the senate was asking Wagner for details over and over again.
“He doesn’t know who’s going to go yet. There are 500 veterans and other students who could go on this trip, so to accuse him of not putting it through as a VSO group or through another BSO group, I don’t think it’s fair,” said Frazier. “He truly does not know if those students [who would attend the trip] are in those student groups.”
Frazier went on to remind the senate what their charge was during meetings.
“You are not here to send people to the BSO. You are here to be the Student Senate,” said Frazier. “When people put in a proposal you either approve it or deny it.”
Dodge said that he did not appreciate Frazier’s tone or that he was “talking down” to the senate.
According to Judson Cease, the senate vice chair, the senators were merely being as thorough as the senate’s finance committee would’ve been if they had seen the proposal. The financial committee did not screen Wagner’s proposal because members of that committee have been unable to participate in senate business due to other obligations.
The proposal went to a vote and was approved by most senators.
Because of the amount of time spent on the proposal, the senate pushed other concerns to their next meeting, including deciding what their procedures for new senator’s appointments should be and discussing the need for senators to display a professional attitude in the community, which has been on the agenda for two meetings now.
Earlier in the meeting, Alex Greenlee, the undergraduate representative to the board of trustees, informed the senate of multiple issues that will be facing the BoT during their meeting on Monday, which includes the elimination of three USM programs and the possible sale of the Stone House, which houses USM’s MFA in creative writing program.
Last year, the student senate cast a vote of no confidence in former USM President Theodora Kalikow and her council amidst faculty retrenchments when the programs were originally slated for elimination and sent a resolution explaining their decision to the BoT. Greenlee offered the senate a chance to weigh in on the issue again, as the eliminations will likely be finalized on Monday.
“If you’re at all interested and would like to send up your comments on the decisions that they have made in picking these three programs for elimination, I would be more than happy to read anything you have to say into the minutes so your case can be made,” said Greenlee.
Greenlee suggested that the senate talk about a resolution during their meeting last week, but they did not. The only question raised about the eliminations came from Senator Elizabeth Martin, who asked Greenlee to clarify which programs he was talking about.
Alright so the Youtube violinist Lindsey Sterling’s second studio album Shattered Me is certainly not a new release, but it is to me. In fact I just discovered all of Sterling’s electric dance numbers and beautiful video game covers for the first time and I can’t get enough. Her haunting string notes and energetic beats has led to an instant follow on Spotify and maybe even a bit of a crush.
The USM police department currently has four M16 assault rifles locked up in their armory that they received from the U.S. Department of Defense back in 2007.
The guns were loaned to USM as part of a military surplus initiative, known as the 1033 program, that had weapons and equipment delivered to at least 117 colleges across the nation. Equipment that was loaned to colleges included ordinary things like medical supplies and men’s trousers, but some schools like the University of Central Florida received grenade launchers and one armored truck. USM’s Police Chief Kevin Conger said that he was given the option to request more equipment through the program, but he opted out.
“We’re not planning on being any more militarily armed than we are already,” said Conger. “I think we’re as prepared as we need to be.”
According to Conger, the program helped USM’s limited police budget as they only had to pay for the shipping of the weapons. However as the guns are on loan, they have to be surrendered to the government at any request and are “regularly checked on.”
“It saves us money,” said Conger. “It basically gives us the tools to be used in a situation where we have to protect our community, where a handgun may not always be effective.”
Conger said that he was referring to “worst case scenario” situations such as an active shooter on campus. Police at USM have never deployed the weapons since they’ve received them.
“We hopefully will never have to use them,” Conger said. Portland is the largest city in the state and Conger believes it’s just better to be prepared in case the “unthinkable” happens.
“I think you will realize that no place is exempt from these [school shootings] tragedies and see the need for everyone to be prepared,” said Conger.
According to Conger, the guns have been retrofitted for civilian use by a semi-automatic modification.
While assault rifles on campus are meant to provide USM’s police with another tool in case they need it, some students feel a bit uneasy about their presence.
Courtney Pomerleau, a senior theater major, describes the loaning of military weapons as “scare tactics” and would prefer if campus police used the program to acquire things like armor, furniture and medical supplies.
“The program itself is alright,” said Pomerleau. “I don’t feel comfortable with these weapons being on campus, and I foresee feeling even more uncomfortable if I see them in person.”
Andrew N, a former USM student who wished to have his last name remain anonymous, said that he’s concerned whether USM’s police force is properly trained with the weapons, and wonders if there are actual tangible justifications for having military-grade assault weapons.
“It just seems extreme and unwarranted,” said Andrew N. “The image of an assault rifle on campus sets a precedent that’s hostile regardless of who’s holding it. I just think it’s the wrong message to be sending and cultivating at a place of education.”
Conger couldn’t reveal which campus the rifles were stored in, for security reasons, but stressed that in the event of an emergency, they would be made available when necessary.
The deadline to apply to be USM’s new undergraduate representative to the board of trustees is being pushed back a week because there has only been one applicant.
The deadline was supposed to be this Monday, but according to Kyle Frazier, the student body president, the student government hasn’t received any application requests as of Wednesday and decided to extend it.
“Not only were there no applicants, but there were no students even remotely interested until today,” said Frazier in an interview last Wednesday. Frazier received one email regarding the position, but it was someone asking for more information about the job, not an applicant.
According to Joshua Dodge, the chair of the student senate, the executive board received an application on Friday, so there will be someone to interview, but that they’d like to have more candidates to choose from.
“We need to find a number of strong applicants to choose from for the position, and we need to pick someone who will be willing to do a lot of hard work,” said Alex Greenlee, the current undergraduate BoT representative, at last week’s Student Senate meeting.
The representative would be tasked with representing the interests of the undergraduate student body at Board of Trustees meetings and working with USM leadership to address system-level issues. There is an annual stipend of $3,000 that comes with the position and any travel expenses are covered as well.
The position requires a two-year commitment, something that both Greenlee and Frazier have said might be a deterrent for those interested.
“I think it’s difficult to get someone who can commit for two years, so we need to talk to as many people as possible to increase the chances of finding someone willing to put in the work,” said Greenlee.
“A lot of the students who might be interested in the position are juniors and seniors right now, when they really need a freshman or sophomore with the time to commit,” said Frazier. “That’s a big job for a younger student to commit to though.”
Frazier said that, with the help of the Student Senate, he would be working this week to make the details of the position more known to students. A mass email was sent out last week to students, but yielded no results, so they’re aiming to table and post fliers around campus to lure in applicants.
“We’re going to liven-up the search and get more people publically talking about it,” said Frazier. “Hopefully we can find someone by next week.”
Frazier and Dodge both said they did not know what the procedure was if the senate cannot find a candidate for the position.
The three USM programs up for elimination, to be voted on Monday, Sept. 22 at the Board of Trustees meeting in Fort Kent, do not yet have a plan for students to finish their degrees, if it passes.
According to Kent Ryden, director and professor of American and New England studies, administration has not given much direction about what the future will hold, specifically for students.
“Everything is pretty much up in the air and despite asking for guidance and more information, if only so I can tell our students what their futures may look like, I haven’t been getting much,” Ryden said.
The same was true for Professor and Chair of Geosciences, Stephen Pollock, who has only had a conversation with James Graves, dean of the college of science, technology and health. According to Pollock, the conversation was brief and established that in the spring semester courses will be offered as they have been in the past, following a multi-course plan that’s been in place for years.
Still, upper level administration has remained silent.
“They [administrators] haven’t even talked to us about what will happen after, basically, October,” said Pollock. “We’ve had no direct communication with anyone in administration.”
Ryden explained that, as he understands it, currently enrolled students will be allowed a four-year window in which to finish their degree programs. He suspects that if the program is eliminated, the two full-time faculty, he and Professor Ardis Cameron, will be retrenched at the end of the fall semester.
“I don’t really know who would be teaching courses that students would need to finish their degree programs,” said Ryden. “Let alone, who would advise on theses and independent studies.”
Ryden explained that representatives from the dean’s office and provost’s office have said that they will, in collaboration, develop a teach-out plan.
“Nobody has given me any sense of what such a plan would look like, what courses students would have available to them, who would teach the courses or anything like that,” Ryden said.
“You can put the courses on the books, but you don’t have anybody to teach them,” Pollock said.
Ryden doesn’t think the administration has given much thought to what the future will hold for students.
“You’d think developing a teach-out plan would be part of developing a program elimination proposal, but that didn’t happen,” said Ryden. “It’s been more a matter of, ‘Well, let’s eliminate the program then figure out what to do.’”
Christopher Quint, executive director in the office of public affairs, explained that they are now working on a plan for students.
“We have an obligation,and commitment to our students to assure that they can graduate in their chosen major,” said Quint. “The provost and deans have initiated a process for developing a plan, now, to ensure that those students enrolled in one of the three programs being proposed for elimination to the Board of Trustees on Sept. 22 will be able to continue their programs and receive their degrees in a timely manner.”
Ryden does admit that it is possible to offer some courses, as faculty in the past have taught for the program.
“This would require the interest and permission of their home departments and getting the administrators to sign off on the whole plan. So it can be done,” said Ryden. “The faculty resources and curricular resources are here, it’s just that nobody has yet sat down with me to actually formulate the plan, any kind of a plan. The attitude’s been more of wait until after the voters [Board of Trustees] take it.”
Both Pollock and Ryden agree that the eliminations are not necessary and urge the Board of Trustees to vote against the eliminations.
“It’s very disappointing to me that in this elimination proposal process, so little thought has been given to the students and their welfare and their peace of mind, their ability to be assured that they’ll be able to finish a good program in a timely way,” said Ryden. “The discussion has been all about eliminating the degree program, but it’s disappointing and baffling to me that administration has evidently given so little thought to how the degree program will be taught out in the absence of its full-time faculty.”
According to Pollock, it didn’t have to come to this, and it still doesn’t have to be this way.
“There are alternate approaches to saving money without terminating these programs,” said Pollock. “This is going to be a major loss for the university, and I think it’s going to take USM years to recover.”