The laws and regulations concerning marijuana are complex and have been for many years. Last fall, the city of Portland legalized marijuana for recreational use, but individuals caught for possession of can still be issued a citation because of state and federal laws.
According to Bobby Lewis, a membership assistant at the Marijuana Policy Project based in Washington, D.C., which works on changing laws for adults to consume marijuana safely and legally, marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – as well as the city of Portland.
“Nationwide, more Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year than for all violent crimes combined,” said Lewis. “The statistics gathered indicate that a marijuana user is arrested every 48 seconds just for possessing marijuana.”
Statewide, the legality of marijuana changes depending on where you smoke it. In Maine, smoking marijuana anywhere except Portland is against the law. In Portland, adults can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but according to the Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, officers will continue to enforce state law that makes possession of up to 2.5 ounces a civil violation.
“I would simply suggest that people do not possess marijuana in Portland at all. I would suggest not to even take the risk,” said Sauschuck. “The state law says don’t possess marijuana and although it’s legal locally,federal law supersedes state law and state supersedes local ordinances. I would hate to see anyone confused because they don’t know the real case.”
Even though marijuana is legal in Portland, charges can vary depending on the situation. A USM student who preferred to stay anonymous explained that although marijuana was legalized in Portland, he doesn’t fully understand the legality because you can still get in trouble for smoking it.
“I know that technically it is illegal under federal law,” he said. “If you were caught smoking by police I think it would probably be up to the officer that caught you on whether or not you would get in trouble.”
Regardless of the change in city laws, the use and possession of marijuana is still illegal at USM. According to Dean of Students Joy Pufhal, the legal possession of marijuana (this includes the legal amount for Portland and medical marijuana) on campus could result in a civil summons. She explained that there is no change in marijuana use on campus since Portland changed its laws because the federal law has not changed. If USM violated the Drug Free Schools Act, the institution would be at risk of losing all federal financial aid dollars.
“A student held responsible for possession of a small usable amount of marijuana on campus would generally be placed on a housing contact probation,” said Pufhal. “Any future marijuana violation during their time at USM would be putting their housing and ability to continue as a student in jeopardy.”
With all of these laws that have been put into place, many students have differing opinions on the legalization of marijuana. A survey conducted by the Free Press asked 300 students their opinions on the legality of marijuana. 42.3 percent of students wrote that they smoke marijuana, and 34 percent had done so on campus. Data from USM’s police logs show that out of the 97 marijuana odors that were reported on campus, 39 of those were for Upton Hasting.
Another anonymous USM student explained that the use of marijuana should be legal, but only for adults 18 and older. She explained that with the legalization of marijuana, individuals would have the opportunity to see what it actually does for the body and mind.
“I am currently on medications for a major depressive disorder, but the side effects of them leave me with no appetite and no sexual drive,” she said. “These side effects get better with my smoking of marijuana. I completely, 100 percent support the legalization of this drug.”
A senior mathematics major, who would prefer to stay anonymous, said that although it’s possible to get addicted to marijuana, the relaxing effects of the drug make for a much safer experience than someone who indulges in heavy drinking or smokes cigarettes for a long time.
“The World Health Organization has estimated that over 100 million deaths in the 20th century were attributed to tobacco smoking,” he said.. “Zero deaths have been attributed to marijuana smoking alone in the 20th century. So I believe it should be legalized.”
Despite an outlaw image and often confusing legal status, marijuana is becoming widely accepted as having many medicinal benefits. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 77 percent of Americans approve of marijuana for medical purposes. Patients across the country are choosing cannabis over traditional opiates to treat the symptoms of conditions like cancer, alzheimer’s and glaucoma.
In Maine, the medical marijuana industry is thriving, as doctors like James Li in Damariscotta are writing prescriptions for approved patients to stop in at one of the state’s eight dispensaries to pick up a bag, vial or edible of marijuana product. But according to Dr. Li, there are people that try to abuse the system by exaggerating their self diagnoses, in hopes of acquiring a means to a legal high.
“From screening people, I’ve seen people looking around for something that will give them legal standing to use it [marijuana] recreationally,” said Li. “I make very certain to only prescribe it to the people that really need it.”
According to Dr. Li, Maine has a fairly conservative list of 14 conditions that qualify for a prescription of marijuana, including cancer, AIDs, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma and inflammatory bowel syndrome. Maine has purposely excluded the clinically ambiguous anxiety and depression from the list, but one subjective condition remains that provides the avenue for the most rule-bending: pain.
“Anyone can walk into the office and say ‘hey doctor, I’ve got pain,’ and a less scrupulous doctor might hand them a prescription,” said Li. “It’s like an open reason for someone who wants to use marijuana recreationally.”
Like many marijuana doctors, Dr. Li follows strict guidelines to make sure this doesn’t happen, including asking for proof that the patient has been in pain for at least 6 months and that they’ve unsuccessfully tried other forms of treatment.
“If somebody comes in under the age of 30, they have to have a pretty compelling reason for wanting marijuana, because we want to make sure we’re doing more good than harm,” said Li referring to the negative effects marijuana has on cognitive function in adolescents. “It’s pretty obvious to tell which people are serious.”
“People will find loopholes and ways to exploit the program, it’s inevitable, said Rachel Gates, a junior communications major. “But I think by legalizing marijuana, there would no longer be any need to abuse the program.”
On top of having to show a tremendous need to use marijuana and its 400 individual chemicals as a pain reliever, potential patients also need to have a record free of criminal drug offenses.
Out of 300 USM students surveyed, 265 said they’re aware that marijuana has positive, medicinal qualities. Jordan Leathers, a former biochemistry major, has a marijuana prescription and uses it to ease chronic pain he still feels after an injury he sustained a year ago.
“It alleviates my back pain tremendously,” said Leathers. “I take about an eyedropper of CBD oil and it numbs the pain to the point where I can’t even feel it. You can get wicked medicated.”
Leathers is legally able to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on his person and cannot be denied employment, housing or education because he smokes marijuana.
Gates has a friend that also suffers from a bad back.
“She sees a chiropractor, which definitely helps her alignment, but ultimately she finds that smoking medical marijuana enables her body, mind and spirit to relax,” said Gates. “And relaxation is absolutely everything.”
Portlander Erin (who wishes to keep her last name anonymous) supports the legalization of marijuana both medically and recreationally, occasionally smoking it herself. Erin said she enjoys seeing the positive effects that marijuana has on her close friend who is fighting throat cancer.
“I think that pot gets a bad rep,” said Erin. “Many people use it to effectively help with many health problems. Considering the opiate epidemic going on in our state, I think that marijuana is pretty tame in comparison.”
“It has amazing health benefits, especially for seizure disorders. I hate the stigma surrounding pot,” wrote an anonymous student on the Free Press marijuana survey.
One of the 34 students who wrote on the survey that marijuana has no medicinal benefits was Isabelle Alenus-Crosby. According to Crosby, marijuana is harmful to both kids and adolescents and can lead to both psychosis and schizophrenia. She also believes that the medical industry is vulnerable to people looking to score some legal bud.
“I know a lot of people who make up pain in order to get legal marijuana,” said Crosby. “They think it makes them cool and popular. However, when I suffered from melanomas I was given regular painkillers which did the trick.”
Dr. Li spoke out against the use of traditional painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet, saying that nowadays we’ve been marketed to use them too much and they can often have fatal side effects.
Li said that he works primarily in the ER and that he’s seen so much death and dying from inadvertent overdoses on opiates. After prescribing patients marijuana, the positive transformation on their health, demeanor and well being was described by him as amazing.
“After they were off their opiates and all their prescription pain medications, I didn’t recognize them; it was remarkable,” said Li. “They began to look and function normally again. I used to be a big skeptic, but then I saw a good proportion of those people found so much relief from medical marijuana that it changed their life.”
With marijuana legal for medical use in 23 states and legal recreationally in four, it’s clear that the mind-altering plant is gaining support across the country. Out of 300 students polled at USM, 249 said that they think marijuana should be legalized nationwide. However, a lack of reliable knowledge surrounding the substance and its illegal status in some states contribute to a lingering social stigma. Anonymous survey takers cited everything from a bad odor, addictive qualities and facilitating a culture of laziness as reasons why they’ve never sparked up some ganja.
There are many common stereotypes that plague the average marijuana user. Pot tokers are often labelled as “stoners” who have trouble holding a job, sport a five-word vocabulary and are absolute slaves to the munchies, ingesting junk food at a nausea-inducing pace. Other stereotypes group smokers as long-haired hippies that wear tie dye shirts, listen to reggae and are in a constant state of confusion. Perhaps most detrimental to marijuana’s image, and most untrue, is the notion that it can be fatal to those who smoke, vape or ingest it.
But for Jordan Leathers, a former biochemistry major and medical marijuana patient, smoking pot is more than just a way to relax; it alleviates his chronic back pain. He said pot stereotypes are annoying, because the plant has so many benefits and misinformation deteriorates its reputation.
“I know it’s still being taught in some places down south that it’s like meth or something, like it can kill you,” said Leathers.“I wouldn’t call it a drug, it’s just a plant.”
As marijuana becomes more socially acceptable, these stereotypes are becoming further and further from the truth. Plenty of hardworking Americans enjoy a joint every once in a while, so Leathers doesn’t think it’s fair to label all “stoners” as lazy.
Outside of the medical marijuana community, opinions differ.
“People I’ve known in high school and college who smoked regularly didn’t care as much about their studies or getting a step ahead in life,” wrote one survey respondent. “It was tough to see intelligent, driven friends have their grades drop or drop out completely because they just didn’t care anymore. I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, but it can have a similar level of impact on a person’s life.”
Opponents of marijuana and the culture it fosters often point to studies that show that long-term use has a negative effect on memory, motivation and cognitive function. Other people shy away from cannabis for the same reasons they do cigarettes: no matter what you’re smoking, it’s harmful to inhale the effects of combustion into your lungs.
Isabelle Crosby, an undeclared sophomore, is of this opinion and prefers relaxing with the occasional alcoholic drink instead. Crosby considers marijuana to be a “gateway drug,” or one that sparks curiosity within some to try harder and more dangerous substances.
“I have seen people go rapidly from marijuana to class A drugs,” said Crosby. “Friends of mine dropped out as a result and probably ruined their lives.”
“Marijuana doesn’t cause a physical addiction like other drugs do,” explained James Li, a medical marijuana doctor based in Damariscotta. “From a doctor’s standpoint, it doesn’t even come close, danger-wise to the substances we’ve already legalized. People are prone to judge others that seek mind altering experiences.”
Rowan Watson, a junior biology major, has never tried marijuana and has no interest in ever trying it, but doesn’t demonize its users or legalization efforts. Watson said that the main reasons he avoids the substance is because it’s illegal and it smells bad, but beyond that, he’s got no problem with it.
“The fact that it is already illegal influences people’s opinions on legalizing it,” said Watson. “Instead of seeing it as a potential to do great amounts of good, people remain willfully ignorant of its potential and even its effects because they see it only as an illegal substance.
“I don’t smoke pot simply because it’s still illegal federally,” said Jasmine Miller, a junior women and gender studies major. “If I got caught smoking pot it would negatively affect my career.”
Rachel Gates, a junior communications major, said that the illegality has greatly influenced the public perception of marijuana. According to Gates, smoking weed has been the “cool thing to do” for some because it’s illegal and taboo. She said that there are also people who adamantly oppose everything to do with marijuana simply because it involves breaking the law.
“That further contributes to the plant’s misconstrued reputation,” said Gates. “For some people, it’s just simply enjoyable. I think that, like with most things in life, perspective is everything; just because some have had bad experiences with the plant, as I have, does not mean that their encounter should speak for all marijuana users.”
Gates used to occasionally smoke pot with her friends in high school, but it took her a while to truly feel high. When the high hit her, she decided to stop smoking altogether. Gates said her early marijuana smoking days were tainted by an overwhelming sense of paranoia, where all her anxieties became magnified, a feeling which she disliked immensely.
“Two years after high school, I tried smoking again and the same situation happened, so I’m completely done now,” said Gates. “I think I react this way to pot because I struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. In a weird way, it’s almost like the plant holds up a mirror where you look into your reflection. Someone who is naturally calm will probably have a good time, whereas someone who is paranoid may struggle and try to fight the high.”
Seasoned smokers like Leathers offered this advice to people thinking about smoking marijuana for the first time: don’t overdo it, and moderation is key.
Natasha Bezbradica, a senior communications major, has tried smoking marijuana many times, but, like Gates, has also never enjoyed the effects.
“That’s really the only reason why,” said Bezbradica. “From my personal experiences with friends who are regular smokers, regular use of marijuana alters people’s personalities. I’ve noticed a drastic change in those who’ve stopped smoking for certain periods of time.”
Despite their negative reactions to the high, Bezbradica and Gates still support people who decide to smoke a bowl instead of drink a beer.
“Everyone is and will always be different,” said Gates. “I believe it’s hugely important to keep an open mind about [marijuana] for the rest of the community.”
On Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 5:17 PM, Drew Northup wrote:
> Where: ITS Orono
> When: 5:00 AM - 10:00 AM
> Expected Duration: Downtime less than 15 minutes, if any at all, most
> likely around 7:30 AM.
> Fall-back Date: Sunday April 26th, 2015
> Scope: All services using CAS and Shibboleth for SSO, including but
> not limited to the following.
> MyCampus Portals, some Library web applications (UM and state-wide),
> Google Apps, System-wide support desk Ticket Submission form, [...]
When: Apr 19, 2015 5AM
Expected Duration: 5hrs
Scope: Speedy file server. UM HR, Networkmaine, SPC, GUS
Will be performing maintenance on Speedy. Any network drive mapped to speedy will be unavailable during the maintenance.
Networkmaine Contact Info:
Local/Campus Contact Info during this window of work:
NONE / Unknown at this time
When: Apr 19, 2015 5AM
Expected Duration: 5hrs
Scope: Emergency Responder
Will be performing maintenance on UM's emergency responder servers. Very little, if any downtime is expected.
Networkmaine Contact Info:
Local/Campus Contact Info during this window of work:
NONE / Unknown at this time
When: 5:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Expected Duration: Downtime less than 15 minutes, if any at all, most
likely around 7:30 AM.
Fall-back Date: Sunday April 26th, 2015
Scope: All services using CAS and Shibboleth for SSO, including but
not limited to the following.
MyCampus Portals, some Library web applications (UM and state-wide),
Google Apps, System-wide support desk Ticket Submission form, IWMS,
Request Tracker, NOC Apps, Mailwatch, InCommon Service Providers not
otherwise listed, DCIM [...]
On Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 3:23 PM, John Scofield wrote:
> Where: Bangor
> When: Apr 15, 2015 0500
> Expected Duration: 1hr
> Scope: MDI Bio Labs, Ellsworth schools, COA, City of Ells, Ellsworth Ctr,
> MDI schools, Jesup Lib, Bar Harbor City Hall, Hancock Cty Coop Ext,
> Ellsworth Pub Lib
> Inserting a DCM module into the optical path. Sites listed should
> remain up on backup links; down time for the optical work should be no more
> than 15-20 minutes.
> Networkmaine Contact Info:
> NOC [...]
#BlackLivesMatter started out on Facebook as only just a hashtag but grew into a national organizing project within days.
On March 27th Alicia Garza, Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and cofounder of #BlackLivesMatter gave a lecture on “building a world where black lives matter.”
In July 2013 the night George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Travyon Martin, Alicia Garza added the hastag #blacklivesmatter to a Facebook post in response to people that were blaming Travyon Martin for his own death, blaming his parents, blaming black folks. “I saw responses from other people about how if we want to change things we need to do things like vote, or we need to pull up our pants, or not wear hoodies,” said Garza. “When really we know that there are systems in structure that devalue black lives in this country.
Within days Garza teamed up with organizers and close friends including, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi and built an organizing project that could bring people together online, to take action together offline.
In August 2014 after Mike Brown was killed #BlackLivesMatter organized a “Freedom Ride” to Ferguson, Missouri where people came from all over the country to support the work that was happening on the ground there. From that chapters were built, and now Black Lives Matter is organized in 23 cities across the world including Ontario, Canada, and Accra, Ghana.
Garza’s address that night touched on the history of and continued importance of the #blacklivesmatter movement, it provided context, and called students/audience members to action to make a difference in their communities. Audience members at the end of the presentation got a chance to ask any burning questions they had for Garza. What made the event so important was bringing Alicia Garza to campus was a student generated idea.
Lauren Webster LaFrance, Assistant to the Director of Women and Gender Studies said, “The Women & Gender Studies Program always blends theory and practice in our curriculum and our co curricular events, this case, the theory of structuralized racism in the US and the practice of what’s being done to combat it. Ms. Garza’s keynote address lecture spoke to the experiences of our students here at USM both on campus and in the community—and our students’ experiences are important.”
“USM is the most diverse institution in the UMaine System and we have a responsibility to our students to provide a safe and welcoming space for their education,” said Webster. “Black lives matter—they are the lives of our students, faculty & staff members and their families.”
Some students like Hamdi Hassan, a freshman political science major doesn’t believe that USM is trying to provide the safe and welcoming environment that Webster talks about; due to the growing number of incidents surrounding race occurring on campus. “USM has failed to foster a safe environment for people of color on campus. We have reached out to them [administrators] numerous times on what’s been happening to us on campus and we feel as though everything is falling on deaf ears,” said Hassan. “After every racist incident we have approached them and all they do is tell us lies that they will take action but give it two weeks, and they sweep it under the rug.”
Overall there was a great turnout. There was a variety of people who showed up, not only USM students and faculty but other students and professors from the USM Lewiston/Auburn campus, there were also many students from Bates College in attendance, and a couple organizations from neighboring cities. Aisha Geerings who works for Tree Street Youth Center located in Lewiston, is one of people involved in bringing a full bus of middle school and high school students to the event. “Its more than just the shooting of Mike Brown its everyone that was after him and before him, this cycle keeps happening and happening and it finally needs to stop, none of us want to worry about going out and getting shot just because of the color of our skin, I don’t want any of the children I work with to have to deal with that,” said Geerings. “Black lives never mattered in this country and its important that we’re finally saying this is enough. Black Lives Matter is more than just a hashtag but a movement which involves all of us”
Human rights matter and the #blacklivesmatter movement has brought the daily injustices faced by black people in the US into widespread public conversation. This is just as important here in Portland, Maine as it is in Sanford, Florida or Ferguson, Missouri.
This event was co-sponsored by the USM Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity, Multicultural Student Affairs, Gender Studies Student Organization, Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, NAACP Portland Branch, Black Education & Cultural History, and the King Fellows.
A recent study by financial data and technology company, SmartAsset, explored which Maine colleges provide students with the best deal financially and USM was ranked fourth.
USM finished below Colby College, UMO and Husson University, and just above the University of New England. SmartAsset considered five factors in their study: tuition, student living costs, average scholarships and grant offerings, retention rate and starting salaries of graduates.
According to the study, USM generally provides $5,337 in scholarships or grants to cover its $7,776 tuition and that the average starting salary of a graduate is $41,500 annually.
“With rising college costs and reliance on student loans, many people wonder if higher education is still worth it,” wrote AJ Smith, vice president of content strategy and managing editor at Smart Asset, in an email to the Free Press. “We wanted to look at a more complete picture of the costs (not just the sticker price) and also consider what graduates get in return. We’re looking at the bang students get for their buck in our study on the best value schools.”
Smith said the company only took financial data into account when researching the universities, so qualitative data such as the quality of education, campus living or classroom environment was not a factor.
“It’s important to get a full picture of what a particular university will cost to attend. This includes tuition, room and board, books, transportation and other personal expenses,” wrote Smith. “But some schools also have more generous aid in the form of scholarships and grants, so it’s also a good idea to factor that into your decision.”
On Wednesday night, the Criminology Student Association hosted a panel of five professors who gave a talk titled “Deforming the System: The Loss of Liberal Arts as a Blow to Student Success.” About 40 students attended along with a few faculty members. The professors laid out their vision of a potential future where education becomes a commodity that only the middle and upper class students can afford, thus leaving most USM students with a deformed education.
The first person to speak was professor James Messerschmidt, chair of criminology, who said the tide has turned for public funding, “It’s a user-pay system, [students] are now expected to pay the lions-share of tuition. There’s been a dramatic shift in the funding of public universities like USM.”
“Public universities are now defined, I believe, as a business. Education is understood as a product and students are increasingly recognized simply as customers,” he said.
In 1986 students paid 35 percent of the total tuition. The state paid 62 percent and 3 percent came from “other revenue”. Today, it’s the exact opposite: Students are expected to pay 59 percent of the total tuition cost, state appropriations represent 35 percent and “other revenue” make up the last 6 percent.
“The legislators view USM not as a necessary social service for the common good but as a discretionary for optional investment,” Messerschmidt said. “If we are a business, then we simply can’t compete.”
Ronald Schmidt, professor of political science said, “The state has made a choice about what higher education is, it’s a private choice. You can choose to buy it or not to buy it. I don’t agree with it, but that’s the decision they’ve made.”
According to Messerschmidt, retrenchments like the ones last year at USM, which saw 51 faculty, five academic programs and 100 staff expunged from the university, aren’t happening at private colleges. Retrenchments also often don’t happen outside liberal arts departments.
“Given that the vast majority of students at USM are working class, while their peers attending private colleges are middle and upper class, what we have happening is an aggravation or worsening of social class inequality of higher education,” said Messerschmidt.
Among the attendees of the lecture speaking on the importance of liberal art degrees was Katie Grenier, a sophomore criminology major who likes USM but is uncertain of its future. She’s looking to transfer out of state because she doesn’t know if her program will be around much longer.
“I’m kind of nervous about the future of the criminology program at USM so I don’t really have a whole lot of choice but to transfer in the fall,” said Grenier, a Winslow native.
USM’s criminology program is the only one north of Massachusetts.
Grenier is attempting to transfer to George Mason University in Virginia. It will be more expensive, but for Grenier, it’s worth it.
The criminology department has been halved from a peak of six full time professors ten years ago to three today. Students have struggled to find enough classes to work towards their major.
Grenier is taking a research methods class online with “a random professor from California,” and said she’s missing out big time on the classic classroom experience.
Jillian Harrington, a senior criminology major felt relieved she was graduating in May, as she was able to finish her degree largely without being affected by the cuts. However, Harrington still expressed curiosity concerning the value of her degree, in a market of employers that have read the bad press surrounding USM.
“I wonder what my degree is going to mean in the next ten years,” said Harrington. “If I’m going to a job interview, I wonder whether I’ll get it over someone who was at a private school.”
English professor Lorrayne Carroll chided students to read the university’s constitution and get involved.
“The conversation has to be informed, not deformed,” said Carroll.
Her long-winded and passionate diatribe complaining of “transient administrators that haven’t been here long enough to make informed decisions,” was aimed largely at a man sitting three seats to her left, president David Flanagan.
Flanagan interrupted the presentation, coming in ten minutes late, and asked if he could take a place on the panel as defender of the recent cuts to liberal arts at USM.
“I am transient, I’m only here for a year but I am familiar with the issues of USM,” said Flanagan.
Flanagan served for 10 years on the board of trustees, two of which he held the title of chairman.
“We do have a problem in this country of not supporting universities enough, and that’s not a successful society,” Flanagan said. “Colby, Bates and Bowdoin, the elite, continue to be very high quality but for everyone else the quality is at risk of moving to a lower level. I think that’s a legitimate concern.”
“I think more money in public higher education should be a higher priority for our society,” said Flanagan.
Flanagan then outlined his vision of how a metropolitan university looks, operates and functions through partnerships with people and businesses in the community. Flanagan said he doesn’t think we should just stick out our hands and ask for money, but instead show the legislature real results.
A student who’s already putting his forthcoming bachelor’s degree to work is political science major, Joshua Dodge. For the past semester he’s been working in Manhattan for the State Department as a liaison to the United Nations. According to Dodge, he helps diplomats live in NYC by, for example, taking care of their parking tickets or getting them safely from the airport.
Dodge credits USM hugely for his success and Professor Francesca Vassallo of the political science department for getting him into this internship.
Dodge doesn’t think USM is ‘under attack’ but does wonder about the value of his degree.
“I would be lying if I said that I never worried about my program being on the chopping block. We all have,” said Dodge. “It’s no longer guaranteed anymore that we will have a job when we graduate from college, especially one in our chosen field of study.”
Kathy Bouchard, a senior criminology major is just glad to be graduating this May before nothing is left of her program. Both Bouchard and Harrington plan to return to their native Massachusetts to look for work and attend graduate school.
Bouchard thought the cuts were unfounded and said, “Is that the goal of USM to make this an efficient education? If you cut liberal arts you cut programs that cause us to think.”
Professor of criminology Dušan I. Bjelić who’s been at USM for 25 years and is a native of Serbia thought it was ridiculous that he went to university for free in a “much, much, much poorer country,” while in America we get burdened with debt for our education.
“I don’t understand how we have so much wealth [in America] and productivity yet so little money to share,” said Bjelić. “I just don’t buy it.”
Former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler was recently appointed by the University of Maine System to develop the blueprints and take the reigns of leadership in the establishment of a new graduate business and law school in Portland.
The center will be located in Portland and is planned to combine the graduate business programs at the University of Maine in Orono and USM with the University of Maine School of Law to better develop programs for students in the community.
Cutler, who ran for governor in Maine as an independent candidate in 2014, explained that the investment for this project is funded through the Harold Alfond Foundation. According to Dan Demeritt, the UMaine system director of public affairs, the program has given an estimated $1.75 million toward the initiative.
“This new graduate school is about finding ways to leverage the programs we have at USM and UMaine through collaboration,” said Demeritt. “This is an exciting example of the type of investment we can draw to the university when we have innovative ideas in plan for our future.”
Cutler explained that because there is no model or plan that has already been put in place, he is the one who will have to develop a plan with the dean and the president over the course of the next year and a half. Assuming the board of trustees approve his plans, he explained that the program will become a collaborative project to give students the chance to obtain more skills for today’s job market.
With courses set to start in the fall, Cutler said that this will give students the opportunity to try things out and give him the opportunity to see how the program initiative works out. He believes that what will measure the school’s success will be the number of student participants.
When asked about whether or not the decision to begin a financially dependant project in a time when USM has been faced with financial crisis, Cutler said the effort being made to develop this new approach for graduate education is entirely funded, and therefore no money is being taken out of the system. He also explained that USM is simply going through a turnaround that requires big changes to occur.
“I’ve done a lot of turnarounds before. You need to remember that at the same time you’re eliminating costs that you can no longer afford to occur, you also need to make investments in the future,” said Cutler. “You are trying to build something better that is more responsive to what the market wants.”
James Suleiman, an associate professor of management information systems said that all of this can become a reality if as a community we can work together to seek out funding for this effort and build a top notch program to accomplish it.
“If it’s adequately funded I think this graduate school will be a success,” said Suleiman. “There are a lot of different measurements of whether or not it will fully succeed, such as whether or not it will get adequate enrollment.”
A one million dollar ad campaign was launched in February encouraging prospective students to “find themselves at USM,” but the effectiveness it’s had on boosting enrollment is unclear at this time.
Two weeks ago the Portland Press Herald reported that despite the numerous television and radio ads, undergraduate applications are down ten percent from last year and new enrollment for 2015 is down 41 percent. So far the admissions office has seen 3,809 applications compared to 4,249 from last year. But according to Christopher Quint, it’s too early for a final headcount for the fall and the 41 percent decline in enrollment reported by the Press Herald, is completely irrelevant.
“It’s not even close to being true,” said Quint. “There was no context, it was a snapshot in time, when there’s so much upward trajectory happening at USM.”
USM has seen a 13 percent drop in enrollment since fall 2010. Enrollment for last fall was down 5.5 percent with 8,428 students.
Last month at a board of trustees meeting, president David Flanagan said that in reality he expects enrollment to be down despite new advertising and scholarship money.
But according to Quint some of the positive momentum he’s seen includes increased traffic on USM’s website and more applications coming in from transfer and undergraduate students.
“People are clicking on our ads and inquiring about our programs,” said Quint. “We’re seeing upticks in applications across the board. It hasn’t fixed everything, but the ad campaign is having a positive impact.”
Quint said that the one million dollars used to pay for the ads came from savings in the budget that were a result of last fall’s faculty and staff retrenchments.
“We generated savings from having staff and some faculty, off the books if you will,” said Quint. “We were able to use those savings and put it towards something positive; getting more students here, so we don’t have to do this again. If you lay off someone, and don’t fill that position, that money is still in your budget. You can use it for something else. We made the decision to turn our enrollment around.”
In a comment written on social media, Susan Feiner a professor of economics and women and gender studies, criticized the money spent on the ad campaign and wrote that the savings won’t kick in until next year because the faculty that were fired are still paid their salary for 18 months.
However Quint explained that the severance pay is a cost being borne by the UMaine system.
Both Quint and the new president Harvey Kesselman said that boosting enrollment is the key to USM’s success.
“It’s our number one priority right now,” said Quint. “If we don’t boost enrollment, we’re going to continue to see a slide.”
The recent campaign ran advertisements on television, radio, Hulu and various websites promoting new scholarship money and USM’s new metropolitan vision. The ads themselves did not have any live action shots of people or footage from campuses, but instead featured blue and gold typography with a voiceover saying that USM is a “game changer.”
“Whenever I hear, ‘there’s never been a time like now to attend USM,’ in the ads I laugh because that is so true, but not in a good way,” said Annie Stevens, 2013 USM graduate, now Maine Law student. “There has never been a time when USM was doing so terrible and no one wanted to be there.”
Kate Ginn, a political science alumnus said that she lives 10 minutes away from USM, but will be attending another school for her master’s degree because she’s lost confidence in USM.
“I feel confident that the university I’ll be attending intends to preserve its academic programs and continue to grow as needed,” said Ginn. “Maybe the new ads will attract students and parents who don’t realize what has changed.”
Criticism swirls around on social media, with local Portlanders who have been following the situation at USM closely like Cecile Thornton poising the question: “how can you expect students to come to your institution when they’ve seen the rug pulled out from under so many enrollees.” The general opinion of critics, like Nancy Young a graduate at the University of Maine at Farmington, is that high school students will be leery to apply to USM because they can’t be sure that their major will survive the time it takes for them to graduate.
Some community members such as Portlander and Rutgers graduate Mark Usinger are more lenient and said that even Rome wasn’t built in a day and to cut the new guy some slack.
Martin Conte, a senior English major, said that it’s a fallacy to tell people to not go to USM if you care about the school’s future.
“Boosting enrollment won’t solve our severe issues with mismanagement but they will help with heaps of other things, and there’s no reason to oppose these attempts to do so,” said Conte.
For now, USM’s administration under Kesselman remains as optimistic as ever and is, will be and has been focusing on boosting enrollment in other ways besides targeted advertising.
“The ad campaign is done, but we’re not done,” said Quint. “We’ve been aggressively recruiting and placing phone calls to prospective students encouraging them to enroll.”
Last Friday, Kesselman drove nine hours from New Jersey to welcome 357 students and their families at Gorham’s accepted student day, and ultimately inspire them to take the final step toward enrolling. Kesselman said that he wants to be as visible as possible during his time as USM’s president.
“I think that many of the moves that we are making are helping to generate more excitement about our university; it plays a role in people choosing to come here,” said Kesselman. “Our university has experienced some difficulties, but now it’s rejuvenating and it’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of that process.”
Late Monday afternoon, the results from this years student government elections were sent out by email, naming Rebecca Tanous for student body president and Matthew Creisher as vice president, winning by a margin of just 26 votes.
The newly elected Tanous expressed how excited and eager she was to get started.
“I’m really passionate about actually seeing changes and actually seeing action happen,” she said.
Tanous has been involved with student government for two and a half years and is currently serving as vice president until she is sworn in as president later this month.
“This is where I can have the most impact,” said Tanous. “It’s kind of just been a natural progression and this was my next step.”
Despite her leadership position at the SGA, Tanous said that she has no interest in pursuing politics after her college career.
“I’m not a politician,” said Tanous. “I’m really passionate about what I am involved in and right now I’m a USM student so I’m really passionate about what is happening.” According to Tanous her first order of business is to train other student leaders.
“First and foremost, we have these student leaders who are here to serve us and we need to use them more,” said Tanous.
According to the pamphlets laid out last week on the tables in the Brooks Center on the Gorham campus,Tanous wants to accomplish a lot. Tanous wants to look at the legislative side of the UMaine system and see what is most negatively affecting USM’s fiscal situation.
“We just had big cuts, we had a lot of student activism last year but that’s really tapered off,” said Tanous. “However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have the issue that UMO is getting around 50 percent of the funding equation and we’re only getting 20 percent. That still makes no sense in my mind.”
While Tanous believes that system level decisions played a key role in bringing USM’s budget to the state that it’s in, she also expressed that this was just part of the problem. The other negative factor is that system administrators might be siphoning too much money.
“There’s this other percent that is taken off the top and goes to people in offices that are working for our students but are already getting paid from other funds, so why are they taking some of our tuition dollars?” asked Tanous.
Tanous said she doesn’t agree with that mentality and thinks that it’s not indicative of an institution that put students first.
Tanous expressed that she would be very interested to see an audit to find out just how much is being taken out by the UMaine system.
“I think that is almost a bigger issue than the funding equation,” said Tanous.
In this year’s election there was a grand total of 345 ballots casted out of almost seven thousand students, so less than 5% of the student body participated in this year’s election. The voting numbers were even down from last year, when 452 students casted ballots.
Both Tanous and the director of student & university life Jason Saucier expressed their concern with how low voter turnout has been. “One of the biggest challenges is getting on student’s radar,” said Saucier.
There were some new strategies implemented this year to try and encourage students to get online and cast their vote. Email alerts were sent to all students, reminding them when the polls opened. A key factor in fostering student involvement was changing the day of the candidate debate from a Friday, when the Woodbury Campus center is virtually empty, to a Monday when it would be more busy. An increase in foot traffic and more convenient timing resulted in the candidates being exposed to more people.
“This year the voting process was not up to par,” said Tanous. “We had less people working on elections than usual, so we were really stretched thin.”
Tanous expressed desire not only to boost the voting numbers but to get students more interested and knowledgeable with all student government activities, projects and elections.
Toward the end of March, students from six of the UMaine system’s seven universities took a trip to Augusta to spend a day at the statehouse.
The visit was the pilot event for a new pilot program being developed at the system level. The goal of the program is to bring student advocates from all UMS campuses together in Augusta to meet government officials, sit in on meetings and talk about issues that college students in the state are facing.
“I think students have been asking for this kind of opportunity for a long time,” said Laura Cyr, a postgraduate fellow in finance and administration, in an interview last month. “Students have been looking to learn about the decision making process, not only at their university but in their state government as well.”
This time around, the hot topic issue is how Governor Paul LePage’s proposed state budget affects Maine’s public universities.
According to a summary of LePage’s 2016-2017 budget, his plan includes a 3.64 percent increase — roughly $14.2 million — for the University of Maine system.
“I think this year, we’re handed an issue on a plate,” said Cyr, “but we’re excited that, in future years, students will be able to bring their own issues to the table.”
Four students attended the trip on March 24, along with students from other campuses. The University of Maine at Machias was the only school that did not send representatives.
Overall, student attendees said the day was a success.
“We’re here to really get an idea of what happens at the statehouse, to be student advocates for the UMS system and to really get our bearings in Augusta,” said Rachel Cormier, a non-traditional student who served on the Metropolitan University Steering Group earlier this year.
Cormier says that spending a day watching legislators work and getting a chance to speak with some of them erased the ‘intimidation factor’ some students might face when it comes to state politics.
“They were very communicative with us on levels that I didn’t expect,” said Cormier. “We have to remember that they’re just people and that we shouldn’t be afraid of reaching out to them.”
John Jackson, a student senator double majoring in political science and business administration, enjoyed his experience as well. Jackson said his interest in the program sparked because of the cuts to faculty and staff that occurred last fall.
“Getting a chance to meet legislatures is important in getting this budget passed,” he said.
Jackson said he has hoped to have more of an opportunity to speak with legislators, specifically those who might be on the fence with their vote on the budget.
“They’re going to be very busy on those days when they’re in sessions, so I know it’s difficult,” he said.
Jackson said he feels the state contribution to UMS funding is on the low-side and that it needs to be changed in order for the university to succeed financially.
“Hearing student voices is very important. Having students show up, especially from all campuses, is worth a lot more than an administrator or faculty member speaking out,” said Jackson.
“I don’t think students need to necessarily join the program with an agenda,” said Cormier, who didn’t mention any specific issues she was looking to address during her trip. “I think it’s better to just speak and get to know your local legislators.”
Cormier says that if students realize they have access to their government officials and learn to speak with them, it will be easier for them to recognize student voices.
“I feel like it’s easy for anyone who doesn’t have regular contact with students to assume we’re all just spoiled, young teens, but that isn’t true,” said Cormier. “A lot of people at USM are a little older and should reach out to legislators to say, I can be a resource, what do you need from me?”
Both Cormier and Jackson aspire to become legislators at some capacity in their future.
“I think this program is only going to open more doors for students,” said Cormier. “I hope that more students are able to go next year.
When: Apr 15, 2015 5AM
Expected Duration: 1/2hr
Scope: Voice Traffic
All voice traffic in and out of campus will be disrupted while maintenance is performed on equipment support phone lines into campus. Expected downtime is 10 minutes or less
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When: Apr 15, 2015 5AM
Expected Duration: 1/2hr
Meetingplace servers will undergo maintenance the require them to be taken offline. Outage expected to be approx 15minuts
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