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USM ‘Bod Squad’ spreads positive messages

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:17

If you’ve used a restroom on campus in the past week, you’ve likely been complemented by USM’s Bod Squad.

Last week was national eating disorder awareness week and the body-positive student group has been raiding campus with informational materials and leaving inspirational messages on mirrors in public restrooms.

The messages are simple. Stay positive about your body. Believe in yourself. You’re beautiful.

Ann Conley, a nurse practitioner with health and counseling services, hopes that the efforts of the group get students talking about eating disorders.

“We’re hoping that getting information out into the public will help reduce stigmas around eating disorders, help students recognize what constitutes a disorder and let them know that we’re here to help if they need anything,” she said.

According to statistics from the National Eating Disorder Association, 35 percent of “regular” dieters eventually develop eating disorders. Conley said that the rate for college students is slightly higher.

“People don’t always know that they have an eating disorder,” said Conley. “It starts as a habit and then, through a variety of different factors depending on the individual, it can become more serious.”

Students on-campus responded positively to the signs on campus, saying that it was a great reminder to be comfortable with their body.

“With all the modeling shows on TV and in magazines and sex being used in advertising, it’s no wonder that people can sometimes feel uncomfortable in their own skin,” said Sarah Worthington, a freshman marketing major. “Sometimes it’s nice to hear someone say, don’t worry about it, just do your thing.”

“It’s a big problem in our country that needs to be looked at more often,” said undeclared freshman Chelsea Moyer.

Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69 percent say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape and 47 percent say the pictures make them want to lose weight according to reports used by NEDA.

While eating disorders are more regularly attributed to women in the media, it has been reported that roughly 30 percent of cases are in men.

Conley said she hopes that spreading information about eating disorders will help prevent those at risk, urge those with eating disorders to seek help and to help the public get educated.

“There’s a fair amount of shame associated with having an eating disorder and a lot of people will deny having one,” said Conley. “I hope anyone in that position will see that it’s okay and that there’s help out there for them.”

Almost two tons of food waste tossed weekly

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:16

Despite good intentions and efforts from both Aramark and USM Sustainability, dining services wastes about 3,500 pounds of food a week in the Portland and Gorham kitchens.

This information comes from Steve Sweeney, the resource recovery supervisor, who said that about 3,000 pounds of that food waste comes from Gorham because a buffet service is offered there.

“The all you can eat style set up in Gorham, results in a ridiculous amount of food waste,” said Sweeney. “We need to encourage students not to eat in excess.”

Sweeney said that, in light of all the budget problems, he’s happy with their process because it’s one of the most cost effective methods for dealing with several thousand pounds of food waste. The University pays a local farmer $200 a month to pick up food waste every week from both a Portland and Gorham location, regardless of the amount. The farmer then uses the waste as pig feed and the coffee grounds as compost.

While this is a good method of eliminating the food waste on campus, Sweeney believes we should search for ways to reduce that waste in the first place. According to Sweeney there have been recycling competitions in the dorms to encourage students to practice good habits surrounding food wastes.

Chris Kinney, the general manager of Aramark on campus, agrees and said that accurately predicting how many customers will arrive and adhering to strict rules concerning food shelf life are strategies to minimize the amount of food that gets tossed.

“Our team monitors how much food we’re wasting every day,” said Kinney. “I’m happy with our strategy; we have the right people working to execute it.”

While Kinney said that Aramark at USM has more training, tools and experience than a lot of food establishments in the area, there’s always room for improvement.

“Part of my job is to never be satisfied,” said Kinney. “If one kitchen produces 35 pounds of food waste, I’ll challenge them to bring it down to say 27 the next week. I’m always trying to get the team to further reduce food waste.”

Aramark, the dining services company on campus, that also provides food to hospitals and prisons across the country, tries to eliminate food waste by making sure employees follow the standardized recipes when preparing menu items. For Pamela Almodovar, a culinary arts graduate from SMCC and sandwich maker at the Woodbury dining hall, that means when you order a BLT, she’s not allowed to meet your request to add hummus, or slap on extra bacon slices.

“The menu, the schedule and the structure is down to the T here,” said Almodovar. “They say sticking to the Aramark strategy eliminates food waste, yet we throw away a lot of food.”

Despite genuine attempts from the staff of chefs to minimize food wastes, like keeping close tabs on the freshness of produce and slicing vegetables in a specific and economical way, some employees at Aramark are concerned about their full waste bins.

“I think Aramark is wasting too much food,” said Almodovar. “It seems to be a growing issue that bothers the employees the most. The food costs here are getting out of control.”

Almodovar said that during one shift she personally threw away over 25 pounds of food just from the small food station in Luther Bonney. When casually asking a supervisor if she could put a sandwich and chips into her pocket instead of the wastebin, she was met with fierce opposition.

“My supervisor said I could be terminated on the spot,” said Almodovar. “However we’ll also have employees that are enforcing these rules take unpaid food and eat it in front of us.”

Due to liability issues surrounding food borne illnesses, all Aramark employees have to sign a document stating that they won’t sell, donate or eat any out of code food product.

Issues surrounding liability are the main reason a strategy involving donating leftovers to food banks and soup kitchens hasn’t taken off the ground, despite attempts from the USM Eco Reps and the Food Recovery Network.

Joy Grandbois-Gallup said that it took a while for Aramark to respond to the Eco Rep’s request to recover food and when they did they said that students shouldn’t be involved in the process. The reason why: food safety issues.

“We do have an eager group of students who would like to bring this project to life if at all possible,” said Grandbois-Gallup.

USM takes precaution against measles

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:10

Over February break, USM Health & Counseling services sent out two emails to update students about the measles outbreak that has occurred, starting in California and has started to make its way eastward across the United States.

Measles is a viral illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu, and shortly after these symptoms arise a rash appears. The disease is airborne with high transmissibility because of its incubation period of two to three weeks.

Lisa Belanger, director of health services said that the point was not to cause a hysteria or fear of measles among us. “It was more to make students conscious and aware of the fact that this is what we know and be prudent while you’re travelling,” Belanger said.

Right now, the goal is to educate without causing panic. With no confirmed cases so far in Maine, Belanger didn’t want there to be panic and public outcry on campus. Especially since there really is no way of confirming if measles will ever even make it to the state.

“Our messages need to be truthful and not fear based,” said Belanger. “Getting the notice out was not to make people afraid but to empower them with information.”

Another reason for the notice was to get students that still haven’t turned in their records to do so and as soon as possible. Belanger also commented on the fact that this is law in the state of Maine and students are expected to comply.

“It’s not because we are saying this, as USM, it’s the law, said Belanger. “We are required to track and inform students of this requirement.”

“We did the same thing in years passed with tracking immunization.” Belanger said,  “This year it’s at least conceivable that measles could make an appearance, so it makes it that much more important and that much more real about the purpose for getting in your shots.”

Enrolled at USM right now are 493 students that have signed declinations to not be vaccinated for measles because of religious, medical or philosophical reason, along with a smaller number of students that have yet to turn in their immunization records. If there were to be a case of measles at USM, these students would be asked to leave and they wouldn’t be allowed to return until the outbreak was deemed over by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Maine.

This would be for the students’ protection. Without the vaccination, they are much more susceptible to the virus.

Plans for student advocacy program unfold

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:03

Students concerned with state appropriation for higher education in Maine will soon have an opportunity to take their thoughts and concerns straight to the state legislature.

In connection with the University of Maine system chancellor’s office, Laura Cyr, a postgraduate fellow in finance and administration, is spearheading the formation of a student advocacy program that would give students from all seven UMaine campuses direct access to their elected officials.

“I think students have been asking for this kind of opportunity for a long time,” said Cyr. “Students have been looking to learn about the decision making process, not only at their university but in their state government as well.”

Cyr spoke with student senators at their meeting last Friday, having recently returned from a visit to all the other UMaine campuses, to explain the program and ask for help in promotion and member selection.

“The program will get students involved in phone-banking, letter writing campaigns and start a dialogue between the student body and legislatures,” she explained.

This year will serve as a pilot year for the program and Cyr will be guiding a to-be-determined group of student representatives throughout the statehouse on March 24. She is currently accepting suggestions and applications for interested students. The goal is to take four students from each of the UMaine campuses.

“There’s no limit to the amount of students who can participate, but for this one-day event we’re testing the waters,” said Cyr. While four students per campus is the aim, Cyr said that she would keep additional interested students on a reserve list, in case a student drops out of attending or there are not enough interested students on a certain campus.

According to a summary of Governor Paul 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.”

Junior student senator John Jackson drafted a resolution that, if passed, would give the program the senate’s full endorsement, urge the faculty senate to pass a similar resolution and provide the manpower to help organize a search for student representatives.

Due to a breakdown in communication between senators, the resolution was not on the agenda despite being submitted earlier in the week. The senate voted to consider passing the proposals after reading and revising the document, but after spending time arguing semantics and grammar in just a few sections of the resolution, voted to table it until their next meeting.

Cyr noted that although this first visit to Augusta will be a pilot trip, that the administration is set to develop and continue the program in the future.

“We’re looking for ways to make this easier and more accessible to students,” said Cyr. “The response [throughout the system] has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re hoping to create a program that will last.”

‘It’s a clash of ignorance’: ISIS atrocities continue

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:00

ISIS, the group of fundamentalist Sunni muslims that have brutally conquered chunks of land in Northern Iraq and Syria under the banner of an “Islamic State,” has dominated headlines of numerous national and international news agencies. And with new reports of kidnappings, air-strikes, vandalism and acts of public torture and execution pour in from the Middle East on a weekly basis, most USM students interviewed said they consider ISIS to be one of the most important news stories to follow.

Just last week the ISIS army, which according to CBC news boasts around 20,000 people willing to die for God and country, has shocked the world with even more acts of senseless violence and destruction.

According to the Fiscal Times, last Monday ISIS militants burned down the public library in Mosul which housed over 8,000 rare manuscripts and books from the Ottoman era. Two days before that they kidnapped 262 Assyrian Christians from the Syrian town of Hasaka, and threatened to slice their throats if Obama doesn’t stop his airstrikes. Since then the U.S. led coalition has backed the Kurdish and Assyrian forces in their defense against ISIS, with more airstrikes. Last Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reported that in a seperate U.S. led airstrike,17 prominent Islamic state militants were killed, but the fate of the Christian hostages is still unknown.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 1,465 ISIS members were killed by American air strikes, as well 1,000 civilians, since September 23, 2014.

Some student veterans, like Samuel Kingsley, a political science major and former U.S. Army infantrymen, believe that military action will do little to quell the rise of Islamic militancy. According to him, after the recent situations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States can’t afford to involve itself in another middle eastern war.

“ISIS is something that only Muslim countries can hope to deal with,” said Kingsley. “The best possible outcome is that the United States will reevaluate its support of these repressive dictatorships [Egypt Jordan Bahrain] and that Islamdom in general will be able to address its own fractionalization and political disunity.”

Kingsley is referring to the fact that ISIS is mostly composed of Sunni muslims, while most government bodies in the middle east have a Shia majority, a population with a different view of Islam and how society should be run. Kingsley predicts that if the U.S. slows its involvement combating ISIS, civil wars will spring up in the middle east and several dictators will rise and fall like during the Arab Spring.

“ISIS arose from a deep-seated mistrust between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq,” said Austin Toothaker, a student veteran and sophomore geography major. “The withdrawal of U.S. troops may have led to the inability of the Iraqi government to contain threats such as ISIS.”

On top of not having the support of the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq and Syria, ISIS is making a laundry list of international enemies. Some 40 countries have joined a coalition against ISIS, including Australia, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and the U.K.

According to Reza Jalali, the multicultural affairs coordinator at USM, ISIS has been doing surprisingly well in attracting foreign fighters and young muslims to their cause despite the opposition. Over 1,700 Russians alone are reportedly said to be fighting alongside ISIS.

“There are some muslims in western society around the world that feel alienated, marginalized and silenced,” said Jalali. “A charming ISIS recruiter attracts them with messages of hope. He might say, ‘come with us, we’ll give you a gun and change the racist system.’ It takes you from being a nobody, a faceless, nameless, invisible person, to this person who has power and can actually be part of a growing army.”

Jalali also believes that when it comes to stopping ISIS, there’s no military solution. He thinks U.S. diplomats need to convince Sunni governments to stop supporting ISIS.

“The can of worms have been opened,” said Jalali. “ISIS is more dangerous than they [Sunni majority governments] think. Name calling all Muslims actually encourages youths to join militant groups.”

While Jalali isn’t necessarily opposed to the creation of an Islamic State, it would have to be under the auspices of peaceful and diplomatic practices. Jalali considers what ISIS is doing completely criminal.

According to Jalali, ISIS kills more muslims than non-muslims, but doesn’t discriminate when it searches for beheading or crucifiction victims. ISIS has killed Christians and Jews that have been living in Syrian towns in complete harmony with Muslims. Beyond the grief and horror of losing a loved one under the knife of a radical fundamentalist, Jalali believes that ISIS’s level of violence has another negative impact; the stereotyping and demonization of what a peaceful religion of 1.6 billion diverse members.

“As a modern Muslim I will say they have very little to do with the Islamic faith,” said Jalali. “They are not the real version of Islam, they are un-Islamic. They’re a group of criminals using the religion to mobilize support for their political cause. They want to restore the state to its former glory under the Caliphate.”

Jalali read one quote from the Koran, noting that ISIS is very selective in which quotes they justify their “sick actions” with from the holy book. “If you kill one, you’ve killed humanity. If you’ve saved one, you’ve saved the entire humanity,” the passage reads.

Kingsley said that Islam has always had a bad reputation in Western nations, but that it stems mostly from ignorance and lack of education.

“People don’t understand the fractionalization, political dynamics and history of Islamic culture so it makes it easy to group all Muslims in together as ‘terrorists,’” said Jalali.

“They’re called a rebel group for a reason,” said Howa Mohamed, a  muslim student and health sciences major. “They’ve rebelled against Islam’s commandments of peace and understanding. Does the KKK represent the religion of Christianity?”

Mohamed said that of course she thinks ISIS contributes to casting Islam in a bad light, but that she wishes practicing Muslims didn’t have to constantly defend themselves.

During Kingsley’s five-year career in the Army, he’s heard many of his leaders express anti-Islamic sentiments and cites it as an Army tactic to motivate troops to combat.

“It could be calling them ‘goat fuckers,’ or referring to civilians in a war zone as ‘local nationals,’ which is somewhat cold and impersonal,” said Kingsley. “Although on the surface the Army expresses official concern for civilian casualties, in reality, at my level, there was zero concern for civilians. The only concern was that you may get prosecuted if you accidentally killed a civilian, but in reality there is very little chance of that actually happening.  Many of my leaders told stories about how they would kill civilians and carry ‘drop weapons’ (AK’s or other common enemy weapons that were liberated in previous operations) to give the appearance they were in fact killing a combatant.”

While it’s easy to condemn violence done in the name of Islam, Jalali reminds us that all major religions have had atrocities committed in their name, and that the majority of Muslims don’t support ISIS.

“This is not a clash of civilizations,” said Jalali. “It’s a clash of ignorance.”


Citing management turmoil, ratings agency drops UMaine’s bond outlook to ‘negative’

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:54

The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s revised its outlook on the University of Maine System from “stable” to “negative,” the firm announced Monday, citing dropping enrollments and tuition revenues, as well as unstable leadership throughout the system’s network of seven universities.

“The revised negative outlook and rating reflect our view that UMS is experiencing enrollment pressure, having seen a drop in enrollment for fall 2014 and 2013 and anticipating a further decline in fall 2015,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Ken Rodgers in a statement.

“In addition, historically we characterized the system as having strong governance and management and believe for the most part that remains true today,” he continued. “Nevertheless, a significant turnover in leadership at most of its seven universities over roughly the past two years — and with four of the universities currently served by interim presidents — we feel some weakness in governance and management might be occurring.”

Standard & Poor’s did affirm the system’s long-held “AA-” rating, and assigned the “AA-” long-term rating to the system’s $46.24 million in revenue bonds for 2015.

“S&P has affirmed our ‘AA-’ rating, reflecting the university system’s commitment to sound fiscal management,” said system spokesman Dan Demeritt in a Tuesday morning statement. “The agency’s decision to revise its long-term outlook is a realistic assessment of the demographic, fiscal and competitive challenges that led Chancellor [James] Page and the board of trustees to launch a change initiative that will administratively and academically align our seven institutions into one university.”

The Standard & Poor’s announcement also made note of the state of Maine’s “weak economy” and “an unfavorable demographic trend for college-bound high school seniors” as factors preventing the agency from considering a more positive long-term outlook.

‘This is a real match:’ Final visiting candidate boasts long career

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:47

Harvey Kesselman, the last presidential candidate to visit USM, cited his long history of experience in higher education and the challenges he’s overcome at transforming school at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey as why he’d be a good fit for USM.

“This is a real match,” said Kesselman, who currently serves as provost and executive vice president at Richard Stockton. “It’s exactly the kind of university I’m looking to work for and understand. I feel like I’m a good fit.”

Kesselman said he’s at a point in his career where becoming a university president is the obvious next step. Before his current position, he has held senior level positions including dean and professor of education, interim vice president for administration and finance, special assistant to the president and vice president for student affairs. His experience at Richard Stockton spans over 30 years and he’s been committed to teaching on top of his other duties.

“I haven’t checked them out, but I doubt the other candidates have the breadth of experience that I do,” said Kesselman. “You can only gain that by committing to a single institution for a considerable amount of time.”

Kesselman told a small crowd of students and staff that he has experience in successfully dealing with challenges that USM and the UMaine System is currently facing. Working to transform a campus culture and boost community engagement and service learning while battling low state funding, declining enrollment and bleak demographics is a situation he’s familiar with.

According to Kesselman, his college and New Jersey gets only 12 percent of its funding from the state government, less than half of the percentage USM receives.

“We’d love to get the percentage you’ve had,” said Kesselman. “We had to be entrepreneurs. We went through what Maine is going through right now years ago.”

The revolving door of leadership, which has given USM three presidents since 2012, is something Kesselman noted as problematic for the university. Citing his long history at Richard Stockton, Kesselman told the group that he was not planning on being a short-term fix, but wanted to be a real piece of the university. He said that if chosen for the position, he has at least eight years of service in him.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but I like to think George Washington got it right,” said Kesselman. “Two terms, eight years as president, feels right. it makes for good business to do so.”



Presidential race down to two

USM Free Press News Feed - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:26

The USM presidential search committee provided Chancellor James Page with the names and assessments of two finalists: Glenn Cummings and Harvey Kesselman. The third candidate, Jose “Zito” Sartarelli, withdrew from the candidacy beforehand.

Sartarelli was unavailable to hold an interview at this point in time.

Cummings and Kesselman are the final two standing, from a pool of approximately 80 applicants – the largest group of applicants for a leadership position in the UMaine System in a number of years.

Both Cummings and Kesselman were given the opportunity for two-day campus visits at the university. During this time, each candidate was able to meet with students, staff and faculty, to answer questions and converse.

Based on these campus visits, as well as references and the application of each candidate in general, the committee shared their assessment of each with the Chancellor.

“I want to thank all of the community members who participated in the finalists’ campus visits,” said Jim Erwin, UMS Trustee and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee.  “By taking the time to listen, and ask questions, you were able to submit insightful and informative feedback to the committee.”

He added that all the candidates came away from the visits with great appreciation for the opportunity to learn so much about USM and to hear from so many faculty, staff, students and members of the community.

Chancellor Page is expected to make his decision in March, after which the vote will be put before the board of trustees. If all goes accordingly, the president will begin their duties and take office in July 2015.

According to Erwin, the candidates were not ranked, nor was a formal recommendation made to the Chancellor.

“The selection now rests with the Chancellor, subject to approval by the board of trustees,” said Erwin. “Chancellor Page expects to make a recommendation to the Board following completion of customary due diligence.”

Additional background information on the two finalists can be found on the presidential search committee’s web page.




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