USM shut down its campuses, suspending classes and activities, three times last week, in response to a series of snowstorms that blanketed Portland with over two and a half feet of snow.
Bangor Daily News reported that the first storm, colloquially named “Juno” dumped two feet of snow in some Maine communities, while the second one left Portland with another 6-8 inches of accumulation.
On top of the accumulation, wind gusts of over 45 mph resulted in snow drifting from the side of the roads, reducing visibility and making travel conditions very dangerous. Many students, like the student body president Kyle Frazier, believed that it was wise for USM’s administration to heed the National Weather Services predictions and close school, especially on its exclusively commuter Portland campus.
“The cancellations were a good move,” said Frazier. “We have a high amount of commuter students and while attending class is important, it is also important that students are safe, especially when many of them travel a pretty far distance to attend class.”
Students like Chelsea Bard, a sophomore communication and media studies major and her friend Nicole Downing, a sophomore art major, agreed and said that while education is important, it’s not important enough to risk driving during a whiteout blizzard.
“It’s too bad that some people got to miss out on their classes, but it’s better than being in an accident,” said Downing.
“People say ‘oh you’re from Maine, you’re supposed to know how to drive in the snow,’ but it doesn’t matter who you are, driving on snowy roads is sketchy, even for Mainers,” said Bard.
Bard and Downing spent their time off in the same way that they believe most students did: relaxing and binge-watching some Netflix, while school work was put on the back burner.
“It was really nice to just have a couple days to chill,” said Downing.
Downing said that after stocking up on snack food at Hannaford before the storm, she knitted a winter hat, and had a Netflix marathon with her sister, knocking down several episodes of “Psychopath,” “Gossip Girl,” and “Parts Unknown.”
Bard, a resident in Gorham, spent one of her free days playing in the snow.
“I grabbed a sled and went out to the hill behind Robie Andrews,” said Bard. “There were people sledding, snowboarding and making snowmen.”
While it was evident throughout social media that most students enjoyed having three snow days, there were, however, some gripes expressed about the storm.
Downing proudly proclaimed that she didn’t fall down once last week, but she still cited under-plowed sidewalks as an annoying byproduct of the storm. A sidewalk in Gorham proved to be troublesome for Downing who said it was blocked off by a massive snowbank.
“I had to walk on the road for a bit and I kept hoping there would be no cars or buses coming down,” said Downing.
Frazier said that parking was more of an issue for him and his friends than anything else. According to Frazier, cars in the garage were locked within from 10 pm Monday, to 4 pm Wednesday when USM resumed classes.
“I don’t understand why the gates that let cars out one at a time could not have been functioning during the hours they normally do,” said Frazier. “I understand not allowing cars in, but not letting them out seems odd to me.”
However overall students applauded the efforts of USM public safety of keeping the snow clear in a timely manner.
“I think the clean up job was great,” said Frazier. “I couldn’t imagine it being any better considering the amount of snow we got.”
According to the Bangor Daily News, along with USM, over 300 other businesses and events were cancelled across the state because of last week’s weather conditions.
Last week, University Credit Union celebrated the grand opening of an on-campus branch in Gorham, giving residential students a quick and convenient banking location.
“We know that managing your finances can be confusing, so we want to be there for USM’s students, staff and faculty if they need any assistance at all,” said Amy Irish, UCU’s assistant vice president of member development.
The Brooks Student Center has housed an official UCU kiosk for years where members could deposit checks, manage their accounts and withdraw cash, but now a branch with regular business hours will provide students with more assistance if needed.
“Not only are we there to open new accounts, but anyone on campus can come to us to talk about loan applications, computer or car loans, budgeting assistance and loan payments, too,” said Irish.
The one-employee branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment during the week and the kiosk will be on and available whenever the student center is open.
Having a credit union on campus means that residential students will no longer have to trudge down to Casco Federal Credit Union on Main Street to access their account.
“Especially in the dead of winter, it can be a pain to leave campus,” said Irish.
“I’ve had late fees charged on my credit card just because I couldn’t bring myself to walk down to the credit union when it was below freezing out,” said junior marketing major Chris Egan.
While they haven’t been in to set-up an account yet, undeclared freshman Melissa Boone and Ashley Shaw said that they planned on looking into it.
“I’ve always been told that credit unions are better places to put your money,” said Shaw. “And since there’s one set-up practically on my way to lunch everyday, I’ll probably stop in.”
The new branch has a table of free UCU items to lure in passersby and Irish says she hopes that the branch will be able to serve more and more of the USM community as time goes on.
“We’ve always had students and staff tell us over the years that we should just open up on campus,” said Irish, noting that UCU has a branch open in Portland just a short walk from campus. “The opportunity presented itself late last year and we’ve been working on it ever since. We’re here to serve the community in any way that we can.”