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Updated: 1 hour 55 min ago

Senate continues in controversy

Sat, 2017-04-22 15:34

By Dionne Smith and Sara Tewksbury, Staff Writers

On April 21 the USM student senate held their weekly meeting. Senators began the meeting by discussing new systems to be implemented and leadership programs. After one hour of the meeting, students began speaking on the current controversy surrounding the student senate chair, Liam Ginn, and the creation of the new Violations Inquiry Committee (VIC).

Student senators discussed plans for a judicial branch that would act as a form of checks and balances for the SGA, and act as a way of holding the senate accountable for their actions. It would run independently of the SGA, but would work with the SGA when ruling on issues within the senate. Senators approved a motion to begin the drafting process for the judicial branch.

A clause called a “Vote of No Confidence” was also brought up. The clause would allow for a vote to take place to force senators out of the SGA if they aren’t fulfilling their duties.

Once the meeting allowed for non-members to voice their concerns, talk about the VIC was brought up again. The VIC is a private committee that will gather information on different incidents, in this case being the incident with Ginn. The VIC would meet privately and go over the consequences that Ginn could face. It could take up to thirty days.

Senators told students that they want student information to remain private during the violations inquiry process.

“People should be held accountable by the public, but we don’t want to share any confidential information before it needs to be shared,” said Student Body President Humza Khan

Hawraa Rikan, who will be a student senator next year, said she believed that since the issue is involving the student senate chair, the decision making process should involve students. Elizabeth Donato, a USM student, was also opposed to the fact that the VIC is private, including the investigation involving Ginn.

“Are you trying to protect the student senate or are you trying to protect the students and people at USM?” Donato said. “You’re supposed to be allocating funds but you’re allocating hate and discrimination. You should be doing the things that we ask.”

“Senate should be held accountable for everything we do,” said Senator Aaron Piece.

Students in the audiences demanded an apology from Ginn for his statements. They asked that Ginn speak for himself instead of having the senate defend him. The senators tried to motion to move on from the issue twice, but they were voted down during both attempts.

“We can’t make Liam apologize but we can hold him accountable,” Kirkland said.

“It has been made very clear that we don’t have your trust,” said Student Senator Dylan Reynolds. Senators discussed ways to improve the relationship between the student body and student senators.

“Have we failed you guys in that regard? Absolutely,”  said Pierce, discussing concerns of the SGA addressing discrimination.

After the official SGA meeting ended, student senators remained in the room to hold a VIC meeting regarding Ginn’s alleged ableism. After intense discussion that was closed to the public, Ginn was asked to step out of the room while the final verdict was determined.

Muna Adan, the vice chair of the student senate, disclosed the student senate’s decision to Ginn. According to Adan, Ginn will face a one week suspension without pay, complete mandatory sensitivity training with the Disability Services Department and issue a public apology. Ginn is expected to publicly apologize at the student senate meeting in 166 Upton Hastings in Gorham on April 28. The public apology is solely for the comments Ginn made about individuals with disabilities. Other issues and comments made by Ginn will be addressed in the future by another VIC.

LePage’s town hall meeting disrupted by protesters

Sat, 2017-04-22 15:32

By: Julie Pike, Staff Writer

In Hannaford Hall on Tuesday, April 18, Gov. Paul LePage addressed an audience of USM students, faculty and staff and community members. LePage focused on three main topics: tax policy, budget, energy policy and welfare reform.

He was invited by the USM chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). Ben Bussiere, the chairman for YAF, introduced the governor before his talk. This event took a similar turn to a recent event hosted by YAF, when Rep. Larry Lockman spoke at USM.

Ten minutes into the event, an audience member stood up in the crowd, yelling profanities at LePage. This man was asked to leave by USM faculty and campus police who were in attendance, including Dean of Students David McKenzie. The Portland Police Department were also present at the event. Audience members were asked to leave if they were considered to be disruptive and were not allowed back in.

President Glenn Cummings issued a statement over email to the entire student body, urging LePage’s critics to practice “peaceful protests” and to challenge his positions during the Q&A portion of the event.

“Denying the Governor his right to speak, or denying others their right to hear what he has to say, is not free speech, runs counter to our student code of conduct and flies in the face of a core USM principle that hearing differing points of view sharpens our own critical thinking,” Cummings wrote.

Cummings wishes, however, did not come true. LePage was interrupted during his talk over a dozen times by people sitting in the audience, including USM students and community members. While some shouted profanities and spoke negatively about LePage, others brought up questions about policy choices and budgets.

People in the audience also stood up in unison chanting “Black Lives Matter.” The woman who began the first chant also said that she and her fellow protestors are committed to ending white supremacy.  

While LePage stayed mostly reserved while protestors spoke, he sometimes gave quick responses to their statements.

“All lives matter,” said LePage in response to their chants.

“All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter in this country,” said another woman who stood up in the crowd.

Many of the protesters focused on accusations of LePage being racist. Some referred to a well known quote that LePage said at a town hall meeting in January 2016:

“There are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty…they come from Connecticut and New York…they sell their heroin, they go back home… half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave…”

One of the protestors of LePage’s event, Brian Ferguson, a USM alumni, felt that LePage’s words and policies prove that he is a racist and white supremacist.

“His own words speak for [themselves], but his policy positions really send the message,” Ferguson said.

There are some students who disagree. This  includes Bussiere, who was involved in getting LePage to come speak at USM.

“My question for them is, where is their evidence that he’s a white supremacist?” Bussiere asked. “This is a narrative that is pushed by the far left, to paint whites and white conservatives as the enemy. They want to shame people for their love for their country or for being white.”

Alex Shaffer, a student from the USM chapter of the College Republicans said that LePage has not shown evidence of being racist.

“I have not seen him demonstrate any signs of white supremacy,” Shaffer said. “I’ve seen him treat everybody equally.”

LePage’s event only lasted around an hour. As it came to an end, LePage thanked the crowd and ended by saying that despite all of the commotion, he had survived.

As people left the auditorium, approximately 25 students stood outside on the sidewalk in peaceful protest, holding signs and continuing to chant “Black Lives Matter.” They also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Paul LePage has got to go,” and “You’re a racist, Paul LePage, get your ass off the stage.”

Some of the protesters included members of the student group Students for USM’s Future, who were against LePage speaking at USM.

“The university would rather threaten removal by police to anyone who disrupts than acknowledge the violence in allowing LePage to speak in the first place,” USM’s Future wrote on their Facebook page.

Overall, Bussiere stated that he felt the event went better than the Lockman event.

Climate change affects Maine market

Sat, 2017-04-22 15:23

By: Heather Roberts, Staff Writer

The early arrival of spring may be a relief to the people of Portland, but for scientists, early spring means a rapidly changing ecosystem. According to the National Weather Service, in 2016, the average temperature in Portland was 48.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which was as high as 2012.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Andrew Pershing and USM’s Karen Wilson observed that the change in Maine’s temperature affected Maine’s lobster, cod and herring populations, which have influenced the Maine market. Both scientists noted the change in Maine’s temperature in 2012 and its effect on life.

“In 2012, we had temperatures throughout the year where we were almost three degrees Celsius above normal,” said Pershing. “So that would work out to almost five degrees Fahrenheit above normal on any given day of the year.”

The change in temperature affected river herring spawning. Wilson said that, in 2012, at a spawning site, herring were aware of the temperature change because they arrived four weeks early.

According to Pershing, the lobster in 2012 mated a month early. The increase of lobster lowered the market price. Although lobstermen caught a lot of product, they made less money compared to 2011.

Between 2004 and 2013, the Maine cod market also suffered. Pershing said that the temperature increase reduced the cod population before fisheries could adjust their quotas. He added that the fisheries later realized the quotas were set too high.

Warming temperatures may decrease cod food sources such as river herring, especially during spawning. These herring spawn in May and leave between July and October. Wilson reasoned that despite the changing climate, river herring are highly adaptive, but because of droughts the fish can’t get to spawning sites or out to the ocean.

“Last summer we had a drought starting in July that lasted to October. There was not enough water going over the dam,” Wilson said. “People kept reporting that the adults were still in the lake. They stayed in the lake and it wasn’t until October when we had the first rains that the fish started to leave.”

Temperature change may have an impact on river herring travel. Wilson added that warmer temperatures may bring the river herring’s sister species, the blue herring, north. Other southern species may also travel to Maine waters.  According to Pershing, Humboldt squid and striped bass are likely arrivals.

“In 2016, we had a year as warm as 2012,” Pershing said. “In many ways, the landing and fisheries played out very similarly to what they did in 2012.”

Pershing explained that, because of what occurred in 2012, markets adapted to the overproduction of lobster. By learning and adapting to Maine’s temperature change, fisheries can avoid overfishing, high quotas and economic setbacks.  

In Portland on Saturday, April 22nd, an estimated 1,000 people gathered downtown for the March for Science in response to Trump’s cuts to the EPA and National Parks, as well as to show support for scientific research surrounding climate change. Other marches took place around the country.

USM’s role in the North Atlantic region continues to grow

Sat, 2017-04-22 15:16

By: Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

The Maine Economic Improvement Fund at USM (MEIF@USM) is currently working hard to increase and improve Maine’s relationship with the North Atlantic region.

In 1997, USM received a portion of the MEIF, a fund that was established by the state legislature to spearhead research projects. The initial value of the fund was $482,000, roughly one quarter of the University of Maine System’s total MEIF allocation from the state legislature.

“None of [the projects] are really possible through [USM’s] own funds,” said Glenn Cummings, president of USM. “We just don’t have enough money in our reserves to be able to spend this kind of money in terms of developing our partnership.”

Each year, money is set aside by the state legislature to support the MEIF, which, in turn, supports the growth and development of seven target areas: biotechnology, aquaculture and marine technology, composite materials technology, environmental technology, advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture, information technology and precision manufacturing technology.

MEIF@USM is focused on funding initiatives that have significant economic development impacts, fit community needs, produce measurable workforce development outcomes and are focused on one of the MEIF target areas. Due to the focus of science and technology courses at UMO, the majority of the MEIF goes to Orono.

“The emphasis is more at UMO than USM, but we do get about 20 percent of the allocation,” said Terry Shehata, MEIF Coordinator. “We started to invest in initiatives that made sense for USM, primarily to provide our students with international exposure so they can become globally competent. More and more companies want to hire folks with a better appreciation for the global economy and cultural awareness.”

According to the MEIF@USM Strategic Framework for fiscal years 2017 to 2021, initiatives and projects that are results of the program share a common goal: “To strengthen USM’s research and workforce development capacities in strategic areas that are responsive to the needs of one or more businesses and industries in the seven MEIF technology areas and/or support ecosystems.”

Cummings said that the allocation USM receives is used to help foster the interest of the next generation of USM students in the North Atlantic region. Current projects within the North Atlantic Initiative that USM is working on are intricate and interdisciplinary. One of the most well known programs is the partnership between USM and Reykjavik University (RU), which, spearheaded in 2015, is finally allowing USM student participation this summer.

In June, a trip of 15 matriculated students will travel to Iceland with the USM Honors Department with funding from both MEIF and an endowment from a private donor. The rising sophomore honors students will spend four weeks on the island participating a semester-long honors seminar course. The cost of the trip for participants could be as low as zero.

“Students have to procure their own passport, so that’s the only potential cost, but all the travel, food, lodging and transportation are paid for by the honors program. The honors program is also paying their tuition,” said Rebecca Nisetich, the director of the Honors Program.

Not only will honors students experience international travel during summer 2017, but students also enrolled in an ethics lab course or a tourism and hospitality course will travel to Iceland. The Tourism and Hospitality Department is offering the travel course to the public as well as USM students. With plans to transfer to USM next spring and expand her studies in the tourism industry, SMCC student Alysa Grindlinger will be among those traveling to the North Atlantic in June.

“I’m really enjoying this partnership,” Grindlinger said, in reference to the USM-RU alliance. “It’s giving me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The value of the real world experience that I’ll be getting is fairly balanced with the cost of the course.”

Students who do not travel with the honors program are not able to take advantage of grant money, as it was designated for students with high GPAs.

Internships, research opportunities and innovative projects are just some of the additional benefits MEIF@USM has been able to provide to students and faculty members. However, the impact the entire MEIF@USM and North Atlantic Initiative have on the community surpasses the benefit for the USM community.

By creating opportunities for coalition work between businesses, such as EIMSKIP, research institutions and academic institutions throughout the North Atlantic, connections and relationships have been established.

“USM and RU are two small, isolated communities that have had the opportunity to network and gain knowledge of other communities,” said RU’s president, Ari Jonsson, at a formal event during an RU visit to USM on March 17. “It would have been impossible to have connected RU to the United States without a partner.”

Sodexo serves mixed reviews on college campuses

Tue, 2017-04-18 15:59

By: Johnna Ossie, News Editor

In 2016, the University of Maine System gave its five-year dining services contract to French multinational corporation Sodexo. According to Buster Neel, interim chief business officer at USM, Sodexo was the best decision financially for the university.

General Manager Tadd Sloane oversees all of the Sodexo operations at USM and at UMaine Augusta. Sloane explained some of the corporation’s goals on campus, which have been to bring in more local foods and be involved in local community hunger initiatives.

At USM Sodexo has worked with the local Boys and Girls Club and the Husky Hunger Initiative. They have also promised to bring more Maine produce to campus dining. So far throughout the Maine campuses Sodexo has purchased over 17 percent of its produce locally. Sodexo employs 117 employees across the Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn campuses.

According to Sloane, the company is able to get food from several dozen Maine farms through the distributor Native Maine, including Lakeside Farm in Newport. The company also gets its dairy products from Oakhurst, located behind the Woodbury Campus Center.

Sodexo has business ties with Starbucks and suggested bringing the coffee shop to Glickman Library. Neel says Starbucks was chosen as a result of student, staff and faculty interest, but it was Sodexo who originally proposed bringing a Starbucks to campus. Neel also said that right now the coffee stand in Glickman is not technically a Starbucks, but simply Sodexo serving Starbucks coffee.

Sloane believes that product fatigue was the reason for not choosing Coffee by Design for the library.

“Currently, we have eight or nine locations serving Coffee by Design…we hear that students are looking for some variety,” he said. He confirmed that Sodexo offered Starbucks as a potential business to come to campus.

Though Sodexo at USM is working to maintain community involvement, the business is not without its share of corporate controversy. In 2005, the company paid out 80 million dollars in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by thousands of the company’s Black employees. The employees claimed that they did not receive promotions because of racial discrimination and that a segregated work environment was being fostered.

In 2003, the company was forced to suspend distribution of all frozen beef products due to horse DNA being discovered in various meats.

According to a 2016 article from Medium, until 2001, Sodexo owned a large amount of stock in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a corporation that owns over half of all private prisons in the United States. After pressure from students at Pomona College, the company dropped its CCA shares but continues to manage over 100 private prisons abroad. These are located in countries including Belgium, Chile, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The company also manages prisons and immigrant detention centers throughout the United Kingdom.

One of the company’s prisons is HMP Northumberland, Britain’s seventh largest jail. The prison was recently the target of BBC undercover journalism which reported that within the prison, drug sales, security breaches and weaponry were commonplace, and that there was a general sense of “chaos.”

At Scripps College in Southern California, students have started a campaign, “Drop Sodexo,” demanding their school drop the caterer. Leah Shorb, a member of the group and first-year student at Scripps, provided a statement from the Drop Sodexo campaign.

“Students have been actively organizing…to pressure the Scripps administration to terminate the facilities and dining services contracts with the corporation. Sodexo is one of the largest corporations in the world that services institutions such as prisons, schools and universities, assisted-living facilities, hospitals, government agencies, military bases, and others,” the group wrote. “It is infamous for its host of civil rights abuses, exploitative labor policies, neoliberalism, anti-unionism, substandard food quality, violations of food safety, environmental destruction, racial discrimination, major class-action lawsuits, ownership of over 100 private prisons abroad, and much more.”

The group has organized a boycott and continues to work to get Sodexo dropped as the school’s food provider.

“Our focus is…how do we serve our students best, that’s the whole key and clearly Sodexo presented the best proposal,” said Neel. When asked for USM’s stance on Sodexo’s controversies, Neel said the university does not have a position.


Starbucks in Glickman has ties to university dining services

Tue, 2017-04-18 15:53

While a Starbucks in the Glickman Library may seem like an exciting new addition to campus, the service fails to provide a full assortment of options. Sodexo, USM’s food provider, was chosen because they presented the best offer and the highest capital amongst competition. Many of the statements by USM officials about the Starbucks’ success differ greatly from the perspectives of students on campus.

Sodexo, which has business ties with Starbucks, made the suggestion of bringing a Starbucks coffee shop to Glickman. According to Buster Neel, the decision was made after hearing strong student, faculty and staff interest.

The Starbucks in the library is not a full-service location, and offers only coffee and snacks. The initial installation cost, according to Neel, was around $20,000–$25,000. The contract started on July 1, 2016, and will continue through June 30, 2021. It is renewable for five additional one year terms by USM.

According to an article by the Free Press published in March, “The money is pulled from a one-million-dollar contract between USM and Sodexo,” so in the first two years of the contract, there is this much money available for “university renovations through Sodexo.”

Neel explained that changes will come to the Starbucks in the summer, after the university begins running water lines to the Starbucks location in order to meet health department requirements for speciality drinks. He said that during this time, various quotes on pricing for Starbucks installations will come in.

“[Sodexo] can have a Starbucks operation or we can just serve Starbucks coffee instead. It’s much more expensive to have a full fledge Starbucks,” said Neel. “By the fall semester, students, faculty and staff will be able to get a lot more than they’re getting now.”

The current plan is to see what summer brings. Otherwise, future goals aim to completely redo the whole first floor of the Glickman Library so that the Starbucks location will be closer to the entrance and exit doors.

“One of the things I know that the director of the library wants to do is get students in the building,” said Neel, speaking for David Nutty. “The long-term goal is to have a strong gathering place for individual and group study, as well as a charging station. But that takes money, and that takes time.”

All six institutions in the UMaine system now have a contract with Sodexo. Neel explained that this was a system-level decision to go out and re-bid. He noted that three bids came in back: Sodexo, Aramark and local individuals in the state.

“After looking at all the financial components, the service component and so forth, the collective wisdom of the system showed that Sodexo provided the best offer,” said Neel. “These local individuals couldn’t come up with the capital or a price point that was competitive. A lot of what we’re trying to do is not only provide better service but keep the costs down too.”

According to Tadd Sloane, general manager of Sodexo operations at USM and UMaine Augusta, product fatigue was a big reason for not choosing Coffee By Design for the library, one of USM’s current local coffee options, which is offered in the Woodbury Campus Center, the Luther Bonney Snack Station and on the Gorham campus.

“Currently, we have eight or nine locations serving Coffee By Design…” he said.“We hear that students are looking for some variety.” He confirmed that Sodexo offered Starbucks as a potential business to come to campus.

Since the initial excitement of the Starbucks installation, students interviewed by the Free Press have expressed a huge disinterest in and dissatisfaction with the new addition to Glickman. Senior history major Jessica Vogel stated that while it is nice to have decent coffee available, calling it a Starbucks at all is not the right label when considering how little it offers.

“I think if you’re gonna have a contract [between Sodexo and USM] that costs so much, there are a lot of local shops that have great products,” she said. “If students could form partnerships with those kind of companies, it’s much more beneficial.”

Neel explained that after establishing rates and working with Sodexo to provide students what they need, USM gets as close to “breaking even” as possible. He explained that USM spends 3 million on meal plans through Sodexo, and that USM turns around and charges students for these meal plans. He also stated that Sodexo has catering, which USM gets a sales commission on. This extra income, he said, is “for the most part” put back into the dining operation.

“I think we don’t necessarily try to make this a profit operation for us, obviously Sodexo has to make a profit, but our main concern is to try to offer products to the student at a reasonable price,” he said. “The surveys that have come out so far have a pretty high rating of satisfaction. At this point the students are, overall pleased with us.”

Sophomore social work major Samia Ali disagrees with Neel’s statements, saying that the costs of items in the Starbucks are too expensive, so she has never purchased any product at this location.

“The costs could be a lot cheaper than they are now,” said Ali. “It shouldn’t cost so much. A lot of people like their coffee but as students it is hard for us to afford.”

In March of this year, senior psychology major Brent Shabnore told the Free Press that he thinks the Starbucks addition makes a lot of sense for the university. He explained his liking for its convenient location, noting that you “can’t have a library without a coffee [shop] at the bottom of it,” saying that it’s “basic economics.”

When addressed with several Sodexo controversies, which include allegations of providing low-paying wages, owning private prisons and finding horse meat DNA in food, Neel stated that the decision was made without “getting into the political side of things.” He continued by explaining the importance of satisfying students.

“I think the committee went about this with what’s best for our students, providing the needs that we have. We haven’t had any comments on controversy at this point,” he said. “It’s never gonna be perfect, there is no such thing as that.”

Some information in this article was collected by Johnna Ossie, News Editor of the Free Press.

LePage to visit USM: President Cummings’ office picks up the cost

Tue, 2017-04-18 08:15

By: Sarah Tewksbury, Free Press Staff

The USM chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) has invited Gov.Paul LePage to speak at Hannaford Hall on Tuesday, April 18 at 6 p.m. According to the USM YAF Facebook event page, LePage will be speaking about four different areas: “the budget, tax policy, welfare reform, and energy policy.” Ben Bussiere, the chairman for YAF, titled the event, “Making Maine Great.”

“The purpose of the governor’s visit is to inform students and community members about issues regarding the state of Maine,” Bussiere said. “I am hosting this event so people can be educated and informed on these key issues in our state. I also am hosting this event so community members and students can ask Gov. LePage questions that are important to them.”

Bussiere has been planning to invite LePage to speak since the fall semester. LePage, who has not been to Portland for a forum since 2015, will spend 45 minutes discussing current and future Maine policy topics, which will then be followed by a 15-minute Q&A period.

Since the beginning of the semester, the YAF group has attracted a considerable amount of attention due to controversial incidences. In February, YAF hosted an event where Maine State Rep. Larry Lockman discussed an immigration bill he was planning to sponsor. The event was protested and caused disagreement and discussion among USM administrators.

Increased publicity for the group has allowed for the USM community to become involved in the events YAF has sponsored. Though attention has not necessarily been positive, students say the presence of the small group has been felt on the Portland campus.

“I think it has negatively affected campus. It’s really stressful to have [Bussiere] and [YAF] host events, especially because it’s very clear that he’s hosting events with politicians who are controversial and far-right leaning such as Gov. LePage and Rep. Larry Lockman,” said Emma Donnelly, a sophomore social work major at USM. “He’s bringing politicians that spread hate rhetoric and make students feel unsafe, namely our queer, trans, immigrant and Muslim students and our students of color.”

Some students feel like tension has increased on campus because of the open presence of the group. Though YAF has experienced contention during the recent months, USM continues to support the presence of the group on campus. In an attempt to be fair and respectful to the public official visiting campus Tuesday, President Cummings has initiated that the President’s Office pay the rental fee for Hannaford Hall. Bob Stein, executive director of Public Affairs and Marketing, spoke about the cost of renting Hannaford Hall.

“Because Gov. LePage is a public official, USM picks up the cost of the rental,” Stein said. “He’ll be bringing his own security detail, but to compensate, we might be bringing in more security presence.”

Though Stein originally said USM pays for public officials to come to campus and does not charge student groups, such as YAF, for the cost, Elizabeth Morin, the director of Conference Services, has a different perspective. According to Morin, the cost of hosting LePage would be $900 and would cover a half-day rental. She also said that USM does not cover the cost of events for public officials. Upon further questioning, the office of the Conference Services referred Free Press staff back to Stein.

Following up on his initial comments, Stein detailed more clearly why USM has covered the cost of Hannaford Hall.

“The President’s Office has paid the cost of Hannaford Hall. President Cummings feels that when a statewide officeholder comes to USM, we should not charge a fee,” Stein wrote. “We recently did the same when Senator King held a town hall in Hannaford Hall regarding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.”

The inconsistencies between administrative offices’ interpretation of the rules and protocols did not go unnoticed.

“President Cummings plans a university review of our guidelines on rental of space and security costs,”  Stein said. “He feels we have not been consistent in the past with enforcing our guidelines, and is also uncomfortable with some specific guidelines on the cost of security.  He wants USM to develop clearer guidelines that will be consistently enforced.”

Students call for resignation of student senate chair

Tue, 2017-04-11 12:39

By: Julie Pike, Free Press Staff

For most of the student senate meeting on Friday, April 7, business ran as usual. There were guest speakers present, various campus committees that spoke about their projects and discussions about budgets.  However, throughout the meeting a group of roughly 15 students gathered in the back corner of the lecture hall in Payson Smith. At the point where concerns were allowed to be brought forward, several students began to speak. They were directing their comments toward Student Senate Chair Liam Ginn. Ginn was accused of making an Islamophobic comment to a Muslim student. Iris SanGiovanni, a senior political science major, began the discussion.

“You told a young muslim woman that she could not be a feminist because of the hijab that she wears,” SanGiovanni said. “You consider yourself an ally to the Muslim community, yet you talk to an individual student in such a way.”

In her statement, SanGiovanni brought up other instances when Ginn allegedly discriminated against the same Muslim student.

“The very weekend that comment was made,” she began, “there was a policy created that the Student Senate Office would only be used as a place of business, and that this same student that you directed those words would not allowed in there.”

During the meeting several students were trying to talk at once, to the point where their concerns could not be heard. Rodney Mondor, the director of Transitional Programs at USM, asked students to express their concerns in the format that the student senate traditionally uses.

“There is a process for the order of concerns here,” Mondor stated. “Concerns are first brought forward, [and then] the senators will address those concerns and then report back at the next meeting.”

Student Senator Fadumo Awale responded to claims that the senate is not doing anything about Ginn’s comments and stated that three violation inquiry committees have been filed against Ginn.

“We are processing these at the moment. We are working on it and have formed a committee to work on investigating it,” Fadumo said. “We are doing something about it. We’re not just sitting and watching these things happening.”

A violation inquiry committee is made up of six members of the senate, who are remaining anonymous. Senator Jeffrey Ahlquist, the chair of the Finance Committee, explained how his committee will handle the concerns.

“A group of people will gather all of the information, ask both parties involved questions, come up with a ruling and make a recommendation for discipline,” Ahlquist stated.

SanGiovanni asked if there was a call for Ginn to resign.

“We cannot ask someone to resign without [a] proper investigation,” Awale responded.

“Why can’t he speak for himself? He should say something,” asked Mariana Angelo, another student in the audience.

Awale responded by saying there is a process for addressing concerns within the senate. She stated that Ginn does not have to answer right away. The senate is given the week to address the concern and will respond to the concern at the following meeting.

Shouting began at that point and Ginn declared that the meeting was adjourned. The audience responded to his action in an uproar. SanGiovanni chanted “Liam needs to go.”

The students that were there repeatedly asked Ginn to say something about the comments he made.

“Now you’re in a room full of people and you’ve got nothing to say,” Angelo said. “Liam isn’t saying anything because he can’t take accountability. We’re giving him concerns and he has the audacity to adjourn the meeting.”

Angelo then addressed the vice chair of student senate, Muna Adan.

“Muna is not even trying to hold him accountable,” Angelo said. “You are a Muslim woman and you are still trying to support him.”

At that point, students in the crowd became raucous, and a police officer, who was waiting in the hallway outside the meeting, started to step in. A majority of the senate began to disperse and left the meeting, and the rest of those in attendance eventually followed.

“I’m just disappointed in the behavior of students that decided to disrupt the meeting and start fights,” Ginn said.

Discussions continued in the hallway and then out in the courtyard outside of Payson Smith.

“I think everyone has a boiling point, but I don’t believe that everyone handles stress the same way,” Ahlquist said. “I think that today a small minority of the people at the meeting handled themselves in such a way where the majority of people weren’t able to get the results that they wanted.”



Islamophobic graffiti found in Luther Bonney

Tue, 2017-04-11 12:38

By: Johnna Ossie, News Editor

For the second time since the start of the school year, USM administration and campus police are investigating anti-Muslim graffiti discovered by students on campus. The graffiti was discovered in a third floor classroom in Luther Bonney by students who reported it to campus security.

The words “kill the muslin (sic)” were written on an active shooter response poster, misspelling the word Muslim. The words were written above a figure hitting another figure with a chair below the section of the poster labeled “fight.” The poster has since been taken down, but students took photographs that have been circulating on social media.

In November, campus police investigated graffiti found in the Student Senate office in Woodbury Campus Center where the phrase “Deus Vult” had been written twice in permanent marker. The Latin phrase was used as a rallying cry during the Crusades but has more recently been used as an anti-Muslim sentiment by the “alt-right” white nationalist movement.

USM has been in the public spotlight multiple times this year, first for the “Deus Vult” graffiti, and later when conservative student group Young Americans For Freedom hosted Republican State Rep. Larry Lockman on campus, prompting student and community protest of Lockman’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Hate crimes in the U.S. have been on the rise since the 2016 election. NBC reports hate crime are up by almost 20 percent in metropolitan areas. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the months following the election, most hate incidents took place in America’s schools.

“This is not the first incident of such behavior on our campus this year. I truly wish I could assure you it will be the last,” wrote President Cummings in a campus-wide email the day after the most recent graffiti was discovered. “…While we can not control the behavior of every single person who finds their way onto our campus, I can assure you our approach is that even one incident is too many and will not be tolerated.”

A campus-wide email from Student Body President Humza Khan called the graffiti “an outrageous, completely unacceptable, and heinous act of hatred.”

Students were informed that there would be staff available on all three campuses to discuss the graffiti and any issues around Islamophobia in the days following the incident.

The investigation is ongoing. Bob Stein, executive director of Public Affairs and Marketing, reports that President Cummings sought assistance from Portland City Manager Jon Jennings, who has involved the Portland Police Department in the investigation. According to Stein, the Portland Police have more resources than campus security for investigating the incident.

“It’s my understanding that essentially we have an investigation, and when that investigation is complete, and hopefully that includes finding the person who did this, there’s three places it will go,” Stein said.

He explained that if the person who wrote the graffiti is found, the investigation reports would go to the Student Conduct Office where an internal process would be done, as well as to the Attorney General and the District Attorney. The Attorney General would review the reports and decide if the incident qualifies as a hate crime, and the District Attorney would review the reports for possible prosecution.


USM’s human performance lab studies how to maximize exercise

Tue, 2017-04-11 12:37

By: Heather Roberts, Free Press Staff

On the Gorham campus, a Human Performance Lab has students hooked up to metabolic carts, a device used to measure oxygen consumed during exercise, to estimate how many calories they’ve burned. The goal of this research, according to Professor Christopher Scott of the Department of Exercise, Health and Sports Sciences, is to estimate energy expenditure before, during and after exercise.

If you’ve ever wondered how many calories you can burn while participating in a particular activity, such as bench pressing, bicycling or running, Scott has observed in his research that short, intense and intermittent exercise, followed by a recovery period, can help an individual burn the most fat.

This research, performed by lab students for science classes, attempts to measure the amount of energy produced during anaerobic exercise. Strength, speed and power tend to distinguish anaerobic exercise from aerobic.

Aerobic exercise is the type of physical activity that only uses oxygen. Anaerobic exercise is different from aerobic exercise because this type of physical activity makes the muscles clamp down on blood vessels, decreasing oxygen.

Due to the fact that muscles get less oxygen during anaerobic exercise, to make energy muscles resort to producing lactic acid from sugar. To measure the amount of energy produced during anaerobic exercise, students measure lactic acid in the blood.

As well as taking measurements of aerobic and anaerobic physical activity, students record their subjects’ oxygen uptake for the recovery period, or the ten or fifteen minutes following exercises where the body brings itself back to its state before exercise.

After taking the measurement of aerobic, anaerobic and recovery of a physical activity or activities, lab students input the data into a cost per task formula, where the cost is the volume of oxygen consumed and the task is a physical activity, which can include walking, running or weight lifting. They then graph the results overall to see the total energy cost.

Through this research analysis, Scott recommended an estimated seven seconds of intense exercise such as sprinting, weight-lifting or vigorous cycling, followed by three to four minutes of active, multiple recovery periods that include activity such as walking or light cycling. He explained that, for every liter of oxygen consumed, five calories are burned.

“[During] the recovery period, we’re bringing the body back to what we call homeostasis [stable equilibrium],” he said “So back toward resting metabolic rate and that takes energy.”

Everyone is different, so rigorous intermittent exercise with long pauses may not always be the best option. To lose weight, a twenty-minute walk might be better. Scott warned that one must be careful about how they use intensity in a workout, saying that perceived exertion, or what you think of as intensity, does not dictate what the energy costs are.

According to Scott, since rigorous physical activities, such as weight lifting, tend to become anaerobic exercises with long recovery periods, the cost per task formula is better at calculating total energy expended than the well-known cost per minute formula. On the other hand, Scott has found that, after a while, exercise and recovery periods plateau in calorie and fat consumption.

“If you keep exercising, you’re actually becoming more efficient as time goes on,” he said, adding that six percent of sugar breakdown is anaerobic while aerobic exercise accounts for the other 94 percent.

According to Scott, to explore the recovery phase further, additional research such as a student-led longitudinal study may help. For now, undergrad students perform short experiments on health and fitness for their Thinking Matters presentations.

The most recent results show that an interval exercise is best to burn both calorie and fat. “Really intense bouts – very brief and then coupled with some sort of active recovery,”  Scott said, “You can’t get any more expensive than that.”

The ROCC provides life-saving training for local community

Sat, 2017-03-18 17:54

Mary Ellen Aldrich, Community Editor

Across Cumberland County, the state of Maine and the United States, opioid use and overdose is increasing. According to the Office of the Maine Attorney General, in 2016 opioid overdose claimed more than one life each day in Maine, resulting in a total of 378 lives lost to opioids.

“It’s an epidemic,” said Ash Havlin, a senior sociology and psychology major. “People are dying every day in Maine. And it doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason for it. People shouldn’t be dying, they should be receiving treatment.”

The Maine Medical Association refers to Maine’s rise in opioid use as an epidemic and a crisis that needs to be addressed. Opioids are on the rise in Maine, especially synthetic opioids. Synthetically made opioids are stronger and more unpredictable than natural opioids. According to a report published by the Maine DHHS State Epidemiology Outcomes Workgroup, Maine’s Central and Cumberland districts have seen some of the highest rates of drug-related overdose deaths in the state.

The Recovery Oriented Campus Center (ROCC), located in the Sullivan Gym on USM’s Portland campus, is trying to reduce the incidence of opioid overdose in the USM and Portland communities. Steps it has taken towards the goal of community healing include providing education and a safe and supportive environment to foster recovery and a sense of community.

On March 3, the ROCC hosted a training session to educate participants in the prevention of, identification of and emergency response to opioid overdose. The hour-and-a-half training was led by Zoe Odlin-Platz, a community health promotion specialist who works for the Portland Needle Exchange. Odlin-Platz discussed the importance of such training and how it relates to the current drug problems Portland and other parts of Maine are experiencing.

“We’re seeing a lot of really strong product, a lot of inconsistent product and there are a lot of people using [it],” Odlin-Platz said. “I think the internet plays a huge role in what’s available, and we’re seeing substances that we’ve never seen before. We don’t even really know what they are but we know that they’re here.”

In addition to providing Narcan, or Naloxone, training at the ROCC, the Portland Needle Exchange has facilitated training for USM nursing students and the Health and Counseling Center on the Gorham campus. According to ROCC members, training the community to correctly handle the situation of an overdose can help save lives and reduce the lasting trauma that results from being a bystander unable to assist. Knowing what to do and how to help doesn’t remove all fear and trauma, but it does lessen it and could save a life.

“I think it [Narcan training] is important because it is the reality that we live in now, people do overdose,” Havlin said. “I think that it’s important that we sustain people’s lives as long as possible so that we can provide people with treatment and give them the opportunity to live a life in recovery.”

Naloxone can make a difference in the number of deaths versus the number of survivors. According to the Maine DHHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health reports, 824 people required administration of naloxone by EMS due to opioid overdose in 2014.

“This type of training is important because it’s saving lives,” said Katie Tomer, a junior health sciences major. “I think that’s one of the biggest factors of importance, not only on college campuses but nationwide.”

Andrew Kiezulas, a senior chemistry major, sees the training as something important not only for someone experiencing overdose, but for the bystander as well.

“Feeling helpless,” Kiezulas said, “is far more damning than being in that situation and having something that you can do.”

Controversy in SGA continues, senator resigns during meeting

Sat, 2017-03-18 17:54

Krysteana Scribner, Editor-in-chief

Last week, the weekly Student Government meeting experienced an interruption in protocol when Rowan Torr, a former senator, attempted to address concerns regarding alleged discrimination against individuals with disabilities within the student senate. According to Student Body President Humza Khan, various controversies the student senate has been at the center of over the course of the school year incited the incident.

He stated that, during each meeting, an average of five individuals show up to “take up space” and monitor the actions of senate members. While he was unable to identify all individuals involved in last week’s call to action against the student senate, he did note that Iris SanGiovanni, Elizabeth Donato and Marena Blanchard were three of the individuals who showed up with Torr.

“[They] started disturbing the peace, and were accusing me and other senators of being biased, anti-black, anti-trans rights and in support of white supremacy, despite the fact that the senate is more diverse now more than ever,” he said.

Dean of Students David McKenzie responded to an interview request with an email statement, which briefly explained the details of the meeting. When Torr was not given permission to break protocol and interrupt regular business, wrote McKenzie, Torr resigned from the senate. He reiterated that Torr was told several times to stop interrupting the meeting, but refused and continued to make a speech for another 20-30 minutes, at which point McKenzie had campus public safety officers escort Torr out of the room.

According to McKenzie, Portland local Marena Blanchard recorded the meeting. The recording, he said, “included the profanity laced tirade by [Torr].” He noted that while he did not see it for himself, he is aware that the video is now on social media. In the video, Blanchard can be heard telling Torr, as they are asked multiple times to leave the meeting, “You don’t have to stop. You don’t have to listen.”

Liam Ginn, the chair of the student senate, said that he was “very disappointed with Rowan and Marena for their actions.”

Torr initially sat down in the room with the senators and brought up concerns that were not on the agenda for the meeting.

“I can see there are a lot of questions you want to ask and a lot of anger, I can sense it. I can see some of the comments,” said Student Senator Fadumo Awale. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior, you are a senator, there are rules and regulations to follow… we are all adults here.”

Awale continued by offering Torr resources to file a report on the incident, while Shaman Kirkland, senator and chief of staff, asked Torr, “If this is so important to you, why can’t we wait until the appropriate time to talk about it?”

Jason Saucier, the SGA advisor, proposed a five minute recess during the meeting, and upon the student senators return, Torr interrupted again, this time with a megaphone.

Khan explained that incidents of conflict were not uncommon within the student senate, but until the meeting on March 10, no one had ever interrupted a senate meeting in a way that broke protocol.

“I can understand that conflict and political disagreement may exist, which is fair grounds to be angry about,” Khan said. “But Rowan and their friends started targeting students on Facebook, both in public and private messages… calling them trash, losers… it was clearly harassment.”

Torr was reminded that they were violating student senate protocol, but they continued.

“You are all so transphobic and I have anxiety attacks every time I come to the senate,” they said.

In the two-part video series posted by Torr on Facebook, they claim the student senate was responsible for “attacking two femmes and calling them stupid and keyboard warriors.” Torr also accused Ginn of being “discriminatory against people with disabilities,” but provided no evidence when asked by members of the student senate.

On Facebook, Torr posted their confidential disciplinary hearing order, sent from Andrew McLean. Torr deleted the post a few days later, although the Free Press has physical records of its existence. The document states that Torr was scheduled for a hearing on the charges of  “Causing a disturbance and a failure to comply with university officials.”

According to Pdg Mowins Muhamiriza, student body vice president, Torr’s actions were inappropriate, because to him, escalations of conflict like these turn to chaotic situations. Whatever their motives were, noted Muhamiriza, they could have made a more reasonable point by being ready to debate.

“Whenever you are tempted to make a sudden move or comment, regardless of how you feel, it is always best to try to understand the other side’s approach, and this time, it is safe to say that they pushed hard the senate’s buttons,” he said.

According to Khan, the most pressing issue at hand is some individuals’ unwillingness to listen to perspectives that differ from their own. He believes that, by interrupting and yelling, they demonstrate to others that “they lack a degree of knowledge and understanding about SGA, and [that] they are unwilling to cooperate if [things don’t] completely go their way.”

“I think to a certain degree there is a small group of students and they don’t know how to handle themselves. They have their own way of communicating and protesting their concerns, but there are some basic rules we follow in the US. and the world,” he said. “These kinds of behaviors are based in immaturity, and not having the willingness to listen to the other side, labeling someone and not understanding what the issues are.”

Muna Adan, vice chair of the student senate, observed that, as soon as a person joins or engages with the SGA, others cast aspersions on their commitment to respecting members of the student body.

“As soon as one joins the Student Government Association or engages with its representatives, they become an ableist, anti-black, a white supremacist, homophobic, Islāmophobic, misogynistic, oppressive, sexist, transphobic, et cetera,” Adan said. “If one belongs to and/or identifies with any of those groups, they are referred to as a self-hater. I know this because I, and those whom I work with, have been called those derogatory terms.”

“There are individuals from the past who have represented our organization negatively, but they are gone, and we do not stand for what they did,” she continued. “We need to stop with the us versus them mentality and learn to work with one another, regardless of our differences. How will we make progress as an organization, a student body, and a university if we are hostile and do not want to engage and work with others?”

SanGiovanni, Donato and Blanchard did not provide commentary. Torr, who was contacted by the Free Press, had one statement to make: “Watch the video.”


Guns on Campus: What it could mean for students?

Sat, 2017-03-18 17:52

By Johnna Ossie, News Editor

Republican Maine State Representative Richard Cebra of Naples plans to propose a bill that, if passed, would allow students to legally carry firearms on campus. The bill, “LR 635 An Act To Enhance Safety on College and University Campuses by Allowing Firearms To Be Carried on the Campuses of Public Colleges and Universities,” is still in title form  has not yet been printed and introduced.

Rep. Cebra has cosponsored a bill by Senator Eric Brakey of Androscoggin, LD 44 that would lower the age to carry a concealed handgun from 21 to 18. He has also cosponsored LD 574, the summary of which reads, “This bill eliminates the provision of law that requires a person lawfully in possession of a concealed handgun without a permit during the course of a detainment or routine traffic stop to inform the law enforcement officer that the person is in possession of the handgun.”

According to Cebra, “Gun-free zones, also known as Disarmed Victim Zones, have been shown time and time again to be magnets for bad people to do bad things to good people.”

Professor Dušan Bjelić, from the Criminology, Economics and Sociology Departments, said that he has never heard “Gun Free Zones” be referred to as “Disarmed Victim Zones.”

“‘Disarmed Victim Zones’ kind of belongs, to me, to this new Trump linguistic counter information, like fake news or alternative facts,” Bjelić said. “[Cebra] doesn’t provide any evidence, although he says ‘gun free zones also known as ‘Disarmed Victim Zones.’ I’m a criminologist and I learned that term for the first time. He is inventing facts rather than substantiating evidence that there is a history of gun violence on any of the Maine campuses, and there is not.”

As of now, USM’s Weapons Policy reads, “Dangerous weapons, including but not limited to, firearms… are not permitted on property owned by or under the control of the [USM] and off-campus activities sponsored by the [USM].”

Bjelić also discussed how he believes the rhetoric of “good guys and bad guys” fails to address the complexities of campus and national political culture, and discussed some of the history surrounding the carrying of firearms, which he says has roots in slavery-era America.

“Historically this goes back to the time of slavery,” he said. “In South Carolina, white people were ordered to carry guns when they could go to public places [and] where they [could] encounter slaves. So the function of the gun, to carry a gun in public places, was to protect yourself from the slave.”

Bjelić wondered who gets to define who is a “good person” and who is a “bad person,” in the context of racism and Islamophobia in the current political and campus climate.

“In some sense, if somebody should worry about their security it should be Muslim students and immigrants,” he said. “By that logic, according to this proposal, they should be the ones who should be armed first. But I don’t think that intent is here. I hear it, reading between the lines, [the bill] is for the white people to defend themselves.”

A major concern among those opposed to allowing guns on campus is that it would increase campus violence. While universities are generally known to be places with low levels of violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that works to end gun violence, reports that factors such as drug and alcohol use combined with students carrying firearms could increase the risk of violence on campus.

A report from Everytown cites a Columbia University study which found that half of U.S. college students binge drink or use illegal or prescription drugs, and that almost a quarter of college students “suffer from substance abuse and dependence.” The report also found that students who carried guns on campus “were more likely than students who did not do so to report drinking heavily and, more frequently, driving while under the influence of alcohol and vandalizing property.”

Bjelić also addressed concerns that a climate of alcohol and drug use on college campuses mixed with guns could be deadly.

“If you add drugs and drinking on the campus with loaded guns,” Bjelić said, “what is there that would prevent, let’s say, drunk students playing Russian roulette?”

Rep. Cebra believes that allowing students to carry guns on campus would increase campus safety.

“This bill would help restore that ability to lawful citizens currently being denied their most personal and sacred right in specific places,” he said.  “Good people must have the ability to keep and protect themselves from harm regardless of location.”

Alex Shaffer, co-chair of the USM College Republicans and second-year history major, said he would need to know more about the bill to form a definite opinion, but that he would be in support.

“I support this legislation, for if it is implemented properly it will allow students to exercise their second amendment right, and at the same time cut down on the crime rate at the university,” Shaffer said. “Personally I believe allowing firearms on a university campus has both positives and negatives, and that little is known about the bill to know if it is what is best for the university and state as a whole.”

In an online survey of forty-eight USM students, twelve reported that they would support a bill that allowed guns on campus, thirty-four said that they would not support the bill and two said they did not know if they would support it.

Ben Bussiere, senior political science major and president of USM Young Americans for Freedom, said he believes that students should be allowed to carry firearms on campus, concealed or open. Bussiere believes that students carrying guns would make campus safer, in particular for women.

“I think it would be a significant deterrent for criminals and students who have the intent of sexually assaulting women, which we know, on campuses throughout America, that the sexual assault of women on campuses is a problem,” Bussiere said. “I think that concealed carry permits for women or anyone on campus would be significant.”

Bjelić explained that he does not believe guns are the way to address sexual assault on campus.

“We know in robbery and burglary, whoever tries to defend themselves with guns end up being more injured than those who cooperate…,” he said. “I would suggest instead of carrying guns, first of all, insist on the policy at the university…awareness of sexual abuse on campus, which is underreported. We have to have university administration very much aware of this and doing everything possible to identify and punish sexual aggressors.”

MaineStreet: An archaic tool or a useful database?

Sat, 2017-03-04 13:24

By Sarah Tewksbury, Free Press Staff

Since the fall semester of 2008, the University of Maine System has been using MaineStreet, an online tool, to aid students, faculty members and employees in university business such as registering for classes, managing work study hours, paying university bills and accessing personal academic information. In recent years, however, some members of the USM community that are using the system have determined it to be outdated and archaic.

The system-wide tool is used by many universities nationwide, such as Cornell University and Princeton University. The software’s true name is PeopleSoft, but the University of Maine System has nicknamed it MaineStreet for local use.

One major complaint from students is that the web design of the program is akin to that of an aging and worn-out website, making it seem more difficult to use than it truly is. According to USM’s Director of Registration and Scheduling Services Karin Pires, the problem could potentially be fixed.

“It is powerful in terms of its database capabilities; where it falls short sometimes is in the user interface,” Karin Pires wrote. “Other schools have purchased ‘add-ons’ to PeopleSoft in order to make it easier for students, particularly when trying to put together a schedule. I am exploring some of the same products.”

Pires went on to discuss the benefits of USM purchasing “add-ons” to the MaineStreet system. One of the most appealing supplementary features USM could buy is one that would allow students to build their schedules in a more visual and modern way. Dragging and dropping classes into a viewable block schedule would allow for students to create a schedule more easily.

When students navigate MaineStreet to find courses for upcoming academic sessions, courses that have not been offered for several semesters are often listed. When students consult their academic advisement report on MaineStreet, they are shown lists of courses that would satisfy program requirements. However, the lists of potential courses are often outdated. For example, a student looking for a course to satisfy a political science major requirement could come across courses that are no longer offered, such as POS 340 (The Politics of Developing Nations), which has not been offered at USM since fall term 2011.

Though there are issues surrounding MaineStreet, the advising department at USM has placed a great emphasis on students understanding the possibilities and benefits the system offers early on in their academic careers. Being able to efficiently navigate the portal can help students track their own academic progress and be completely aware of their GPA, financial aid and class registration.

“I think that the degree progress report is important, even though it isn’t always perfect. It can show what core are still needed, and what major requirements have to be met,” said Janis Albright, an academic advisor at the Portland campus.

Though the system could benefit from an update and become more user-friendly, advisors say that there is currently a large host of resources available to students who need help with the system. A simple search on the USM website turns up 12,700 results that help students and faculty members navigate, use and explore MaineStreet. According to the USM Advising Office, the resources available are not often utilized, making the system seem more difficult to operate than it really is.

USM staff members are also available during business hours to assist all students with issues they find when using the MaineStreet system. However, staff has found that the majority of questions and problems about the system come from new students who have not used MaineStreet before and that problems upper-class students have with the system are focused on the web interface and web design.

“I don’t get a lot of questions from most students,” said Jami Jandreau, the associate director of Student Financial Services. “Brand new students typically have questions about how to activate their accounts, but other than that I don’t see many students who are unable to use MaineStreet.”

Several departments at USM are available to answer topical questions about the system. Staff members in the Advising Office, the Technology Support Center, Student Financial Services and the Registrar’s Office are all knowledgeable and willing to aid any student or faculty member having issues with MaineStreet.

Portland campus sees a rise in thefts in the past month

Sat, 2017-03-04 13:21

By Julie Pike, Free Press Staff

In the last month, there has been a significant rise in the number of thefts on the Portland campus. On Feb. 22, USM Public Safety issued a statement on their Facebook page informing the public that several thefts have occurred in lockers and in unattended offices.

In the first seven weeks of the spring semester, seven thefts have been reported so far. Six of them happened on the Portland campus and one in Gorham. This is compared to the 12 total thefts that occurred in the Fall semester, of which nine were in Gorham and three were in Portland.

The thefts this semester have primarily occurred in the Sullivan Gym and Woodbury Campus Center. Lieutenant Ronald Saindon from USM Public Safety stated that cash and wallets had been taken out of lockers in the gym, and purses or bags left unattended have been taken in Woodbury.

Saindon stated that USM police are actively looking into the thefts that have taken place. They have also asked the manager of the Sullivan Gym, Kevin Normand, to post signs throughout the gym to notify people that thefts have occurred and that extra measures to secure their valuables should be taken.

“This does two things. It makes the public aware of the thefts,” stated Saindon, “and it puts whoever is doing this on notice and shows them that we are taking this seriously.”

Saindon is also encouraging the community at USM to take extra caution with their valuables.

There are video surveillance cameras in place on both campuses. However, these cameras are not present in private spots, such as locker rooms, making that area more susceptible to thefts.

In response to the increase in thefts, some students are becoming more cautious of where they are leaving their personal items. Beatrice Downs, a senior tourism and hospitality major, explained a tactic she uses to keep her stuff safe.

“While I’m in Woodbury, if I ever need to leave to go to the bathroom or something, I will ask the person next to me if they can watch my stuff,” Downs stated. “Almost every time they say yes.”

Out of 50 students surveyed, 64 percent of them were aware of thefts happening on campus. The students were notified via a mass email sent to students, or they heard of the incidents through the Public Safety Facebook page.

Of those students surveyed, 70 percent of them drive to school and all of them reported that they kept their cars locked at school. However, 15 percent of those students admitted that they would sometimes leave valuables in plain sight in their cars.

Saindon suggests that people should store their valuables in the trunk of their car, instead of leaving them out on the front seat, to lessen the chance of a vehicular theft. He also suggests that, to combat the rise in thefts, members of the USM community need to practice keeping their valuables hidden and secure, regardless of where they may be on campus.

“A lot of these crimes are crimes of opportunity,” Saindon said. “If the opportunity is there and somebody isn’t watching their stuff while their laptop or purse is out in the open, people will take that chance to take it.”

Saindon also encouraged faculty and staff at USM to not leave their belongings unattended and to lock their offices when they leave.

When students were asked if they felt that their things were safe at USM, half of the students surveyed agreed. The other half claimed that they did not feel as if their personal items were safe at school anymore.

In response to students’ feedback, Saindon asks for students to take extra precautions and to notify USM police if they see someone acting suspiciously or oddly.

The biggest question with the rise in thefts is the reason why the last month has seen more than usual. Saindon offered insight into why more are happening.

“The Portland campus is much more of a public campus,” Saindon said. “There’s a lot more people in the public that can wander in and out of campus in the Portland area. It’s also that time of year that we see a rise in crimes of opportunity. We’re not immune to it any more than any other college campus.”

To ensure that student’s valuables remain safe and secure, students are encouraged to not leave their things unattended, lock their vehicles and lockers and keep any valuables secure and out of plain view in their cars.


USM’s Title IX coordinator hopes to support trans students amidst rollbacks of federal protections

Sat, 2017-03-04 13:17

By Johnna Ossie, News Editor

Last Wednesday, amidst public outcry, the Trump administration removed federal guidelines which stated that transgender students have the right to use the restrooms that best align with their gender identity. Over the past two years the Obama administration had issued memos to the nation’s public schools that stated not allowing trans students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity was in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws under Title IX. The Trump administration issued a Dear Colleague letter that stated schools should ignore memos received from the Obama administration surrounding trans rights in public schools.

Newly appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has been widely criticized, said the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools…protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, [is] not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America,” according to the Washington Post.  

Many people are concerned for the safety and future of trans rights in America. Trans individuals have one of the highest murder rates, as well as the highest rates of suicide, in the LGBTQ community. So far, in 2017, there have been at least seven reported murders of transgender women. Many people are concerned that these rollbacks will have a detrimental effect on trans students’ mental health and put their lives at risk.

Sarah Holmes, USM’s Title IX coordinator, is hoping to continue to expand support for trans students, despite current attitudes and regulations coming from the federal administration.

“One of the things that’s really important from a university perspective is that legally, by policy and state law, the University of Southern Maine believes that Title IX absolutely still applies to all students,” she said, “and in particular trans students, and so we know that we have good policies, [and that] we still for the moment have really good state laws. There’s good legal precedent in Maine. The piece around bathrooms is that individual students, employees, guests on campus, should absolutely, one hundred percent of the time, be able to use the bathroom of the gender that they identify as.”

Holmes discussed that many are concerned about what will become of Title IX under Trump’s administration. She said that though they are concerned about Title IX as a whole, including where the current administration stands on sexual assault, harassment and sex discrimination, this challenge of trans rights was the first hit.

“The reversal of the Dear Colleague letter around trans students, particularly in education, was something that I think was unexpected,” Holmes said. “We probably shouldn’t have been surprised. We are all concerned about the future of Title IX under this current administration, in terms of a lot of different aspects. I think the trans piece is the first piece to really be challenged.”

Portland has responded so far with a public rally that took place one week after the Trump administration’s rollbacks on trans students rights, partly organized by former Student Body President Vice President and student activist Madison Raymond. The rally took place on the steps of City Hall, where many rallies have taken place since Trump’s inauguration in January, including a protest against Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and a stay on Syrian refugees, as well as several rallies directed at Senator Susan Collins. Another rally in support of trans rights is planned for Sunday the 4th in Monument Square.

Holmes says that USM is trying to take steps to protect and support trans students. Holmes discussed several initiatives she is hoping to spearhead, as well as the continued effort to build or reassign more gender-neutral or all-gender bathrooms on campus.

“There’s a project in the works to re-label all of our gender neutral bathrooms, or our all gender bathrooms, depending on how you want to call them and that’s something that’s still moving forward,” she said. “My understanding is that there will be a gender-neutral bathroom here in Woodbury this summer, that the construction will happen. Is it fast enough, is it enough? Absolutely not.”

Holmes discussed that this semester a change was made so that students can put the name they would like to be used on their class rosters into MaineStreet so that students do not have to worry about being “inadvertently outed” in class. Holmes also explained that the university is hoping to allow people to put the pronouns they use into demographics information on MaineStreet.

“This is especially relevant for our students who are trans identified, students who are genderqueer and gender-nonconforming, and especially students who use they/them/theirs pronouns or other sets of pronouns,” she said, “This can be a helpful thing. It’s not something that is native to the MaineStreet environment but it’s something that may be added. So, it’s [about] what are the things that we can build into our systems that communicate the right information, in the right places, to the right people so that we can do a better job of respecting people’s identities, respecting people’s names and their core values.”  

Portland police officer shoots, kills 22 year old

Sat, 2017-02-25 17:01

By Johnna Ossie

Twenty-two-year-old Chance David Baker was shot and killed by Portland Police on St. John’s Street in Portland on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18. Reports say Baker purchased a rifle-style pellet gun from a pawn shop, Coastal Trading & Pawn, in Union Station Plaza and shortly after police received calls that a man was screaming and pointing a gun at cars. Baker was killed on the sidewalk outside of the Subway while witnesses looked on. He was transported to Maine Medical Center where he died from a gunshot wound to the forehead.

Baker was shot and killed by fourteen year police veteran, Sgt. Nicholas Goodman. This is not the first time Goodman has used deadly force in his career. In 2008, Goodman shot and killed a 48-year-old man in a traffic stop when he was dragged 300 ft down the road in the man’s moving vehicle. The man died later at Maine Medical Center from gunshot wounds. The incident was ruled a justifiable homicide.

Baker’s friends, as well as staff from Portland’s Preble Street Teen Center where Baker spent time, expressed shock and grief at his death. Baker struggled on and off with homelessness, and reports say that his family, who live outside of Maine, had not heard from him in several years. Many could not believe that the young man they knew was the same young man witnesses say was shouting and waving what may have appeared to be a rifle, but which later turned out to be a pellet gun.

Local activists have demanded that the Portland Police Department (PPD) start wearing body cameras immediately after the incident. Before the shooting, the PPD had planned to start outfitting officers with body cameras in 2019.

“Witness reports are not completely consistent, and it’s far too soon to engage in speculation. But one thing is clear: If the incident had been recorded by police body cameras, we wouldn’t be so dependent on inconsistent eyewitness accounts,” reads a petition by local group Progressive Portland.  “In the wake of this tragedy, the city should move that timeline up and include the purchase of body cameras in this year’s budget.”

Later in the week, a group of roughly twelve protesters disrupted a ceremony honoring Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck. The protesters stood with their arms raised over their heads and can be seen on video speaking to Sauschuck. In a video released by WMTW, a protestor can be heard asking, “How come you are silent when black people are killed?” Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling called the meeting to recess and the protestors exited to the steps of City Hall. As the protestors left the building, one person can be heard saying “Good job, murderer,” as she walked past Sauschuck. They could be seen outside chanting “Black Lives Matter,” as Sauschuck exited the building.

At a conference the next day, Sauschuck said he was “disgusted” by the “politicizing” of the fatal shooting and by the calls that PPD officers immediately begin to wear body cameras.

On Friday, a quiet and saddened crowd gathered in Monument Square in remembrance of Baker. They held candles and flowers as friends and former coworkers remembered Baker as a funny, kind and generous young man and mourned his loss.

Amanda Nobbe, a 26-year-old Portland resident and Baker’s former boss at Nickelodeon Cinemas, spoke about the two years she worked with Baker, noting how hard he worked to improve his life and how much passion he had.

“I watched him secure housing, get a second job, and work forty hours or more every single week,” she said toward the end of the vigil ceremony. “Life didn’t give Chance a lot of opportunities, so he made his own. He had so much joy and made everyone around him smile…Everybody deserves a chance, everyone deserves opportunities. If someone is asking you for a hand up and you can give it, then reach out your hand.”

Candid Conversations: An event to foster civil campus discussion

Sat, 2017-02-25 16:59

By Julie Pike

While Rep. Larry Lockman spoke in Hannaford Hall on what he calls the “immigration crisis,” Muna Adan, a sophomore political science major, and other USM faculty and staff members brought a group of students and community members together to have a constructive conversation about free speech on campus.

In the Woodbury Amphitheater, Adan and Professor Ronald Schmidt served as co-moderators at the event. They encouraged the audience, composed of students, faculty, staff and community members to engage in a discussion about freedom of speech and hate speech.

This was the first event of a future series called Candid Conversations. The topic of this event was Campus Speech in an Age of Political Polarization. Adan, who is credited with the original idea of the event, stated that the idea was to have a space to allow staff, faculty, students and community members to come and engage with one another on different topics.

Adan noted that recent events have created a divide between students on campus, and she wanted to bring the community back together.

“There has been this divide between conservative and liberal students,” Adan said. “I’ve noticed that there has been this sort of opposition between them and I felt that it would be effective to start an ongoing moderated forum that allowed students to discuss controversial issues in a constructive manner.”

USM faculty and staff helped Adan launch the event. Schmidt agreed to help her run the event and others in the future. Adam Tuchinsky, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, helped Adan obtain a space for the event, as well as obtain food and other supplies.

“Muna’s idea was to foster campus discussion about issues that students feel deeply about,” Schmidt stated. “These conversations don’t often happen in class because they may not be relevant to the syllabus or [may be] time consuming.”

To start off the discussion, Professor Dan Panici from the Communications and Media Studies Department spoke about the legal history of free speech debates on college campuses. The first 15 minutes of the event included mostly faculty and students from student government speaking. After that, a discussion involving other students took place.

Schmidt emphasized that the idea for the event was for the audience members to be able to engage in a thoughtful discussion about campus speech, not for the event to be run by faculty members

“The idea behind this is that students are having conversations and faculty would be there more as a resource,” Schmidt stated. “We struggled with how to set up the space so that students wouldn’t assume that the faculty, or who[ever]was sitting in the focus area, would be giving a presentation.”

Adan stated that she believed the event went well. Approximately 20 to 30 people attended, with others going in and out of the event. While it took awhile for students to become active in the event, they were still able to get a good conversation going, as Schmidt stated.

“After we got into it people spoke and they gave their varying sides on the issues,” Adan stated. “It was important because we understood that there was this disparity among students, but then people were able to understand where the other side was coming from. It shows people that even though we’re all different, we can still understand where the other person comes from.”

About an hour into the discussion, a group of people who were protesting the Lochman event came into the amphitheater. Schmidt stated that after they came in the meeting naturally shifted in tone.

The protesters played loud music as they walked into the event and began to become involved with the discussion as well, sharing their own views on campus speech.

“From my understanding of what they were protesting about,” Adan stated, “they didn’t like the idea that there was another event happening. They wanted us to all join together in solidarity.”

While the protesters did interrupt the conversation, they also provided their own point of views to the discussion, which is one of the goals Adan had in mind for the event: for students to feel comfortable sharing their views.

“I thought it was important that those voices were heard. A lot of the things that they said were things that were important for the people that came to the event to hear, because that’s how people were feeling,” Adan said. “They were expressing their opinion and people go about doing that differently.”

Even though the event came to an end after the group of protesters came in, Adan and Schmidt considered it a success and will continue to host similar events in the future. The goal is to have a bi-weekly event to allow people to talk about a variety of topics, in a safe and constructive manner.

“Some of the goals that I had in mind [were] that it would be a place for students to be challenged on their stance on big issues as well as an opportunity to hear a point of view that they may not have heard before,” Adan stated.

Adan and Schmidt are in the midst of planning their next event. Through the use of suggestion boxes, social media and online polls, Adan is getting feedback from those who attended on what important issues they would like to have a discussion on. She is working with several school departments to sponsor upcoming events.

“The most important part of these events will be to provide a space where people can come together and learn from one another,” she said.

Representative Lockman speaks at USM, exposing political divide

Fri, 2017-02-17 10:45

By Sarah Tewksbury and Krysteana Scribner

On Thursday, Representative Larry Lockman spoke at USM in his presentation, “Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigration Crisis” at 7:00 p.m. in the lecture hall located inside of the Abromson Center. The political climate was tense as community members gathered both in opposition and in favor of the conservative speaker’s visit to the Portland campus.

Before the Event: Protests and Political Tension

There was a presence of Maine GOP members and leaders at the event. Among them was Maine GOP Officer, Barbara Harvey, who greeted attendees at the door of lecture hall. Thirty minutes before the event was to take place, members of USM Future began a march from Payson Smith and traveled around the campus to the Abromson Center. Members of the group were chanting, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”

At the same time, two men stood outside of the building holding a sign that read, “Secure our border.” One of these men, Robert Casimiro, is a Veteran who lives in Bridgton, Maine. He claimed that he has been arguing for a more secure border since 9/11 and believes that a lot of protesters who oppose Lockman’s ideas have their “minds made up” and he finds it difficult to talk to them to share opinions.

“I’m not against anybody,” he stated. “I think it’s appalling when people are prevented from engaging in a discussion of viewpoints.”

Before the event, individuals also tabled behind the Young Americans for Freedom and College Republicans information station inside Abromson. One of these individuals, who has chosen to remain anonymous, stated that protestors needed more attention and gratification because “nobody paid attention to them as kids.”

Lockman Takes the Stage in Abromson for Immigration Talk

Inside of the lecture hall, the crowd was restless and had a sense of anticipatory tension as USM’s Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Nancy Griffith, took the stage. She began the event by saying that USM supports academic freedom and freedom of speech, further adding that USM is committed to teaching students “how to think, not what to think.” She strongly urged all audience members and speakers alike to refrain from hate speech or protesting behaviors.

Next, Benjamin Bussiere stood at the podium and introduced Rep. Larry Lockman by briefing those in attendance on the background of Lockman’s career and life successes. With the audience clapping loudly, Rep. Lockman approached the stage.

“Let’s talk about how we got to where we are today,” he stated in regards to what he deems is an invasion of illegal immigrants. He went on to provide the staggering number of taxpayer dollars that go towards welfare assistance.

According to Rep. Lockman, “the burden for Maine taxpayers is about $40 million each year” in order to pay for illegal immigrants’ social welfare. According to Rep. Lockman, $1.7 million in Portland alone is diverted to an account reserved for giving welfare assistance to illegal immigrants.

“The vetting process for immigrants and refugees in this country is badly broken,” he stated as whoops came hurling out of the audience. “This problem is not unique to Maine.”

Half-way through the speech, Lockman referred to Bowling Green, Kentucky as evidence towards his argument that individuals who enter America illegally can cause great harm to the U.S. He called Portland a “harboring haven,” and stated to the audience that the illegal immigration issues has “life or death consequences for Maine people.”

Lockman went on to talk about Freddy Akoa, a man who was beaten to death in his own apartment on Cumberland Avenue in August 2015. He expressed his disappointment in the media coverage of Akoa’s death and the consequences for his attackers. “Those killers,” he paused, shaking his head, “should have been deported long before they beat Freddy Akoa to death.”

“Frankly, I’m stunned at the utter lack of journalistic and professional curiosity that’s been on display here,” said Lockman, referring back to the story of Akoa’s death. He stared over at the media section of the event seating, as someone in the crowd shouted “Bad media,” which prompted snorted laughter.

He also briefly discussed his desire to change the structure of the state as well, specifically in regards to a bill he was trying to push through the senate. According to the Portland Press Herald, this bill, titled L.D. 366, would require the state and local governments to comply with federal immigration law and “withhold state funding from cities that provide a haven for illegal immigrants.”

Yet, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine stands in opposition to the bill, and “oppose anti-immigration legislation,” on the basis of potential racial profiling that could also occur. At this lecture, Lockman encouraged audience members to become involved in the passing of his upcoming bill. “We cannot afford to offer assistance to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen,” shouted Lockman, in which clapping followed.

Questioning Period Leads to Obvious Political Divides

During the questioning period, members of the community, from both ends of the political spectrum, shared their backgrounds, comments and questions. To begin the questioning period, a young woman who identified herself as a social worker from the area said that the “real crisis in Maine is elder care.” For what seemed to be comedic relief, she sang a line of a Neil Diamond song, singing, “We’re coming to America.”

The questioning period saw heated discussions, shouts and arguments between members of the crowd and individuals trying to voice their opinions and ask questions over the two microphones. Each individual who stood to spoke identified themselves – some were lawyers, other students, and other speakers identified themselves with titles such as taxpayer and foreign student.

Bryan Dench, a USM law school alum who has been practicing law since 1975, gave his opinion on Lockman’s proposed bill during the questioning period. Lockman thanked him for the “free legal advice.”

A Maine taxpayer, Lynn W., said that she is “sick and tired of paying for able bodied people,” in reference to immigrants and refugees in Maine who are on welfare because they are not legally allowed to work.

“I’m discouraged now and I want to know how we protect the taxpayer in times like these,” she said.

“We have elections every two years and we need to clean house,” stated Rep. Lockman in response to her statement, “[Constituents] need to exert maximum pressure on representatives. We tend to go whichever way we’re being pushed the hardest.”

A member of USM’s Student Government Association challenged Lockman, asking, “Why are you still here?” She argued that if she had made any of the controversial statements that Lockman has been recorded having said, she would be asked to leave the U.S., referencing Lockman’s heinous quote comparing a woman’s right to pro-choice with a man’s ability and right to force a woman to have sex with him.

Owen Yao, a USM student from China, expressed his frustration at the division in the community and in the U.S. and asked Rep. Lockman how all individuals can come together as Americans. Lockman responded by saying, “We all need to play by the same rules. If you want to be an American, you have to swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.”

The Free Press reporters observed that those in support of Lockman were predominantly Caucasian individuals – both young and old. In addition, the people rallying behind his beliefs with their whoops and cheers had no affiliation with USM at all, but were instead community members. One speaker, who did not provide his name, stood up to speak and accused Lockman of telling the version of each story that fit his argument and “left out key facts in order to gain a shock factor and increase support” for his bill.

Najma Abdullahi ended the questioning period with a bold statement, saying, “White men are the most dangerous demographic in the U.S.” Abdullahi asked Lockman, “How do you deal with white fragility?” he responded by saying, “next question.” While this legitimate question went unanswered, other sides of the political spectrum were prepared to argue with one another, but didn’t seem willing to listen to one another.

After the event, people rallied both inside and outside the Abromson Center. Protesters were not open to commentary, but referred media outlets to read the Portland Racial Justice Congress statement to the event, which was posted on Facebook. “As we face the rise of fascism and white nationalism, which now has a seat in the White House, we intend to build a bigger and bolder resistance,” the statement reads.

The Free Press will follow up if more information arises

Students with Syrian connections speak out

Mon, 2017-02-13 16:01

By: Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

Mahmud Faksh, a USM professor of political science, has called the Syrian Civil War the “greatest tragedy of the century.” The Syrian Civil War has had a global impact, triggering a massive refugee crisis, and has affected all corners of the world. In Portland, two USM students, cousins Dalia Muayad and Deena Raef, have close ties to Syria.

Both born in the U.S., Muayad and Raef are aspiring dentists, and though their futures look bright today, they have both experienced their fair share of darkness due to the war. Because of their bonds to Syria, Muayad and Raef understand how the war took hold and has developed since 2011.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in response to the 2011 Arab Spring protests calling for his removal from office, repressed Syrian citizens violently, ultimately leading to the conflict known as the Syrian Civil War. The war has been a proxy war for world powers and has resulted in at least 470,000 deaths, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research.

The Syrian Civil War has displaced millions of people, something Muayad and Raef both understand on a personal level. Their family members and friends have had to leave the country in order to find safety and stability. Some Syrians want to leave but have nowhere to go.

“A lot of the people don’t have anywhere else to go to and they don’t have family outside of Syria, so they feel like they cannot leave and instead have to stay in Syria where they stay at risk for dangerous situations,” Muayad said.

Spending all vacations and breaks from school in Syria visiting their family; the girls feel a deep, emotional connection to the country. With an aunt currently in Aleppo and their grandparents in Damascus, Muayad and Raef are aware of the conditions of major cities in Syria and the ways that fighting forces have altered life in them.

“My aunt who lives in Aleppo and is not in the eastern part of the city, so she is fine,” Raef said, “but even though she is in the safe part of the city, the electricity and water, it keeps cutting out.”

Atrocities committed by the Assad regime have also created deep divides among the Syrian people. Groups of close friends and families have been severed by political ideology based on which fighting groups they support. Raef spoke about the divisions within her own family and how they have affected familial relationships..

“It’s really sad for me because when the war started, I have a lot of family members who sided with the regime. So there’s this big split within my family. Half of my dad’s side is with Assad,” Raef said. “I’m against the regime and I got into some arguments with them. The media outlets they follow are completely different from mine so we do not see eye to eye.”

Since the inauguration of President Trump, U.S. media outlets have largely focused on the executive branch’s actions. International news has pushed the Syrian conflict to the sidelines, causing viewers who do not have a direct tie to the situation to forget about those affected. The war continues to carry on and refugees continue to be displaced.

It has been almost six years since the start of the Syrian Civil War and a devastating amount of damage has been done. Those connected to the situation are looking to move forward, to find ways that they can help to support the people who need it most: the refugees who have been forced to leave their homes and those who have held their ground within Syria’s borders.

“It’s so easy to find groups to get involved with or just give what you can from your own money and time,” Muayad said. “White Helmets is a really great group that has helped Syrians. We can try to do our best to fundraise and help out refugees, giving them the best lives we can, temporarily, until they can go home. I don’t think we can do anything when it comes to political things.”

Muayad and Raef encourage USM students to ask questions, read historical content as well as current news media. While it has been difficult for Muayad and Raef to stay hopeful, they made it clear that there will have to be a worldwide commitment to the rebuilding of Syria within the coming years.

“Sadly, I don’t know if it’s going to end soon,” Muayad said. “Even if it ends soon it’s going to take an even longer time to bring everybody back to Syria and make it better than it was before.”