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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.”

Pdg Muhamiriza chosen as new Student Body Vice President

Mon, 2017-02-13 16:00

By: Julie Pike, Staff Writer

Freshman student and political science major Pdg Muhamiriza will be taking on the role of student body vice president and will work alongside Student Body President Humza Khan. Muhamiriza stated that he was involved with the student senate only two weeks before he came into his new position.

“As soon as the former vice president stepped down and they took a vote, I talked to a few friends among the senate and they thought I fit the criteria,” Muhamiriza said. “The process was relatively quick and easy.”

Muhamiriza is in his second semester at USM. He came to Maine from his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He stated that after his time at USM, he hopes to go to law school in the future and pursue a career in law.

Muhamarizia got involved with student government because it fell into his area of interest and had come into his new role ready with projects he wants to get started. He expressed interest in starting a debate club on campus, and a diversity club as well, which he is working with the chief of staff on the student senate to create.

The student senate has been faced difficult problems over the past year, but Muhamiriza believes only the negatives were being focused on, and the good work the senate was doing was being cast aside.

“People usually don’t notice the good, they only notice the bad,” he stated. “When negative things happened in the senate, people assumed they weren’t doing a good job. But when the senators are doing a good job, people don’t talk about it.”

As far as how the student senate can improve, Muhamiriza has his own ideas to bring to the table.

“I’m hoping to build an atmosphere of trust among students, so that we can try to be prepared in advance of whatever might happen in the future,” Muhamiriza stated. “In the last month and in the last year there was a lot going on and people didn’t expect that sort of chaos to happen. We should try to avoid that in advance and try to work with every group, despite any differing opinions.”

Muhamiriza knew that taking on the position of student body vice president came with important responsibilities.

“You need to be able to listen to people’s thoughts and try to be as transparent as possible,” Muhamiriza said. “You need to be loyal to the president and not take the job only for the pay but as someone who is willing to bring something to the table.”

Muhamiriza expressed a desire to be committed to his job, and he believes that is one of the biggest qualities needed to be a part of student government.

“It’s all about commitment, if I can do my job right and try to be as innovative and creative as possible, I think that will be my contribution to the senate,” he stated.

Muhamirzia stated that as far as he knew the student senate acted in a constitutional manner when they dismissed the last student body vice president, Madison Raymond.

“They did whatever they did in a constitutional way and that’s all there was. If it was done right and constitutionally that’s all that matters,” Muhamiriza said.

For now, Muhamiriza is focusing on the future and on putting time and effort into his role as student body vice president.

President Cummings addresses the Student Senate on Lockman: “You have a choice”

Mon, 2017-02-13 15:59

By: Julie Pike, Staff Writer

President Glenn Cummings was a guest speaker at the student senate meeting on Friday, Feb. 10. He spoke to the senators about the upcoming event at USM, a talk by Maine Rep. Lawrence Lockman titled Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigrant Crisis.

Students at USM have pushed for the event to be cancelled in a Facebook post by the group Students of #USMfuture. Cummings decided not to cancel the event and stated that he doesn’t want the administration dictating what students can and can’t hear.

Cummings explained that Lockman has every right to speak at USM, as the First Amendment allows him to do so. He was invited to speak on campus by the student organization Young Americans for Freedom.

“Larry Lockman is a mosquito,” Cummings stated. “He’s just there to irritate us and see if we will act like he acts.”

In his conversation with the student senate, Cummings thanked the senators for handling the issue well.

“I want to recognize that you guys are classy people,” Cummings stated. “You guys understand why freedom of speech makes a difference and you stood by your decision to not shut this down.”

Cummings focused on the rights outlined in the First Amendment during his discussion with the student senate.

“Welcome to the greatest country on earth, you have the right to act exactly like Rep. Lockman,” Cummings said. “Along with that you also have the choice not to.”

Student Senator Aaron Pierce brought up concerns about having extra security at the event. On Feb. 1, a violent protest broke out at the University of California, Berkeley, where Milo Yannopoulos was scheduled to speak. Yannopoulos is a right-wing commentator who writes for Breitbart News. The protests caused $100,000 worth of damages.

Cummings stated that the university will be increasing the amount of police officers at the event as well as having other police on call. Cummings spoke to Portland Chief of Police Michael Sauschuck about having police close to the campus during the event.

Cummings made it clear at the meeting that if Lockman suggests violence or harassment in his talk, the event will be immediately shut down and he will be taken away. Cummings stated that it goes the other way too, however, and if people come into Lockman’s lecture and conduct themselves in such a way as to silence Lockman, they will face the same consequences.

“He is testing you, the students, that’s what this is about,” Cummings stated. “He knows he’s got an ignorant agenda. Nobody thinks he’s got any great wisdom to add to the world. He just wants to provoke you. He wants to provoke people to make himself look better.”

Members of the student senate had their own thoughts to add about the upcoming event and what the role of the student senate is during these situations.

“This is not what we agree with and this is not what we support, but by going to this event and possibly provoking violence, we’re not getting anything done,” stated Senator Shaman Kirkland. “If we were to have students not come to the event or to protest it, he would look like the person that he is, a person that doesn’t have power and a person that’s just trying to disrupt the university.”

Kirkland proposed the idea that Cummings should suggest that students not attend the event in a Monday Missives email. Cummings responseded that his job is to remain unbiased, but if there was an alternative event presented by a student organization, he stated that he would be happy to mention it.

“I’d love to wake up on Friday morning to the headline ‘Larry Came, No One Showed,’” Cummings said.

While Cummings’ expressed his stance on the matter, he ultimately left it up to the student senate to decide how they will move forward. He reiterated the fact that everyone has their right to freedom of speech.

“We don’t have the right to preach violence or the right to shut him down,” Cummings said. “He does get the chance to say his words and we cannot shut him down. However, you have the right to not participate.”

The overall agreement of the student senate was to not take a side. Student Senator Pierce stated that the student senate should remain supportive of every student.

“We are supposed to appear impartial no matter what and allow everybody the right to speak,” stated Senator Dylan Reynolds, who was inducted at the meeting as the Assistant to the Student Body Vice President.

Lockman’s talk will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Wishcamper Center. President Cummings and the student senate hope the event will be peaceful.

President Cummings talks openly about issues with SGA: His thoughts on discrimination, President Trump, and campus gossip

Mon, 2017-02-06 12:56

By Krysteana Scribner, Editor-in-chief

What can you tell me about Madison’s decision to tell the general public about your confidential conversation?

Humza and Madison came to me to talk about the state budget. They wanted to know if they could be helpful for supporting a strong budget request, and it was terrific. In the context of that, there is a little piece of background information, and I wanted them to be confidential but make them aware. I said, “don’t even talk about it on Facebook,” because they had come to me with their own time and effort and I trusted them with it.

I was very clear. The nature of that information was more politicized by the individual who heard it. It wasn’t political in the way Madison was hearing it. It was a different issue how other states might interpret opposed to anything related to gender equity. Within a very short amount of time, maybe hours, Madison didn’t feel like they couldn’t honor that.

Did Governor Lepage withhold funding from the UMaine system because of LGBTQ discrimination?

It looks like he didn’t actually do that.

What was the reason that you chose to keep this confidential statement secret?

Because I was keeping someone else’s confidential information.

Madison claims they were demoted because of LGBTQ discrimination and stated that the administration played a part in this. Is that true?

I had no idea they had been removed from their position until I was contacted by the Free Press, actually. I think it’s totally inappropriate for the University to have any involvement to decide whether a senator should stay on the senate. It is a decision that should be on the senate. I do not have the jurisdiction. They represent the student body, so it is inappropriate for the administration. I was disappointed in Madison, I can’t deny that, but I had made it clear that I wanted to continue to meet with the both of them.

What is your thought on the political climate at Universities in today’s day and age?

Universities are being asked to live up to their highest ideals because they are being challenged – such as freedom of expression, diversity, our commitment to the students we represent and the community. The present political climate puts some of our students in danger of things like deportation, in danger of being denied an education and there is a role for us in the university to express their concerns.

At the same time, we are a place of freedom of expression, so there are people who don’t necessarily agree with the president and policies and yet there are individuals who strongly do. Both of those have to be held to the rights of free speech and free expression – and academic expression as well, that allows them to exist within the dialogue, the interaction of the university.

I had heard that USM had considered the possibility of deeming itself a sanctuary school. If this is true, how would the university go about this and what steps need to be taken to make that happen?

We looked very carefully at sanctuary, but that standard is something outside our jurisdiction, because it implies that we can protect students from things we absolutely, legally cannot do. So, many universities have said there is a better way to do this. We talk about it as supporting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), but we have not made a formal vote on that – the Board of Trustees is still deciding where to go with that I felt obligated to lay out a very clear affirmation of our core values; inclusion, diversity, respect for all, and the sanctity of education. That is the approach web are taking.

Can faculty and staff speak openly to the press without fear of repercussion?

Of course, I would hope people don’t feel that way. Faculty members are held to a very important standards of intellectual accountability because they have to be peer reviewed, and their thoughts and views have to be tested in the marketplace of ideas and their legitimacy. The university has a deep obligation to protect their freedom. There are lines that cannot be crossed, not in the case of faculty, but if one advocates for violence and physical harm to people that no one would want to cross. If you are perceived to insight violence, those behaviors and actions cannot be acceptable. Barring that, we want this free exchange of ideas.

 

What are your thoughts on the recent discrimination cases that have come to light over the past 6-8 months at USM? How does our University handle these kinds of situations? How do you determine what is considered as a hate crime?

We have a student conduct review to determine our course of action. Or, in the instance of harassment in the fall, we sent it directly to the District Attorney’s office, because we believed  that it had the potential to be tried as a hate crime. We have the ability to do both. We have pretty strong procedures, but we need to get stronger in training and understanding. Lots of folks on the university level, all of us quite frankly, need to learn more about the complexities of these issues. Just like you noted, where does the line cross between hate crimes and harassment? There may be ambiguity in some cases, but we will always have accountability for those students or community members who have experiences such as these.

There have been various instances of hate crimes both from students within the multicultural center harassing Caucasian students and students from the multicultural center experiencing discrimination on campus. What do you believe all of this aggressive behavior is born from?

I think some of the responses are understandable, because when you are threatened, your life is threatened, it is very difficult to find those better angels of our nature and respond in a strong but still respectful way and civil way. It’s very hard, we could easily get caught up in righteous rage, and it is a high standard. What we are seeing in these attacks are the seeming cultural or political permission based on what they’re seeing on TV and perhaps even in tweets. Social media becomes a place to engage in hateful acts, and perhaps not even see them as hateful acts, but rather as norms of the new world order, so to speak.

Controversial conservative speaker to visit Portland campus

Mon, 2017-02-06 12:46

By Johnna Ossie, News Editor

On January 25, 2017, Paul Lepage held the first town hall meeting of the year at Biddeford Middle School, consequently it was also the first town hall meeting since the governor made “racially charged” remarks about people of color coming to Maine to deal drugs. An article written by Moshe Marvit from The Century Foundation said it best: “a well informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy.” So in order to inform myself, I layered up in warm clothes and drove out to the meeting.

Lepage took the first few minutes of the meeting to discuss his goals with the new budget. He stated that he wants to “do no harm” with the proposal, and states that two of the referenda that were on the ballot this past election are doing just the opposite.

The governor stated that the new minimum wage was not helping, but hurting the state. He stated that 358,000 elderly people, who live on fixed incomes, that don’t get an increase in payments, are now facing an increase in their cost of living, because businesses are now having to pay their employees nine dollars an hour instead of seven-fifty. Kids were another concern of his, mentioning that businesses would be less likely to hire children that don’t have any developed work skills. In December, Lepage had stated that the Department of Labor would stall the legislation three weeks past the original date it was supposed to go into effect. During the question portion, a constituent voiced her concerns about it, stating that she thought it was offensive that the governor implied that Maine people were “too stupid” to vote the right way. The governor channelled his inner Donald Trump, interrupting the woman as she asked the governor to respect the will of Maine voters. “Government officials should not be in the business of cherry picking which election results to follow.” says Justin Chenette-D Saco, a senator in the legislature. Like myself, he believes that the voting process should be respected by all members of government, regardless of whether they approve of the results.

       Donna Bailey-D Saco also explains that when a government official disagrees with what the people voted for, they need to offer a solution and evidence, of their wishes being better than what the people voted for, and that no one, including the governor had done so. “When the people pass a referendum, as they did with the minimum wage referendum, anyone who proposes going against that mandate, against the unequivocal will of the people, has a heavy burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that their idea is better than the people’s law. I have not heard any idea, including the Governor’s, that has risen to that level. Default always goes to the people.”

Lepage also went after question two, calling the 3% surcharge a “misnomer” and “a bill of goods that was sold to the Maine people(and it was) totally erroneous.” He went on to say that there was “so much money for education that we don’t know where to spend it.” The problem he stated was that the money doesn’t go towards classrooms or teachers , but to administration and to some extent, union bosses. He lamented that we have some of the lowest paid teachers in the country, but as one constituent pointed out later on, his new budget eliminates cost of living increases in the pensions of retired public servants, of which teachers fall under.

Lepage was also very critical of news media, implying that the media is dishonest and unreliable by saying to one constituent “you must be reading newspapers sir” after the gentlemen asked why the governor opposed a new casino being built in Maine. None of this is surprising to me, since during the election season, the governor stated that he and Donald Trump are “cut from the same cloth”, and like his counterpart, he’s attempted time and time again to discredit the media when they don’t report what he wants them to.

     After the meeting finished, I caught up with Sarah Rawlings, a graduate of the Public Policy and Management program at the Muskie School of Public Service, who, despite being interrupted by the governor, his press secretary, and members of the audience, gave a powerful statement about Lepage’s refusal to expand MaineCare, an action, or, rather inaction, that would cut over 20,000 of the state’s most vulnerable population from the program, while leaving some out in the cold when it comes to subsidies for purchasing insurance under the ACA. Lepage’s response was that when the minimum wage passes, that those people would be eligible for subsidies. According to the proposed budget, a family of three could earn no more than 40% of the federal poverty line to qualify for MaineCare. To see the breakdown in numbers: the federal poverty level for a family of three is $20,160/year. Because of Lepage’s budget, said family could earn no more than $8,064/year. I’ll say it again. NO MORE than $8064/year. Rawlings said it best. “This is insanity”.

    Throughout the meeting, Lepage, and members of his staff, admonished members of the audience for being “disrespectful”. But one of the traits that his supporters love about him is that he “tells it like it is”, it’s evident that he doesn’t value the same trait in his constituents. Even though the meeting went off the rails pretty fast, I hope to go to more, and at best, get my own questions answered, or at least watch another hilarious train wreck.

     The governor’s office declined to comment.

Young Americans for Freedom? Conservative students on campus fear backlash for holding beliefs that contradict Liberal values

Mon, 2017-02-06 12:43

By Sarah Tewksbury, Free Press Staff

On January 25, 2017, Paul Lepage held the first town hall meeting of the year at Biddeford Middle School, consequently it was also the first town hall meeting since the governor made “racially charged” remarks about people of color coming to Maine to deal drugs. An article written by Moshe Marvit from The Century Foundation said it best: “a well informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy.” So in order to inform myself, I layered up in warm clothes and drove out to the meeting.

Lepage took the first few minutes of the meeting to discuss his goals with the new budget. He stated that he wants to “do no harm” with the proposal, and states that two of the referenda that were on the ballot this past election are doing just the opposite.

The governor stated that the new minimum wage was not helping, but hurting the state. He stated that 358,000 elderly people, who live on fixed incomes, that don’t get an increase in payments, are now facing an increase in their cost of living, because businesses are now having to pay their employees nine dollars an hour instead of seven-fifty. Kids were another concern of his, mentioning that businesses would be less likely to hire children that don’t have any developed work skills. In December, Lepage had stated that the Department of Labor would stall the legislation three weeks past the original date it was supposed to go into effect. During the question portion, a constituent voiced her concerns about it, stating that she thought it was offensive that the governor implied that Maine people were “too stupid” to vote the right way. The governor channelled his inner Donald Trump, interrupting the woman as she asked the governor to respect the will of Maine voters. “Government officials should not be in the business of cherry picking which election results to follow.” says Justin Chenette-D Saco, a senator in the legislature. Like myself, he believes that the voting process should be respected by all members of government, regardless of whether they approve of the results.

       Donna Bailey-D Saco also explains that when a government official disagrees with what the people voted for, they need to offer a solution and evidence, of their wishes being better than what the people voted for, and that no one, including the governor had done so. “When the people pass a referendum, as they did with the minimum wage referendum, anyone who proposes going against that mandate, against the unequivocal will of the people, has a heavy burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that their idea is better than the people’s law. I have not heard any idea, including the Governor’s, that has risen to that level. Default always goes to the people.”

Lepage also went after question two, calling the 3% surcharge a “misnomer” and “a bill of goods that was sold to the Maine people(and it was) totally erroneous.” He went on to say that there was “so much money for education that we don’t know where to spend it.” The problem he stated was that the money doesn’t go towards classrooms or teachers , but to administration and to some extent, union bosses. He lamented that we have some of the lowest paid teachers in the country, but as one constituent pointed out later on, his new budget eliminates cost of living increases in the pensions of retired public servants, of which teachers fall under.

Lepage was also very critical of news media, implying that the media is dishonest and unreliable by saying to one constituent “you must be reading newspapers sir” after the gentlemen asked why the governor opposed a new casino being built in Maine. None of this is surprising to me, since during the election season, the governor stated that he and Donald Trump are “cut from the same cloth”, and like his counterpart, he’s attempted time and time again to discredit the media when they don’t report what he wants them to.

     After the meeting finished, I caught up with Sarah Rawlings, a graduate of the Public Policy and Management program at the Muskie School of Public Service, who, despite being interrupted by the governor, his press secretary, and members of the audience, gave a powerful statement about Lepage’s refusal to expand MaineCare, an action, or, rather inaction, that would cut over 20,000 of the state’s most vulnerable population from the program, while leaving some out in the cold when it comes to subsidies for purchasing insurance under the ACA. Lepage’s response was that when the minimum wage passes, that those people would be eligible for subsidies. According to the proposed budget, a family of three could earn no more than 40% of the federal poverty line to qualify for MaineCare. To see the breakdown in numbers: the federal poverty level for a family of three is $20,160/year. Because of Lepage’s budget, said family could earn no more than $8,064/year. I’ll say it again. NO MORE than $8064/year. Rawlings said it best. “This is insanity”.

    Throughout the meeting, Lepage, and members of his staff, admonished members of the audience for being “disrespectful”. But one of the traits that his supporters love about him is that he “tells it like it is”, it’s evident that he doesn’t value the same trait in his constituents. Even though the meeting went off the rails pretty fast, I hope to go to more, and at best, get my own questions answered, or at least watch another hilarious train wreck.

     The governor’s office declined to comment.

Sexual assault prevention training on campus

Fri, 2017-02-03 16:25

By: River Plouffe Vogel, Free Press Staff

The University of Southern Maine hopes to provide fair, safe and equal education to all students. Protecting as well educating the student body is one way to do that. USM offers students to take an online sexual assault prevention training course, which is required of all university employees and students.

The online trainings are created by a group called Student Success, which works with the university in creating training modules that best fit the student body. Student Success has access to MaineStreet, where they post who has completed the trainings. Currently, however, there is no penalty if a student does not complete the trainings.

The 2016 Annual Safety Report from the university lists that there were five “forcible sexual offenses” in the residence halls in Gorham in 2015. Sarah Holmes, assistant dean of students and Deputy Title IX coordinator, said the numbers may be higher, as sexual assault often goes unreported.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five college women will be sexually assaulted on campus, as well as one in sixteen for men. Ninety percent of sexual assaults are reported by the victims. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen.

Sexaul assault’s prevalence and impact on so many college communities has caused controversy at many universities, especially within the last year after a list of those charged with Title IX violations was released by the Department of Education. Many high profile schools, including Harvard College, Harvard Law School and Sarah Lawrence College, made the list.

USM has stated that “all USM community members are required to complete the [sexual assault prevention training] course.” Holmes explained that all incoming first year students, most student athletes, any students involved in fraternity or sorority life and many other student groups receive the sexual assault prevention training  in person.

Holmes went on to explain how the university is continuing to expand its outreach and to open  avenues for dialogue, with the hopes that more students will become active in educating members of the USM community when it comes to speaking out about sexual violence. These trainings are also offered throughout the year by Sarah and other staff members.

The video takes an hour to complete and gives the viewer first-hand accounts of sexual assault, solutions to difficult situations and also includes information and knowledge surrounding the topics of sexual assault. Some of the material can elicit past memories of experiences in the viewer, and the video warns the viewer beforehand if there might be something triggering or too difficult to watch.

Jeffrey Ahlquist, treasurer of the student senate, member of a USM fraternity and an RA on the Gorham campus, explained why he believes it’s important for students to take this training:

“Especially on campus, these issues can be very real to many people and only by educating ourselves can we help to face and solve them. The videos do a great job of giving the student’s real life examples and providing real life solutions.”

NGOs worlwide respond after Trump reinstates Mexico City Policy

Fri, 2017-02-03 16:25

By: Johnna Ossie, Free Press News Editor

Just days into office, newly installed President Donald Trump reinstated a policy that bans international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) receiving U.S. funding from providing abortion services, as well as from providing education or counseling to those seeking their services. The Mexico City Policy, often referred to as the global gag rule, hasn’t been in place since former President Barack Obama took office in 2009. The policy was reinstated almost immediately by President Trump.

Democratic and Republican presidents have been going back and forth over this policy for some time. The Mexico City Policy was first created by Ronald Reagan in 1984, was repealed under the Clinton administration, reinstated by the Bush administration and later repealed by the Obama administration. Outside of party lines, health care workers worry women’s lives are on the line.

Unsafe abortions are one of the top five leading causes of maternal death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 47,000 women die from complications of unsafe abortions each year. The Mexico City Policy would largely affect at-risk women living in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. Health care providers worldwide say a lack of funding for medical NGOs will affect thousands of international providers and their ability to give adequate care to women in many countries across the globe.

Doctors Without Borders (DWB)/Médecins Sans Frontières issued a statement on Wednesday, saying, “Where safe abortion care is not available, women and girls will put their lives at risk. When left with no safe options, they will resort to abortions carried out by untrained people or in environments lacking minimal medical standards.”

NGOs are unable to use foreign aid to pay for abortions, which has been the case since 1973 with the passing of the Helms amendment. The Mexico City Policy forbids NGOs from using not just international aid but also their own private funding to perform or provide information about abortions if they want to continue to receive U.S. aid. The loss of U.S. aid could threaten the entire organization.

Trump has stated he believes abortion should be banned in the United States. Trump drew criticism after comments made in an interview with Chris Matthews during his campaign, in which he stated that abortion should be banned, and that women should be punished for having abortions.

The Mexico City Policy would largely affect at-risk women living in some of the most impoverished parts of the world.

Thousands of anti-abortions supporters gathered in D.C. on Friday for an annual event called March for Life, which has taken place every year since the legalization of abortion in 1973. Mike Pence became the first sitting vice president to speak at the event in the decades it has been running. Trump tweeted that the anti-choice marchers have his full support, a stark contrast to his tweet regarding the Women’s March on Washington, which garnered the support of millions across the globe, to which he wrote “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”

Emma Donnelly, USM sophomore and president of the student group Huskies for Reproductive Health, believes that the global gag rule will not prevent women from getting abortions.

“The global gag rule will cause more abortions than it will prevent,” she said. “These abortions will be deadly, but if a woman does not want to be pregnant, she will do whatever it takes. I do not think they understand what it means to be forced to carry out a pregnancy for nine months and then give birth. The United States is supposed to be a world leader and protect other nations, yet we seem to be doing the exact opposite.” 

New program homes to connect faculty and staff

Fri, 2017-02-03 16:10

By: Julie Pike, Free Press Staff

The University of Southern Maine will be implementing a program called, “Informing U@USM,” which is set to begin in February. These classes, which are focused on bringing the USM community closer together, will teach a broad range of topics to employees from financial wellness, cultural resources on campus, physical wellness and much more.

The Informing U@USM sessions were developed with the collaboration of the USM Human Resources team and the classified and professional staff senates.

“We had the hope of helping people feel more connected to the community,” stated Ashley Collins, the Director of Prior Learning Assessment. “It gives the faculty and staff at USM the opportunity to network and be well.”

The next several months of sessions are planned ahead with different themes each month. The sessions will be dependent on feedback from faculty and staff. The first events will kick off in February with Financial Wellness month. A full list of the scheduled sessions can be found on the campus human resources services page on the USM website.

“Informing U@USM is really about connecting the USM faculty and staff with one another and with the resources that are available to them,” stated Natalie Jones, Vice President of Human Resources. “A big part of it is about building up the USM community, with a focus on faculty and staff.”

The sessions will take place on a mix of all three campuses at USM. They are available at no cost for faculty and staff.

“This is where faculty and staff can come together and realize that we’ve all got a lot in common and we all have the same investment,” stated Heather Dilios, the Accommodation Coordinator in the Disability Services Center.

“People are coming up with their own topics, they have their own specialities, things they want to get out to the community,” said Meghan Schratz from Human Resources and the coordinator of Informing U@USM. “Faculty and staff at USM are wanting to share their resources with others.”

These sessions are a big step forward for the faculty and staff at USM, who experienced tough layoffs in the last couple years. The goal of the workshops is to rebuild the strong community the employees at USM once had.

“The transitions that USM went through over the past five years sort of naturally dismantled the community,” stated Dilios. “One of our goals was to re-establish that community and start rebuilding those divisions that naturally occurred between staff and faculty.”

Student Government strives for transparency, although confusion around process still stands

Sun, 2017-01-22 20:35

By Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

The USM Student Government Association (SGA) is determined to hit the ground running and work hard in the coming months of the 2017 semester, though not without challenges. The enthusiasm among the members of the SGA is met with low interest among nonparticipating undergraduate students. Even more, most students who have no ties to the SGA have no knowledge of what the function of the group is—and generally do not care.

Some students on the Portland campus went said they felt that the students who care enough to participate in the SGA should be trusted to do their jobs well and without question. However, without the participation of outsiders, who are not affiliated with the SGA, students allow for a complete allocation of power to a small group of students.

The Student Senate, the Student Body President, the Student Body Vice President and the student cabinet comprise the SGA, whose purpose is to act as a board of representatives for the students of USM and advocate for student issues and interests. Commuters, residents and at-large students sit on the SGA, and currently, there are vacant senate seats that still need to be filled.

In November 2016, scandal rocked the student senate when a student wrote offensive anti-Islamic graffiti on surfaces in the office.  Though the student was not a member of the group, some Student Senators did not react appropriately to the incident and were eventually asked to resign. An emotionally charged meeting followed the incident and cast the SGA in a negative light.

Due to the graffiti incident and the attempt to cover it up by some of the Senators, the question of the SGA’s transparency has been raised. Students and faculty have questioned the openness of the organization and whether or not the SGA engages in practices that exclude members of the USM community. Last minute changes to the location and time of meetings, for instance, in the fall semester made people skeptical about how much non-SGA student participation is truly wanted by current members of the SGA.

In an attempt to make more students aware of meeting times, at the beginning of the 2017 semester, the SGA published a list of meeting dates, times and locations on both its USM affiliated website and Facebook page, USM Student Government.

Another question that has been raised is the availability of information from and access to students affiliated with the SGA. Most of this confusion comes from non-SGA students not being aware of where to find information they are looking for. Not only is information about what the SGA is currently working on readily available on its Facebook page, but also each Student Senator is required to have office hours each week, in an attempt to promote better relations with non-SGA students.

On top of that, Student Body President Muhammad “Humza” Khan is working to ensure that there is a free and steady flow of information to students. Through Facebook and Twitter, Khan communicates about upcoming events and updates. Partnering with WMPG and Gorham Community Cable Access Television Channel, Khan produces bi-weekly updates, called Cabinet’s Corner, on his work as Student Body President and the work of the SGA. Archives and up-to-date recordings can be found easily on both SoundCloud and YouTube.

Though the social media accounts for the SGA are kept up to date and meant to aid the SGA in maintaining transparency, the USM website for the SGA does not provide current information. Documents related to the SGA, such as its constitution, can be found on the website. However, the list of members is outdated and inaccurate. The Google Drive that houses minutes from SGA meetings and documents are also outdated, as minutes can be found for meetings as current as September 2016, but none after that.

 

At the Student Senate’s first meeting of 2017, held on Jan. 20, where attendance from individuals outside of the SGA was nonexistent, The tight group of SGA students worked together to discuss the business of the day and future meetings. Among the issues discussed, the first was the business of interviewing and voting on the admittance of two new senators, Dylan Reynolds and Hamdi Ahmed.

Advocating for her acceptance to the student senate, Ahmed said she wants to be able to “encourage respect among all students, regardless of their backgrounds.” Though she was hopeful for the future, she did bring up why she had not applied to the Senate before: because of a fear of underrepresentation and lack of inclusion among previous Senators.

During the dialogue, current Senator Fatuma Awale spoke to Ahmed’s concerns, saying that just because Ahmed felt comfortable to join the group now “that does not mean that those negative parts of the senate are completely gone.”

Among other issues brought up at the meeting was the Board of Student Organization’s (BSO) participation in the SGA. According to the SGA’s constitution, BSO members are required to appear at student senate meetings. However, they have not been fulfilling that requirement.

During the meeting, Student Body Vice President Madison Raymond commented, “The BSO has failed to show up to a majority of meetings. If they fail to continue to appear, we should consider changing the structure of the constitution because they are technically under us.”

The SGA has a lot of ground to cover to change the USM community’s perception of the organization o, but the members of the organization are prepared to work to dismantle that negative perception and to become more inclusive. Though they encourage other students to attend the meetings and have an active participation in the group, it will be up to students to decide what outside involvement looks like.

The implications of eliminating Obamacare

Sun, 2017-01-22 20:34

Last Friday, President Donald Trump signed his first executive order, which included a set of instructions for the federal government to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This decision, which was a staple of his 2016 Republican Presidential campaign, has become a large topic of debate and discussion across the United States.

In light of recent events, many USM students stated that the repeal of Obamacare would be a dangerous first move by Trump. Yet, in order to grasp a better understanding of the topic at hand, it is important to look at both the pros and cons of Obamacare, as well as analyze the implications of repealing and replacing it.

Currently, the executive order signed by Trump doesn’t necessarily change anything, but it does shed light on his determination to follow-up on his campaign promise to eliminate what he considers “the burdens of Obamacare.” The current health care law includes various legal requirements and has provided billions of dollars in health coverage to millions of Americans. The dismantling of Obamacare, then, cannot be repealed with an act of Congress.

According to the Obamacare Facts website, which lists the various pros and cons of Obamacare, as well as updates on Trump’s repeal process, tens of millions of uninsured people gained access to affordable and high-quality health insurance because of Obamacare’s expansion.

The site goes on to explain that, while the repeal of Obamacare is certain and the Republican process has already begun, there is still no official replacement on the table for discussion. Last week, Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway stated that Republicans plan to turn control of Medicaid over to the states as part of the replacement plan, but this decision doesn’t come without controversy.

According to an article by the Bangor Daily News (BDN) published on Jan. 22, the Affordable Care Act has reduced the number of uninsured from 41 million to 29 million, including 22,000 in Maine, since it was passed in 2010. To eliminate this health policy writes BDN staff writer Nick Sambides, which would lead to an annual loss of $300 million dollars per year, and could cause an “utter collapse of the hospital system in Maine” if the replacement isn’t “reasonable.”

“What is [Trump] going to replace Obamacare with, and how?” stated Aaron Nielson, a senior media studies major at USM. “It seems to be  less about the people and more about asserting power and tarnishing the former administration’s legacy.” Nielson further explained that, while the process is complicated, healthcare for the masses seems like a step in the right direction for the United States.

However, Obamacare doesn’t come without its flaws, as many insurance premiums have skyrocketed since the inception of the healthcare plan. But that doesn’t mean a repeal process will make the costs go down. An article published by CNN in early January writes that the repeal process of Obamacare alone will potentially cost $350 billion over the next ten years.

Student Body President Humza Khan stressed that Trump’s plan for repealing the Affordable Care Act seems to be motivated by the desire to erase Obama’s legacy. He stated that this decision is not an attempt to reduce the cost of healthcare, and to repeal and replace will be detrimental to the millions of people who currently rely on it.

“This futile attempt to erase President Obama’s legacy is really not something the President should be focusing on. There are many issues that Americans are facing that need his attention,” Khan said. “On the other hand, Republicans should focus on how to fix or improve upon the current legislation and not attempt to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare. Improving the current legislation is better than removing and then replacing.”

According to an editorial published by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, the proposal currently being discussed by the GOP would “eliminate the requirement that insurers offer comprehensive policies,” which would result in insurers having the ability to “sell cheaper plans that exclude the coverage of costly treatments,” such as maternity care or serious surgeries. Costs of treatments, then, would be pushed on the people who desperately need them, but cannot afford them.

“The incoming administration is very dangerous for not only women but for people of color, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, immigrants and people with disabilities,” said Samantha Torr, a sophomore women and gender studies major. “Putting healthcare on the line without any sort of replacement is extremely irresponsible and dangerous for a lot of people. Organizations that are federally funded, such as Planned Parenthood, are necessary for many folks to have safe and accessible health care.”

As of Sunday, Jan. 22, Conway stated in an interview broadcast that health care coverage will continue to be provided after Obamacare is repealed.

“This is something that Donald Trump can do in pretty short order. And people instead of being, you know, reflexively negative and congenitally — critical should really stop and look at the difference he can make for many people,” she stated.

What is that difference President Trump can make, one may ask? Only time will tell.

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