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Updated: 53 min 46 sec ago

Student moderators raise tough questions to gubernatorial candidates

Wed, 2018-05-09 20:41

By Jamela Lewis, Staff Writer

On Monday April 30, at Luther Bonney Talbott Hall six candidates for Governor of Maine gathered for the inaugural 2018 Spring Food Security Dialogue debate. The Food Studies Program at USM provided 24-year old student intern Kayla Buckley, with a professional gig as event planner and moderator. Buckley, an Economics major and Co-Coordinator of the debate says, “It took a matter of two months following the Ending Food Insecurity in Maine symposium for the Food Studies faculty and debate sponsors to come up with a strong set of questions.”

The audience, made of local residents, a large number of political science and economics majors and diverse nationalities, were greeted by Professor Michael Hillard, the Director of the Food Studies Program. Hillard introduced each candidate as they sat attentively in alphabetical order. Kenneth Capron, Age 67, Independent, Retired CPA; Alan Caron, Age 66, Independent Economic Development Consultant; Donna Dion, Age 66, Democrat, Former Mayor of Biddeford; Mark Dion, Age 62, Democrat, State Senator; Terry Hayes, Age 59, Independent, State Treasurer and Betsey Sweet, Age 60, Lobbyist.

Each candidate was given approximately five minutes to elaborate on a plan to resolve one the most pressing issues in Maine, food security. Hayes and Mark Dion spoke mainly on resolving the economic crisis as a means to food insecurity while Caron, Donna Dion and Sweet shifted toward education and implementing more social services as solutions. The debate started with the million-dollar question from the moderator.

We would like each candidate to share their view on the impacts of poverty,” Buckley stated. “How crucial is it an issue to your candidacy? How does poverty impact Maine? What is the role of the community and of the government in addressing it?”

Capron stated in his answer that he was living on a fixed income in retirement and at month end, “You find you’re not able to go to the grocery store to buy what you want.”

Caron looked back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a source of solutions when ”Finding good jobs and building a good life as millworkers, even with 8th grade educations, that generation was able to lift themselves out of poverty and into homes they owned,” he stated.

Donna Dion stated that she has worked directly with non-profits in Biddeford was exposed to homelessness daily working at food banks. She answered, “The issue is not only about affordable wages. This is not an issue, it’s a lifetime problem and the government needs to reinforce the value of citizens to make sure their issues are addressed.”

Mark Dion presently serves as a State Senator for Portland has a long history in law enforcement. He stated, “Food insecurity is code for power and exploitation. It’s the way the power people keep the poor and disadvantage in place by addicting them to a processed diet and the rest is history.”

Terry Hayes concluded that, “Being poor is expensive. We need to step out of the paradigm and pay more attention to looking at our assets-let’s look at Buckfield for growing food and beyond entitlement programs.”

Sweet ended by mentioning that she “had been a single mom for nearly 18 years”  and that “poverty is easily resolved with money, but the Right has set the policy agenda for what we can accomplish by placing a large amount of blame on immigrants, single women and the unemployed.”

The moderator ended the debate by asking the candidates what their version of a food secure future in Maine would look like. The candidates resoundingly agreed investing in economic stability is the caveat to getting young people to remain in state. They also expressed a need to grow businesses that support local farms, vocational schools and technology so people can expand in the job market.

Michael Hillard, the Director of the Food Studies Program at USM, later weighed in what he thought of all of the candidates and which one gave the most promising answers to the moderator’s questions.

“Sweet showed the greatest command in directly addressing the questions and homed in on the issues of stigma,” Hillard said. “Mark Dion made it clear to blame corporate capitalism. Donna Dion spoke well on her experience. Caron lacked a fresh perspective. Capron had no serious answers.”

Overall the experience of moderating the debate has helped Buckley become more involved with major food security issues that have been facing Maine. She also expressed a vision of using her degree in food studies to prepare for more responsibility as a spokesperson with policy and planning firms. Buckley hopes to utilize her relationships with senior faculty at USM for a major role in coordinating the upcoming summit in March 2019 when USM will host the Universities Fighting Against World Hunger.

Open forums such as this have become a positive arena for candid discussions revolved around socio and feminist economics and social and environmental justice. Maine college students of voting age are encouraged to get up front and personal with leaders who are potential decision makers of major issues.

Student Senate: what to expect next year

Mon, 2018-04-30 13:35

By Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer

Despite being hamstrung by low numbers and turnover, the Senate has accomplished and facilitated several projects for the benefit of the student body this past semester. For perspective, the senate is proscribed 27 senators, but only 12 seats stand filled currently.

Shaman Kirkland, current Chair of the Student Senate, says that the Senate has not been attractive for the past two years and that scandals and stress has driven prospective students away.

To him, however, “We’ve moved beyond that.” Now, Kirkland believes, it’s a matter of getting that message out to the student body.

This semester, the Senate extended free printing during finals. Starting April 30, printing on all USM campuses is free. Traditionally, this program is given for only one week before finals, but the Senate chose to extend that to two weeks.

Another move approved by the Senate is designated parking spots for combat wounded veterans.  On both campuses, signage will be used to designate the spots, which will be situated close to doorways for ease of access, says Chase Hewitt, current Student Body Vice President.

Otherwise, internal business has consumed the Senate. Resignations and proposed changes to the financial system of the Student Senate dominated previous Senate meetings.

On April 13, Trevor Hustus, former Chair of the Senate and Chase Hewitt, former Student Body President both stepped down. Hustus explains, “I resigned for personal reasons and to pursue appointment to University of Maine System Board of Trustees,” to which he will be appointed May 1. He adds, “I have full faith and confidence in the new leadership team and wish them the best in the future.” Former Student Body President Chase Hewitt returned to the Student Government Association (SGA) as current Student Body Vice President.

A proposal to change the way funding is handled within the SGA was tabled at the Senate’s meeting on April 20. The first paragraph of the proposal, which sparked controversy and confusion among Senators and student organizations, states:

“The Student Senate of the University of Southern Maine hereby endorses, permits, and facilitates the transfer of our current financial mechanism away from the Student Government Association Business Office to the University of Southern Maine Business Office…”

Many Senators and students who are a part of the SGA feel that the next year will be dedicated to rebuilding the Senate. Averi Varney, Student Senate Clerk, believes measures to ensure such success include entrance interviews and a formal orientation regarding the constitution and proper legislative procedures (such as Robert’s Rules of Order).

Shaman Kirkland believes that the recent pattern of executive members stepping down from their positions was due to the stress of the job and lack of education about the duties expected of them. They are trying to balance school, work and personal lives with the expectation many have of senators to be fully-functioning professionals.

Varney recognizes that this creates an uphill battle for those students.

Many students hold the view that the Senate solely exists to do projects, she says. “We want to [do projects], but first we have to make sure that we fulfill our basic responsibilities,” which is primarily to dispense the $400,000 of Student Activity Fees. Each student pays $135 toward the fee that funds events on campus, organizations and student-lead initiatives.

Despite the importance of that role, Kirkland explained, “Senators don’t feel rewarded because they don’t have substantive projects to do.” This happens more frequently for Senators that don’t hold high positions. Even if the Senate is working on a meaningful project, insufficient communication between the Executive Board and other Senators often leave the latter feeling uncommitted.

“The past year has been chaos, but chaos happens before we can get better,” Katelyn Seavey, the upcoming Student Body President, holds.

Seavey is new to the SGA at USM and wishes to build transparency in the next session, both within the senate and student government as well as with the student body as a whole.

Next year promises action in many fields. A gubernatorial debate, planned for mid-September in Hannaford Hall, is in the works, as is formal clothing drive for students to conduct professional interviews.

A promising program the Senate plans to expand is the textbook reserve operated through the USM libraries. Students can borrow a needed textbook for a certain short period of time, helping to alleviate some of the financial burden purchasing or renting textbooks every semester brings.

For Varney, next semester represents a re-branding opportunity for the Student Senate, to make it “more organized and enjoyable to be in.” Varney says, “I want [the Senate] to be a welcoming and stimulating environment where people come because they want to do something, not to put it on their resume.”

Alex Holderith, the current Student Body, agrees that public image is an area of growth. “People don’t take what [the Senate] does seriously, and no one knows who the President or Vice President are,” he states.

Holderith references the recent SGA elections, held in late March, for his case. The election garnered just 80 votes, or barely one percent of the undergraduate student population.

“[It’s] literally so easy to join, but nobody knows how to. It would be ‘huge’ if more students joined,” Holderith added. “You can make a real, tangible difference on campus if you are motivated.”

The SGA and Student Senate section of the USM website currently lists meeting locations and times, their Constitution, the roster of elected officials, meeting minutes (minutes only accurate as of April 2017) and financial request forms.

However, Holderith points out that in his experience, the website is confusing to navigate. “The system needs to change,” he says. “It needs to be a one-stop-shop.”

The past year has been one of turbulence and upheaval in the Student Senate. But, the new slot of senators who weathered the storm feel confident in the task that lies before them: to repair the image, expand the participation and rebuild the functioning of the Senate once more.

Removal of six-meal plan upsets busy students

Mon, 2018-04-30 13:34

By Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer

Starting next fall, students with a meal plan will no longer have the option of the sex-meal a week with $400 in flex cash, one that is commonly used by students with busy schedules. As a result of student and parent feedback, dining surveys and the Student Government tackling the issue, the USM administration addressed the meal removal.

David Roussel, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, worked closely with a group of individuals to discuss the change. He met with Tadd Stone, Sodexo General Manager and several students. Roussel discussed what made the administration remove the plan.

“The USM Student Government identified a large discrepancy between the value of the six-meal plan and the 19 meal plan,” Roussel said. “The six-meal plan was so far out of balance that there was very little value in this meal plan… A large number of parents expressed concerns about the six-meal plan due to the fact that six meals per week is not enough to really sustain a person and often time students would hurt themselves by choosing a lower meal option just to be able to get the additional flex dollars.”

Despite rumors that ran amok on campus that the change occurred without student notice, the change was based on surveys that were sent out to the students. Roussel understood that students are upset with the removal, calling for additions elsewhere.

“After reviewing recent dining surveys,” Roussel said, “the USM administration reassessed the flex dollars that come with each plan to bring them more current. USM has added $75 more each semester to both the 10 and the 14 meal plan, understanding that students were running out very quickly in the past.”

The removal of the six-meal plan leaves students with the current options of the 10-meal plan with $225 in flex cash, the 14-meal plan with $100 in flex cash and the 19-meal plan with $50 in flex cash. For some students, such as second year Emily Torres, who is double majoring in psychology and human biology, losing the six-meal plan and going to the 10-meal plan does not seem like a valid option.

“I only use three meal swipes a week and use all of my 400 dining dollars,” Torres said, “and I don’t expect this to change next semester. Having 10 meal swipes and 225 dining dollars just doesn’t feel like a good option for me and my weekly schedule, which is mostly in Portland and with few gaps between classes.”

To account for student distress over the removal, Roussel sees students working closely with the Dining Services to make a smooth transition.

“Dining Services is more than willing to work with students to help them identify ways that they can maximize their meal plans to get the best value out of them,” Roussel said. “Whether this includes taking advantage of the meal equivalency in Portland and Lewiston, using the to-go meals program, or using their meals on other Sodexo campuses in the University of Maine System when they are travelling for sports, educational or other events, we can assist them in finding ways to maximize their value.”

Torres was worried about the lack of student involvement in the decision making. Torres, along with Gabrielle Nelson, were students that worked closely with Roussel and Stone regarding the meal changes. Nelson stresses that students and the university should work together for change. According to Nelson, student awareness is important when changes occur, no matter how small.

“I believe students should be able to team up with USM to create plans that are more suitable to fit students individual needs,” Nelson said. “For some students with heavier workloads finding the time to sit down in the cafe for each meal can be challenging. Because the meal plans are required for most students that live on campus, it would be beneficial for both USM and students to be working together in creating more plan choices to met the diversity of students needs.”

Regarding this change of the removal of the six-meal plan, the changes are still being discussed among Roussel, Stone, faculty and students. Student action has brought awareness about the change, and students have begun to work closely with the university about the meal plan.

“Sodexo and USM administrators will continue to survey students, meet with students and work with Student Government when making decisions about future meal plans and available options,” Roussel said.  

Dormitory upgrades coming to the Gorham campus

Mon, 2018-04-30 13:32

By Jam Lewis, Staff Writer

At the culmination of the spring 2018 semester, USM Residential Life will step into action to follow through on a planned three project expansion to Philippi, Woodward and Anderson Hall. This entails beautification for dorms by the end of summer. The Director of Residential Life and Housing, Christina Lowery, provides the specifics of her area of expertise and what to look forward to regarding the positive changes affecting dorm life.

“Residential Life and Housing serve a dual capacity with the first being administrative and the latter being programmatic support,” she explained. Residential Life assists with all things housing-related including “room assignments, billing accurately and meal plans,” Lowery added. Meanwhile, the housing staff also provides students with academic reinforcements for successful degree completion. The housing support from Residential Advisor’s (RA’s) varies from interactive workshops for skill building, socializing and getting to know neighbors, communal etiquette directions and mentors.

More often the university is the initial residence where young people will experience what it means to live independently. Dormitories and residence halls are likely to be a student’s first home away from home while they tackle their degree program. Students have much to gain with the support of an RA who can teach them how to cook for themselves and communal etiquette for sharing bathrooms and kitchens.

Some of USM’s campus residents have been here long enough to notice the normal wear and tear of rooms and buildings. Just like any other residential setting, repairs cannot be ignored because communal societies have regular turnover. For upcoming changes to the Anderson, Woodward and Philippi dorms here’s a brief outline:


New furniture including chairs; metal beds with loft kits for adjustable heights; two-piece dressers for stacking or use as bedside tables and extra-long twin mattresses. Lowery added “the new furniture gives more flexibility for rearranging triple-rooms.”


The building has siding that needs replacing due to manufacturing defects in the old siding. One half of the building was completed last summer to cut back moisture issues in the rooms.


Russell Scholars will be moving away from Woodward into Upton-Hastings (UH) and the first floor classrooms in UH will be enhanced for the Russell Scholars and other programs academic use. As the demand for housing increased, the decision was made to makeover Woodward to make room for more students.

Residential Life has been on the lookout in enrollment over several years and they saw the housing demands increase based on the demographics. But Lowery said, “We have 40 more first year students and more than 170 returning students requesting housing, which is something we could have never anticipated.” However, Residential Life did anticipate the need to create enhanced occupancy suites in Philippi and Upper Class. “Our value is that we want to house everyone who wants housing,” Lowery said. “When we say no to housing we’re saying no to someone’s education even if it’s a three person room, that means 1 more student who has access to education at USM.”

Residential Life also works in tandem with Disabled Service Center (DSC) to satisfy the necessary accommodations for students that best fit their academic success. In assessing DSC there appear to be more dogs visible on campus. Dogs are becoming more socialized with the residents thanks to government mandates to accept Support Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESA). Part of campus enhanced occupancy is including students who need ESAs. To clarify, there is a bit of variance in the definitions for needing animals according to Residential Life and DSC. DSC refers to the animals as ESAs and not pets, while RLH treat ESAs “kind of as a prescription” according to Lowery. As a student liaison, Residential Life is open to fulfilling a student’s formal request via DSC or individual conversation.

When residential students return in the fall, they can look forward to update dorm rooms and buildings on the Gorham campus. Residential Life will be working hard over the summer to create a comfortable environment for all students living on campus.

Bus transportation changes hit USM next fall

Mon, 2018-04-30 13:31

By Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

During the 2016 summer, USM officials entered negotiations with Portland Metro to create a partnership between the university and the public transportation system called the Transit West expansion. In the fall of 2017 it was officially announced that USM would move towards an official business relationship with Metro once their preexisting contract with a private transportation company was up.

USM’s contract with Custom Coach, the current bus company hired out by the university, will end within the next year after a six year long affiliation. At this time, Metro will take over the shuttle service between the Portland and Gorham campuses. However, the change in transportation company will mean a change to the schedule and routes. The transition from one business to the next will include a shift in the way students will access mobility services.

Using Metro means that students will be on a public bus system that will not only be carrying students between the Portland and Gorham campuses. The Metro busses will still pick students up at the bus stops on their respective campuses. However, the stops will be part of what Metro will call the Husky Line, a new bus route designed to fulfill the needs of USM students. The Husky Line, according to USM’s Office of Public Affairs, will incorporate stops in Westbrook and on Brighton Ave, with the hopes of increasing the flow of accessibility for students and community members.  

Changes to the system have been met with mixed feelings at USM. USM’s own President Glenn Cummings has repeatedly gone on record as being wildly in favor of the new system. In August, Cummings was quoted as saying, “From USM’s point of view, this is an absolute triple win. This means better service, financial savings and environmental improvement. You can’t get much better than that.”

Though the USM administration has been pushing to have students hop on board and openly accept the new Metro deal, students have felt like the changes are beneficial for the university, but not great for students in the long run.

Local bus companies, including Custom Coach, are against the Metro-USM partnership, saying that the new system was entered into without hearing bids from other companies.

One of the most marketable changes to the new Metro-USM deal is that university employees and students will now be able to take advantage of unlimited access to the Metro transit system. Using USM identification, it will be possible to obtain a U-Pass that will cover the cost of riding on the bus system, which opens doors to the entire greater Portland area. This program will cost USM roughly $6,000 more to maintain than it cost USM to hold their contract with Custom Coach. USM will shell out $400,000 annually to ensure that all of its students are able to access the U-Pass system.

Metro will also be introducing a line of brand new busses that will be integrated onto the USM specific bus routes. Eleven new busses will be delivered, tested and staffed by August 2018, when the Transit West Project will officially launch, connecting the USM campuses with one another and the greater Portland area.

Though the fall semester will see the implementation of the many changes to the bus-line system at USM, the university’s intercollegiate athletic teams will continue to use charter busses from private companies to get them to athletic competitions.

Funding for Master Plan remains unknown

Mon, 2018-04-30 13:29

By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer

The new USM master plan has hit a brief obstacle during its final stages of development. The 128th Maine Legislature decided to adjourn on Thursday afternoon, April 19 without addressing many major bills, leaving the USM master plan budget temporarily in the air. The session extended from Wednesday night into Thursday morning when an agreement could not be reached in the legally allotted time.

The session was in a gridlock between democrats and republicans who disagreed on issues such as medicare expansion, the opiate epidemic and changes in tax code. This discourse led to adjournment with over 120 House and Senate approved bills left in legal limbo. To extend the session by five days, a vote with a two-thirds majority would be needed to pass. Maine House Republicans decided against this, believing democrats initially had ample time to address these measures.  


Amongst the tabled bills is a one-billion dollar general spending request for Maine public schools that would be available July 1, the start of the public school fiscal year. Part of this bond includes up to $20 million for USM construction. Without the passing of these bonds, the Master Plan may be stalled for next year.

Pre-planning began in the Spring of 2017 and has been progressing consistently into this spring. The final plan is currently being reviewed and will be approved as soon as late May and no later than early June.

Substantial changes to the Portland campus will occur over the next five to ten years. The goal is to “enhance the commuter experience while simultaneously creating a welcoming residential community.” To do this, they plan on maximizing efficiency of space, making the campus design more pedestrian oriented, prioritizing necessary redevelopment and phasing out buildings that: do not  “contribute to the character of the campus” or “represent the best use of land resources.”

The cylindrical law building and other surrounding buildings, the Woodbury Student Center, the Facilities Management building and the numerous white houses all face phasing out. In exchange, a dorm holding 300 beds will be erected where Woodbury is with another 200 bed dorm behind it, the Woodbury parking lot will be transformed into a green space, the law building will be replaced by a 160-space parking lot that will then transition into a 500 sport parking garage and Bedford Street will close, uniting the campus.

Renovations are being considered for Luther Bonney Hall, Payson Smith Hall, science buildings A and B and the Sullivan Gym, due to poor existing conditions.

Along with these changes, a new career center will be built perpendicularly to Masterton and Woodbury, a new Facilities Management building will be constructed on the land currently being used for the law building, a building will be put adjacently to the current parking garage and another will be placed near Payson Smith Hall. These two unnamed buildings will be used for a new Graduate Center and a Center for the Arts, however it has not yet been established which building each will be assigned to.

Many of these aesthetic changes have been planned due to the realization that the center of the campus, the Woodbury area, is a parking lot. The placement of a green space there is believed to create a “student life quad” that will be an open space.

The biggest change would be the theorized 50 million dollar Center of the Arts, which will have a 1,000 seat auditorium. It is intended that this portion of the plan will be funded through philanthropy. They have found this addition to be particularly necessary, as Russell Hall has been deemed insufficient for many performances—last year USM lost the chance to host the All-State Music Festival and Maine Music Educators Conference due to the lack of accommodations. This change will optimistically usher in new cultural events that will engage the Portland community.

The Gorham campus is currently planning to phase out Dickey Wood; the printmaking and drawing studios; 7, 19 and 51 College Street; and 62, 126 and 134 School Street, due to poor conditions, small sizes and inefficient utilizations of space.

Renovations and updates will be made to Upton-Hastings, Robie-Andrews, Anderson, Woodward, Bailey Hall, Russell Hall, Corthell Hall, the Academy building and Brooks Student Center. There are currently plans for four new buildings and an extension of the Costello Sports Complex.

Although the bond did not pass there is a chance it may still be considered. The legislature is scheduled to assemble Wednesday, May 2 on a “veto-day” to address bills rejected by Governor Lepage. Unfortunately this session seems to have no direction and Republican Director of Communications, Krysta West, stated that there were no plans to deal with unfinished business like school funding.

If funds are obtained, the most immediate changes will be renovations and repairs to existing buildings on both campuses. The new master plans can be viewed at under the section “Office of the President.”

Letter from the editor: changes coming to USM and the Free Press

Mon, 2018-04-30 13:24

By Julie Pike, editor-in-chief

Welcome to our last issue of the academic year! It has been a great experience this past semester as I began to learn my way as editor-in-chief, and I look forward to the next year to come.

The overall theme of this issue encompasses the many changes coming to USM both over the summer and into the fall. With all of these changes happening, it felt fitting to dedicate this issue to that broader theme. As we serve as a way to educate the community of USM, our readers should know what to expect to change as they are away on break.

With the Master Plan in place, the look of our campuses will begin to change. I’m sure you have all seen the construction beginning to take place on Bedford Street. Check out Ben Theriault’s piece inside for more details on what to expect when we return.

Big changes are also happening with METRO, as the service will take over the transportation for USM to provide an even wider range of services and new routes. Now USM students, staff and faculty can use their ID card to get free access to METRO services from Portland to Brunswick.

Many academic departments are also undergoing changes set to go into effect in the fall, including the Communications and Media Studies department, the Food Studies program and the Psychology department.

While there are many things happening at USM, the Free Press will also be undergoing its own changes. Three of our staff members, Lauren Kennedy, Orkhan Nadirli and River Plouffe Vogel will be graduating shortly and moving on from their time at the paper. They were all an essential part of our publication and will be greatly missed!

With the seniors moving on, that makes room for other staff members to take on the role as editors, so we will be seeing some staff changes over the summer as we work on training new students wanting to join us as well.

This may be our last print issue, but I will be working on keeping our website going during the summer, with stories about happenings both at USM and in the area, such as the annual Old Port Fest.

The other changes I’ll be working on for the Free Press will be internal. I want to work on developing training sessions for new and current staff, increasing our advertising revenue and getting our paper more available to the off-campus community.

Next fall I’ll be able to hit the ground running as I’ve had this past semester to really learn what it takes to be editor-in-chief and what I can do to help our paper improve. For now, I’m going to enjoy the break from the busy semester, and soak up this wonderful spring weather. I hope you all have a great summer break and I’ll see you in a few months!

USM students engage in aquaponics research

Sun, 2018-04-22 20:37

By Elizabeth Trudel, Staff Writer

The Department of Environmental Science and Policy has installed elaborate aquaponics systems in the basement greenhouse of Bailey Hall. This was created to promote sustainability and clean water research, while also engaging students in essential hands-on applied science.

Robert Sanford, the head of the Environmental Science Department states, “The aquaponics greenhouse research project was built specifically for student use.” Over the course of the 2017-2018 school year, environmental science students have been working on aquaponics research alongside  Dr. Karen Wilson, particularly in the research and analytical methods course she taught in the fall. Although the aquaponics research has been the main focus of the class, the department is currently seeking small aquaponics projects to integrate into future environmental science and policy courses.

In August of 2017, the greenhouse aquaponics project was kick-started with a generous $25,000 donation from Poland Spring/Nestlé Waters North America and support from the Maine EPSCOR project SEANET, a network of interdisciplinary researchers along the coast of Maine to help advance sustainable ecological aquaculture.

The aquaponics systems were built in the summer of 2017 and consist of two 250-gallon setups, each with a 150-gallon fish tank attached to a “swirl tank” to filter fish waste, connected to an 18-square-foot grow bed. The systems also include two 45-gallon fish tanks attached to two 4-square-foot grow beds.

The grow beds contain clay pebbles rather than dirt. Sanford explains that clay pebbles are effective in retaining moisture which is important as they are trying to collectively maximize the efficiency of the water supply. They are also porous and light-weight, which improves the aeration to the root systems of the plants and they also improve drainage which prevents rotting and promotes healthy root-systems.  

Sanford explains that the setup uses blue nile tilapia fish which are originally from Africa. The fish were infants when the project started and have since matured significantly in size. Sophomore Environmental Science major, Kayla Curtis, states, “The most interesting part about the aquaponics research project this far has been watching the fish and plants grow bigger and stronger everyday.”

Sanford states that the fish are fed fish-food to produce ammonia-rich waste, which accumulates in the water. The effluent-rich water is toxic to the fish in high concentrations, but they’re essential for plant growth, so the wastewater is pumped to the grow beds. The bacteria that is cultured in the grow beds helps to break down impurities, and as a result, nitrogen remains, which is an essential nutrient for plants. The plant roots filter the water which now contains nutrients for the fish and is pumped back down to the fish. The cycle then repeats itself. He explains, “Our ultimate goal is to make the systems as sustainable as possible.” He expresses that aquaponics research is crucial because it is a potential world food source.

Sanford states that the research project as an opportunity for USM students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the ongoing efforts to meet sustainable food needs not only in Maine but also around the world. He expresses that he is excited to see all of the different research experiments that students will be able to conduct over the coming years.

Making college and science a reality for local children

Sun, 2018-04-22 20:32

By Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer

The 4H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Ambassadors is a program putting college students in classrooms to teach children about science in an engaging and inspiring manner. The program was started five years ago by Sarah Sparks, a science education professional at UMAINE Cooperative Extension, the program, which is unique to the University of Maine system, is a network of partnerships between universities and the communities they foster.

Hands-on, interactive scientific exploration projects are facilitated by the student educators with household items like aluminum foil, marshmallows and food dye to foster curiosity and interest in the STEM field among young students.

This year, over 50 USM students took part in the program. Last year, 49 students volunteered 980 hours of service and reached 500 youth in the area. The 4H STEM Ambassadors at USM is run by Lauren Porter, a junior social work and political science major and student associate in the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteering.

Sites can be selected from anywhere in the state of Maine— within walking distance from USM, convenient to the bus line in Portland or all the way up in Fort Kent. Common sites for this program include classrooms, after-school programs or youth-serving agencies like the Boy’s and Girl’s clubs, the Portland housing authority, Gorham Recreation and public libraries.

Each lesson typically leads off with a 10 minute introduction, followed by 40 minutes of the hands-on project and then 10 minutes to synthesize the lesson. The 4H STEM Ambassador program primarily counsels third through fifth grade children, but the program is can be used with children up to the eighth grade level.

Participants are expected to prepare their curriculum for an hour each week during the program, which lasts for the first six weeks of each semester. Overall, the total time commitment for students over the six weeks is about 20 hours.

Taylor Canastra, a biology and secondary education major and former STEM Ambassador, says, “Going into it I was wary because I didn’t really know anything about offshore winds but they made it very easy for us. The kit you get has everything you will need in it including a binder with lesson plans/activities to do with the kids utilizing the materials provided… .”  

Students with any major can take part in this, because the program focuses on not just science but creativity, critical thinking and group collaboration. David Champlin, chair of the biology department, stated that, “consequently, some non-science majors are some of the best participants.”

Monique Butoto, a former participant, adds, “This project has helped me in a short period of time to learn how to adapt quickly in an environment that challenges one to be patient but also strategic.”

Champlin was an early adopter of the program.  When Sparks brought the program to USM, he was there at the first meeting they had. “I connected immediately,” Champlin says, and has included it as an option in his classes ever since.

More than half of the over 50 USM students involved come from service-learning integrated classes, like Champlin’s.

Often, however, students and professors have concerns about taking up the program in their course because of, “this hurdle, the notion of ‘that’s gonna be a lot of work and I’m already buried, I’m already going full-tilt,’” Champlin explained. However, Champlin elaborated that the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteering exists to help students with the work.

USM professors can incorporate the program as an option in their class. For example, a professor could offer for students to participate in the 4H STEM Ambassadors program instead of taking a mid-term. Which, Champlin points out, equals less papers to grade, saving them time.

Ultimately, he stated, “It’s a professor’s job to provide these excellent maximum value educational experiences, and the fact that a staff member is here makes it easy for professors to do a great job.”

The mentors themselves grow, too. Champlin says, “When USM students study in college, they are beginning learners, which is scary. But, in the grade schools they are the experts.” Champlin continued, “Some students think they are shy, but when in a position to do so, they find its actually just a lack of experience. And with that practice they soon become comfortable.”

For student’s unsure of their future career, being a 4H STEM ambassador gives them the opportunity to explore. Some students who are current science majors decide to be teachers after getting involved, while others, as a result of working with youth, strongly conclude the opposite. The value of college is the opportunity to explore careers to try and see which you like, Champlin adds.

If students are nervous about fitting anything else into their schedule on top of classes and employment, there are various options such as programs on the weekends or during the evenings. Students can pick sites per their schedules and get reimbursed for transportation costs.

Anyone interested in participating in the program can contact the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteering at: or in person at 4 Payson-Smith.

Providing USM with an education in social justice

Sun, 2018-04-22 20:30

By Sam Margolin, Staff Writer

Four USM professors worked together to bring a Social Justice minor to USM. It was just recently approved and will be available for students in the fall. The new program will be housed within the Geography-Anthropology Department. The four professors who created and organized the minor are: Lorrayne Carroll, Associate Professor of English and Women and Gender Studies; Lydia Savage, Chairperson of the Geography-Anthropology Department; Susan Feiner, Professor of Economics and Women and Gender Studies; and Julie Ziffer, Associate Professor of Physics. They are all part of the faculty organization effort as well as the development of the degree requirements. Together they have created a interdisciplinary minor program that draws knowledge from a seemingly endless number of possible disciplines and subjects.

The new minor program is available to any undergraduate student and is built on a foundation of many different subject matters such as Women and Gender Studies, Sociology and Economics. Students are able to choose courses from many different major programs. By allowing classes from different subjects, the options for learning are less limited and can provide students with a wider view of the social justice field of study. The further development of the minor includes the search for more faculty who are willing to offer their courses within it. Many courses at USM have the ability to relate to a social justice issue and allow students to make connections across different departments.

“We have a tremendous amount of work to do as far as reaching out to faculty from other programs,” Savage said. “There are so many more courses that we could use and offer but we don’t want to include them without asking the faculty’s permission.” The faculty outreach that is taking place currently at USM will help expand and promote the minor.

Along with the wider range of subject matter offered, two of the faculty organizers, Ziffer and Feiner, were awarded a three-year education grant through the National Education Association to organize and offer a series of social justice courses. This opportunity for students allows them to take short half or one-credit courses that are called “pop-ups.”

“We have had pop-ups around events that were not even organized by USM. They dovetail with social justice criteria,” Carroll said. “For example, the first pop-up we had this fall was a day at the Women’s Economic Summit held at the statehouse.”

The pop-ups do not run full semesters and usually include attending a social justice event. For example, David Everson, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at USM, created a pop-up class around the Maine-Wabanaki REACH organization, a Native American advocacy group. REACH stands for reconciliation, engagement, advocacy, change and healing. The students attended three events, met once to discuss a final paper, and received one full credit for their work. These classes are pass/fail and tuition free, meaning that students can take them without paying anything. The grant also compensates the faculty member who is teaching.

According to the USM website, the minor focuses on providing students with both the theoretical and the applicable tools that social justice requires. This means that students will learn not only how to become informed and active citizens of the world but will also know the history of diverse human experience that has lead the human race to its present social position. Exploitation, injustice, domination and resistance and access will all be subjects that help explain social justice as a field of both research and praxis.

If students have an interest in social constructs, economic access and opportunity and social and cultural production, the new social justice minor can help students expand knowledge and learn to become and active participant in the social constructs of the world. Carroll described how important it is for students not only to engage in, “not just critical study, but ethical study.”

Other colleges and universities across the country are beginning to see the value and relevance of social justice education. USM’s minor program was built using models such as Merrimack College’s Social Justice program that began in 2013. According to their website, students at Merrimack are not only engaged in the classroom but also are required to intern with a community-based or nongovernmental organization, as well as participate in Social Justice Week. By connecting with the community and becoming active in local, state and national social issues, students develop a more integrated learning style and become active in more ways.  

The faculty organizers outlined the importance that support and connection has to do with the social justice field of study. By engaging in community efforts and trying to better the lives of others, students sometimes neglect to take care of themselves. Maintaining a certain level of care and concern for yourself while engaging in the betterment of society can be exhausting and dangerous.

“How we navigate the individual, personal and political and maintaining a certain level of care for yourself when you’re doing this kind of work is also an important part of teaching social justice,” Carroll said.

Student-led event educates about gun violence

Sun, 2018-04-22 20:28

By Julie Pike, editor-in-chief

On the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, USM Thinking Matters partnered with the Maine Gun Safety Coalition (MGSC) to provide an educational platform for students, faculty and community members. The Walk-In Against Gun Violence event was created to teach the community about gun violence policies and to join together to make Maine a safer place.

The event coincided with spring break for many public schools, so the MGSC organized for a walk-in aimed at high school and college students. Rebecca Nisetich, the Honors Program Director, explained that calling the event a walk-in was to combine a walk-out and a teach-in.

It began with opening remarks in Hannaford Hall, with speakers including Nisetich and Omar Andrews, the President of Husky Vets, a chapter of the Student Veterans Association at USM. Afterwards a walk-out was organized for attendees to walk together around the Portland campus.

The event included several teach-in breakout sessions, all facilitated by USM or high school students, to inform the attendees about recent gun violence issues and encourage discussion. “The teach-in seminars are educational opportunities that provide students with context and tools to understand the conversations we’re having, as a nation, around gun violence, gun control and mental health issues,” Nisetich said.

Shaman Kirkland, current Chair of the Student Senate, led one of the first sessions covering the topic of domestic violence. Other sessions touched on the subject of suicide, school safety, the Second Amendment and race. The second half of the event switched to a focus on what actions can be taken to combat gun violence.

Ed Suslovic, from the Board of Directors of the MGSC, stated that the walk-in connected with the theme of Thinking Matters, an annual student research symposium, since they were talking about policy proposals and how to turn them into active policies.

“USM opening up and broadening Thinking Matters to include this event is a great example of a public institution of higher learning doing exactly what it should, which is provide a space for people to learn and become educated,” Suslovic said. Nisetich added that she thought the events worked well together because they both provide students with opportunities to use their education in real-world contexts.

There were two key points that Suslovic wanted everyone who attended to take away from the event, “That they are not alone in their passion and commitment to addressing this issue,” and that regardless of age, anyone can get involved. “I don’t care how old you are, you can make an impact,” Suslovic said.

He added that the fight against gun violence is now in the hands of the younger generation, noting the student survivors from the Parkland shooting as an example. “My generation has had plenty of time to solve this problem, and we haven’t,” said Suslovic.

This sort of thinking was mirrored in the event, as the discussions were all student-led. USM faculty and members of the MGSC were there to provide support and guidance where needed, but ultimately, the event was in the hands of the students who participated.

“It’s really not our place at this point to tell these students what they should do and what they should focus on,” Suslovic said. “We’re there to support them, but it’s their movement now.”

Suslovic stated that USM is the first college in Maine to form a college chapter of the MGSC. Last year, he added, when there was a proposed bill to allow carrying of a concealed weapon at public universities in Maine, was when this chapter was formed. Kirkland was present at the hearing for the proposed legislation, expressing his objection to it. Suslovic felt that he saw this student-led movement against gun violence last year, and that the walk-in continues the student efforts.

“This is truly led by students, for students, because they are the ones to be the changemakers.”

Letter from the editor: #SaveStudentNewsrooms

Sun, 2018-04-22 20:23

By Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief

Just last week the Free Press joined in on the movement, #SaveStudentNewsrooms, a group of college newspapers across the country have banded together to spread awareness about the need for financial and editorial independence for student-run publications.

Melissa Gomez, the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator, who worked with other students to create this movement, contacted the Free Press about this movement. The announcement of this campaign came at a time when the financial status of the Free Press was not clear. The Student Senate had voted in favor of a proposal to disband the organization as a 501(c)(3) at a meeting in late March. However, parliamentary procedures were not followed for this vote, so it was redone at their most recent meeting on April 20. After a long discussion, the Student Senate voted to table the vote for this proposal until the fall.

As a student journalist, I felt the need to jump at this opportunity to join others in this cause. College newspapers across the country have been facing a threat to their independence.

Most notably, an instance that compelled Gomez to start the movement was when news broke about the Daily Campus, the student newspaper from the Southern Methodist University in Texas, was being absorbed into the journalism department and the paper would no longer publish. Dallas Morning News reported on this in early April. They spoke to Kylie Madry, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Campus, who said that the future of their paper looks bleak. Madry stated that their last hope was to get a large donation to help keep the paper running.

Gomez recognized that there was a general need for people to be more aware about the importance of student newspapers. There is now a Facebook group for student journalists from across the country, to come together to show why college newspapers are invaluable, and that they cannot perform their duties without complete independence.

Student journalists are the future news reporters of the country. There’s no better platform to learn about this career than to join a student-run publication. News is something that will always remain, whether it be in print or online, and it’s the current students who will be the ones to provide you the news.

College newspapers are also unique in the fact that we have access and insight to a university that no other publication has. Since college newspapers have a focus on their university and the surrounding community, we get the chance to provide a more in-depth coverage about our institution. Local publications may cover college activities, but it is the college newspaper that is the expert on the student body. What’s also unique here is that we are all students ourselves, and what better way to represent a university than to have these articles written by the students themselves.

Journalists are facing a tough environment in this day and age, with the frequent mention of “fake news.” We must train those going into this field, to be prepared to handle an extremely challenging job. A student newspaper is the perfect starting point for those with an interest in journalism. It gives them their first real experience, better preparing them for a future career.

With this being said, college newspapers are facing tough times ahead. It continues to be a struggle to recruit advertisers for our print publication, as most news is digital. Plus, a sad truth is that most college students that I know outside of the paper, never pick up a copy of the Free Press. What they don’t realize is that we exist for the students and the university community.

Student-run newspapers all across the country are facing these problems. So as a part of the #SaveStudentNewsrooms movement, independent college newspapers are asking for donations from outside organizations or individuals. These donations will help fund the invaluable experience a college newspaper can give students. If any of you would like to support the Free Press, and our work in serving our community, we have a donations page set up with GiveCampus, which you can also find a link to on our Facebook.

I am not alone in my view of the importance of student journalism, and I encourage all of you reading this to read the other editorials published by students across the country. These students are the future of news in this country. For a platform to read the editorials, visit:

Loretta J. Ross speaks on reproductive justice

Mon, 2018-04-16 11:39

By Jamela Lewis, Staff Writer


Human rights activist and self-described Texas Southerner Loretta J. Ross, received two standing ovations from a diverse audience representing the Portland and USM communities.  Ross took to the podium approximately 7 p.m. on the night of Friday the 13 in Hannaford Hall following the Women & Gender Studies (WGS) awards ceremony. Ross presented a provocative, yet well-received keynote address titled “Reproductive Justice in the Age of Trump.” Adult themes containing a hint of feminist economics, political science, wicked sense of humor, self-reflection and Ross’ rules of de-stigmatization kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.

Ross was invited to USM after Lisa Walker, Director of WGS, mentioned to her colleagues with sheer enthusiasm that she had heard “This amazing powerful speaker that we need to bring to our campus.” Upon discovering it was Ross that Walker spoke of in such high regard Nancy Griffin, VP of Student Affairs, stepped into action. Ross’ speaking engagement was co-sponsored by Griffin, the Convocation Committee, the Inter-Cultural and Diversity Advisory Council and the Provost Office.

Ross spoke candidly about the difficult subjects of reproductive justice and white supremacy. She opened with a statistic that connected the rise in teen pregnancies amongst white teenagers with the regrouping of white supremist. She believes this adverse trend resulted from the right-wing politics’ involvement in hacking reproductive policies which is the initial covert formulation of enlarging the white population.

Ross defines white supremacy as “a body of toxic noxious set of ideas about power and domination, which includes racism, misogyny, Christian nationalism, and transphobia and homophobia. It’s not a race of people.” Furthermore, she stated, “Obviously everyone whose white is not a white supremacist and all white supremacists are not white.”

Despite the current riptide of reproductive injustices and growing waves of fascist movements in America, Ross reminded her audience that a result of “bad parenting has kept young people racially and sexually immature.” Too many college youths are taught to be averse to open conversations about racism.” Reproductive justice “is built on the foundation of human rights but the framework requires that the most vulnerable populations be kept in the center of our lens, not at the margins,” Ross said.

“You can bring your imperfect self to the movement, because the cause is perfect” is quoted by Ross on the flyers posted on campus. When asked who is being addressed in that statement, “It is first directed at me. When my activism was born I had this idea that I had to be the perfect activist. As I matured in my activism I learned to practice forgiveness of myself, so I could learn how to forgive others,” Ross responded.

Ross said that she became an activist because she was “pissed off” with the injustices that drove her to her ‘rock bottom,’ a common metaphor used by addiction and recovery cohorts to describe the point in one’s life where you have dragged yourself down to the deepest darkest depths with nowhere to go but upward and onward. She exemplifies a new inclusive movement with the hopes of continuous collective change for the betterment of humanity.

As the lecture came to a close, Ross left the audience with a positive statement that invoked loud cheers. “Since there is nothing natural or inevitable about plundering other people’s stuff, I’m an activist because I believe that humanity is capable of making the right decisions.”

Foreign language classes to return to USM

Mon, 2018-04-16 11:36

By Sam Margolin, Staff Writer

Starting in the fall of 2018, USM will again offer various degree programs in foreign language such as bachelor of arts in Linguistics, with French and Spanish Concentrations as well as minors in both Spanish and French. Other regularly offered courses that have been returned or strengthened include Latin, German, Italian and Chinese. Some of these degree programs, classes, and professors became unavailable as a result of the budgetary and retrenchment crisis of 2014. The Linguistics department has now absorbed the foreign language programs and oversees the hiring and curriculum developments. New experimental language programs such as Wabanaki and Somali will also be available through a new Critical Languages Department. Critical language is the term used to describe the process of hiring local multilingual community members as educators to serve both students and themselves. By using local educators, colleges can offer professors who have first-hand cultural and language knowledge as well as connect and educate those community members about teaching professionally.

In recent issues of the Free Press, intercultural connections have been highlighted as an important tool in the arsenal of the modern college student. The ability to connect and understand another person’s background and point of view allows people to adopt new ideologies and learn new skills. How someone connects to and understands their environment and their community has a direct effect on how they treat that environment and that community. In order for students to respect and accept each other’s differences, they must first be given the opportunity to connect with a new culture and possess the tools to decipher and translate words and social norms. Without the use of language, cultural connections have no chance of conveying meaning in a deep and accurate sense.

Universities and colleges within the United States have usually had a very steady rise in foreign language classes and programs. According to a report conducted by the Modern Language Association in 2016, enrollment in language courses other than English between 2013 and 2016 fell by 9.2 percent. There had been a sustained growth since 1980 with one exception of decline in 1995. American Sign Language, Arabic and Korean were some of languages to show increased enrolment, leaving some of the most common languages, Spanish and French, displaced. This trend can be seen on college campuses around the country and makes it difficult for Americans to become multilingual. America is falling even further behind in the race to multicultural and linguistic understanding.

In a 2012 New York Times article entitled, “Budget-Cutting Colleges Bid Some Languages Adieu” by Lisa Foderaro, she writes about the cutting of foreign language programs and it’s deep impact on universities, especially liberal arts colleges that pride themselves on inclusivity and community values. The paradox that emerges reveals how crucial foreign language programs are to higher education. Foderaro writes, “many schools are eliminating language degrees and graduate programs just as they begin to embrace an international mission: opening campuses abroad, recruiting students from overseas and talking about graduating citizens of the world.” This notion of tuning students into not just American professionals, but “citizens of the world” goes hand in hand with the modern landscape of culture.

The idea of respect is attached heavily to language. By speaking a greeting or phrase in someone else’s native tongue shows them that you value their culture and have taken time to try and learn about their viewpoint. This respect through cultural connection can help students become more in tune with the world around them. Dana McDaniel, the Chairperson of the Department of Linguistics, has played a pivotal role in providing a departmental home for foreign language. McDaniel outlines how essential language learning is to community connections and the level of respect that must first be reached.

“When people find themselves in a language community that is different from their own, using the language of the community not only improves communication, but also shows respect,” McDaniel said. “In addition, language study gives English speakers a sense of what it’s like to learn a second language, and therefore makes English speakers more understanding toward people who are learning English as a second language.”

Another proponent for the resurgence of the foreign language department is one of its former faculty members and current USM Provost, Jeannine Diddle Uzzi. Provost Uzzi was once a professor of Latin and classics at USM. She now works with department heads, including McDaniel, to help heal and support some of the more affected departments.

Provost Uzzi is also a big supporter of the critical languages program and its potential for USM. “With all the languages spoken in Portland, the world is our oyster. We could offer all kinds of things here.” She also highlights that critical language is fairly inexpensive because it allows part-time and non-traditional faculty to integrate into the classroom. Community outreach becomes the real goal of this program by allowing locals to give and receive education from USM.

“Before think about bringing back foreign language majors in a traditional sense, I want to build a critical languages program,” Said Uzzi. “A critical language program would create meaningful connections between all the different people who speak different languages across Portland and the university.”

Cultural hubs like the one Provost Uzzi describes in the critical languages program has already seen positive feedback from the student body. The multi-cultural center on the Portland campus provides community outreach programs as well as support for the different cultures, nationalities and languages now present in the USM community. Provost Uzzi also points out that global political climates have a huge impact on foreign language and enrollment numbers, and to not offer these crucial tools is doing students a substantial disservice.

“The study of modern language really does follow international current events and trends,” Provost Uzzi said. “That’s why we are seeing such an uptake in programs like Arabic and Russian. So now we are in a time when people want to study languages like Russian again, but we don’t have a Russian program.”

While some departments such as international relations, history and music have foreign languages in their degree requirements, most majors and minors don’t include them at USM. “Nothing helps you better understand English, than learning a language that is not English,” said Provost Uzzi. “For the first time your brain gets some perspective on grammar, syntax, diction and not to mention culture.” Provost Uzzi stated that sometimes foreign language requirements can be hard for students to swallow, especially languages with complex grammar like German or Russian. “A good professor can take that grammar to demonstrate how it impacts culture.” Provost Uzzi points out the importance of drawing conclusions from these cultural signifiers that are embedded within language and applying them to educational and administrative need of a university.

Tension between USM student and ISO at event

Mon, 2018-04-16 11:36

By Elizabeth Trudel, Staff Writer

The Portland chapter of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) received backlash from an event held last week surrounding the topic of the #MeToo movement and sexism. One USM student, Mariana Angelo, was asked to leave after she had allegedly violated their code of conduct by going over her time limit and interrupting others.

The event had started as a way to discuss the viral #Metoo movement. The #MeToo event description, given by the ISO, encouraged people to attend the event to learn how socialists understand sexism, and to discuss moving toward liberation for all women.

Caitrin Smith-Monahan, an ISO member, introduced  keynote speaker, Camila Quarta. Quarta is a sexual violence activist and member of the New York City chapter of the ISO. She was one of the students who filed a federal complaint against Columbia University to the office of Civil Rights for an alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases in 2014. She worked alongside Emma Sulkowicz during her Carry That Weight movement, speaking out against sexual assault on Columbia University’s campus. Quarta gave a lecture which covered the history of the #Metoo movement and her experience as an activist for the cause.

When Quarta finished her presentation, Amy Gaidis, the chair of the ISO, opened the floor up to discussion. Angelo was second to raise her hand and speak. Angelo expressed her concern about the predominantly white turn out of attendees, expressing that a large majority of African-American students on campus saw the flyers for the event and were disheartened  because they failed to acknowledge or credit the African-American woman, Tarana Burke, who founded the movement.

Angelo spoke directly to Quarta and stated, “I respectfully listened to what you had to say about the #MeToo movement but you left out crucial history. The black women that you failed to mention are the reason why we are sitting here right now.” She continued to express her perspective to the keynote speaker, the chair of the event, as well as the ISO members in the room.

“You claim to be an inclusive organization that supports all people, but I look around this room and I see only one ethnicity; white. You claim to be an organization that seeks social justice and wants to make a change. You claim to be an organization that wants oppressed people to have their voices, yet, currently there is a queer student and a transgender queer student standing right outside and they are being physically barricaded by two men from entering this event and none of you are doing anything about it.” Quarta remained silent. Gaidis then informed Angelo that she had exceeded her allotted speaking time and sought a new speaker but Angelo ignored her.

In response, a member of the ISO approached Angelo and asked her to speak in the hallway. She refused and exited the room. A handful of spectators followed her out. In the hallway, two ISO members then barricaded USM students Rowan Along and Iris SanGiovanni from entering the forum.

Angelo attempted to re-enter the discussion, but one of the members shut the door and stood in front of it from the inside so that she couldn’t enter. Another member remained outside of the classroom and blocked the door.

SanGiovanni stated that the two members from the ISO used their bodies to block and intimidate them from entering the room. She added that the ISO gave them several reasons for why they were not allowed to attend the event in response to the past International Women’s Day event that they allegedly disrupted, and that the organization created a policy to ban them.

Todd Chretien, a National Steering Committee member of the ISO, stated in a personal interview that SanGiovanni and Along were not informed that they had been banned from all future meetings until they attempted to enter the #MeToo event. He stated, “The individuals were informed at the door that they would not be allowed to take part in the event as well as any future ISO forums until they scheduled a meeting to discuss organization policy.”

The ISO made a statement on their website in response to the events that unfolded during the International Women’s Day event in 2017. They stated, “Individuals have taken to online platforms to characterize the International Women’s Day event, the ISO at large and individual members as violent, transphobic, and white supremacists… We entirely reject these allegations as well as the ongoing smear campaign by our critics, none of whom attended the event in its entirety, and some of whom did not attend at all.”

In a personal interview, SanGiovanni brought up what happened at the International Women’s Day event, feeling that it had a connection to the recent event #Metoo event. She stated that she is against the ISO holding public meetings on the USM campus.

“Mariana Angelo was forced out the room and then physically kept from the room by two white men. A whole room of people, mostly white ISO members, watched as this happened and said nothing. The ISO should not be allowed to use our public campus space or resources when they harm members of the public.”

Angelo, Along and SanGiovanni, took to social media after the #Metoo event, posting videos of the men who blocked them from entering the event as well as individuals who were entering and exiting the room.

Smith-Monahan expressed that Wednesday’s meeting contained sexual assault survivors and video-taping the meeting posed a threat to their safety.

The ISO countered the claims made on social media by the students with a post to their Facebook page stating, “There have been several claims made on social media about the content of our presentation. We’ve posted a video of the presentation in full which folks can consider for themselves on our Facebook page.” The organization claimed that there were two points that violated their code of conduct during the discussion, including abiding the time limits for speaking and interrupting others.

“When the chair asked them to respect those points on the code of conduct they walked out of the meeting,” the ISO mentioned in their Facebook statement.“The security team did not allow them to re-enter as these individuals had already violated the code of conduct. We remain committed to the policies outlined in our meeting code of conduct.”

Chretien stated in response to the occurrences of the #MeToo event, “Angelo is 100 percent entitled to her opinion. We have no problem with that. We have a code of conduct that was read for everyone to hear before the meeting started and she violated the code of conduct by speaking longer than the allotted time and by speaking over other people. After getting upset, the student left on her own will.”

Chretien stated that ISO meetings are open to the public, and that the meetings are spaces for people to express different points of view. He continued, “the organization uses meetings to plan protests and solidarity actions with unions, civil rights organizations and movements against oppression.”

New student run clinic benefits whole community

Mon, 2018-04-16 11:33

By Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer


The Lewiston-Auburn area has a new addition to their community that will benefit a myriad of individuals. Just last month a community clinic was opened on the USM Lewiston-Auburn (LAC) campus. Led by students and supported by faculty, the clinic provides pro bono occupational services to both children and adults. The clinic not only provides a service to clients in the area, but it allows Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) students to get a hands on experience.

For many people in the community, the clinic is a blessing. According to Kelsey Covert, a level two fieldwork student gaining experience and skills to become an entry level practitioner, the clinic does “not bill for services and serves populations who are underserved, individuals who do not have health insurance, and individuals whose therapy benefits have been exhausted.”

Dr. Mary Anderson, MOT program lecturer and coordinator said, “The community is responding with overwhelming positivity. Parents and patients themselves are calling to inquire about services, referral are coming from local physicians as well as other clinicians.”

Craig Ashford, a USM student in his final year of the MOT program, values the experience that he has had at the clinic, whether it is working with clients or becoming involved in the creation of a program that supports the community.

“The clinic allows students like myself to combine their existing talents with their occupational therapy education and apply it in a real world situation,” Ashford said. “It increases the value of our program [MOT] and the quality of our students, while improving our community. Everybody wins!”

Another level two fieldwork student, Lauren Conigliaro, talked about the impact the clinic has had on her personally and as a student.

“[The clinic] has given me the opportunity to have hands on experience, learn and help the community of Lewiston and the surrounding area as well,” Conigliaro said. “It has been wonderful developing relationships with clients, developing my own treatment plans for them under the supervision of my faculty and then see that carried out and make an impact in their lives.”

Dr. Anderson explained the program started with an idea for experiential learning for students on campus. After presenting the idea to Joyce Gibson, Dean of LAC, a student board of directors developed the policies and procedures for the clinic to get the project going.

“The students have been able to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom as well as take an active role in the development of the clinic,” Anderson said.

Covert was a part of the development of the clinic, and she has experienced an impact as a result in her work. Her responsibilities as a board member for creating the program gave her experience with administrative duties, such as creating policies and procedures and understanding the general operations of a student-led clinic. She said that she also saw growth in herself.

“This role [as a board member] allowed me to explore myself as a leader and what it means to be a leader,” Covert said. “Throughout this experience, I have experienced growth in interpersonal communication and self-confidence, both of which are crucial to building rapport with clients.”

The clinic has helped Covert as a student and physician, but sees the clinic helping students in other majors as well.

“Adding other disciplines such as social work and nursing will be beneficial to the clients served as well as the students involved as they learn their roles both separately and as a part of an inter-professional team,” Covert said.

Anderson and Covert seem to think that the program will continue growing, to where the clinic would be open on a regular basis, full time and year round. Currently the clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

The USM LAC Community Clinic has a total of  six student leaders under Anderson’s guidance. With academic opportunity for students and community impact, Anderson thinks that the clinic has a long run ahead of it.

Ashford added, “Local healthcare practitioners have a unique opportunity to volunteer a little time and be part of a forward thinking educational experience that will better prepare students to be confident clinicians and employees within our community and beyond.”

New organization promotes compassion at USM

Mon, 2018-04-16 11:31

By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer


Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, co-founder and president of the Courage of Care Coalition, led the first event hosted by the Center for Compassion, a new organization at USM, with a presentation titled, the “Courage of Compassion.” Professor Vaishali Mamgain, an associate professor of economics, is the director of the new organization.

The USM Office of Public Affairs stated in a story on their website that the new organization will be “a planned center whose role will be to educate and train the University and the community in how to deepen compassion.” They also added that the center will work together with community and corporate partners to host workshops to strengthen connections with the community and to raise awareness of important issues such as poverty and social justice.

Mamgain currently teaches the course economics and happiness, a compassion study and research class. This summer she will also be teaching the course, the surprising science and transforming practice of compassion. Mamgain was first to speak at the event, and introduced Lavelle to the audience.

Lavelle’s organization, the Courage of Care Coalition, seeks to educate people about the science behind compassion. Their mission, as stated on their website, is to “empower both personal and social transformation by providing deep contemplative training coupled with powerful tools for systemic change to support individuals, organizations and communities in realizing a more courageous, caring and equitable world.” They do this by providing services that include a variety of workshops and retreats, online and community courses and consulting services for businesses and non-profits.

Lavelle has a doctorate degree in religious studies from Emory University and a master’s degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism from Columbia University. She uses this knowledge to apply traditional spiritual beliefs to contemporary society, employing secular and inclusive interpretations of religion to comprise a universal human experience.

Mamgain, who holds a Ph.D. in economics, became interested in the study of compassion while researching quality of life for refugees in Maine. While her research was successful, she had realized that her data was almost entirely quantitative rather than qualitative. In traditional business and economics education, the human aspects of these topics are omitted; she realized that her education had not prepared her to actively engage with refugees’ stories. This led her to integrate “contemplative practices” into her teaching strategy.

The lecture began with a few definitions of what compassion is. Lavelle stated that compassion is ultimately what it means and what it feels like to be human. According to Lavelle, it is also a the ability to nurture a capacity for perspective taking. One needs to be able to see from others’ perspectives and meaningfully consider different worldviews. She also stated that it is the “development of skills, insight and wisdom to respond to suffering at interpersonal social, and systemic levels.”

Lavelle explained that compassion can be broken down into basic building blocks. This includes a combination of: attention, mindfulness, distress tolerance, affection and care, empathetic concern, wisdom, insight and courage.

Once an understanding of compassion was established, Lavelle discussed the way compassion is practiced. She reduced this to three fluid interactions, receiving care, self care,and extending care. She stressed that in order for one of these aspects to be healthily maintained, the other two must be present and active. he noted that in order to be compassionate, one must be able to receive it.

Lavelle acknowledged that compassion is embraced in varying intensity. While some people may lack compassion, she believes that all people are born with the natural capability to acquire skills needed to understand and practice compassion.

A part of compassion is the incorporation of social justice into its practice. Lavelle stated “we aren’t doing compassion if we aren’t doing equality.” She discussed that education regarding race, poverty and educational inequity is an integral part of learning compassion. She used the quote “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” by Lila Watson as an example of directly involving yourself versus participating as an outsider.

During the presentation Lavelle addressed the ramifications of having too much empathy. She stated that many people feel overwhelmed by their compassion when it comes to large issues such as world hunger, war and inequality.

Although compassion can cause stress and anxiety, its healing potential is much greater. Neuroscientists at the University of Virginia conducted an experiment that found physical human touch reduced pain when the subjects received electric shocks. Anxiety, discomfort and sleeping troubles can all be mildly alleviated through human contact.

During the lecture, Lavelle had attendees divide into groups of three and discuss who they envisioned when they thought about the embodiment of compassion and how that person makes them feel. Afterwards the group conferred about the commonalities and themes prominent throughout the groups.

Through the use of crowd engagement and interaction, she worked to successfully build a sense of community in the room. She observed that in the United States we have an individually oriented culture. By encouraging the creation of a safe environment to express intimate emotions, Lavelle believes we can unlearn this behavior.

The Center for Compassion will be hosting John Makransky, an associate professor of Buddhism and comparative theology from Boston College, on May 21 from 6:30 to 8 p.m in Room 102 in the Wishcamper Center on the Portland campus. Makransky is also the co-founder of the Courage of Care Coalition.

Letter from the editor: determining a newsworthy story

Mon, 2018-04-16 11:27

By Julie Pike, editor-in-chief


A question that comes up almost on a daily basis in the life of an editor, is being asked, or asking yourself, why is this story important? Why are we writing about this? Why do our readers want to know about this?

Being a journalist is about more than just writing, it’s about understanding what you are writing for. Editors need to be confident that what they are choosing to publish is going to benefit their audience. If a story isn’t deemed worthy it shouldn’t make it to print.

The debate of what is newsworthy and what is not is one I’m tackling on a daily basis, and it’s often a decision that I can’t reach by myself. Luckily there are several people at the paper that I can discuss my situation with. However, ultimately what does get decided to be published is completely left up to the editor-in-chief. That also means that any backlash we may receive, the editor-in-chief will have to handle it.

That’s why with every story that gets published in the Free Press, I want our writers and editors to have a solid argument as to why they are writing that piece. This way we keep ourselves at a high journalistic standard, and only print the stories that are worthwhile.

At its most basic level the press exists to provide people with information. In doing so we are also working to find and tell the truth. The Elements of Journalism describes journalism as “storytelling with a purpose.”

So how do you decide what story is worth telling? Personally I think it’s important to tell a story about something new, something that people don’t know about already. If we are talking about an already widely covered topic, there needs to be something else that we can add to it.

As a weekly newspaper we aren’t exactly the go-to platform for breaking news, since the paper doesn’t usually come out in time to do that. With our stories we can take the time to craft a piece about a more dense topic. This has to be kept in mind when we are deciding what to write about, focusing on stories that are longer lasting.

With that in mind, it can still be difficult to determine what will make a good story. The American Press Institute states that, “creating a good story means finding and verifying important or interesting information and then presenting it in a way that engages the audience.”

The topic of a good story needs to be relevant or significant to readers, and it needs to include verified sources from more than one viewpoint. The second part isn’t always easy. Sometimes we are not able to get both sides to comment on an issue. However, I think that a person refusing to comment says a lot about their side of the matter. lists five different factors to use when determining what makes a story newsworthy, including the timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest of a story. Human interest stories can sometimes disregard the other factors, as they are longer lasting stories, don’t have to affect a large number of people and can take place in any part of the world.

Moving forward with my time at the Free Press I hope to create specific guidelines for our editors and staff writers to use when determining whether or not they have found a worthwhile story. I also want to encourage writers to have an in-person discussion with either another staff member or their editor about their assignment. In doing this, I think it will help our writers have a better understanding of what they are writing about, and why it’s important. Sometimes it can be difficult to formulate that idea into words, so talking about it often helps the writer realize the central point of their story.

When it comes down to it, I know that in my role as editor-in-chief I’m here to defend what my writers produce, because I’m the one who ultimately chooses to publish it. If I don’t feel that an idea for a story will be worth including in the paper, I will speak up. I want our paper to be for the readers, producing the stories that they want to see. Sometimes these stories may seem controversial or difficult to talk about, but our entire staff works hard to ensure that we remain unbiased in our writing. Overall we just want to provide the truth to the community of USM, because if we don’t, who else will?

CSGD free clothing swap a huge success

Mon, 2018-04-09 10:32

 By Kate Rogers, Staff Writer

USM’s Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity (CSGD) and the Multicultural Student Affairs center hosted an all-gender all-culture free clothing swap in Woodbury on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Starting with hundreds of pounds of clothing and ending up with less than half, the swap was a huge success, according to event organizer Kaitlin O’Connor.

The clothing swap was O’Connor’s independent project for the CSGD. Both the CSGD and the Multicultural center give students who either have work study or are graduate assistants the opportunity to put on an event of their choosing. For example, another student hosted an UNO game night on Wednesday.

O’Connor had the idea for the clothing swap immediately, she said. Inspired by a free book swap she had been a part of in Austin, TX, she wanted to apply the same idea to things that people really need. For a while she collected clothing herself from clothing dumpsters that she was aware of, until she heard that the Casco Bay High School was having a clothing sale. They agreed to donate everything they didn’t sell, and greatly contributed to the supply.

On the day of the event, O’Connor said that the other members of the CSGD and the Multicultural Center were a big help. They helped her bring in the clothes, organize them, and provided input which helped the event evolve as it was happening. As the clothing spread out on the tables dwindled, the team brought out more to fill the gaps. While some people came empty handed, others showed up with several bags full of clothes to swap.

Some students had asked if they could they come in and ‘steal’ something without offering anything in return, O’Connor said. “You’re not stealing, it’s freely given,” she said in response. O’Connor added that the purpose of the event was less a barter system, and more an invitation for people to bring what they didn’t have and contribute to the community.

When asked why she didn’t charge for the clothing, O’Connor said that it never even occurred to her. “I firmly believe that we can sustain ourselves with cooperation and community,” she stated. “We can share what we don’t need and support ourselves.”

Since the event had such a positive reaction and was such a success, the CSGD plans to hold another swap in November. If students are interested in getting involved with either the CSGD or the Multicultural center, both offices are located in the Woodbury Campus Center.

USM welcomes new Chief of Police, Noel March

Mon, 2018-04-09 10:23

By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer


Last week USM received a new Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety & Security, Noel March, who took over for Interim Chief of Police, Ronald Saindon.

March has substantial experience working with law enforcement in Maine. He has worked as the Sheriff of Cumberland County, the Chief of Police at the University of Maine (UMO), the 39th U.S. Marshal for the district of Maine and has instructed classes on a variety of legal topics.

March’s experience at UMO garnered the attention of administrators within the Human Resources department at USM. After finishing a rigorous search process and a series of interviews, March was ultimately selected by President Glenn Cummings and University of Maine Chancellor, James Page.  

This transition has coincided with a change in administration dynamics at USM. In the past, the department of Public Safety was administered by Interim Chief Business Officer, Buster Neel from the Finance and Administration department. Now March will be overseen by Nancy Griffin, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. This shift occurred in an attempt to have the Public Safety department be more connected to USM students.

Griffin stated that USM is making efforts to adopt a “community policing” model. She is optimistic that March will be able to meet these needs. She added that, “Noel March has a wealth of experience in this area. He will model our service promise, student focused every day.March plans to achieve this through community events.

While at UMO he implemented multiple successful outreach programs. One of his programs called, “Campus eyes” sought to increase community policing by creating a service that allows students to report crimes anonymously. This is part of his community policing ideology that he hopes to bring to USM. March explained the concept, “Community policing is a philosophy in our profession. It’s an approach to our responsibilities that includes partnerships, problem solving and organizational change.”

March hopes to achieve similar results and to expand community involvement at USM. He stated that, “The more connections we can make, the greater the network of relationships of trust and rapport and mutual respect, the safer we will all be.” Griffin acknowledged this sentiment by commenting that, “You will see him [March] and his staff at our events and out on campus meeting the members of the USM community.”

In the past, March has made serious efforts to connect with his community by volunteering extensively and working with non-profit groups. He was the former chair of LifeFlights, a non-profit organization that provides critical care service to Mainers; co-directed the UMO program “Badges For Baseball,” a program that seeks to assist underserved youth; advised the student group “Male Athletes Against Violence;” created the “Student Community Service Corps,” a work study program that sought to spread knowledge and monitor the camus; and is part of the National Guard Auxiliary.

According to March, police officers should work to educate the public. He stated, “I view university police officers and our communication officers as educators first and enforcers last—if a summons is written or an arrest is made that means that all other options have failed.” March refers to himself as a lifelong learner. This claim is supported through an assortment of educational achievements. He has earned an M.A. in Peace and Reconciliation from UMO, a B.S. in Organization & Leadership from the University of New England and a certificate in Mediation from USM.

March has also taught in a variety of settings, he has been invited to speak in Russia, Canada, Bulgaria and Peru. He has worked as an adjunct instructor at University of Maine Augusta and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, as well as in restorative justice and community policing programs.

March wants to ensure that every member of the USM community feels valued and respected. He stated, “I will accept no measure of bias prejudice favoritism or unethical conduct among any member of the USM Department of Public Safety.” He is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As an advocate for these communities, he has given lectures on implicit bias so officers will think more critically about their social positions and interactions with citizens. March stated that self-awareness is an essential aspect of being a police officer.

USM administration is optimistic about the upcoming changes. Griffin stated, “I am thrilled Noel March has joined our community, he is student-centered and community focused. We are fortunate he has agreed to serve in this key leadership position at USM.”