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

Sun, 2017-01-22 20:35

By Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The implications of eliminating Obamacare

Sun, 2017-01-22 20:34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knitting group hopes to keep activists warm at Standing Rock

Sat, 2016-12-10 12:07

“I would tell the protesters at Standing Rock to keep up the good fight and stand firm,” said Roberta Ransley-Matteau, Cartographic Cataloguer at the Osher Map Library. Ransley-Matteau started the Carto-Crafters, a group that works on “knitting, crocheting, embroidery, sewing, and more,” about a year ago.

“We meet on Thursdays from 4:30 P.M. to 6 P.M., because the map library is open until 8. So that gives us time to knit, crochet, sew, or do other crafts,”

Ransley-Matteau said. The group caters to people of all levels of skills, whether that be first-time or seasoned knitters. The Carto-Crafters meet in the reading room located within the Osher Map Library on the Portland campus, adjacent to the Glickman Library.

“I suggested that perhaps we could send hats, scarves, mittens to the protesters at Standing Rock since winter was fast approaching,” she said on the group’s most recent project. “I saw a box in the main lobby of the Glickman Library which began to get filled with warm clothing. The carto-crafters were very receptive and they did a wonderful job with hats, scarves and cowls. We sent a box with our donations about two weeks ago. I hope it got there!”

In North Dakota, much like here in Maine, the winters are cold, and seeing as protesters are exposed to the elements, it is vital for their health and safety to stay warm. Temperatures can drop below freezing this time of year, so the warm clothing made by USM’s Carto-Crafters could be of great use to those at Standing Rock.

The current geopolitical climate at Standing Rock changes by the day and updates come in continuously via social media and other outlets. As of Dec. 4, the Army Corps of Engineers has stated they will not grant permission for the last leg of the pipeline installation through reservation land. Protesters have been camped out for months at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and have faced great opposition. Thus far, there have been reports of tear gas, rubber bullets and attack dogs being used against protesters. Protesters are standing their ground to protect their land, including sacred burial grounds and important cultural and spiritual sites, and to protect water from pollution caused by oil leaks, as well as uphold treaty rights (as outlined in the 1851 Treaty Traverse des Sioux and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868). The pipeline is a $3.78 billion dollar project that, if completed, would span a total of 1,172 miles.

“Yes it does raise issues of the sovereignty of Native lands. But the government has consistently violated their rights and they are doing it again in the name of Big Oil,” said Ransley-Matteau on the subject of native rights and land sovereignty.  

Even with the order to halt construction of the pipeline, protesters have reported that the oil company has continued to dig and receives a daily fine for the violation. The protests have brought forth an important discussion to have as a nation, and that is the topic of the sovereignty of indigenous peoples, as well as the importance of protecting our environment. We will continue to have this discussion as a nation, and as a global community.

Students strive to get more gender neutral bathrooms on campus

Sat, 2016-12-10 12:06

USM has only a limited number of gender-neutral bathrooms on its three campuses. Gender-neutral bathrooms are important to have to provide a safe and accommodating bathroom for all students. There are several locations on the Portland and Gorham campuses that students can find a gender-neutral bathroom, which includes any single-stall bathroom. However, not every location has a gender-neutral option. Students who are looking to use a safe, gender-neutral bathroom often have to go out of their way or even to another building to find one.

“Many of the bathrooms are hidden away in various buildings around campus and you wouldn’t know where they are unless someone had shown you in the past or you did some research on it,” said Aidan Campbell, the student chair of the Gender Diversity Advisory Council.

All residence halls on the Gorham campus have at least one gender-neutral bathroom, but some students have to leave their own floor to be able to use the bathroom. To meet the needs of all students, the CSGD is working on several projects to create safe and accommodating bathrooms.

Sarah Holmes, the assistant dean of students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, is at the head of a project, which is scheduled to take place over winter break, to change the signs of USM’s gender-neutral bathrooms.

“The CSGD is working with Facilities Management on a re-signage project, creating new signage for all of the gender neutral bathrooms to make them clear to students,” Holmes stated.

The new signs for the gender-neutral bathrooms will be changed to say “All-Gender Bathroom.” Holmes stated that the language is specific and intentional to include all students. Campbell is also a part of the new signage project, which he stated will involve going around campus and getting an updated count on the number of gender-neutral bathrooms at USM. The CSGD has also been working with Nancy Griffin, the vice president for Enrollment Management, and Buster Neel, the Interim Chief Business Officer, about renovating the Woodbury Campus Center to include a gender-neutral bathroom.

The closest gender-neutral bathroom to Woodbury is in Wishcamper Center.

“Having that option in Woodbury would be a great step in creating a safe and inclusive space,” Campbell stated.

Molly Roberts, a student at USM and the president of the Queer Straight Alliance, has been working with Student Body President Humza Khan on this project.

Roberts stated that the bathroom would be located between the male and female bathrooms, where a janitor’s closet currently is.

“It’s important for all kinds of people to have a gender neutral bathroom, people who are gender nonconforming, transgender and people who don’t want to feel like they have to pick one or the other, because not everyone fits in a box like that,” Roberts stated.

Campbell stated that many students have come forward asking for a gender-neutral bathroom in Woodbury.

“In order for students to find a place that they feel safe, where they’re not going to get funny looks for using a bathroom or get questioned about whether or not it’s appropriate for them to be in that particular gendered bathroom, they have to leave the building and go across the street,” Holmes stated.

Roberts also mentioned that the CSGD will be hosting a forum, set to take place in the spring semester, in the amphitheater in Woodbury Campus Center for students to talk about other places where they would like to have a gender-neutral bathroom.

“In infrastructure USM is not accommodating to people who need a gender neutral bathroom, but there are people who are actively interested and involved in changing that,” Roberts stated. “Administration is being welcoming and accommodating to hearing new ideas.”

Holmes stated that the CSGD is also looking to designate a few bathrooms in the Glickman Library as gender neutral.

“This would provide access to safe and accessible bathrooms for our students and to help send a message that all of our students are important,” Holmes stated.

Holmes stated that any new buildings constructed at USM will include gender-neutral bathrooms.

“Part of university law is that we will not discriminate against people based on their gender,” Holmes said.

Aside from the many projects the CSGD is working on to make the bathrooms at USM more accommodating, another big aspect of their work is educating students.

“In our society and culture we operate under the idea that there are only two genders and that we live in a binary world,” Holmes stated. “However the work that we do in the CSGD helps to educate the campus community about the diversity of gender identities and gender expression.”

“Having gender neutral bathrooms available is important for the growth and inclusion of all students here at USM,” Campbell stated. “It is important that all students feel safe on campus and having gender neutral bathrooms will provide that feeling of safety for many students.”

“The more that we can educate our campus community about the reality and the daily lives of all of our students, the better the community can be,” Holmes said.

A full list of all of USM’s gender-neutral bathrooms can be found on the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity’s (CSGD) page on the USM website.

Student senate hopes to move forward after alleged hate crime

Sat, 2016-12-10 12:06

The Student Senate at USM has made recent changes, with over 10 new senators being voted in, after anti-Muslim graffiti was discovered several weeks ago in the student government office in the Woodbury Campus Center

The Student Senate experienced some backlash after allegedly trying to cover up what is being investigated by the university as a hate crime. In turn, the senate is beginning to see some changes Several senators had been asked to step down or have resigned voluntarily.

The senate is now starting to move forward from the incident, with new members hoping to represent USM’s diverse campus.

Liam Ginn, the newly elected vice chair of the Student Senate, stated that he wanted to get involved because he wanted to try and make USM a more diverse and accepting environment for all students.

“I hope to bring a strong and charismatic presence to my fellow students and senators to help us all move forward as a united student body,” Ginn stated. “I want students at USM to feel comfortable around people of all cultures.”

Another student new to the senate, Aaron Pierce, feels strongly about having a more diverse group of students on the Student Senate to better represent USM’s student body.

“This is going to take a senate of people from different races, faiths, gender, sexuality, backgrounds and different views to come together to form bridges on campus,” Pierce stated.

The new members of the Student Senate are passionate about creating a welcoming environment for all students at USM.

“I spent the last five years in the Navy working with people from all walks of life, I want to see that same team spirit and group cohesion here at USM, united against bigotry and hate,” Ginn stated.

The Student Senate is now filled with 20 senators, stated Student Body President Humza Khan.

“The senate took this opportunity to bring new people into the fold,” Khan stated. “Folks that are committed to helping students and have a clear record as far as senate incidents are concerned.”

With assistance from Khan and his office, the senate will also be holding sensitivity training every semester. The first one took place Friday, Dec. 9.

Apart from the new training, the new members of the senate have goals of their own. They look to create a more unified school, especially after the anti-Muslim graffiti incident.

“This is going to take a lot of work, cleaning house, and changing the culture with the senate, which is not an overnight process,” Pierce stated. “It will take working together and respecting one another to get the reform done. In order to put change and reform on campus we need to work to reform ourselves.”

One new senator, Nickolas Acker, stated that he wanted to get involved because he thought certain demographics within the student body are underrepresented  in the Student Senate.

“As a conservative at USM I’m part of a small community that sometimes feels wary of expressing their views on campus out of fear of being ostracized or ganged up on,” Acker stated. “If I can represent those who feel they don’t have a voice, I will have done something right.”

Acker suggested how he feels the Student Senate should move forward after the anti-Muslim graffiti incident incident.

“The senate needs to create a forum where students can voice their concerns about alleged Islamophobia, homophobia or any other type of discrimination,” Acker stated.

Acker feels hopeful about the new group of senators that have been voted in. He stated that they are all passionate about improving all students’ experiences  on campus and listening to their concerns.

“We need to change the culture at USM to one where students see themselves as a community, support one another, and where student can feel as comfortable as being home,” Pierce stated. “It is up to us, the senate, to do these changes and I feel we can do so.”

 

Student activists mobilize on campus to get to Washington for massive protest

Sat, 2016-12-10 12:06

The newly re-started Gender Studies Student Organization (GSSO) along with faculty from the Women and Gender Studies (WGS) Program are working to send a group of students to the Women’s March on Washington, which will take place on January 21 in Washington, D.C., one day after the official inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump. The march is being organized by chapters all across the country in all 50 states, who plan to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument in order to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump, as well as many of Trump’s policies that they believe will be harmful to women from all walks of life. As of now, roughly 139,000 people are planning to attend the massive protest.

The GSSO met this week in the WGS house on Bedford Street. On the door of the house is a bright pink flier that reads “Donald Trump will be President- Connect, Organize, Mobilize, Resist.” The students of the GSSO gathered to discuss re-launching the student group and how to raise funds to pay for transportation to send students to the march. Until recently, the GSSO has been a defunct student organization, but the group plans to go to the Student Senate and file to be recognized as an official student group starting next semester.  Among them was student activist Emma Donnelly, who organized the “We Won’t Go Back” protest in Augusta last month and is also head of the student group Huskies for Reproductive Health, as well as the creator of the recent student group USM Student Action. The GSSO’s new president will be junior English and WGS major Allie Walsh, and will be supervised by faculty advisor Professor Lisa Walker, head of the Women and Gender Studies Program.

According to the GSSO, there is a lot at stake in the United States right now under the Trump administration, and student activists should not miss out on this historic opportunity to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.

However, an announcement was made Friday that the Women’s March would be unable to access the Lincoln Memorial, where some of the United State’s largest and most influential protests have taken place, including the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protests of the 1960s. According to Time magazine, the National Park Services, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, will bar off the Lincoln Memorial weeks before the Inauguration takes place, and it will remain blocked to protesters throughout the inauguration.

This is not the first wall that the GSSO has hit in its attempt to send students to the protest. Faculty in the WGS Program were advised by university staff not to use department funds to send students to the event, as it is political in nature. The university is not allowed to endorse a political candidate or ballot initiative. The Women’s March on Washington does not endorse any political candidate. President Cummings told the Free Press that he was unsure why departments may not be able to use department funds to send students to a political event.  Sally Meredith, USM Chief of Staff, advised the WGS department that they should be “quite careful” to make sure that department funds are used in support of the university’s mission, and advised that they may be able to ask the student senate for funding for the trip.

The official Women’s March website states: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. Because women’s rights are human rights.” The GSSO is attempting to raise 5,000 dollars from sources outside the university to send students on a bus to the protest, the location of which is now uncertain.  

Professor Wendy Chapkis, professor of sociology and women and gender studies, is no stranger to activism and working with student activists. She was arrested in 2003 along with USM students outside the offices of Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. This was the night that former president George W. Bush began a bombing campaign against Iraq, known as the “Shock and Awe” campaign. Professor Chapkis, along with concerned students, attempted to speak with Senators Snowe and Collins, but they were locked from the offices and refused entry. They remained outside in the street and were arrested.

“There were many students who were mobilized,” Chapkis said. “It was just two years after 9/11, students were of course very shaken, and very concerned about the way [9/11] was being used to mobilize support for an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.”

Chapkis spoke to the power that students have within the university system and in a broader context. She referred to the massive USM student mobilization around the budget cuts and faculty cuts that USM experienced two years ago, when the group USM Future was formed.

“The most recent, and for me the most amazing, was was two years ago when students were mobilized around the cuts,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. Students occupied the hallway outside the Provost office when tenured faculty were getting layoff notices, students occupied the Board of Trustees meeting.”

In the wake of the recent election, many students are concerned about what will happen on a global, national and local level, as well as what will happen within the university. There have already been several student actions taken since the election one month ago. Students have staged walkouts on campus, held rallies in Augusta as well as in Portland and created petitions to make USM a sanctuary school for undocumented students.

Chapkis discussed the importance of activism and solidarity, and said she believes that politicians do take notice of protests, to who is in the streets and how many are in the streets.

“In times of political despair it can be very helpful to be surrounded by other people who are fighting for the same things you are,” she said. “I think that’s often overlooked. I’m reminded that I’m not alone, that there are many of us that are taking action. That’s hugely important in sustaining hope and forward momentum.”

The GSSO plans to host two bake sales next week in Woodbury to gain funding, and has started an online fundraising campaign that has raised over 1,000 dollars so far.

 

University officials propose tuition increase for fall 2017

Sat, 2016-12-03 15:00

Johnna Ossie, News Editor

This May, the USM Board of Trustees is set to decide on a tuition increase that, if approved, could go into effect as soon as fall 2017. A committee composed of the chief financial officers from each University of Maine institution, along with several staff members and Chief Systems Financial Officer Ryan Lowe, have created the proposal that, if passed, would raise the USM tuition gradually over the next three years. The committee has also asked for an increase in state allocations to the university of 2 to 2.6 percent, according to Buster Neel, USM’s Interim Chief Business Officer. As of now, Gov. Paul LePage has made a pledge to include 4.65 million in a 2017 supplemental budget, which still needs to pass before the 128 Legislature.

The increase, according to members of the committee, comes as a result of several factors. USM has had in place a “tuition freeze,” in which the tuition rate has stayed the same for the past six years, allowing Maine to be one of few states in the country to reduce the real cost of their public universities’ tuitions in the past five years. It is this affordability that may have contributed to USM’s enrollment increase in fall of 2016, the first time fall enrollment has gone up in thirteen years. The tuition freeze, along with inflation, the rising cost of university maintenance, the rising cost of health care, as well as compensation for staff and faculty, has created a need for the tuition to increase.

The committee has proposed what they call a unified budget, which puts the institutions into three tiers, with each tier having the same tuition as other institutions in that tier. USM and the University of Maine Farmington (UMF) reside in the second tier. As of now, the cost per credit hour at USM is eight dollars less than that of UMF. The proposed plan would adjust USM’s tuition over the next three years to match UMF, with the full effect of the tuition raise finalized in the 2019–2020 school year.

In the first year, the cumulative total of 15 credit hours for in-state, undergraduate tuition would rise by 270 dollars, then by 540 dollars in the second year and, by the third year, up to 810 dollars.

Some student leaders are concerned by the committee’s proposal and are working to gain support against it. A petition with over 100 supporters was circulating through the student body this week. The petition reads: “The State of Maine’s funding for higher education has essentially been stagnant since the 2008 recession. This has resulted in a multi-million dollar deficit, which is why the Board of Trustees is proposing we raise tuition costs every year until 2022 by 2.6 percent (Maine’s Consumer Price Index). This solution is unjust and unethical as it offloads the cost of higher education on Maine’s working and middle-class families as opposed to sharing the burden. Higher education, especially public universities, should be accessible to all.”

“Low income students can’t afford for the tuition to go up,” said Student Body Vice-President Matthew Raymond. Raymond explained that he and Student Body President Humza Khan spoke with President Cummings and Ryan Lowe in a phone meeting last week about the proposed tuition increase, and that Raymond and Khan have decided to take a position that opposes the committee’s current proposal.

Raymond reports that the university has never recovered from the cuts made during the recession. He, Khan and the Student Government Association are taking a position against raising the tuition. Khan and Raymond have reached out to the Maine Legislature asking them to support more state appropriations for higher education and to oppose the proposed tuition increase.

Dan Demeritt, USM’s executive director of Public Affairs, said the committee wants to maintain affordability while also maintaining the fiscal stability of the institution.

“There was a time when tuition increased 300 percent over a 25 year period. Maine families can’t afford that kind of increase, there’s a strong commitment to keep public education affordable,” Demeritt said.

Neel reports that the proposal includes requesting more money from the state and will hopefully convince the state that higher education is important.

The concern of Raymond, Khan and many other USM students is whether the financial deficit of the university should be carried by the student body.

“The cost shouldn’t fall on students,” Raymond said. “Humza will be attending the faculty senate meeting asking them to join students in opposing the tuition increase.”

“Those of us that have devoted our lives to education, we would prefer that we just provide an education for everyone, but unfortunately that’s not a reality right now,” Neel commented.

He reported that the university puts a large amount of money into student scholarships. The amount of money for scholarships has been steadily rising over the last three years and is projected to continue to rise. In 2013, the total amount allotted for merit-based scholarships through the institution was 1.3 million dollars. In 2016, it was 6.8 million and is projected to be 13.5 million in 2019.

“The amount of state support percentage wise is going down, the cost is being borne more by the students,” Neel said. “Is that right or wrong? We would always prefer it not be that way, but that’s the reality right now.”

According to Neel, 35 to 40 percent of funding for higher education at USM comes from the state, while the rest comes from tuition and fees.

A concern of some members of the SGA is where the money will go once it’s collected by the university. “The majority of funding goes to UMO,” Raymond said. Fifty percent of UMaine funding goes to UMO, with twenty-five percent going to USM.

“Our primary focus is on students and student access,” Neel emphasized.

Students and faculty who wish to learn more about the proposed tuition increase and budget changes at USM can attend the Town Hall Forum on Dec. 6 from 9-11 a.m. in Wishcamper 133.

USM faculty and students celebrate the installation of President Cummings

Sat, 2016-12-03 14:58

Julie Pike, Staff Writer

On Friday, Dec. 2, the USM community, including faculty, students, alumni as well as family and friends, honored President Cummings at his installation as USM’s thirteenth president.

The installation ceremony of President Cummings was a first for USM and the school plans to recognize future presidents of the university in a similar way.

Held in the Costello Sports Complex on the Gorham campus, the field house was decorated in blue and white for President Cummings’ event.

USM’s faculty were garbed in academic regalia and students who were selected as Inauguration Scholars marched in the processional to kick off the installation.

Students selected as Inauguration Scholars were nominated by faculty members for their academic achievement and promise and were recognized by President Cummings and Provost Jeannine Uzzi during the event.

“These students here reflect our diversity, our dreams, our power, the barriers and the future of this university,” President Cummings stated.

The event featured USM’s concert band, along with the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra and the USM Chorale. Together, their musical performances added an elegant touch to the celebration of President Cummings.

Many people spoke in high praise of President Cummings, congratulating him on his position, as well as wishing him luck in the years to come.

Those selected to speak for President Cummings included the Provost Jeannine Uzzi, Student Body President Humza Khan, Theresa Sutton of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees and many more. Each person spoke about the positive change that has come to USM as a result of President Cummings.

“Alumni donations are up, enrollment is increasing, scholarship funds are on the rise and today at USM there is a sense of positivity and optimism,” Khan stated.

The Chancellor of the University of Maine System, James Page, was the one to formally charge President Cummings as the thirteenth president of USM.

“It’s a great day for the state of Maine,” stated Page, who emphasized the event was not only to honor President Cummings but to celebrate the community of USM.

President Cummings has been the president of USM for almost 18 months. In his closing speech, Cummings shared that the reason for waiting to hold the installation until December was due to budget constraints. Cummings joked that since USM has had five presidents in the last eight years, the community wanted to make sure he was going to stick around.

As a special recognition of President Cummings, Maine Senators Angus King and Susan Collins were broadcasted in a video, and expressed their high regards for him, congratulating him on his presidency.

At the end of his speech, Cummings addressed the importance and overall mission of USM, paying tribute to his faculty and staff.

“It is my delight to tell you that the faculty, the staff, the community and the state, wants us to succeed. We have the best mission of any university and we together will fulfill it,” stated Cummings.

USM activists protest for equality at Maine State House

Sat, 2016-12-03 14:56

Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

On Friday, Nov. 18, a group of protesters gathered in front of Maine’s State House in Augusta in an effort to demonstrate their commitment to progress and equality in light of the recent election. Organized by USM student Emma Donnelly, the gathering was called “We Won’t Go Back,” in reference to a strong unwillingness to revert back to what, in the group’s  opinion, is archaic and unequal legislation and government practices.

The crowd of over 60 individuals assembled at noon, full of positive energy to spread their message. Protesters of all ages attended the event. Donnelly began rallying the participants by briefly speaking to the crowd via bullhorn. Shortly after, members of the group began to share their stories and promote their cause.

Donnelly wanted to “take up space and make our voices heard” through demonstrating.  Inspired by the energy at the event, the protesters made their presence known as individuals chanted, waved signs and commiserated with one another. Individuals who spoke at the event asked protesters to think about the statuses they hold, for example as a woman or as a member of the LBGTQA community, and understand how those statuses have been and possibly will be attacked by politicians.

“This is what democracy looks like!” said Nicole Littrell

As the protest continued, Maine state police officers Jeff Belanger and Lieutenant Bob Elliot oversaw the demonstration from a distance. Their presence was understated. Both officers declared they were there to advocate for the rights of all Maine citizens.

“This is the people’s house and we want everyone who comes here to voice their opinions to be safe,” Lt. Elliot said. “We’re here to ensure that every group who has a permit to gather can do so without harmful interruptions.”

While the protest continued to advocate that groups of minorities stand together in the face of adversity under the new Trump administration and Republican majority government, legislators noticed the demonstration and had varying opinions about their presence.

Owen Casas, one of Maine’s two newly elected Independent state representatives, agreed that the protesters have valid concerns that must be addressed by the new wave of elected officials. While his agreement with the cause was understandable and practical, Casas also argued that he did not personally understand the point of protesting.

“The way that I handle a situation like this is to get involved. That’s why I’m here, working in the state house, to see what I can do to change what I don’t like,” said Casas, as he left the State House.  

Demonstrations continue across the nation, ignited by large groups of individuals who feel as if their rights will taken away by the new administration. Protesters from the Maine State House demonstration encouraged citizens to continue to speak out and voice their opinions, even if these opinions  are unpopular. Donnelly is currently spearheading the project of starting a Maine Student Action chapter for the university. Her goal “is to have student-led demonstrations, rallies, protests, and events” and, above all, to continue to fight for the values and rights she believes in.

The first meeting of the Maine Student Action chapter at USM will be Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 6 p.m. in Luther Bonney 302. More information can be found on the chapter’s Facebook page, Maine Student Action: USM.

 

Madeline Albright headlines Ed Muskie’s centennial celebration

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:38

USM welcomed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and journalist Mark Shields of PBS to the Muskie School of Public Service on Saturday to discuss late Senator Edmund Muskie, the namesake of the school, and how his legacy lives on today, in a packed Hannaford Hall.

Albright served as Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton from 1997 until Clinton left office in 2001, and was the United States ambassador to the United Nations for the preceding four years. Shields, a journalist, has been on PBS NewsHour since 1988 and served on Muskie’s campaign for president.

A Democrat, Muskie was Maine’s Senator from 1959 until 1980, when he left the senate to become Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter until 1981. Muskie also served as Governor of Maine from 1955 to 1959, ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1968.

Shields, the first speaker, lauded Muskie’s work on the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and his persistence in getting the acts passed. He quoted former Maine senator Bill Cohen, who thought about challenging Muskie in 1976 for senate, but did not for “the people of Maine and America would not be better served.”

Shields continued with several personal anecdotes about his lifelong friendship with Muskie, before commenting that Muskie would’ve been “disgusted” with the politics of today.

Shields also sought to “set the record straight” on an infamous incident when Muskie broke down in tears publically delivering a speech after the Manchester Union-Leader published a “slanderous” piece on Muskie’s wife Jane. The incident is widely thought to have ruined Muskie’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination. Shields said that the Union-Leader was doing the “dirty tricks” of the Richard Nixon campaign, as Muskie was the man that Nixon “least wanted to run [against].”

Shields concluded by declaring that Ed Muskie “reminded us of the eternal values, that each of us has been warmed by fires that we did not build, has drunk from wells we did not dig.”

During Secretary Albright’s remarks, she also contrasted the current political atmosphere with Muskie’s commitment to working with both parties, joking that “Muskie knew that ‘bipartisanship’ is not a four letter word,” but that he “never forgot his values.” She praised Muskie’s ability to craft legislation, making sure it was “fact-based” and that he “knew the issues better than the experts.”

Secretary Albright described him as the “conscience of the senate”, and said that  “it never occurred to him to serve one party at the expense of the other.” She also praised his belief in government, again contrasting it with modern politics. She said Muskie reminds her to “see government as a purveyor of social justice and economic progress.” She also praised his belief in women’s rights, as he famously hired many women for his staff. She quipped that “people thought that a woman couldn’t be secretary of state because an Arab [national] leader would never accept it, but I always had more problems with men in my own country.”

Albright concluded her speech by saying “I truly loved him, because of what he did for this country.”

During the question-answer segment of the presentation, moderated by St. Louis University Law Professor Joel K. Goldstein, Shields denounced the idea that “government hasn’t made people safer and made their lives better.” Albright agreed, saying that “taxes are not a crime,” drawing laughter and applause from the capacity audience.

When asked by moderator Goldstein “one could be an ‘Ed Muskie’ in modern politics” Albright said that people could, and cited money in elections as increasing the divisiveness in modern government. Shields agreed, saying that “we can’t have our elections bought and sold on an auction block by billionaires.”

Shields said during the Q&A that “I think Ed Muskie’s values are less alive today.” Shields went on to say “Ed Muskie believed in war as a burden of all equally,” and criticized US Congress’ distance from the active military, but being more willing to send the military into combat, especially compared to to World War II.

Candidate for governor and former Muskie aide Eliot Cutler was in attendance. In a brief interview, Cutler expressed support for the forthcoming cuts to the Muskie School and did not believe it was inappropriate to be celebrating the school at this time.

How the Sukkah structure on campus provides meaningful space

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:38

A short walk between Luther Bonney and Payson Smith will open your eyes to a strange structure sitting on the grass between the buildings. Made up of different types of wood, it’s roof is covered with the leafy branches of a Beech tree. This small hideaway, called a Sukkah, serves as both a spiritual getaway to students and as a  way to connect community members in one meaningful space.

A Sukkah, often translated from Hebrew as booth, is a temporary structure constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot, something akin to a harvest, or fall festival. It is topped with branches and often decorated with autumnal, harvest and/or Judaic themes.

Using money allocated from a community grant, Asherah Cinnamon is a contemporary artist living in Portland who is the creator of this project and called the Sukkah, “The Dwelling Place.”

The small structure has travelled to different college campuses in Maine over the past few years. It has been here at our campus, to the University of New England gallery, MECA, the Maine Jewish Museum and SMCC. It rotates each year and a formal meal is hosted every year in the Sukkah.

Every year, faculty and staff members at the Jewish Organization “Hillel of Southern Maine” are kind enough to share this with us. This group’s goal is to provide connections between USM students and community members interested in Jewish culture and faith.

Traditionally, it is a requirement that the small architecture be built only from materials growing from the ground. This explains why the walls are made of long pieces of wood and the roof is made of freshly cut tree branches.

Inside the structure is enough space for a small table, where you have the opportunity to connect with the natural world through simply enjoying a soft breeze while the sun shines against your skin. For Cinnamon, the choosing of beech branches was a particular choice.

“Often outlasting the winter, these leaves seem to wrestle with the wind – and I love the sound of it it’s like Maine music to me,” explained Cinnamon. “So to sit in the Sukkah and listen to the leaves rustle is part of the pleasure of being in the Sukkah.”

Part of the symbol of the Sukkah now in modern times is about welcoming the stranger, feeding our neighbors and caring for one another and strengthening the community.

“It’s a reminder that my people were looking for a home and it’s a reminder there are unfortunately people in this culture in this society in this town in this state who don’t have a home,” said Cinnamon.

Ariel Bernstein, a community member who works with the Jewish Community Alliance to advise Southern Maine Hillel and member of the USM Religious and Spiritual Life Council, explained that this big project took a lot of volunteers to build the Sukkah.

“The Jewish community of Portland really came together for this,” said Bernstein. “But the Sukkah is here for all of us to enjoy; it is an extremely beautiful piece of work.”

For Bernstein, the Sukkah acts as a place she can experience all her cultural backgrounds at once through foods associated with them; The combination of Maine’s apple cider with Israel’s love for Falafel and Pita bread, for example.

Sarah Holmes, the Assistant Dean of Students and administrative liaison to the Religious and Spiritual Life Council, believes the Sukkah is a great installation to bring to USM.

“It helps us, as a community, build a bridge between our daily lives, the natural world, and our understanding of the divine,” said Holmes. “We have lots of fall traditions and festivals, and this is one of them.”

Until October 11th people are welcome to go inside – there are picnic benches inside and USM community members are welcome to – respectfully – use the space for meals, studying, conversation, reflection, or other activities which allow them to enjoy the structure and the space.

Paris struck with worst terrorist attack in Europe since 2004

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:37

By Zachary Searles, News Editor

Paris was the victim of the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the Madrid bombings of 2004. At least 128 people have been confirmed dead and 180 injured after gun and bomb attacks that took place Friday night.

Bataclan concert hall was stormed by gunmen who opened fired on the crowd, killing 80 people and taking hostages before security could get into the hall.

“They didn’t stop firing. There was blood everywhere, corpses everywhere. We heard screaming. Everyone was trying to flee,” Pierre Janaszak told the Agence France Presse.

Janaszak also said that the gunmen blamed the president of France, Francois Hollande, for the attacks, claiming that it was his fault the attacks were happening and that he should have never intervened in Syria.

Not far from the concert hall, gunmen stormed three restaurant and a bar. In this part of Paris, 40 people were killed by the attackers.

“We heard the sound of guns, 30-second bursts. It was endless. We thought it was fireworks,” Pierre Montfort, a resident of Paris, said in an interview with the BBC.

At the time of the gun attacks, President Hollande was attending a friendly international game between France and Germany. Two explosions went off right outside the venue and the President had to be evacuated.

Residents in Paris are being asked to stay in their homes and more than 1,000 military personnel have been deployed across the city.

According to the BBC, police are saying that all gunmen involved are dead, with seven killing themselves with explosive vests and an eighth being killed by security forces. Police are still unsure if any accomplices are on the run.

President Hollande said the attacks were an act of war and said ISIS were responsible for the attacks. In an internet statement from the terrorist group, they claimed credit for the attacks, saying they set up precise attacks in the French capital.

The Islamic State also claimed that the attacks were the “first of the storm” and then mocked France, calling them a capital of obscenity and prostitution.

President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, have spoken out against the heinous attacks and have offered their condolences to the citizens of Paris.

Paul D’Amato tries to dispel the myths of Marxism

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:37

By David Sanok

The Socialist Worker organization held a lecture on defining Marxism and Socialism at Payson Smith hall last Tuesday night. The event was organized to educate people about how Marxism and Socialism can be used to fix the economic inequality in America.

“There’s an assumption here in America that people who believe in the ideas of Karl Marx are people who believe in Stalin’s Russia or Fidel Castro’s Cuba. That’s simply not true,” D’Amato said. “What people misunderstand about Marxism is how his ideas, if implemented correctly, could greatly improve our society”.

D’Amato went on to explain that Karl Marx’s economic ideas failed in Soviet Russia because the government itself was not structured in a democratic fashion. This enabled Joseph Stalin to manipulate the system and become the military dictator of Russia.

“Unlike Soviet Russia, our government has checks and balances along with separation of powers to prevent a dictatorship from happening. But people often confuse government structure with economics and think that if America adopted socialism and replaced capitalism, the government would cease to be a republic,” D’Amato said. “ Our goal as an organization is to explain to people why that’s not true and why socialism will work in America.”

In his argument for socialism, D’Amato criticized what he perceives to be the immorality of capitalism by talking about the growing gap between rich and poor in America. He also highlighted Karl Marx’s writings on the gap further illustrate his point. D’Amato blamed the widening gap on big banks being able to gamble with people’s savings, high healthcare and education costs, lower tax cuts for the rich while higher taxes on the middle class and money in politics being used to corrupt politicians.

“The system of capitalism is inherently unfair to average working middle class American,” D’Amato explained. “To achieve a socialist economy, getting big money out of politics is the top priority. Once corporate money is banned, then we must focus on reaching out to all Americans on why we should become a socialist country.”

D’Amato concluded his lecture by allowing the audience to participate in a seminar style discussion. Audience members could ask questions to D’Amato or others in attendance and talk about their own personal views.

Thatcher Platts was one of the audience members who participated in the discussion. Platts expressed his dissatisfaction with the Democratic and Republican Parties for their failure to address the gap between rich and poor.

“Both major parties are being brought off by corporations and that’s why the greedy bankers aren’t in jail. The Republicans are pro-deregulation and business so that’s not the surprising, but the Democrats claim to be the champions of the middle class yet take corporate money and refuse to prosecute the bankers responsible for the recession. So really when you’re voting democrat, you’re only voting for the lesser of two evils,” Platts said.

Despite his dissatisfaction with the democrats, Platts said he supports outspoken democratic socialist Bernie Sanders for president over front-runner Hillary Clinton, even going as far as supporting a third party candidate for president if Sanders is not the democratic nominee.

“If we just keeping voting for the same old establishment politicians, no real change will ever come and socialism in America will never become a reality,” Platts said.

Portland unveils new monument dedicated to fallen men and women

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:37

By Bradford Spurr/Free Press Staff

Located in the heart of the Old Port, a heroes memorial was unveiled to the public last Tuesday just in time for the Veterans day remembrance. The monument is located right off of Commercial Street by DiMillo’s restaurant on the water and was erected in honor of the men and women who have fallen in combat since WWI.

Veterans Day began at the end of World War One as Armistice Day, which marked the ceasefire that fell in the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, in the eleventh month marking the tradition for Veterans day to be celebrated on November 11.

At the unveiling last week, Governor Paul LePage addressed the crowd of proud servicemen and women. He stressed the importance of increasing benefits for our disabled veterans.

“A thank you will never repay what you’ve done for us,” said Lepage as an introduction to his speech. “It’s just a small token of appreciation, we can never repay the freedom that you’ve given this great country.”

Governor LePage explained that it is important for a community to learn something from these men and women, saying that this understanding should be passed onto future generations to inspire respect and appreciation for these brave individuals.

The Easter Seals of Maine have plans to build several more ‘hero walls’ along the waterfront and have even discussed expanding into different cities like Lewiston-Auburn and Gardiner. A spokesperson speculated that about eight independent monuments could fit in the allocated space in the DiMillo’s plaza.

Ponda Stanhope, a resident of Old Orchard Beach was in attendance to commemorate her father Bernard Cilley, whose picture is immortalized on the wall. He died fighting in WWI.

“I thought it would really take off a little bit more than it has because I’ve had [my father] up there on that wall going on seven years,” said Stanhope. “ I’m kind of disappointed that it hasn’t expanded all the way along the waterfront like we had hoped it would, but we love it.”

For Stanhope, the celebration of Veterans day gives her a constant reminder of her father and the importance he played in the lives of others. The unveiling of the monument gives her hope for a safe future and melancholic nostalgia for her husband’s service.

“It means a lot, I’m here, I’m safe, my family is safe,” she said.

New USM program hopes to draw in more international students

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:36

By Thomas Fitzgerald/News Intern

Students at USM may see an increase in the number of people residing on campus in Gorham next fall, as President Glenn Cummings is seeking an approval from the University of Maine System to integrate a two-year high school program that welcomes international students.

The program will initially be open to fifty students who are proficient in reading and speaking English, as well as being able to meet standardized academic requirements. The courses that students would be taking in this program would be very similar to courses that a traditional freshman would be enrolled in, with many different entry level course options.

This idea has been one that President Glenn Cummings has been advocating for even before his presidency. Each student that is accepted and enrolled in the program will be required to pay over $32,000 for the school year that is portioned out between tuition, room and board, but also fees that need to be paid to the Council on International Education Exchange.

The reason that the CIEE is entitled to compensation from the program is because they will be working alongside USM to find people with potential interest. As well as recruiting, the CIEE will also be offering orientation programs in order to ease the transition process for students.

President Cummings has already presented his plans for the program to the academic and student affairs committee of trustees, and if his presentation is considered a success, the recommendation will be forwarded to the entire board to vote for its approval.

“For international high school students in their junior and senior year who are academically advanced, the ability to take post-secondary courses provides them with a perceived advantage,” Cummings stated in his proposal initially reported by the Portland Press Herald. “A U.S.-based education is valued in many different countries for the perspective that the students gain, the opportunities available to the students while abroad, and the students’ language proficiency that is strengthened through studies and extracurricular activities.”’

Bringing more international education to USM will be an important opportunity for foreign students who may not have the same opportunities from where they reside from, and some USM students are intrigued by the idea, but still

“As long as they also have the ability to transfer those credits towards their college of choice I believe that it is a really good idea.” Junior health science major Brian Doyer said regarding the plan. “It would be nice to know where all of that money is going though if President Cummings is saying that there will not be any profit coming from this. It is a great proposal to give our school some added exposure, but having to hire more faculty in wake of all the layoffs that we have undergone makes me a little uncertain.”

Students will in fact leave USM with two years of transferable college credit, but will not have eligibility to participate in a sporting team or intramural events. There is still approval that needs to be cleared by the Maine Department of Education regarding visa issues from students.

Racism at University of Missouri sparks a rally in downtown Portland/150 students gather to bring awareness and with Mizzou and #ConcernedStudents1950

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:34

Last Friday, 150 students gathered in Monument Square to protest racial discrimination on university campus’s across the country. With the conflict growing at the University of Missouri and racial tensions rising, the group marched together down the streets of Portland chanting, “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter”  in hopes to bring awareness to these issues and to stand symbolically with Mizzou.

At the University of Missouri, a lot has unfolded since the start of their semester. Although these issues are just recently coming to light, they have always been a problem. In September, President of the Missouri Students Association Payton Head posted on Facebook about being called a racial slur. Days later, concerned students and faculty started to address the problem that their administrators were avoiding: racial discrimination still existing on an institutionalized campus.

In October, Legion of Black Collegian members from the University stated they were called racial slurs by local authorities during their homecoming practice. Other forms of racism include the drawing of a swastika on campus walls. The list of incidents goes on and on: but the desired influence for change is catching on quick.  Protests soon began: MU student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike and several members of the Mizzou football team refused to play until the President resigned.

This group, who have deemed the online hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950,  created the name to honor when African American students were first allowed to attend the university. On November 9, the University President Tim Wolfe resigned after providing little help in the fight against racism and white supremacy. Regardless, the university still has a long ways to go before it reaches it’s desired goal of creating a more racially diverse campus.

Rallies and protests have been taking place around the country and the one in Portland last week was bustling with people ready to speak out for a cause they believe in. Kendall Schutzner, a student at Bowdoin college, has been working closely with a lot of the people spoke at the rally in Portland. She hopes it will bring to light an issue that is happening not just in Missouri, but across the nation.

“I’ve seen a lot of the emotional reactions to bias incidents on campus and I am constantly asking myself how I can be supportive,” said Schutzner. “The primary answer I got was that showing support and showing up at rallies is the best way to raise awareness.”

University of Southern Maine sophomore Hamida Hassin was the first to speak at the rally, explaining how white supremacy has got to go in order for all individuals to feel free from the struggles of discrimination.

“Those in power are disrupting my life, people of color’s lives and the futures of our children,” said Hassin. “ We must keep on fighting so that those of us don’t have to face poverty, police brutality, deportation, violence and discrimination because of our racial identity.”

Lily Biancho, a student at Deering High School, stood with her friends in the back of the crowd and cheered as Hassin spoke. For Biancho, the realities of racial discrimination are more obvious than ever, and the opportunity to participate in rallies is the chance to share an opinion.

“I come from Sudan, we don’t have rallys and marches about causes so big like this so it’s an opportunity to do something really special,” she stated.

Andrew Mills, a junior criminology major at USM, believes that the teaming up of universities to rally for a movement so important will make cause for change around the world. He’d like to stop seeing people hate on others because of different religious, political and cultural life views.

“A lot of people don’t realize what is happening because it doesn’t happen in Maine like it does elsewhere, but I think if people from everywhere can come together and spread the message that Black lives matter, then we can make a difference,” he said. “We are all humans and that is what it comes down to.”

Jennings Leavell, another student at Bowdoin college, was granted access to a college van and carpooled with student’s to the event. He explained that many students at Bowdoin have reached out to the community and expressed discontent with the status quo at their university.

They have asked allies to speak out, and I’m here to add my voice to the rally,” said Leavell. “We’ve come here to participate, to say we stand in solidarity with the students of mizzou and that we stand with students all over the nation.”

As the speech came to a close, Bowdoin student Ashley Bambosa took the microphone and exposed her opinion. She explained that students can recognize that institutionalized racism has existed in higher education since its conception. Regardless of how many times she’s been told racism no longer exists, she explained that students are still proving it to be otherwise.

“I stand before you today exposed and exhausted. I’ve seen too many of my classmates break down in tears and rage. I have spent too much time responding to anonymous and racist threats,” she stated boldly. “I have spent too many hours trying to explaining to administrators and staff that every solution they have given in their attempts to end the white supremacy’s legacy at our institution has been bandaids on a unhealed wound. We’re tired of waiting. Black lives matter.”

USM to cover $6 million budget gap without making cuts/Majority of the budget gap is due to enrollment still being down 6.5 percent

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:34

USM is currently facing a $6 million budget gap, partly due to a two percent increase in faculty salaries.

By: Zachary Searles/News Editor

Enrollment at USM has been on a steady decline over the past few years, with a 6.5 percent decline this year. This decline has contributed to the almost $6 million budget gap that USM is currently faced with.

This gap is much smaller than what USM faced last year when 51 faculty members and five academic programs were cut to close a $16 million gap in the budget.

Unlike last year, most of the budget shortfall will be able to be covered by leaving open positions vacant for the time being, deferring maintenance on some buildings around campus, cutting budgets in administration and using almost all of USM’s $3 million in reserves, Buster Neel, Chief Financial Officer, said at a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month.

“We were able to find enough to avoid any layoffs this year,” said President of USM, Glenn Cummings. “The idea behind that is to strengthen our employee morale, to give a sense of hope and to get a new public image of USM.”

President Cummings also said that he thinks these plans are working; he thinks faculty are now coming together to strengthen USM.

“As best we can judge, without taking drastic measures, we could get through next year,” Neel said at the Faculty Senate meeting that took place earlier this month. “My concern is that we are starting to run out of options.”

Part of the budget gap is also coming from a two percent increase in faculty salaries, along with the general expense costs going up, so even if USM was to get to zero percent decline in enrollment, USM would still be looking at a budget shortfall of a couple million dollars.

“Even if we make it back to zero percent loss, we’ll still have to make some pretty tough decisions, but we could probably do a number of things that would prevent us from having to do any major layoffs or cuts,” President Cummings said.

President Cummings also said that he believes USM can do better than a six percent drop in enrollment, but if enrollment continues to stay down then President Cummings said there may have to be some cutbacks, but he stressed that they would not be to the magnitude of what happened last fall.

Other than an increase in enrollment, if USM were to face a gap like this in the future, they could look towards private fundraising or state appropriations to cover the gap, or another option would be raising the tuition.

President Cummings does not make any decisions about whether tuition is raised or not; those decisions come from the Board of Trustees.

President Cummings did say that no Board of Trustees member has said anything to him regarding the increase in tuition costs, but he did state it is a topic that will continue to be discussed in the near future.

“At USM, we would like to meet with student leaders and get some feedback from them, some of them might have some strong feelings either way,” said President Cummings.

USM isn’t the only university in the UMaine System to face a budget gap. The University of Maine is looking at a budget gap of $7.2 million, $2.8 million of that is a direct result of the 2 percent increase in salaries.

The gap in the budget comes despite a 7 percent increase in the amount of out-of-state students that enrolled at UMaine this year, students that typically pay three times as much as in-state students.

According to the Portland Press Herald, University of Maine President, Sue Hunter, said that it’s too early to tell how exactly they will close the gap, but the plan is to close it without having to make any cuts.

The University of Maine System as a whole will be facing a $52.6 million budget gap by 2020, according to a five-year projection.

President Cummings said that as budgets continued to be discussed, it’s important to make sure that students are at the center of every decision made.

“As we develop the vision for USM, going forward, what is best for students has to be our top priority and it’s about student success, building a university that can really help students get to their goals and feel like this is a place where they are known, respected and growing academically, that’s the key thing,” said President Cummings

65 schools have now had protests and gatherings, voicing their support for Mizzou

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:32

What started in Missouri has spread to upwards of 65 schools that have stood in solidarity with the University of Missouri, with students and faculty protesting institutionalized racism not just in their university, but universities across the country.

USM is no exception. Last Wednesday students organized a rally to address the problems of racism on our own campus. Not even a month before that, students from Portland and around the state gathered in Monument Square to show their support for Mizzou.

Maine is predominantly white state which had a thriving chapter of the Ku Klux Klan back in the 1920s. The chapter has disbanded, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to resurface, with people protesting at their rallies in the 1980s, 90s and the early 2000s.

USM is predominantly white school as well. The statistics vary from one report showing 81 percent of the student body being white and 3 percent being black, to another that showed 93 percent of the student body was white and just 1.7 percent was black.

These numbers are also reflected amongst faculty, where nearly 82 percent of faculty are white and less than one percent are black, according to collegefactual.com.

According to the same site, USM was ranked #1453 in ethnic diversity nationwide.

At Mizzou, only 8 percent of students were not white, numbers which reflect fairly closely to USM’s.

Rebecca Nisetich, Honors Program Interim Director and English professor who teaches classes on race and racial identity in literature, said that racism does still exist today because society is structured to the point where if it is blatant racism, then a lot of the time it goes unnoticed.

“I think this generation of students is more attuned to thinking about diversity and using different lenses and really analyzing different situations better. They are able to say that it’s wrong for our president not to address [racism on campus], it’s wrong for our chancellor not to take a stand against this behavior,” Nisetich said.

Nisetich also said that she wouldn’t be surprised if students from other schools started speaking up about these same kinds of activities happening on their campuses, which has already begun to happen with schools like Yale and the University of North Carolina.

Racist incidents are occurring here at USM as well. Just last month a Nazi flag was waved out the window of a bathroom in one of the residence halls in Gorham. The flag was confiscated by two resident assistants just moments later.

“Regardless of the intent for possessing the flag, the intent in waving it out a window, and the protection afforded by the First Amendment, we all must be cognizant of the impact this action has on our Community; especially our Jewish students and faculty and staff, and the extreme harm, vulnerability, and fear displaying this flag has and can have on individuals and on our entire campus,” Dean of Students, Joy Pufhal, said in an email sent out to all students late Tuesday night.

Many protests, rallies and demonstrations have taken place on campuses across the country to display how hateful and hurtful acts likes are, as well as protesting the lack of action by members of the administration when incidents like this do occur.

“I think public protest is an important way to raise visibility on an issue, but I think there’s more of a role of educators to play in this as well,” said Nisetich.

She went on to mention that she hopes students don’t fully understand the true meaning behind what they are doing when they use racial slurs, or hang nooses on the doors of their classmates, and it’s up to the educators to make sure that their students fully understand how hateful and offensive these actions are.

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly being used to orchestrate protests and rallies, along with giving the common person a platform to speak out against the actions they are witnessing. Nisetich said that a site like Twitter allows for more voices to be a part of the conversation.

But while social media sites have been used to do good, the reverse is also true. There were two incidents in Missouri where an anonymous social media site was used to threaten the lives of black students at Mizzou. Some black students asked their teachers to be excused from class because they didn’t feel safe coming to campus for fear of their life.

Last Wednesday, a rally was held in the Woodbury Campus Center to stand with Mizzou and support the fight against institutional racism. The event was sponsored by Students for #USMFuture, as well as many other groups and departments of the university.

“This rally is a call to action to begin dismantling the institutionalized racism that exists on our campus,” said Iris SanGiovanni, opening speaker at the rally and member of Students for #USMFuture, before leading the crowd into a chant of Black Lives Matter.

She went on to claim that of the faculty retrenched last year, the ones that suffered the most were those of color. She also demanded that there be more faculty of color, along with more people of color in counseling services and the administration.

SanGiovanni closed by recognizing that she and many of the speakers and people in attendance were white, giving the reason that black students didn’t feel safe speaking out against the administration.

“I, as a white ally, can not express the intensity of the hurtful experiences students of color have survived on our campus,” said SanGiovanni.

Brooke Bolduc, a history major in her first semester at USM, spoke next sharing her experiences. Bolduc grew up in Maine where she was one of two black students in her elementary school.

“I was bullied and beat up, I felt isolated and alone, and whenever I expressed my anger and sadness about this, people would tell me just to ignore it,” Bolduc said.

When Bolduc was in the fifth grade, she was walking home from school one day when four white girls in an SUV threw a water balloon filled with black paint at her face, it turned out that one of the girls was the principal’s daughter. When Bolduc’s mother went to talk with the principal about what happened, she was told that it wasn’t a big deal and they shouldn’t make a big fuss about what happened.

When she started college at Keene State, one professor was much harder on her than the other students and when she asked him why he said that it was because she was black and life was going to be harder for her, so he would push her harder. Because she had to work so much harder in this one class, the grades in her other classes started to slip and she lost her scholarship and could no longer afford to attend school, causing her transfer to USM.

Bolduc’s finished her story to applause of cheers for how strong she was for having to deal these tragic events throughout her life.

“As cliche as it sounds, nothing will tear me down. Being black in America is not a death sentence, and I will no longer watch my fellow citizens live in a younger society that preaches hate. We are the generation of progression and we are the generation of love,” said Hamdi Hassan, a student at USM who didn’t speak at the event because of the lack of action against racist incidents on campus. Her statement was read by Jordan Henry.

Glenn Cummings, president of USM, said a few words towards the end where he said right now he is going to listen. He has created a diversity council that reports directly to him, but he said he can’t do it alone.

“I would like to tell you in our world and America today that it doesn’t, but [institutional bigotry] does exist. And I would like to tell you we’re special because we’re a university and we’re special because we’re so liberally open minded, but the truth is, in this university, there is work to be done,” President Cummings said.

He closed by saying he was committed to doing that work and would do it by working together with students.

Students and Recovery seek to establish center on campus

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:32

The University of Southern Maine is on its way to creating a collegiate program for university students struggling with substance use disorders. With the hopes to create Students and Recovery center on campus and future plans to discuss sober housing on campus, opportunity is in the works to end the stigma attached to addiction and provide the USM community with resources for continuing recovery.

Andrew Kiezulas, a senior at the University of Southern Maine has dealt with addiction first hand and has seen how the illness affects the people.

The problem with heroin, he explained, it that you feel as if you have to keep using, otherwise you experience withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and migraine headaches.

He is co-founder of the group Students and Recovery, which meets every Tuesday in Payson Smith room 203.

“Not many people really understand what substance use disorder looks like,” explained Kiezulas. “So they see you drinking or they see you doing drugs and they say ‘why can’t you just stop?’ You want to shake them and tell them it runs so much deeper than that.”

Student Recovery Liaison Ross Hicks has been working closely with administration to ensure changes are made to accommodate students seeking recovery.

According to Hicks, a lot of people think substance use disorder means you’re morally weak or don’t have the willpower. He hopes to eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and educate the public on what it means to those who suffer from it.

“It is a medical condition and there is a treatment,” said Hicks. “If we address it as so, we can frame the conversation in a way that will hopefully lead to better access to treatment and for those of us that have been able to accumulate some measure of sobriety, whether it’s days or years, we tend to identify ourselves as long-term recoverers.”

Hicks explained that the push for a Students and Recovery Center started two years ago but after meeting some resistance from administration for bureaucratic red tape sort of things, the effort kind of petered out. For everyone involved in this student group, this semester represents a new effort in the history of USM.

“Our combined efforts thus far has been pushing to establish a recovery center modeled after the other student centers with a full-time coordinator,” explained Hicks. “Based on the conversation we had with the President Cummings last week, he seemed to agree that potentially one of the white houses may be appropriate for it and has been extremely supportive for this cause.”

According to both Kiezulas and Hicks, the current administration seems to understand the urgency of implementing a collegiate recovery program here at USM. Integrating it into the school’s policy would allow for Students and Recovery to be more than just a group on campus. Adding a center for students in Woodbury could provide opportunity for all students on campus who are struggling with substance use disorders to get the extra help and support they need.

“So many kids these days think they’re so broken. We’re made to feel like we’ll have to suffer from the disease of a substance use disorder for the rest of our lives,” said Kiezulas. “I would like to change that perspective. Recovery is this incredibly hilarious amazingly powerful experience that is so awesome. We want to remind people that recovery truly is possible.”

According to Kiezulas, the space they would get in Portland would be named after USM Student David Zysk, who tragically died from drug overdose. His recent passing has been a devastation for all who were lucky enough to know him.

“I’ve lost a lot of people – we all have,” said Kiezulas. “One thing I’m hoping is that they didn’t go in vain. That we as a community we can learn grow from that tragedy, celebrate the time we had with them and grow from that experience.”

For Kiezulas, the road to recovery will continue to be one where he grows and learns. He explained that it’s important for people to realize that his illness doesn’t define who he is as a person.

“I may die a person in long term recovery. I may have an active substance use disorder, but I don’t have to be an alcoholic my whole life. I’m in recovery along with many other incredible people,” explained Kiezulas. “The truth is, I like to think I’m strong and impervious to what other people say and think – but it matters. Language holds incredible strength and sway. That’s why a number of us are so passionate about language because it holds a lot of power.”

Students host “Ask a Muslim” on campus

Sat, 2016-11-12 11:30

By Thomas Fitzgerald

Students of USM gathered at the Woodbury campus center on Wednesday, March 23 to go about their regular routine, but were met during the lunch rush by a bright and inviting group of people who were tabled right at the cafeteria entryway. These individuals were representing the multicultural student center by hosting “Ask a Muslim.” The table that was set up included an array of things that represented their culture such as clothing, headwear and dates that were prepared to give an offering of a native snack.

However, the spread at the table was outshined by the personality and perspectives of the representing students. The table was a great opportunity for students who were Muslim and Non-Muslim to gain information about Islam. The individuals who were representing at the table were all Muslim students of USM, and they greeted students with not just a smile, but a lot of information about how they go along their daily routine.

Among the student representatives was Qutaiba Hassoon, who spent his time at the table informing students about the significance of his Muslim faith and how USM can give assistance.

“We have a prayer room here in the Woodbury center where students can go during any regular school hour,” said Hassoon, who was quick to give directions to its location of room 135B.

Hassoon also stressed a very important thing when asked about what it is like for him to represent Islamic culture on our campus, and that was equality.

“I feel like there is a lot of diversity when you come here on campus, and it shows especially here in the Woodbury center.” He said.

Information that was presented at the tabling had an emphasis on misconceptions that people may have about Islam, and made a point to assure that learning about Islam from sources who are not qualified could be dangerous, and could lead to many misunderstandings. Muslim people share strong and noble values with individuals who are not Muslim, and the depth of knowledge that these students had for their faith only celebrates their culture as one of the many on campus.

From a national perspective, the presence of Muslim students is something that is a very big part of the educational community. There are currently 1.8 million Muslim adults in the United States today, and according to the American Muslim Council, 61.8 of  American Muslims have a college degree of some variation.

If you are facing any misconceptions that you feel like you have about the Muslim faith, ask a student on campus who is Muslim about their day to day life and see just how passionate they are about their beliefs.

The Woodbury center also serves as a bridge to diversity on campus, as it is home to the multicultural center, religious and spiritual life and the center for sexuality and gender diversities. Students are encouraged to find out more information about what organizations are present in the Woodbury center, and can contact Reza Jalali, the coordinator of multicultural student affairs, if interested in hearing more about what offerings the diversity team at USM has.

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