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Through a combination of education, community involvement and the emphasis of equality, Compact President Andrew Seligsohn aspires to redefine the way our country views Civic education. He seeks to promote a new way to execute Civic education with the help of local institutions of higher learning in areas all over the country. He came to USM to explain what the university can do for its surrounding residents.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 1, Seligsohn spoke at Hannaford Hall to advocate for his organization and its potential benefits it may bring the Southern Maine area. He was introduced by Samantha Frisk, the USM Coordinator of Service-learning and Volunteering, who spoke on USM’s commitment to the Greater Portland and Casco Bay community.
Frisk emphasized the importance of community involvement during the learning process and expanded upon how USM incorporates these ideals into student’s daily education. Frisk facilitates communications with local schools, Preble St Resource Center and various after school programs, among many others to partner with USM classrooms.
Campus Compact is a self-described “relationship-driven organization” located in Boston. The group seeks to encourage community growth and development through institutions of higher learning. Compact is a way to centralize civic learning in our country and educate students about their potential for community involvement.
Andrew Seligsohn began his presentation with a playful jab at the National Association of Scholars (NAS), a conservative non-profit that also strives for the involvement of students in their respective communities. He stated that NAS has dismissed Compact as left-wing propaganda for their decision to abandon traditional methods of teaching civics.
Seligsohn used this icebreaker as an opportunity to segue into what he defines as new civics. This ideology revolves around the building and reinforcement of community. The old civics curriculum focuses on educating and lecturing students. Seligsohn, like Frisk and their many partners, conscribe to the belief that the only way to truly understand and educate oneself about civic duty is through direct community engagement.
Following his definition of contemporary civics, Seligsohn discussed equality and its role in civic development. He illustrated this point through the telling of a personal story about his father’s past. Seligsohn’s father was Jewish and raised in Germany. Following the Nazi occupation, he was forced to flee.
Seligsohn recounts asking his father how he can speak to Germans without resentment. His father explained that during the occupation, an array of people ranging from friends and relatives, to business acquaintances and customers, called his family offering support, despite the tremendous risk it carried. When reflecting upon his interactions with other Germans Seligsohn Sr. stated “ “I have to assume that they were one of the people that did that [reached out]. That’s what’s needed to be equal. The people reaching out affirmed our equality. I can’t do anything less than that in my conduct towards others.”
This moving story was in essence the backbone of the presentation. Through its recitation, Seligsohn was able to explain that in a community equality is a right that must be granted to all people. He stated that equality naturally evolves into democracy, which inevitably leads to community building.
Seligsohn described equality’s role in political development through the elaboration of two mindsets: one that conforms to egalitarianism and one common in the past that conforms to divine right. Historically, leaders were revered as divine entities. He explained that due to this concept, people in the past did not view each other as inherently equal, perpetuating the growth of monarchies and dictatorships. However, when people begin to view each other as no better or worse than themselves, democracy will naturally ensue because everyone’s opinion is regarded as important.
After addressing equality’s place in government, he went on to discuss the consequences of inequality in community. Inequality takes many shapes and sizes. Seligsohn explained that things such as “poverty, drug addiction, lack of a good education and even lead exposure significantly hinder one’s ability to meaningfully influence their community.”
With this information in mind, we finally reach the goals and achievements of Compact. Compact wishes to “…share what we know from both research and practice to provide our members with the best tools for building democracy through education and community partnerships.” For resources, they help implement sample tenure and other promotions; civic action plans that actively engage with the unique; and professional services to help orchestrate change and provide research findings.
Civic Action Planning is a process that is applied to colleges that wish to have a greater local presence. Over 450 university presidents have pledged to help devote resources from their universities to give back to the community.
The speech was concluded by USM president Glenn Cummings, who announced that USM is now part of the movement, starting 2018. One of the most noteable promises from the plan is increased access to resources that help prepare for internship programs.
The USM Civic Action Plan can be found at compact.org under the resources category.
This year’s election will feature new referendum ranging from health care reformation to state pension amendments. On Election Day, November 7, Maine voters will vote on five statewide ballot measures in the Referendum Elections. They will elect new members of the House of Representatives as some terms have come to an end. Additionally, Portland voters will elect municipal seats, including City Council At-Large.
Referendum Elections’ purpose is to provide citizens to vote on referenda proposed by the Legislature and Constitutional Amendments. The November ballot had four ballot measures.
Question 1 is titled, “An Act To Allow Slot Machines or a Casino in York County.” A public opinion from the “Maine Citizen’s Guide to Referendum Election” states that a “yes” vote would “generate millions of dollars in revenue without raising taxes,” which would allow the state to fund other programs. It would create new jobs and bring in tourism to Maine, nourishing the economic growth of the state. Opposition to question 1 worries about bringing gambling into the state.
Question 2 is titled, “An Act To Enhance Access to Affordable Healthcare.” It questions whether Mainers want to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage for adults under 65 years old with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. This would be would be approximately 20% of individuals or families in Maine making under $20,000 a year. According to the New York Times, Republican Governor Paul LePage has vetoed expanding access to the program under the Affordable Care Act five times. According to the Commonweath Fund, the uninsured rate of 18-25 year olds in 2016 was 14.5%. There was a huge 2.6% drop since the introduction of the Affordable Healthcare Act. The issue will be voted on by referendum for the first time by voters.
A public opinion on question 2 from the same “Maine Citizen’s Guide” saw that saying “yes” would “expand access to healthcare through the Medicaid program to about 70,000 Mainers” including many individuals in need. They noted it would “fight against opioid addiction and substance abuse,” in an attempt to prevent loss of life as a result of these restricted substances. Portland Press Herald showed the rift between the two sides on the issue of question 2. Business groups in Maine have extreme views. One side sees it as a source of economic benefits and the other side sees it “as a precursor to a tax increase.”
Question 3 is titled, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Improve Highways, Bridges and Multimodal Facilities and Upgrade Municipal Culverts.” It questions if the voter favors a $150,000,000 bond issue for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways, bridges, and facilities and equipment, and for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings. Specifics on the location has not been expressed yet.
Question 4 is titled, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Reduce Volatility in State Pension Funding Requirements Caused by the Financial Markets.” The “Maine Citizen’s Guide” defines the question as a proposal to authorize an amendment to the “Constitution of Maine to extend the maximum period of time,” from 10 to 20 years, “over which net losses in the market value of the state-funded retirement plans administered by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System must be retired or funded.”
The November 7 ballot votes on positions in the municipal seats for the city of Portland. It’s voting for a seat on the city council and school board for district four and five. There are two seats for Peaks Island. There is one seat for a five year term of the Portland Water District. More notably, there are seats open for the school board at-large seat and the city council at-large.
According to the Portland Press Herald, there are three democratic candidates running for the city council at-large seat. Their views diverge regarding rent limits, housing affordability and moving forward with renovations at the elementary schools at city expense. It has been the most expensive council contest on this upcoming ballot.
The seat is currently held by Jill Duson, 63, who has been on the council for 16 years. Her competitors are Joey Brunelle, 32, and Bree LaCasse, 41. They are looking to intervene their community activism to achieve the three-year term on the council.
According to The Forecaster, the school board race is not especially competitive. Marnie Morrione is seeking re-election for the district 5 seat. Newcomers Timothy Atkinson and Mark Balfantz are running for the district 4 and at-large seat.
Elections for the office of Maine House of Representatives is in 2018. The general election is on November 7, 2017. All 151 voting House seats are up for election, in which they serve two year terms. They are elected every two years. There are 40 races to watch in the 2018 elections. There are 21 democratic seats, 17 republican, and 2 independent seasons. As of October 2017, Democrats hold a slight majority.
Voting occurs at the Gorham Middle School, Little Falls Activity Center, and Shaw Gym at the Gorham Municipal Center. Polling locations are open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. Voters must bring a photo I.D. to vote.
Schools all over Maine were closed on Monday due to a storm that brought powerful winds and knocked out power for nearly half a million Mainers. The USM Lewiston campus lost power from around ten o’clock Wednesday morning until Thursday morning, while Portland and Gorham campuses did not have major issues and only canceled half a day’s classes on Monday. CBS News 13’s Brad Rogers said on twitter that due to cancellations, schools may use up most of their snow days before winter comes. The power outages also caused businesses to close all over the state. Many hospitals had to run on generators and several more canceled surgeries and appointments for fear of being interrupted by outages, according to BDN.
The Portland Press Herald reported that it was the largest amount of outages in the Central Maine Power Company’s (CMP) history, at nearly 500,000 Monday afternoon. This was more Mainers without power than there were during the ice storm of 1998, according to local news.
A large portion of the damage from the storm was due to trees and poles that had fallen down because of the powerful winds; the wind speed in Augusta reached 70 mph according to the Morning Sentinel. The fallen trees caused roadblocks, damaged cars and houses, as well as impairing power lines.
Wind damage was not limited to land, as the coast guard reported more than 50 vessels that had been blown from their moorings from Maine to Rhode Island, according to the Bangor Daily News (BDN).
Flooding was reported in most riverside and coastal cities but the amount of rainfall was not severe. The highest reported rainfall was approximately 4 inches in some areas, according to the Portland National Weather Service. Major flooding occurred on the Kennebec, Carrabassett and Sandy rivers with towns like Waterville and North Anson getting detrimental water levels.
During the storm communities came together to assist with damages and provide resources for people without power. On Wednesday, the Augusta Civic Center opened as a warming shelter for people who had no heat. The Windham high school offered warm showers and a place for charging phones , advertised by the Windham Police Department’s twitter page. Similar temporary shelters opened all across Maine. According to the Portland NWS, this October has been unusually warm so many people were alright without heat. No one in Maine was reported seriously injured during this storm.
Concerns about Halloween events on Tuesday were brought up due to so many hazards in the streets. Some towns like Brunswick postponed trick-or-treating until the next day, and others like Bangor strongly discouraged it. Portland encouraged families to go out but to be very careful and aware of hazards, according to the Press Herald.
As far as the damages caused by the storm, according to WCSH 6 Portland news, “The state is pursuing a federal disaster declaration. The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has been working to collect information on storm damage, both public and private.” Peter Rogers, the director of MEMA encouraged residents to keep track of all damages including spoiled food and let their local governments know about them.
As of Thursday night, CMP’s online count of statewide power outages was down to around 70,000. The linemen and the firefighters have been working long hours fixing power and cleaning up as Governor Lepage has issued a state of emergency. CMP will likely have power back for everyone before Monday. Not all downed lines and trees have been cleared away and police along with CMP encourage people to stay far away from downed lines, and not to drive under them
Susan Feiner is resigning the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CASH) curriculum review committee (CRC). Professor Susan Feiner, PhD is a professor of economics and women and gender studies at USM and also the union president of the university. Professor Feiner shot down the rumors that she is resigning from teaching and her position in the union and explained why she is resigning from the CASH CRC.
Professor Feiner resigned from the position in the CRC because she was too busy as Union president to continue in her role. Feiner said, “I was very disappointed that none of my faculty colleagues in CASH would step up.”
The curriculum review committee is an important part in keeping the faculty in the loop of making the curriculum. Feiner explained it as, “A critically important faculty role… Both our union contract and the university policies and procedures establish that the faculty ‘own’ the curriculum. What that means in practice is that the administration can not force programs on us, can not dictate what we teach in particular classes, or how we teach our classes.”
Resigning from her role on the committee does not change Feiner’s view of how important it is.
“Curriculum review provides a mechanism for faculty to oversee the changing body of courses and topics … offered at the University. If faculty doesn’t review the curriculum, that cedes a lot of power to administrators… and represents a significant erosion of faculty power.”
Another professor will not take Professor Susan Feiner’s position on the CASH curriculum review committee as the committee has been shut down, though it did not help that no faculty member stepped up to take her place. Though Feiner saw it as having a crucial role in giving power to the faculty, the lack of participation means no more CASH CRC.
The curriculum still belongs to the faculty, but the end of the CASH curriculum review committee means less review and less power the faculty has over the curriculum. The CASH CRC was present to give power to the faculty and keep them in the loop, but with the loss of Professor Feiner and the end of CASH CRC means a change in faculty power.
Student Body President Pdg Muhamiriza and Student Senate Chair Muna Adan apologized to members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and multicultural students last Monday for student government’s failure to “lead people the way it’s supposed to lead them,” according to Muhamiriza. The apology was made partially as a result of islamophobia in the Student Government Association (SGA) last year, as well as in the hopes of improving relations between the MSA and SGA.
The first apology was given during a 1:15 p.m. meeting in the Woodbury Campus Center conference room, which MSA Adviser Faisa Abdirahman, MSA Secretary Ifrah Hassan and MSA President Deqa Dahir also attended.
Dahir discussed several concerns Muslim and multicultural students have about student government at the meeting. Two of these concerns were funding for the MSA and the absence of a prayer room on the Gorham campus.
“I feel like the MSA never gets funding when they need it for events,” she said, “and I don’t know why that is. If it’s something the senate has been doing or the BSO [Board of Student Organizations] has been doing.”
Dahir added that she had heard from past presidents and board members of the MSA that funding has been a persistent problem.
Adan assured Dahir applying for funding for events would not be a problem this year.
“I don’t know what happened last year,” Adan said. “However, this year, I can make sure that on the student senate side, there’s no issue in terms of getting funding. We’ll put it on the agenda. We’ll discuss it with you all.”
The necessity of a prayer room, outfitted with a place to perform Wuḍū (ritual washing), on the Gorham was stressed by Dahir. Adan and Muhamiriza said the administration has argued that students who live in the dorms can pray in their rooms, making a prayer room unnecessary.
They suggested Dahir and MSA members speak to university officials, such as Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Nancy Griffin, about the possibility of a Gorham prayer room being added to the master plan.
Trust, or a lack of it, was another issue Dahir touched on.
“Muslim students and multicultural students feel like they can’t trust student government as a whole,” she said. “There were so many times they needed the student government, and the student government has let them down after countless incidents.”
When apologies have been issued, either by university officials or student government members, there has often been a “but,” according to Dahir.
“There should be another apology,” she said.
“I personally apologize,” Muhamiriza said, “as student body president now and as the student body vice president last year. I want us to have more transparency now and see how we can make amends.”
If something is brought up that offends students, Muhamiriza assured Dahir the student government would take their concern seriously.
“What happened last semester should not have happened,” Adan said.
While Dahir said she appreciated student government reaching out to the MSA and setting aside time for a meeting, she felt a more public apology was needed. She recommended the student government send a formal e-mail to all students.
A second apology was made to students in the multicultural center after the meeting.
Social media and the news are currently overflowing with testimonials from individuals who have been affected by sexual harassment or sexual assault. In 2006, activist Tarana Burke used the phrase “me too” to encourage females around the world, specifically women of color, to be conscious that they were not alone in their struggles with traumatic incidents. Burke wanted to empower and inspire women through empathetic understanding. Following the exodus of celebrities who shared their negative connections with Harvey Weinstein, people all over the world began using the hashtag, “me too,” to highlight their own experiences.
When I first saw the sheer number of people I am connected to on Facebook posting statuses about this topic, I felt so many emotions. While I’m certainly aware of the considerable numbers of of individuals who experience sexual trauma, there was a grave feeling that washed over me as I saw people I know personally and very well share their stories. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. RAINN also reports that there are an average of 321,500 survivors of rape and sexual assault every single year in America.
Before the explosion of the words “me too” on social media sites, the pure statistic RAINN released that states that one in six American women will be survivors of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime is serious cause for concern. However, once very familiar faces were equated to the statistical evidence, I realized how close to home the problem really is.
All humans are susceptible to sexual violence, regardless of any aspect of their personal identification. My Facebook newsfeed was full of girls and women sharing simply the two words, a sentence, the sexaul assault hotline phone number (which in Maine is 1-800-871-7741), or longer anecdotes of their exposure to trauma. I remember reading about struggles in the workplace, on the street, in their own homes, and thinking, is there anywhere we are safe?
Not everyone knows the support that will be granted to them until they start talking about their experiences. Saying “me too” on social media is one way that shows one another that we are not alone in this struggle. There is a silent and underground support system that will not fail you if you need it. In light of the recent explosion of courageous individuals sharing their stories, here is my advice to you.
Call the hotlines. They’ll answer and they’ll let you talk to them. Tell your friends, tell your mama, tell someone you trust, just tell someone. The very, very last thing I ever want to do is to be work for someone, to bother them. I want to be the helper and help everyone else. Perhaps some of you reading this feel a similar way, but now, in this moment, I want your help. I’m asking for help from you. Please keep listening to each other. Keep telling each other. Don’t let this week long fad of a hashtag fade to the background because change is will not be affected through one post. It is a huge, courageous start.
I call it courageous because I understand the inability to type the words “me too” and mean them in a very serious way. When I first saw the multitude of posts, many might I add, from fellow USM students, I wanted to scream and run out and help every last person writing a post. While I cannot do that, what I can do is to be there for any and all individuals affected by sexual violence, harassment or assault.
I realize that I say this often, but we are all just humans walking around the world together for a short period of time, living by our man made rules. Let us be kind and care for each other in the face of uncertainty, trauma and violence. Please know that you always have an ear with the editor of the Free Press.
Leading a discussion on Senate affairs and public relations, a woman stands in front of a seated crowd of men who are aptly listening and debating the issues at hand. The presence in the room is overwhelmingly male, but Muna Adan, Chair of the Student Senate, speaks with clear authority and confidence in her mission.
In the current political atmosphere within the United States, one is often hard-pressed to find a political space or forum in which women are the majority. In most cases, women are not even represented in equal numbers; according to Bloomberg, The Trump administration fills a mere 27 percent of its positions with women. This level of male-centered rhetoric is mirrored in the much smaller student Senate here at USM, with 13 of the 15 appointed Senators being men. Adan serves as this year’s Chair, joined by Senator Nairus Abdullahi as the only two female representatives.
Despite the seven “Vacant” positions listed on the Student Government Association (SGA) webpage, there is currently minimal interest on behalf of students to join the Senate. Adan states that “Joshua Blake [Clerk] has been doing a great job at […] reaching out to different people, and reaching out to different organizations.” However, it appears as though these efforts, no matter how sincere, have not been effective.
The question remains: why does this year’s Senate feature such a stark difference between appointed male and female senators? Senator Chase Hewitt, who joined the SGA this fall, thinks it is “possible that less women feel comfortable being members of the Senate,” and says the discrepancy could “alienate a good portion of the student body.”
Senator Aaron Pierce, Student Public Relations Committee Chair, says he “believes in diversity, and the fact that we [the Senate] don’t have that, that’s a little disappointing to me [Pierce].” He mentions some of the incidents from last year as a potential reason for women not wanting to participate this year, but wishes there was a stronger female perspective in the SGA.
“There’s some things men don’t know about, like women [focused] issues,” says Pierce.
Senator Shaman Kirkland, who has been involved in the Senate since the beginning of 2017, says “that there’s less women that are interested in politics, or that women for some reason don’t feel as welcome in the Senate.”
The idea that women are not as likely to seek involvement in political activities seems like an easy answer to a complicated question, and an answer that does not explain the absence of adequate female representation.
The events both Pierce and Kirkland cite as potential reasons for decreased participation from women revolve around last year’s SGA Chair, who reportedly told the Senate that Muslim women cannot be feminists.. Kirkland says comments like these are “obviously going to offend a lot of Muslim women,” which could contribute to the reluctance female students have felt about joining the Senate.
Adan insists that the events of last year have not affected her decision to stay in the Senate. Her role as a leader within the SGA has had a clear impact on this year’s Senate, and according to Pierce, Adan is “a strong leader […] and woman. She makes her point clear, and she doesn’t let anyone walk over her.”
“It says something,” Adan notes, “beyond me just being a woman, but being Black and Muslim, it says something about the progression with the Student Senate.”
Neither Adan nor Abdullahi feel they have been unfairly treated, although Adan says that sometimes “I say it a thousand times and the other person doesn’t necessarily care, and if a guy says it then it’s taken.” She goes on to insist that this is not a specific problem with the Senate; rather, it is something she experiences a lot of “in everyday general life.”
This dynamic between men and women in professional settings has not hindered Adan or Abdullahi, who are both successful members of the SGA. Rather, as Abdullahi states, “I do feel outnumbered in the sense that I know there are more male voices, but I don’t feel like my input doesn’t matter.”
Adan says her male counterparts treat her with the “same respect as they do their male peers,” and that the feeling of being outnumbered stems purely from the fact that there are less women in the room, not from discrimination or sexism on behalf of the Senate.
Abdullahi and Adan believe the issue at hand is not that the Senate turns away female students, or that the SGA is an unsafe space for women to use their voice; rather, Adan says this is one of the most diverse Senates in USM history, and that the lack of female voice is a coincidence.
While there is no clear solution to this lack of representation, the SGA is working towards recruiting new members, and encourages students to investigate their political interests further through the Senate.
“It would be a great opportunity for women to get into leadership positions,” states Senator Hewitt, “I think it’s something that should be brought up within the Senate.”
Students interested in joining the Student Senate can find resources available in the SGA Office, in Woodbury, or contact the Senate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Career and Employment Hub is a convenient tool provided by USM to assist students in planning for the future. Not only are there resources for writing resumes or cover letters, but they also offer outlets for setting up internships, job search strategies, and alumni resources. Associates are also available to assist in preparing for interviews as well as looking into majors, minors, graduate schools, and careers.
For majors that require an internship or volunteering hours, the Career and Employment Hub is an essential tool. Internships are required for many majors so that students have the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the profession they are interested in. They also help students to make professional connections in their field of choice, while including objectives, reflection, and assessment within the duration of the internship.
The Career and Employment Hub offers a link on their website to look into internship opportunities within majors, and to ensure that students know what work is available for credit. On the website, there is a link to upcoming volunteer opportunities as well as an e-mail to report volunteer hours. In person meetings are also available to determine which opportunity would be best for various paths.
Students are also welcome to check out the Internship Matching Fair on Oct.26 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Abromson Center on the Portland campus. Resources will be able to help students find customized networking to learn more about paying, meaningful work experiences. All majors are encouraged and welcome to come. A total of thirty employers have already registered to be at the fair.
Another beneficial resource for students is the work study information on the Career and Employment Hub’s website. Located under “Work Study”, a large list of federal work study jobs appears. When the jobs appear, information such as how to apply for the job and the job description will be listed. This is yet another easy tool for students to look for job opportunities that are available to them.
If interested in networking, careers, internships, and volunteer opportunities, then consider utilizing the Career and Employment Hub. Every Wednesday starting on Jan. 1, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Luther Bonney Hall Lobby, students can connect and meet with USM’s community partners. Examples of the community partners include Planned Parenthood, the Portland School District, Northwestern Mutual, and many more. Feel free to scope out the website for the full list that extends from January 2018 through May 2018.
Additionally, on Monday, Oct. 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., L.L. Bean will be on campus. Voted one of America’s best employers by Vogue, students will be able to connect with L.L. Bean representatives where they can learn about the company’s mission, vision, values, and all of the opportunities that are provided to the employees. This will take place outside between Masterton Hall and Luther Bonney. All majors are welcome to attend.
Located on the Gorham campus in Bailey Hall, study room 2, the hours are Tuesdays 1:00 to 4:00pm and Wednesdays 10:00am to 1:00pm. Students can contact 207-228-8091 to schedule an instant appointment to review resumes or cover letters. There is also a Portland location- 4 Payson Smith. The hours for this location are Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Students can contact the office at 207-228-8284 if they have questions or concerns regarding service-learning and volunteering. The vice-president and corporate engagement of the Career and Employment Hub is Ainsley Wallace if students have any concerns or questions unable to be answered by the student associates.
USM hopes that all students continue to take advantage of the various opportunities the university has, including the Career and Employment Hub. It’s an easy way to allow students to connect and thrive in the business/career world. Contact a student advocate today to see what they can help achieve today.
On Monday, Sept. 18 Upton-Hastings residents received word, via email, of a confirmed case of bed bugs inside the building. The email informed residents that treatment to take care of the the infestation had begun and that the situation was being monitored closely. It also encouraged residents to check their rooms and their body for potential bed bugs to try to curb the spread of bugs to other dorms.
Students in Upton-Hastings have been feeling a little out of the norm. Students have decided to attack the situation head on and conduct a search of their rooms.
“Should I start looking to buy a Hazmat Suit?” said Upton-Hastings resident Dannick Breton.
While that is probably a little extreme, it is no doubt that having bed bugs would ruin an individual’s week (or month).
However, even the mention of bed bugs has made residents feel uneasy. Some residents are using words like “disgusting” and “nerve-racking” to describe the situation. It has them feeling itchy when they have no reason to be. It seems as if these bed bugs may have inhabited the heads of students as well as the beds of the unlucky residents.
Many students who live in buildings other than Upton-Hastings sympathize with the residents of the “bedbug building.” However, some do not share that sympathetic view. Some students have even ostracized their friends who live in Upton-Hasting from their rooms because of the fear of spreading bedbugs and starting a campus-wide contamination.
According to Resident Director of Upton-Hastings Kelly Brague, the issue was confirmed in only one room on the Upton side of the building and is currently in the treatment process. Luckily for the building and the Gorham campus, this unfortunate outbreak was caught and dealt with early. The residents of the room, who will remain unnamed, were proactive in their encounter and went to the resident officials as soon as they realized they had a problem. Thanks to those students, the campus may have avoided an outbreak.
The issue came to light a week before the email was sent out to residents. Admitting to not being entirely sure how the bed bugs got into the dorm, Brague explained, “We addressed it as soon as we got confirmation [of] what it was.” She stated how forthcoming they were regarding the problem and got the help they needed to deal with the critters on campus. Brague seems to be handling this with as much positivity as she can, given how this unfavorable scenario is playing out.
With one room confirmed, it was in the school’s best interest to be swift in dealing with the issue. “Other rooms were tested, and they were negative,” Brague said. However, the issue of bed bugs is not considered completely resolved. Brague said that she hesitates to confirm that these critters are a problem students can set aside. In the current situation, that would not be a fair assumption. The more diligent people are, the more likely the bed bugs will not spread to other dorms.
What a lot of freshmen may not realize is, bed bugs in college dorms are more common than they think. A college dorm is a paradise for bed bugs, multiple beds to a room and an above average amount of clothes on the floor. It is the equivalent to an all-inclusive resort for humans.
While it provided the campus with a conversation and maybe some unwanted jokes for the week, residents are considering the worst, wondering what would happen if there was an outbreak.
“Where would we stay?” “How would the school handle that?” “Do you think we would get a break from school?” All of these are serious questions from students. Whether or not bed bugs would be worth getting time off school is a debate for another day. Luckily things seem to be moving in a positive direction.
While students hope this is the last time they hear the word “bed bugs” for a long time, it seems that this problem isn’t that much of a problem at all. While we mourn for the one confirmed room, and we wish a speedy recovery to their beds and whatever bites they may have, the consensus on campus seems to be, “At least it wasn’t me.” With midterms sneaking up, it is safe to say students would rather avoid putting “get rid of bed bugs” on their to-do list.
Friday, Sept. 15, the 46th student senate held their first meeting in Upton Hastings on the Gorham campus. The meeting began with introductions and the senate could not make it through that without the first awkward moment.
Shaman Kirkland stated how his “fun fact” about himself was that he, “got food poisoning from the Sodexo food.” Kirkland shortly thereafter realized he was sitting in front of the General Manager for Sodexo, who happened to be there to give a short presentation and to take questions from the Student Government Association (SGA).
Luckily for Kirkland, his time for redemption would come later when he had a chance to ask a question regarding the safety of Sodexo food. Kirkland was potentially in search of justice for himself, or for the student body who have had their own concerns in terms of Sodexo. The general manager responded, “We do take food and safety very seriously.”
The highlight of the meeting surrounded the movement inside the senate, whether it was new senators joining or incumbent senators moving to new positions. The student senate welcomed a new face at the table, Zach Tidd. After sharing more about himself and his interest in the SGA, the current senators shared a vote in which it was unanimous to accept Tidd into the selective senate. Though he admitted to lacking student government and political experience, his history with the men’s lacrosse team adds a new athletic demographic that the senate was previously lacking.
Next on the agenda was the vacancy for the Representative to Faculty Senate. Freshman Trevor Hustus raised his hand in hopes to fill this position. Hustus was appointed.
With one more unfilled position, Joseph Menard stepped up to be the new Representative to Selection Committee. Menard explained that he is happy to represent the student body in this position.
Following the appointment of the new representatives, Muna Adan, student senate chair, read aloud the resignation letter of the now former vice chair, Rudolph Da Rocha. Da Rocha claimed his reason for stepping down was due to a heavy schedule which took away the ability to make it to the senate’s weekly Friday meetings.
With that there were two nominees who emerged from the senators: Aaron Pierce, who currently holds the Student Public Relations Committee Chair, and the just-appointed Hustus. Both were given a chance to speak to the senate in hopes to fill the uninhabited chair.
Pierce spoke first. “I feel very passionate about the student senate,” said Pierce. He believed in his ability to be the new vice chair. As Pierce made his remarks he emphasized his experience with the senate as a strong suit.
Next Hustus addressed the senate. He mentioned how even though the senate may see his lack of SGA experience as a downfall, it would not hinder his ability. Hustus said that he would bring enthusiasm and hard work to the position. Adan questioned the candidates about the potential time commitment being difficult for a first year student. Though Hustus admitted to having a busy schedule, he ensured the senators of his competence when he said, “I can meet every single requirement with determination.”
After both nominees spoke, the decision was up to the remaining senate members. The current senators were clearly impressed with Hustus and his passion toward the senate. Treasurer Jeffrey Ahlquist, who is the longest sitting member on the senate, added that Hustus was, “A breath of fresh air.” Ahlquist admitted to rescinding his nomination because he felt that Hustus was more qualified. Cases were made for both nominees prior to the proceeding of the blind vote.
After the blind vote it was Hustus who came out on top. The freshman was met with applause upon reentering the room following the vote. Hustus changed from his original seat to the one directly next to the Chair at Large, held by Adan.
Within a couple hours the first year SGA member added two new titles to his name, Representative of Faculty Senate and Vice Chair. Once Hustus was appointed to the position it was clear that this freshman was not playing around. In the first meeting Hustus made a splash equivalent to a killer whale at SeaWorld and all student senate members were in the splash zone.
The Senate meeting this week, on Oct. 13, was held in Gorham, to discuss various Senate members’ projects on campus. The meeting was led by Muna Adan, President of the Senate, and covered topics ranging from internet speed on campus to parking accessibility.
As of now, Aaron Pierce, the Student Affairs Chair, is working towards introducing a printer station in Payson Smith, to offer students more convenient options in where they print. A printer was purchased by the Senate three years ago, but has not been used or made available. The cost of maintenance would fall on the Senate’s shoulders, as well as possibly acquiring a computer to have at the station. Senator Kyle Brundige is also working on a free printing initiative for students, so that the costly burden of printing papers and assignments would be alleviated.
Additionally, there have been several complaints from students about the internet quality on campus. Treasurer Jeffrey Ahlquist is in the beginning stages of solving these problems. However, the cost for a new or improved internet service on campus could be over $300,000, which reaches far past the university’s budget. There is potential for a grant, likely from the state government, but as of Friday’s meeting there are no senators willing to go through the writing process to request a grant, so it is uncertain as to how they plan to move forward.
The Senate’s Clerk, Joshua Blake, is working towards improving the food situation with Sodexo, in the hopes of offering students more of a voice in deciding their food options, as well as not requiring on-campus students to pay for a meal plan. Financially, a meal costs $8.99 without a meal plan, but with the meal plan it averages out to $10.99 a meal. Blake recognizes that this is not fair to students who have no choice but to pay for the meal plan, and is hoping to either work with Sodexo to lower prices or make meal plans optional.
There was also discussion around putting ballot boxes in the Gorham cafeteria, to give students voting options concerning the food that is available each week. Last year’s attempt to improve Sodexo’s quality was met with disappointment from many students, so Blake’s new approach will hopefully get to the root of these issues rather than resolving them on a surface level.
Senator Chase Hewitt is leading an initiative regarding parking and transportation for students, including working with the university to either make the parking garage inaccessible to non-students and faculty, or charging a fee for non-students to use the garage. This would make more parking spots available to students, which has been a concern this semester. Currently the garage is a public space available to anyone, but Hewitt stated that potentially reintroducing the key card system, which required a student ID to access the garage, would make it a more student-centered facility.
The Senate is also in the process of organizing a “Meet your Senators” event, which will likely be held in the Gorham cafeteria or the Portland Woodbury Campus Center. This was decided in the hopes of encouraging the student body to be more involved in the Senate’s projects and functions, as well as answer some questions students may have about the purpose of the Senate and both the past and future decisions made.
It is clear that this year’s Senate has a lot of ideas on how to improve campus life for students, but it remains to be seen whether these ideas will result in actual change or merely float around the Senate until they are forgotten. While many of these projects are in their early stages, there are a plethora of obstacles to overcome for each of them. Hopefully USM’s Senate will not only attempt to enact change, but will prevail in supporting the needs of its student body.
Students are also welcome and encouraged to attend Senate meetings, the next of which is on Oct. 27 in Payson Smith 1. Questions or comments for the Senate can be submitted to email@example.com.
Devyn Adams and their friends were leaving Brooks Dining Hall around 12:30 p.m. early last week when they noticed a large crowd gathering. A man was standing on the hill looking down one of the pathways leading to Brooks. As they got closer, they realized the man was wearing a large sign with things like “sex addicts,” “lewd women,” and “God’s judgement” written across it. The man was reading Bible verses out loud to the gathering crowd of students.
At first, according to Adams, the man was using what Adams called “basic homophobic language.” Adams and their friends stuck and around for a while and then left as they had made other plans. They returned around 2 p.m. The crowd had gotten larger.
The man was Matthew Bourgault, a self described evangelical Christian from Missouri, who is known for bringing his aggressive, and what students call hateful and violent, rhetoric to college campuses across the country. Bourgault is part of a group of so called “open air preachers” who travel to college campuses. The group, “Official Street Preachers” preaches similar rhetoric to that of the more well-known Westboro Baptist Church.
In 2012, Bourgault started a physical altercation with a Christian student, Christian Chessman, at the University of Florida when the student attempted to speak with Bourgault’s two sons. Police at the time told Chessman that Bourgault could be arrested for battery, but Chessman declined to press charges. In 2011 Bourgault was escorted off campus at James Madison University for approaching a student table selling Green Club calendars with the headline “Green is Sexy,” picking one up and proceeding to destroy it.
Adams and their friends went to their dorms and and grabbed some Pride themed items and returned to the hill.
“He was on the hill facing two major walkways,” Adams said, explaining that it seemed like Bourgault had chosen a spot he knew students would be passing frequently. Adams and their group of about six went up the hill to take higher ground. The group held Pride flags and chanted “Love is love.”
Adams said they noticed the crowd gathering closely around the man, and that the crowd was “self policing,” not wanting to engage in any physical altercations. This was when, according to Adams, Bourgault started verbally attacking specific students directly.
Some members of Resident Life in Gorham had been trying to gather students away from Bourgault in front of Lower Brooks. Pizza had been ordered. But many students felt that Bourgault posed a direct threat to their safety, despite campus security and other administration saying he did not, and stayed to confront him directly.
USM administrators and campus police remained in the vicinity of Bourgault and the students. However, the intensity of emotions among certain groups of students was so great that interactions with administrators were not always positive. Gaylon Handy, a sophomore Psychology student, said that Erika Lammarre, rookie USM administrator and Director of Community Standards and Mediation, did not identify herself before aggressively interacting with students.
While standing with friends, Handy was holding a pride flag rolled up. Lamarre allegedly told students that campus police were going to soon be dispersing all of the individuals gathered, including Bourgault. According to Handy, Lamarre was told by students that they would not leave the premise until they were positive Bourgault was gone and they were safe on their campus once more. During this interaction, Lamarre gestured toward Handy firmly.
“Erika pointed at me and said ‘your pride flag could be considered a weapon and you could be arrested,’” Handy said. “I had a very angry response. [Bourgault] incited violence on my campus through microaggressions and when he did that he lost his right to free speech and being on my campus, and Erika didn’t know that.”
Handy went on to say that it felt as though the administration was not doing all they could to support the safety and health of the students. “I’ve never been told by a neutral bystander that I’m the danger,” Handy said. “I feel extremely disrespected. I was told by the administration that I was the problem. Paid administrators told me that I was the problem. I felt marginalized, patronized and attacked by administration.”
In response, Lamarre said that the advice she was giving students, particularly Handy, “was not received in the manner in which it was meant.”
“I just hope the students know how much the staff present were distressed that our students were being spoken to in the manner in which [Bourgault] was speaking,” Lamarre said.
According to Adams, Bourgault admitted to having a weapon and to filming students interactions with him. Adams said from where they were standing it looked like the man had a knife in a holster on his pants. Around 4:30 p.m., he left campus on his own.
As students in Gorham most affected by Bourgault were trying to digest the harassment they had experienced, many wondered why campus security and administration had refused to remove the man from campus.
“Erika [Lamarre] was telling people he was leaving but he didn’t,” Adams said. “She made it sound like he was being removed.”
According to Nancy Griffin, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Gorham Police were called to asses the situation and found that Bourgault wasn’t violating any laws. According to Griffin, the safety of the students is the number one priority to university, and the situation was being discussed by a number of administrators to go over options in the future. They are also creating a new policing surrounding campus speakers and freedom of speech on campus which is currently in draft three.
Visitors “cannot engage in hurtful or hateful speech that makes students feel unsafe,” Griffin said.
“He told one student she deserved to be raped,” Adams said. The reason: she wasn’t wearing a bra. Bourgault went on to call students “child molesters” and “whores,” and said that if the police weren’t present, that gay students present would “take him behind the bushes and rape him.”
Adams and about eight of their friends filed crime reports through the USM website. Adams filed a Title IX report for the sexual harassment of students.
Adams added that some of Christian students on campus felt that Bourgault was putting their religion in a bad light, “basically bastardizing their religion,” and that it’s important that people don’t think all Christians hold the same beliefs as Bourgault.
Students like Gabrielle Nelson, junior Linguistics student, and Brenden Pittiglio, sophomore nursing student, explained that Bourgault’s version of Christianity is not what they adhere to. As Christians, Nelson and Pittiglio were frustrated to see Bourgault on campus portraying himself as an authority on morality.
“Jesus wasn’t a hater; he was a lover,” Nelson said. “This man, [Bourgault], was backlashing and throwing a lot of hate and judgement at innocent students. He was showing a lot of misconceptions about what being a Christian is.”
Observing students’ interactions with Bourgault, Nelson and Pittiglio saw a positive side to the visitor coming to campus.
“This event brought a lot of good conversations and did a lot of good,” Nelson said. “I saw the community of students coming together to stand up for love.” Pittiglio also acknowledged that constructive conversations were had and an effort was made for students present to understand one another and to see where they were coming from.
Some Christian students on campus, including Nelson and Pittiglio, have expressed deep concern that their religion has been misrepresented by Bourgault’s presence at USM. Hopes that the community sees Bourgault as an independent entity and outlier of Christianity are not far from their minds.
A crowd of about 400 gathered in Portland on Friday night in front of City Hall to protest the Trump Administration’s announcement that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which grants protection for young people brought without documentation to the United States as children. It began to rain on the gathering crowd who were determined to brave the weather. The rain eventually stopped and a rainbow appeared through the clouds.
Those in attendance held signs that read, “No human is illegal,” and “Defend DACA,” among others. They lead chants, calling, “The people united, will never be divided!” As well as, “Up, up with education, down, down with deportation!” Supporters driving by honked car horns in support as the crowd cheered.
The rally was organized by Hamdia Ahmed, a junior political science major at USM. Ahmed also organized a rally in Portland last February to protest Trump’s order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Ahmed urged the crowd to “keep showing up.”
“[Dreamers] were brought to this country by their parents as little kids. They may not know a country besides America. They may not even know a language besides English,” Ahmed said. “Six months from now, unless Congress acts, new DACA recipients will start to lose their ability to work legally and will risk immediate deportation every day. 800,000 people who are American in every way except on paper will lose their ability to live in the only country they know.”
“We stand together to to say the Dreamers will not go back into the shadows,” said Leslie Silverstein, president of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP).
Silverstein told the crowd that DACA has brought stability and hope to nearly 800,000 young people. She called the decision to rescind DACA a “grotesque step backward” an “affront to every standard of justice and fairness” and “a moral atrocity.”
A group of students from Bowdoin College in Brunswick were in attendance, among them their Student Body President, Irfan Alam.
“I want to stress that tonight is just the beginning,” Alam said, pointing out that this would not be the last time that immigrants, people of color and other minorities will be attacked. Alam stressed that being unaffected by an issue is not a reason to stay silent, adding that if you have the privilege not to worry it is your responsibility to stand up.
“For those affected, you are loved, you are powerful, you are courageous and you undeniably have a place in this country,” said Muhammed Nur, a Bowdoin student from Portland.
Also in attendance was Sandra Scribner Merlim, wife of Otto Morales-Caballeros. Morales-Caballeros was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last April near his home in Naples and was later deported to his birth country of Guatemala. Morales-Caballeros lived in the U.S. for 20 years after fleeing the Guatemalan civil war as a child.
“They told us he could stay, they came and took him anyway,” Merlim said. Merlim said that her husband’s only crime was “wanting to live in the United States.”
“My heart is breaking,” Merlim said. “Protect DACA and Dreamers who deserve to live here in peace and without fear.”
A statement sent to the student body on Sept. 5 from the University of Maine System (UMS) read, “…Although there are relatively few students in our System who have self-reported DACA status, the uncertainty any enrolled student may feel about his or her ability to continue his or her public higher education is important to us all.” The statement went on to say that UMS hopes that Congress will “bring certainty” to those seeking to “lawfully” pursue a Maine public higher education.