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News Briefs

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:12

Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

Trash filled lot reveals the plywood home of three children

Just outside of Joshua Tree, CA, police found three children, ages 11, 13 and 14, living in a makeshift shack on the same lot with 30 to 40 cats. They were living in the plywood structure with their mother on the trash filled lot. Their father also lived on the lot, but only sparingly, where he would sleep in a broken down vehicle. The mother and father, Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73, were arrested on the charges of willful cruelty to a child. The children were taken into custody by the Bernardino County Child and Family Service department. The names and genders of the children have not been released. However, it was released that the children had not been attending school. Officials did not say how the case will proceed moving forward.

Facts gone wrong in White House gun control discussion

In a televised conversation about ways to thwart gun violence, President Trump met with a team of bipartisan lawmakers at the White House. Not only did Trump allege misconceptions as facts, but lawmakers joined in with inaccuracies. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from CA, shared statements made by a lecturer in Boston that she drew conclusions and made connections to gun violence. Without context, her information could be misconstrued. Representative John Rutherford, a Republican from FL, also made comments without providing context for his statements in reference to what a gun-free zone truly is. Rutherford said that he carried his concealed firearm with him at all times, even in what some would consider to be a gun-free zone. Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican of LA, said, “People just want to dismiss concealed-carry permits. They do actually increase safety.” His statement is one of opinion and is not factually based. However, it can be argued with factual evidence one way or the other. The televised event required broader context to be applied to statements made by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

U.S. Treasury Secretary revokes consent for the release of lecture video

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave a lecture at the University of California Los Angeles (U.C.L.A) this week and was greeted by protesters. During the discussion, which was moderated by American Public Media’s “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal, students questioned Mnuchin’s authority and involvement in government affairs. Protesters were removed from inside the event and joined their counterparts outside. Just out of the lecture hall, students dressed as King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were cutting and sharing cake, as a representation of imperial law. Protesters continued to attempt to carry out discussions with attendees in hopes of coming to a middle ground. Exchanges between Mnuchin and attendees were intense and recorded by some on cell phones or cameras. Prior to the lecture, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Mnuchin had given consent for the event to be recorded by U.C.L.A and released on their official university website. However, following the heightened discussion, Mnuchin revoked his original consent, sparking debate and conversation.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico resigns

Roberta S. Jacobson, 57, tenured her resignation as the U.S. diplomatic representative to Mexico this week. After a thirty-one year career working for the State Department, focusing on the Latin American region, Jacobson has chosen to remove herself from Mexico as a result of increasing tensions between the two nations. Appointed as the ambassador in 2015, under former President Obama, it took eleven months for her confirmation to become official, as a result of partisan issues. Once she was officially stationed in Mexico, the sitting president was elected and tensions between the nations immediately heightened. Mexican leaders and government officials have openly expressed their upset at Jacobson’s departure, some calling it a final detrimental impact to Mexican-American relations. In her resignation letter, Jacobson wrote, “I have come to the difficult decision that it is the right time to move on to new challenges and adventures. This decision is all the more difficult because of my profound belief in the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship and knowledge that it is at a crucial moment.” Jacobson will be missed by the international diplomatic community, specifically Mexico.

American chain stores to raise the age to purchase firearms

Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods released press statements that the two stores would be raising their minimum age to buy guns. Individuals now must be 21 years old in order to purchase a gun at the stores. According to federal law, an individual must be 21 to buy a handgun. However, the federal law also states that an 18 year old can purchase a semiautomatic rifle and other firearms. In the wake of intensifying school shootings, specifically in Parkland, FL, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods joined a group of national corporations who tried to publically remove themselves from having connections to the National Rifle Association, including Hertz Car Rentals, Delta Airlines and MetLife insurance. Dick’s Sporting Goods has gone as far as to remove any toys resembling semiautomatic weapons. Edward Stack, 63, the chief executive officer for Dick’s Sporting Goods released a statement saying, “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.” Local stores have also issued similar statements, such as L.L. Bean.

Trial begins for widow of the Pulse Nightclub Killer

When Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 in Pulse, a Florida nightclub, he was not arrested or charged with his crime, as he was killed by eight shots from officers responding to the scene. His widow, Noor Salman, 31, has been recently charged with aiding and abetting the criminal activity of her husband. After the jury selection was completed this week, the trial began with the prosecutors trying the case. It is predicted that Salman’s defense lawyer will argue that she was the victim of domestic and emotional abuse from her husband. However, Salman changed her story several times after speaking to law enforcement. The prosecution also has a trail of events that shows that Salman helped to pick out the location of the shooting, as well as arrange an alibi for both herself and for her husband.

Letter from the Editor: Riding the train in England

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:12

Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

One of the simple pleasures that I miss from my time abroad in England is riding the train. There’s something about coasting through the English countryside that is incredibly peaceful and relaxing. In the states I rarely took the train, it was either driving, plane or bus for transportation. A train ride was a luxury I was not used to.

It’s an everyday event that millions of people go through each day, but those on a train ride through England are lucky to have a beautiful landscape to watch outside their window. A train ticket doesn’t just get you from point A to point B. You get the best view of the English countryside, the rolling hills that seem to never end, cows and sheep munching on green grass, and rows upon rows of quaint townhouses.

I had the opportunity of studying abroad in Winchester, England for a semester last fall. The train station was just a 10 minute walk from my dorm room. My friends and I would rely on the train for our daily outings. Surprisingly, one of the most antiquated forms of transportation can be the most enjoyable.

When you first step onto a train and see almost all of the seats taken, your first reaction is usually disappointment. In England, however, having to sit next to a stranger on the train isn’t the worst thing. It’s not unlikely that those around you will spark up a chat.

I’ve had conversations with people about whichever book I was reading, events in the news and even the Seattle Seahawks. I was wearing my Seahawks winter hat and to my surprise an Englishman had recognized the team and shouted “legion of boom!” from across the carriage. I was amazed that a football team that was 6,000 miles away had a fan in a small town in England.

Aside from the friendly interactions with other train riders, it’s what you get to see while riding on a train that is the best part. There’s no better way to truly see what England looks like. It’s amazing just how much natural land is preserved across the country. It was uncommon not to pass dozens of farms with grazing cows or sheep.

It’s also amazing at just how quickly you can get to a new place using the train. Although I never took advantage of this, Wales was only a four hour train ride from the town I was staying in. However, I still took dozens of day trips to nearby towns.

There was Brockenhurst, where cows and horses roamed free throughout the town. I’m serious, cars had to drive slow because there were often cows slowly making their way across the street. There was Southampton, the closest city to us, where the Titanic had made its last stop before making its way to New York. One of the most memorable trips was to the Jurassic Coast, which encompases 96 miles of the English coastline. The natural features of this piece of geological history were truly breathtaking.

All of these wonderful places were just a short train ride away. The entire country can be easily toured only using the train as a mode of transportation. If I am ever lucky enough to get to visit this wonderful country again, you can be sure I’ll be taking the train as often as I can.

USM’s Master Plan: Public forums seek input for the future of the Gorham and Portland campuses

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:10

Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer

Looking to the generations ahead, a Master Planning Steering Committee co-chaired by Provost Jeannine Uzzi and the USM Foundation’s Cyrus Hagge is formulating an overarching plan for what the university will become. The committee, comprised of faculty, staff, students, community members and professional consultants conducted interviews, surveyed current infrastructure and analyzed mountains of data to create a the ‘Master Plan.’ President Glenn Cummings stated on the USM website that “a successful master plan will not only help us improve the look and feel of our campuses and surrounding neighborhoods, it will also help to increase enrollment, strengthen our academic programs, raise aspiration, and contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of the university.”

Initiating and guiding this Master Plan are the nine goals President Cummings outlined at his inaugural breakfast speech on Aug. 27, 2015. While officials stress that the plan is in the planning stages, current models propose large-scale changes to both the Gorham and Portland campuses. The focus is to build a student-centered experience with green spaces, new academic buildings and facilities, a performing arts center and renovations to many existing structures.

Trevor Hustus, Chair of the Student Senate and a member of the steering committee, emphasized the process of analyzing current use of buildings on both campuses and how to more efficiently utilize the rooms and spaces already existing. Uzzi stated that only the facilities are in question and that the plan does not involve academic planning.

The plan is currently in the second of four phases. Phase one was ‘Analysis and Investigation’— information gathering and initial stakeholder engagement. Officials toured the three campuses and inspected all grounds and facilities. The Lewiston-Auburn campus was found to be in relatively good condition with its building not currently used to its fullest capacity. According to the USM website, “A decision was made to postpone action on the Lewiston campus pending a review of potential expansion of academic programs.” Therefore, the Master Plan will focus on the Gorham and Portland campuses.

Portland will see a majority of the changes. A new student center is proposed, as well as more student housing, which is a long time goal of the USM community and student body. Students and faculty can visit the Master Plan pages on the USM website to see all of the proposed changes in more detail.

When all construction is completed, the Portland campus will look more modern, eco-friendly and foster a sense of community that many, including Provost Uzzi, think are currently lacking.

“We are looking to give students more of an experience of campus life,” Uzzi stated. “The more ways we can entice students to stay on campus longer than just going to class and leaving, the better everyone’s lives will be.” This would help boost retention rates.

“We lose students,” Uzzi said, “they spend two years on the Gorham campus then want to move off campus in Portland, but to afford the costs they get a job, take fewer classes, and we end up losing them.”

On-campus housing in Portland is one way to keep students enrolled. Along with the student center, a large performing arts center will be built, relieving Talbot Hall in Luther Bonney of its role as main presentation and stage hall.

A major visual change on the Portland campus proposed is a green quad where the parking lot that borders Masterton Hall and Woodbury Campus Center currently lie. Parking would be shifted to the perimeter of campus, making the center of the campus a magnet for people and activity.

The USM Law School building will likely meet the wrecking ball. Recently ranked one of the ugliest academic buildings in the nation by Architectural Digest, the building may be replaced with a graduate center, possibly holding the conjoined Muskie School, MBA program and the Law School.

Despite the scale of action the master plan is leaning towards, officials insists tuition levels will not be affected.

“It hasn’t even crossed my mind,” said Robert Stein, Executive Director of Public Affairs. “Students are not going to foot the bill for this.” Funding will likely come from four sources: philanthropy, which the performing arts center will benefit from; state funding, in the form of bonds President Cummings is petitioning for at the state legislature; institutional monies, and public-private partnerships with local businesses in the greater Portland area.

Gorham has long been the residential center of USM, and that will not change with the Master Plan’s completion. Housing in Gorham needs renovation and some students will opt to live at the Portland campus, but the sense of connection between the shuttle-linked campuses will remain.

The Dickey-Woods dormitory in Gorham will not be renovated. Provost Uzzi stated that one possible version of the Master Plan did not even include the former freshmen dormitory, which is now shuttered due to asbestos. Whether it will be torn down or left to exist still remains unknown.

Over the next three weeks, committee members will be presenting the current details of the plan to the Faculty, Professional, Classified and Student Senates on campus. The upcoming public hearings will present different courses of action in as much detail that is currently available. Students can attend these events to share input to help shape the dynamic process.

Officials stressed the importance of student feedback in the Master Plan. Ultimately, it is for the benefit of the students, and therefore feedback and input is crucial.

“Tell us anything and everything,” said Hustus.

The first meeting is on Wednesday, March 28 at 6 p.m. on the seventh floor of Glickman Library on the Portland Campus. After that, a forum will be held in the Luther Bonney Talbot Lecture Hall on Thursday, March 29 at 12 p.m. The third event will be a public forum on Wednesday, April 4 in Bailey Hall Room 10 on the Gorham campus at 6:30 p.m.

After the public hearing forums, the students’ input will be considered by the steering committee and then a finalized plan will be created, to be submitted for approval to the university community and others in June.

Timelines on project completion remain uncertain. Immediate changes, short-term and long-term projects must be coordinated with funding, and construction must be planned around students to prevent noise disrupting classrooms or dormitories, before a set timeline can be made.

More information about the Master Plan can be found on the USM website, including a link to sign up for email notifications about of the forums.

Revisiting Retrenchment: Hardships of the past lay foundation for USM’s future

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:07

Sam Margolin, Staff Writer

From 2007 to the present, five different presidents with slightly different visions of what a successful university looks and acts like took the helm of USM. In 2014, under David T. Flanagan, the University of Maine Chancellor’s Office announced that due to a $16 million budget deficit, system-wide cutbacks would have to be implemented. This led to the reduction of USM faculty by 51 members as well as even more staff. Twenty-five of those faculty were given “enhanced retirement options” and the other 26 were retrenched, or laid off. This marked a low-point for USM, in student, faculty, and staff morale and relations.

The motivations and reasoning behind the cutbacks of 2014 were highly debated and protested by faculty and students. The system-wide financial crisis projected a fiscal shortfall of $69 million by 2019. In 2014, USM’s part of the deficit was 39 percent of the total shortfall of $36 million, according to Dan Demeritt, Executive Director of Public Relations for the University of Maine System (UMS). The process started with an announcement made to USM students by President Flanagan in October of 2014 that outlined the administration’s plan “to transform and strengthen USM.” The statement announced the elimination of just two programs and various layoffs and additional efficiencies and the notion that “all this could be accomplished with virtually no firings.”

Flanagan went on to highlight the other drastic options they could have taken such as raising tuition from $7,690 to $10,000 or closing one of the three campuses. These tactics, along with the extreme underestimation of departmental loss, marked the beginning of the friction between faculty and USM administration that would plague them both for the next two years. In spite of Flanagan’s predictions of minimal cuts, the reality of how much would have to be done, was much more substantial.

The five academic programs that were eliminated along with the 51 members of faculty were a master’s program in applied medical sciences, the undergraduate French program, the American and New England Studies graduate program, the Geosciences major and the Arts and Humanities major at Lewiston-Auburn Campus. Elimination of these programs marked a significant decrease in academic opportunity for USM students. Criminology and Sociology were cut from five faculty to three.  

The most frequently cited cause of the UMS financial trouble was falling enrollment numbers and no increase in tuition leading to lack of adequate funds operation costs. Flanagan stated that “USM could not continue to operate as a University serving only 6,040 students with an infrastructure, scope of curriculum, staff and faculty still sized for the zenith of an enrollment of 8,500.” The lack of enrollment numbers could be blamed on any number of different factors yet the investigations into which departments and what faculty to cut were limited and swift.

In response to the layoffs and retrenchments of 2014, the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine (AFUM) challenged the decisions of UMS by arguing that USM was in violation of the union contract. Additionally, an investigation by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was “charged with determining whether the program closures and retrenchments were justified and were executed in accordance with AAUP-supported principles and procedural standards.” The report found fault at USM’s hasty firings and concluded that the administration had acted in brazen disregard of AAUP’s major provisional guidelines such as the Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.  

“We will be proposing to eliminate some programs, transforming and improving some to match our vision of becoming a Metropolitan University and combining some with other programs to eliminate duplication. The decisions we have to make will not be easy—but they are absolutely necessary,” Speaking for the administration perspective, President Flanagan stated in a segment from a Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce event called Eggs and Issues.

The AAUP’s report was answered with a nine-page letter from President Flanagan discrediting some of the major points of the investigation. The argument that emerges is about the financial state of USM during and before the time of the layoffs. The faculty claim that the layoffs, which were attributed to financial exigency, were not demonstrated to be “bona fide.” The administration claims the financial trouble is real enough to warrant such measures, without seeking consent or advice from faculty. This fundamental premise on which the 2014 layoffs were built continues to be at the center of labor and student relations issues continued until 2016.

In 2016, an arbitration was conducted to investigate the alleged contract disputes that were put forth by AFUM. The arbitrator, Mark Irving, concluded that USM did follow the contract for 25 out of 26 faculty members laid off in 2014. According to a Portland Press Herald article by Noel K. Gallagher, Irving wrote in the detailed 56-page ruling that, “the overall conclusion is that USM and the system had good faith financial justification for the retrenchments that were announced in October 2014.”

This decision marked the final ruling on the difficult and painful chapter in USM’s history. The faculty and staff who remained at USM or were rehired were left with a feeling of discontentment and grief surrounding their administration’s ideologies. Paul Johnson, a USM professor of Sociology and is the Grievance Chair for AFUM since 2014, heard the brunt of the negativity and knows just how much damage was caused throughout the turmoil. Johnson outlined how this has put extra pressure on faculty who sometimes juggle 60-plus advisees, and full teaching loads along with additional requirements by the university.

“We as a faculty are concerned about the large advising load we have,” Johnson said. “I’ve got 60 students to advise. If you want us to do this advising and do it well, the advising takes time.”

Among the retrenched faculty was Julie Ziffer, a USM physics professor who believes the cutbacks were an “unconscionable and direct attack on students as well as faculty.”  Ziffer’s department was understaffed and were experiencing teaching and advising overloads.

“I was and am angry towards the decision makers at that time,” Ziffer said. “They acted on incomplete information and at the behest of political appointees.”

Ziffer adds that keeping a dialogue open is crucial to help foster better faculty relations. “The administration needs to have face-to-face interactions with faculty, students, and staff,” Ziffer said. “USM is an educational institution and we must have the resources necessary to provide a quality education.”

This idea of open communication and face-to-face interactions is at the heart of a new way of thinking at USM, which arguably began when Glenn Cummings was inducted as the new president in July of 2015. President Cummings is former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and and member of the USM faculty. Cummings started his new presidency with a $6 million deficit and a 13 percent drop in fall enrollment for the 2015 school year. With a university on the brink of collapse, and a staff and faculty still grieving from layoffs, arbitration and rehires, Cummings began to right the ship.

With a bold and meaningful statement about what he valued as a leader of an academic and community institution, one of President Cummings first acts was to reinstate former USM Classics professor, Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, to the position of Provost. The Provost of a university or college is a chief academic officer who handles budgetary and academic affairs. The Provost collaborates with the President as well as Deans, Faculty and Staff to set overall academic priorities. At schools struggling with labor relations and rapid employee turnover, the position for a Provost is significant.

What President Cummings was looking for was someone who was, first and foremost, an excellent teacher who loved her students. “She was a great advisor and a great teacher, and her students loved her back.” Cummings said. He pointed out the fact that she had two books published with Cambridge University Press and holds a Ph.D. in Classical Studies from Duke University, which also helped her gain credibility with the faculty. “For me, I look at the character of the person and if they take care of their students, where they graduated from and stuff like that are less important to me but the fact that she was credible with the faculty on that level was really good,” Cummings said. This philosophy of putting the student’s experience first instead of at the bottom line is at the heart of USM’s newly regained ideology.

“I also chose her because I wanted to make a statement to this USM community and to the state of Maine that of those 51 faculty that lost their jobs three years ago, many of them were excellent.” Cummings said. “They were some of the top-quality professors and educators at this university.” President Cummings wanted to show the community that he understood the hardships affecting faculty and students and wanted someone internally symbolic of this past struggle.  

By aligning himself on the same side of faculty instead of opposing them, Cummings opened up the lines of communication that were damaged from the rapid turnover of the past four USM presidents. Provost Jeannine Diddle Uzzi was terminated as part of the 2014 layoffs from her position in the Classics Department of USM. When President Cummings contacted Provost Uzzi about coming back, she had already been hired at another job and was reluctant, to say the least, about returning to the university that had hurt her.

“I had only met him once and we had never worked together,” Uzzi said of Cummings. “My name kept coming up as someone who was strong in teaching and strong in academic advising. I think he knew I would be compassionate.”

Uzzi was the perfect candidate for such a position due to her first-hand experience with budgetary hardships as well as the grieving faculty at USM. Provost Uzzi acknowledges that grief and mourning can be worse for those faculty that were hired back after the retrenchments. “Grief is cyclical and is still bubbling up in USM,” Uzzi said. The grief that remains can be put to good use to make sure the issues of the past don’t resurface. By using her past experience as a retrenched professor, Provost Uzzi has a unique and valuable perspective that others have to respect.

Provost Uzzi points out that when other faculty or staff are having trouble swallowing a budgetary decision, she has the ability to say no because she has seen what damage a fiscally irresponsible administration can cause. Even President Cummings has witnessed her strength of resolve. “There have been meetings where faculty want money for various positions and I have listened to her say, ‘we are not going to do that right now, we are going to be really careful because we have learned a tough lesson,’” Cummings said. According to Cummings, if the request for money and provision continues from faculty without resolve or rest, Provost Uzzi will say, “One of us at this table has lost their job because we didn’t carefully manage the budget. It was me. I’m not going to let anyone else have that experience.”

Along with a gift for empathetic fiscal discipline, Provost Uzzi is also focused on retention and degree completion. She knows that ethically, leaving students with a large amount of student debt without a degree is wrong and dangerous. Growing retention rates and improved faculty and administrative relations are positive developments, but USM is not out of the woods just yet.

“Until enrolment goes up significantly, the budget will remain conservative,” Uzzi said. “We have to be very careful with spending, but we can make small investments to fix departments.”

Provost Uzzi said that she and President Cummings are trying to add 10 to 12 new faculty to various departments each new year. Provost Uzzi highlights the importance of creating a list of priorities based on need. “When people leave or retire, the leftover money must be used to fill in the gaps with the greatest need.” This is a different strategy from former administrations who try to keep the most popular programs filled and attractive. Benefits from having former teachers becoming the administration help bridge the divide between the wants and needs of a university.

Some faculty praise this new academic ideology and want to see it continue.

“Since President Cummings and Provost Uzzi have taken office, I have no doubt that the success of USM is informed by all of us at USM and that the success of the institution is the driver of their decisions,” Ziffer said. “Even when I don’t agree with them, even when I think they might be making a mistake, I do not doubt their motivation. That is the medicine that they offer.”

“We now work with Glenn, we work with the Provost, we work with HR and we work with the Deans. We talk. We go to meetings,” Johnson said. “We file very few grievances now and most of them stem from the past.”

President Cummings and Provost Uzzi have turned USM around by returning to the roots of the university. Instead of trying to be the “metropolitan university” of the future, USM has shifted back to a community based, openly integrated resource, for both students, local organizations and businesses. The relationship with the community and students is now back at the heart of the faculty and administrative ambitions.

During a visit to President Cummings’s office in Portland this week, he identified three different needs that were strategically outlined by the student body that he uses as a guide for what his goals should be. He said that the students themselves provided the architecture to his academic strategy. The first of his three goals was to build a faculty at USM that knows, likes and cares about students and their professional and academic success. The second need is for more money. Students want more scholarship opportunities such as transfer scholarships and grants, as well as high school presidential scholarships for those with a 3.0 GPA or higher. The last thing is that students want to combine real world experience with excellence in the classroom.

“They didn’t want to just sit in classrooms, they wanted to have real world challenges and opportunities,” Cummings said, “Clinics, internships, co-ops and job shadowing that get our students the networking and the skills they need for their resumes.”

The improvements at USM since the 2014 retrenchments are calculable and apparent. New leadership’s emphasis on improving the inner working of USM’s communication and grievance channels, students have become the focus again. Students experience and success should be at the heart of any educator’s or administrator’s motivations no matter how off track an institution becomes financially. Since President Cummings’ inauguration, the $4 million deficit has improved to a $8 million reserve and has afforded USM some stability and security. USM has also seen its seventh straight semester of growth in enrollment numbers, according to Cummings.

“This means that high school students, transfer students, community college students are saying, ‘that’s the place to be.’” If USM continues to grow and become a more dynamic and interconnected, the future looks bright. Knowledge and understanding flow freely between administrators, faculty and students. Without the open communication, the desire to connect, care, and center the college experience around the students themselves, USM could lose all that it has gained back in the last three years.

The quest for consistency in online learning

Mon, 2018-02-26 23:34

Emily Adams, Contributor

The Center for Technology and Enhanced Learning (CTEL), located on the Portland campus, is working with faculty to further develop both online and blended (both online and in person), courses.

“[They] collaborate [by] providing course design support and training in commonly used course technologies,” said Paul Cochrane, the department head of CTEL.

On USM’s website, under CTEL, they have various resources available to professors and faculty such as grants, workshops offered and information about electronic resources for students. CTEL offers grants to support teaching and learning initiatives that will lead to higher quality learning experiences for the students at USM.

Professor Russell Kivatisky, the head of the Communications and Media Studies department (CMS), has stated that they are working closely with CTEL to make online learning easier to navigate and access for their majors. They are in the process of making the move out of the classroom and into the online format. As of right now, it is only the Communications major and not the Media Studies major that is moving online.

Their partnership is also allowing the incorporation of more core curriculum classes and majors into online programs. CTEL awarded the CMS department with the Sloan Foundation Grant. This grant, among others offered, can be used to learn more about the online community, the transition or even to fund the setup of a major online. As part of the grant’s guidelines, both individually and collectively, members of the CMS department attended multiple workshops and conferences. The conferences the CMS department took part of “had to do with course design and research related to online students” stated Kivatisky.

The Communications major is just the beginning of a new world of online learning. By offering grants and workshops, CTEL is encouraging professors and entire departments to consider online courses. Academic departments are working with CTEL to setup courses online, and are accepting grants to assist them with that. For example, Dr. Michael Stevenson, a faculty member in the Psychology department, accepted a grant from CTEL to purchase a new iPad.

“We were just kind of playing around with various kinds of video software. It was helpful to have the little grant to get me this piece of equipment that made it easier for me to do the work that I’m doing,” said Dr. Stevenson.

Dr. Stevenson currently teaches four online courses through USM and is actively involved in with the University College Faculty Institute, which which is hosting an event at the University of Maine at Augusta. According to the USM website, under the CTEL tab, the University College Faculty Institute “gives UMS faculty, academic staff and campuses a platform to share their ideas and advice about teaching with their colleagues. It is an opportunity to highlight your own successes and develop new strategies for dealing with educational challenges.”

According to Dr. Stevenson, the University College Faculty Institute entails a full day of workshops, and it has experts from all over the University of Maine system (UMS). He described the day as a time when UMS faculty are invited to propose workshops and different ideas. This year, Dr. Stevenson will be proposing set rubrics to help make the grading process of online courses more efficient.

Electronic resources, such as E-reserve can be found on the USM’s website under the library page, there are also direct links to it on CTEL’s page. E-reserve is utilized by faculty for courses that take place both online and in person. Dr. Stevenson stated that he utilizes E-reserve with his online psychology courses so students have access to a chapter of a book or an article needed for the course.

“I think they’re doing a great job, you know it would always be great to have more people for CTEL to work with faculty,” Dr. Stevenson stated. “I certainly have appreciated the support I have gotten from that office.”

Dr. Stevenson said that CTEL is doing an amazing job with the resources they have to help both faculty and students with course design and accessibility. Professor Kivatisky has utilized CTEL’s resources and has found the curve of achievement is the same for both in-class and online courses.

Many students have to work full-time and have limited availability during the week due to a job or other commitments. It is because of the everyday circumstances individuals face, that online courses and online majors are becoming increasingly more important and sought after. CTEL recognizes this, and works with faculty and professors to offer courses, majors and resources online.

The timely process of awarding tenure to faculty

Mon, 2018-02-26 23:32

Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer

Achieving tenure as a professor at any university is a huge academic achievement and requires a lot of time and work in service to their university and their academic portfolio.

At USM, applicants for tenure must fill out the personnel action form to be judged by the Board of Trustees and their academic department after they complete their sixth probationary year at the university, according to the official document, USM Criteria for Tenure and Ranks. After obtaining recommendations from peers in and out of their desired university, students, an individual from the university provost’s office, and the president of USM, they must provide a portfolio of their work to the Board of Trustees.

All that work is worth it for the benefits that tenure brings. Tenure is the award of a permanent post in a university, offering stability to the professor who achieves it. This opportunity is extremely hard to come by, though, according to Dr. Adam Tuchinsky, Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Regarding the rigor of the process that academics face entering the profession, Tuchinsky said, “Given the paucity of academic jobs, most reputable PhD programs are highly selective.  Only top students even apply for PhD programs and acceptance rates hover at around 15%. “

Completion rates for getting a PhD in humanities is low, and even those that complete their PhD, only 50 to 60 percent of academics land tenure track positions after their roughly eight year process of completing their PhD, according to Tuchinsky.

“All of which is to say that faculty undergo a roughly fourteen-year apprenticeship before reaching the “promised land” of tenure,” Tuchinsky said.

Drawn to USM for a variety of reasons, academics must make a decision regarding which university’s personality matches their own. The mission of USM, the diversity of the study body, the location and the programs that have faculty with national and international reputations make USM an attractive university.  For Jamie Picardy, an assistant professor on the tenure track at the new Food Studies Program, USM seemed to be the right fit for her.

“Our study body is one that I can relate to personally, with a similar working class to middle class background,” Picardy said. “Being someone in my family, the first female to go on to a higher education, I identify with many of the students here. I contribute to the metro-Portland economy… The third reason is the strong support and excitement over the development of a food studies program. I find there’s a wonderful creative energy here at the institution as well as in the greater Portland area to support the launch of this great idea, and I want to be part of this energy.”

Once an academic is hired on tenure track, they must demonstrate in their six years of probation that they are worthy of the award. Each department has their own set of criteria for evaluating academics for tenure and promotion to be submitted to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. According to the University of Southern Maine Criteria for Tenure and Ranks document, the faculty members of USM are evaluated for tenure on the basis of their teaching contribution, first and foremost, their creative scholarly achievement, and their service to both the university and local community. Service could include participating and leading professional associations, consulting, working in community projects, overseeing department interns, or developing curriculum.

While tenure provides stability for professors at universities across the nation, USM holds professors accountable with peer evaluations every four years.

“Tenure does not mean the end of accountability,” Tuchinsky said.

According to Tuchinsky, tenured faculty are reviewed by academic administration and their peer units, reviewing both their work as scholars and teachers. These reviews also include student evaluations, which faculty and administration take seriously.

Tuchinsky said, “At USM, we are particularly concerned that faculty live up to our service promise: that students feel that faculty and staff treat them respectfully, compassionately, and equitably.”

Tuchinsky notes that while accountability under tenure is a priority, tenure gives faculty the freedom to “investigate unpopular ideas” and “gives faculty an investment in the university, encouraging a long-term stake in the institution.”

For Picardy entering a new program at USM, she feels feels that she is making an impact in the university community.

“My initial mark has been the actual development and implementation of some of the curriculum,” Picardy said, “as well as building a network of community partners… or actually taking the needs of our community partners and taking it to the classroom to create community engaged projects that, in the end, we’ll have a product that our stakeholders can use. I think that’s the value I add to this program.”

USM has a broad range of tenured professors with a focus in attaining younger academics. Tuchinsky argues this is more affordable as tenured professors rarely change institutions.

“Salaries for professors remains somewhat low compared to other learned professions because universities don’t have to compete for mid-career professors,” Tuchinsky said.

Tenure therefore benefits students with experienced and creative professors, the tenured professors, and the university they work for.

Bringing the conversation of sexual assault to USM

Mon, 2018-02-26 23:29

Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

In response to the #metoo movement and the Women’s March, the discussion about sexual assault has been trending across the nation, including right at USM. It has been close to five months since the #metoo movement went viral on social media, empowering victims to share their stories of sexual abuse and harassment, and over a year since the Women’s March began as a protest against the inauguration of President Trump and his treatment of women, yet the impacts continue.

The Portland chapter of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) hosted an event on Wednesday, Feb. 21 to discuss the #metoo movement and the fight against sexism. It was held in Payson Smith on the Portland campus. ISO wanted to address big questions, such as how to build these movements and how create a campus community that encourages students to speak up about sexual assault.

“As an organization that has feminism at its center, we see the #metoo momement as an amazing step forward towards building a movement that’s able to tackle the root causes of gendered oppression,” said Fern Thurston, an ISO member.

Thurston added that the recent news about a sexual assault lawsuit against USM brought forth the idea to have a discussion. David Roussel, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, emailed the student body about this news story in early February. The Portland Press Herald reported on the matter on Jan. 31 stating that the lawsuit was filed by a former student, who claimed she was sexually assaulted two separate times on campus in Gorham back in 2012. The assaults were reported to campus police, but the student alleges that the school did not investigate to the extent required by law.

“When we heard about the lawsuit being brought against USM by a survivor of multiple assaults on its campus,we knew we had to open up the conversation about assault at USM,” Thurston said.

The central focus around ISO’s event was to encourage discussion and provide a safe space to speak about sexual assault. Kara Kralik, an ISO member, began the discussion by explaining the background of the #metoo movement and women’s marches. After that it was open to those in attendance to join in on the conversation.

“We believe that if students come together to discuss their lived experiences, and discuss the systems in place that disempowers survivors, that we can eventually band together and change the system in our favor,” Thurston said.

The event drew an audience that was approximately half male. Caitrin Smith-Monahan, the chair of the ISO, found that the equality of genders in attendance showed a widespread support for the movement in discussion.

“This is awesome that we have a room full of men who want to talk about fighting back against sexual assault,” Smith-Monahan said.

The discussion also allowed women who are survivors of sexual assault to share their personal stories in a supportive environment.

“I’ve had to say #metoo and I want to live in a world where my daughters don’t have to,” stated Smith-Monahan.

The conversation about sexual assault will continue at USM with an event hosted by Huskies for Reproductive Health called The Fight Against Campus Sexual Assault on March 20. The group is working with USM’s Queer Straight Alliance and USM Socialists to create a discussion based event about the #metoo movement and campus sexual assault. It will be held in the Woodbury Campus Center Amphitheatre at 7 p.m.

The event will feature a panel of student leaders to conduct a discussion around topics such as the #metoo movement, what USM can do to help its students, trans/queer violence, the culture of rape on college campuses and what students can do to change it.

ISO will be hosting another upcoming event, featuring a speaker who worked on the Carry That Weight campaign from Columbia University. Carry That Weight began as an art performance by Emma Sulkowicz, who carried the mattress that she was allegedly raped on wherever she went on campus. Students eventually began to help Sulkowicz carry the mattress, symbolically showing their support. A member of the ISO who worked on that campaign with Sulkowicz will be sharing her experiences at the event, of which the date has yet to be set.

Letter from the editor: gun regulations need to change

Mon, 2018-02-26 23:21

Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

In the wake of the school shooting at the high school in Parkland, FL, where 17 people were killed, it makes me reflect on the current situation regarding gun control in our country. It saddens me to say that I’m not surprised when I hear news of another school shooting. This news still makes me upset and I grieve for those involved, but we live in a nation where school shootings are unfortunately commonplace.

The news and reactions that follow these incidents are almost always the same, people play the blame game. Parents and the student survivors call for more control on guns, government officials blame it on the mental state of the perpetrator, but in all it continues to happen because nothing changes.

Following this specific incident, news travelled around that there have already been 18 school shootings in the U.S. in 2018. However, USA Today found this statistic to be false. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, was responsible for initially spreading this. However, if you look closer into what this group labels as a school shooting, they include any incident where a gun was discharged on school grounds. This includes incidences where students weren’t necessarily present at the time of a shooting.

Some examples that Everytown for Gun Safety included in their statistic are: in Denison, TX a student took a firearm from a police officer, mistaking it for a practice weapon, and shot the wall and no one was harmed. In Maplewood, MN, a third grader pulled the trigger on a police officer’s gun while he was sitting on a bench, no one was harmed. USA Today found that eight of the 18 cases reported included ones where no one was harmed. Two of the 18 cases were suicides.

While it’s safe to say that school shootings are still extremely common in the U.S., the actuality of those numbers are inflated. However, this doesn’t affect the need for a change in the nation to prevent these. Now for the big question, how can school shootings be prevented?

While I was at Gorham High School, they implemented the use of student ID cards to get into the school. Every outside door to the school was locked, and students could only get into the front entrance doors with their ID cards. This prevented anyone getting into the school that was not a student or staff member. Those who were visiting could speak with the secretary at the front door over the speaker phone to be allowed in.

While this change created somewhat of an inconvenience for students, it was a small price to pay for their ultimate safety from those who did not belong at the school. I believe USM could benefit from this change, since essentially anyone can walk into the main buildings on campus.

The answer to the question of prevention is not simple. It would take the effort of an entire country to combat this problem. I believe the main efforts need to go into gun control.

It was a topic of discussion in my senior capstone class recently, about what the regulations surrounding gun control should be. Both sides of the argument were identified. On one hand, people want easy access to firearms for their own safety or for leisure reasons, such as hunting. On the other hand, people argue that it’s too easy for people to get a hold of a gun, allowing firearms to be possessed by the wrong people.

Here’s what currently stands for federal regulations about gun control. At 18 years of age a person can purchase shotguns, rifles and ammunition. At 21 years of age a person can purchase other firearms, such as handguns. Those who are unable to purchase firearms include fugitives, those deemed a danger to society, those with prior felony convictions, those found guilty of unlawfully possessing substances within the past year, those with restraining orders, dishonorably discharged military personnel, unauthorized migrants and tourists, among others.

The background check that is required to purchase a firearm takes approximately 10 minutes. This checks prior convictions or red flags. Only a dozen states in the U.S. require permits to purchase handguns, and only three of those requires permits to purchase a rifle or shotgun. California requires applicants to pass a written test and enroll in a gun safety class to obtain a permit.

Already I can pick out areas in which this country can improve on gun control. Ten minutes to do a background check on an individual is not nearly long enough to deem them worthy to purchase a gun. It should not be a quick process to obtain a firearm. I support California’s requirements. The mere process alone may deter people from obtaining a firearm.

Where these regulations become tricky is when guns are purchased through an individual, online, at a flea market or a gun show. These people are not required to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), according to The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Department of Justice. These requirements only count for those who are conducting the sale as a part of their business.

Amazingly this is how a person can obtain a firearm without technically breaking the law. Children under 18 may also possess guns if they were given to them by a parent or guardian. This is the real place where gun control needs to improve. While I’m not against a person owning firearms, and I support the right to have one for safety reasons, they should not be an easy thing to obtain.

Firearms should only be sold through sellers who have an FFL license, even if they are just trying to sell a firearm to a friend. Firearms should not be an easy online purchase, there should be a complicated series of steps, background checks, gun safety classes, and screenings in order to purchase one. Only after these improvements can be made can our country move a step forward towards being a safer place to live.

Food insecurity problem seen across entire state

Mon, 2018-02-12 23:05

Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer


Maine’s food insecurity situation has gotten worse in the past three years. The number of food insecure Mainers has decreased from 2014 to 2015, but Maine’s ranking nationwide has moved up to 7th in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Maine ranks #7 in the nation and #1 in New England for food insecurity, according to the USDA. They estimate that 16.4 percent of households or more than 200,000 people in a state of 1.33 million people. Additionally, one in every five children are food insecure, making Maine #16 in the nation and #1 in New England for child food insecurity, according to Feeding America.

The USDA defines food insecurity as not having access to enough food to ensure adequate nutrition. They reported in September 2016 that 42 million Americans are food insecure.

“The USDA defines food insecurity as limited or uncertain access to adequate food — a situation that will often result in hunger,” Matthew Hoffman said, a food studies minor at USM. “Hunger is a physical condition, food insecurity is a social and economic condition.  A person on the street with no money who has just found or been given a sandwich might not be hungry at the moment, but they are still ‘food insecure,’ since they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

The reasons for food insecurity are hard to pin down. Explanations for food insecurity don’t shed light on the truth of people’s experiences. They can stem from rates of food, divorce, crime and more, following certain patterns that vary over time and place.

“It is very common in the U.S. of course to look for reasons to blame people for whatever happens to them,” Hoffman said, “which is easy to do since most people’s fates are in some way connected to their actions, choices, or dispositions — however similar these may be to those of other people with completely different fates.”

Even so, Hoffman attributed two of the most influential reasons for food insecurity to low wages and state-created barriers to participation in federally-funded assistance programs. Hoffman noted that one third of Maine’s workforce cannot support themselves with their wage. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, 37 percent of Maine’s food insecure population does not qualify for public assistance. Instead, they must rely on charity supplied food.

Food insecurity does not just affect families, children and elderly people, but peers at USM and college students across the nation as well.

Matthew Walsh of the Portland Press Herald wrote, “Feeding America found that 49.3 percent of the college students it serves reported having to choose between food and educational expenses such as books, tuition and housing.”

At colleges in Maine, such as USM and University of Maine Orono, credit unions are there to assist students. In the community, the Good Shepherd Food Bank does a lot to help people in need. For every dollar donated, they distribute four meals to hungry people in Maine. The bank relies on the help from over 200 food donors like supermarkets and wholesalers. They provide to more than 178,000 Mainers each year. In 2015, they distributed 23 million pounds of food to local agencies in all 16 counties in Maine, according to the bank’s website.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank has teamed up with fellow local organization Preble Street to provide immediate relief through programs, research and advocacy.

“Their joint report, Hunger Pains, which came out last Feb., provides an excellent overview of the scope and causes of food insecurity in Maine,” Hoffman said. “Both of these organizations are collaborating with the Food Studies Program at USM to host a food policy forum on March 30, as well as gubernatorial candidate debates in April.”

The food policy forum is still in the planning stages, according to Hoffman. The forum will take place in Portland at Glickman’s University Events Room (UER) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Additionally, the Hunger Pains report can be found on the Great Shepherd Food Bank website.

To help the food insecurity situation in Maine, people can donate money, food or time to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Preble Street and local soup kitchens, food pantries, neighborhood centers and homeless shelters. Freshman core classes volunteered at the Salvation Army with Wayside Food in Portland, and served meals to food insecure individuals. Any students can volunteer here as well, as they serve two meals a deal, almost every day.

Letter from the editor: New changes and new challenges

Mon, 2018-02-12 21:08

Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief


My first letter from the editor, a piece of writing that symbolizes a big change in my role at The Free Press, as I take on the challenge of becoming editor-in-chief.

For the past two years that I have worked at The Free Press, I always had in the back of my mind that I might someday become editor. Although it never occured to me that this opportunity would come so soon. I’ve had a great mentor, Sarah, who has passed on all of her wisdom from her time as editor. I’ve also got a great staff to work with, who I know will all help ease the pressure of this transition for me.

I first started as a news writer during my second semester of my freshman year here at USM. I will always remember my first assignment, to cover an event on the Gorham campus, where a group of “sexperts” were hosting a panel to have an uncensored discussion on sex related matters. The news editor at the time, who has since moved on from The Free Press, informed me that going into what could be considered an uncomfortable situation is a great way to start my time at the newspaper. Considering I’m still working at The Free Press today, he must’ve been right.

Since then I’ve had the opportunity to cover major issues affecting students and staff at USM as well as our community. I’ve covered Trump’s election, Molly Ringwald stopping in Gorham to promote Hillary Clinton, a Bernie Sanders rally, as well as stories regarding the Student Senate, protests against campus speakers and the strive for more gender neutral bathrooms at USM.

That’s one of the things I love the most about this job, every week it’s a new assignment. Every week you have the chance to learn something new. Every week you have the opportunity to challenge yourself.

This position is a turning point in my career path to become a journalist. I dream of one day working for a national publication such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, or even Time magazine.

When I was younger, I was an avid viewer of Gilmore Girls, a drama and comedy sitcom centered around the eccentric relationship between a mother and her daughter. For those of you who are familiar with the show, you know that Rory Gilmore, the daughter, shared a similar passion of mine, she wanted to be a journalist. In fact, it was Rory who inspired me to begin writing.

That was close to seven years ago, in my first year of high school, when I thought to myself, “maybe someday I can be like Rory Gilmore.” I was 14 years old then, and to this day that idea still stands with me. I may not want to be exactly like Rory, but as far as her success in journalism, I hope I can live up to that.

And now here I am, editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, just as Rory was for the Yale Daily News. I may not have the eccentric mother-daughter relationship that Rory and Lorelai share, but I’ve got that one thing in common with her.

I have big dreams for The Free Press and I hope that during my time as editor I can work to improve and continue the success of the paper. It’s not going to be an easy task and it’s going to take lots of time and devotion, but I am prepared for that.

For those of you who are avid readers, you can follow me on my journey as I work to navigate the intricate process of producing a weekly college newspaper. You’ll see my highs and lows, and I’m expecting there to be plenty of low moments.

I may have high expectations for this paper, but I’m not expecting myself to be perfect. I know there will be moments when I will make mistakes, but there will also be times when I can be proud of the content of our paper.

This position comes with a responsibility and commitment that is new to me. I fully expect the next year and a half left that I have at USM to be the most challenging of my time here. But if I wasn’t in a position where I am challenging myself, I wouldn’t be working to get any better.

A wise television mother once said, “you have so many years of screw ups ahead of you,” and that woman is Lorelai Gilmore. These are words of wisdom that I live by.

This is coming from a woman who said, “I need coffee in an IV,” which are also words of wisdom that I live by.

History of mandatory student activity fees

Mon, 2018-02-12 21:04

Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer


Student Activity Fees

$110. That is how much a full-time USM student pays each year to support the student activity fee.

Over a century ago, students at universities and colleges across the U.S. self imposed student activity fees in order to fund extracurricular activities and additional services. In the beginning, the additional services included having electricity and hot water in dormitory buildings. At the origination of the concept of these fees, they were collected and distributed by students.

The first time that mass controversy arose about student activity fees was during the 1960s when the argument was made that political action and advocacy groups could be given preference based on their ideological affiliation. On one hand, students argued that this increased the quality of student life because campus groups were able to increase their presence and action items with monetary backing. On the other hand, it was argued that students funneling money into the activity fee pool were essentially supporting causes they did not believe in.

Once the lid was removed on funding being split among all groups on campuses and the controversial effects that funding all politically motivated clubs had on students, it has been difficult to contain the issue. Numerous legal actions were filed following the politicization of student activity fee funds. In 1985 students at Rutgers University sued the university for the right not to pay student activity fees that would fund groups they did not believe in. The courts ruled in favor of the students. Following the major Galda v. Rutgers suit, the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) was sued by students, who made the same arguments as the students at Rutgers, eight years prior. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of UCB continuing to impose mandatory student activity fees but also found that it was an infringement on students’ rights to allow their money to go to groups they ideologically disagreed with.

Through the courts rulings, the precedent has been set that viewpoint neutrality will influence student activity fee dissemination. However, this principle only applies to public universities and colleges because they are government entities. Private colleges and universities are not held by the same rules and have more authority on how mandatory fees are collected and distributed. In turn, students have less autonomy on governing their own fees at private institutions.

In the case of Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, the Supreme Court found that students using referendum voting to decide how public universities distribute funding to campus groups to be unconstitutional. According to the conclusion delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in March 2000, the “First Amendment permits a public university to charge its students an activity fee used to fund a program to facilitate extracurricular student speech if the program is viewpoint neutral.” However, the conclusion also included that public universities may not favor certain groups over others based on their viewpoints.

The management of student activity fees across throughout the U.S. varies, depending on the type of institution. Private universities have become accustomed to having official administration offices for the university govern student activity funds. Applications for funds processes are often filtered through campus activity offices and student affairs departments. At private institutions, administrative governance of student activity fees leaves more autonomy for the university to redirect funds to support projects that benefit the administration’s goals and plans, rather than support student groups and the best interests of students.

A majority of public universities distribute their student activity fees through student run governance. Student government associations and student led boards often respond to requests and determine the dispersion of the fees. Most do not set the percentage of the fee charged to students and that is left to the discretion of the student activities office.

At the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) a commission of students and faculty members converse each fall to discuss and recommend fees to the university Chancellor. After ample opportunity for public input on the fees, the Chancellor then turns to the UNCG Board of Trustees and UNC Board of Governors to determine exactly what will be charged to the students.

Having students govern the student activity fee is common for public universities. By having the system set up in this way, students are given full autonomy to self distribute the funds to campus groups and projects, thus entrusting that a fee collected for the students is truly going towards student based projects.

Arguments have been made that should a student body lose control of their student activity fee funds, the administration at the university level would have the power to limit the accessibility for groups to obtain funds based on ideology. A major concern is generated from student run media organizations. Should a college newspaper report unfavorably, yet truthfully, on university administration, an institution controlling funding could re-assign monies to other groups.  

Generational Differences in Student Reporting

Mon, 2018-02-12 21:01

Sam Margolin, Staff Writer


“In the English language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty -six letters form the foundation of a free, informed society.”- John Grogan

USM’s student newspaper, The Free Press, has been a definitive source for news and commentary throughout the history of the school and beyond. USM itself has only been in existence for about 40 years or so. To trace the lineage of The Free Press, one must look farther back than that.

USM’s story begins with the Gorham Academy which opened in 1803 as a prep school for boys. This was the first established secondary education institution still connected to the University of Maine system. The first noted periodical from the school system is an edition of The Oracle, released on January 26, 1931 provided by USM’s Archives, Special Collections. The issue describes the early stages of USM’s formation by highlighting the beginnings of the merger between the Gorham Normal School and University of Maine Portland. The main headline reads, “Gorham Normal School Attends Teachers Convention in Portland.”

From the 1930s to present day the newspaper has undergone many changes both on the surface and behind the scenes. The name of the newspaper itself has changed from “The Oracle” in the 1930’s to such names as “The Stein” from 1967-1968, “The Viking” from 1969-1970, and “The Observer”, with variations of them all leading up to 1972, when the name the “University Free Press” was first introduced.

Since 1972, the name of the paper has stayed relatively the same, but the characteristics of the stories and the overall tone and mood of the paper has shifted over the generations.   

Al Daimon was a ‘72 USM graduate and political columnist who wrote under the pseudonym “Baggy Tweeds.” Daimon remembers his time with the paper fondly but recalls some of the differences between generations.

Daimon was a fan of rock writing such as Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy, that were popular in the ‘60s and wanted to focus his writing around music as well. The Free Press was much more willing to publish quirky, offbeat writing.

“The Stein was willing to publish just about anything, so that worked out to our mutual satisfaction. For the readers, maybe not so much,” said Daimon.

The changes that have been implemented since Daimon’s time have helped the paper become more credible and professional, but to some this strategy made the writing process less entertaining.

“The Free Press was an attempt to professionalize what had been an extremely amateur effort. To that end, the powers-that-be made a concerted effort to eliminate all the fun,” Daimon said.

In the ‘80s the paper was still representative of a more laid back approach to writing than that of its current image. Jim McCarthy, a USM graduate from 1982 with a degree in English is the current digital editor at Mainebiz. He was a writer for the Free Press from 1979 to 1982. McCarthy joined the Free Press in order to rejoin the college life after he dropped out of Cleveland State University six years prior.

“I was 25 and had a vague notion that somehow writing and/or photography would be my ticket to doing what I loved and also make a living,” said McCarthy.

The paper was more of a unsupervised student organization than it is today. The extreme media scrutiny that our modern digital age provides, makes writing without regard hard to do.

“The best part of working at The Free Press, then and I imagine now, was the fun of being part of a rag-tag team putting out something, week in and week out, with very little guidance or supervision from faculty or professional journalists,” said McCarthy.

By the ‘90s the paper had progressed to the quality of work it has today. Troy R. Bennett, a USM graduate and multimedia producer for the Bangor Daily News, says that he would not be where he is today without the help of The Free Press.

“I went to college to become an English teacher. But I ended up working at The Free Press and falling in love with newspapers. Since there was no journalism program, I got all the experience and professional contacts that I needed through The Free Press,” said Bennett.

One of the largest benefits of working for The Free Press to students is the ability to fail or succeed as much or as little as you want to. The amount of effort put in is directly related to the amount of satisfaction the audience gets out.

“Everything I learned there still helps: how to work as a team, ethics, precision, news judgement,” said Bennett. “It was wonderful. We were free to triumph or fail on our own.”

Some of the current staff and faculty include Dennis Gilbert of the Communications and Media Studies Department, and Lucille Siegler, the business manager and administrator for the paper. Siegler, who joined the paper in 2004, says the paper provided her with respite from other jobs such as working for crematoriums and cemeteries. She remembers the days when the merger between campuses was still fresh and new. A slogan was chanted at sporting events and student gatherings that represents the blossoming partnership between Gorham and Portland campuses. A combination of the towns themselves that now hosts the University of Southern Maine: Go! Po! Go!

New Board Policy stirs up debate among faculty

Mon, 2018-02-12 20:59

Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief


The UMS Board of Trustees (BoT) has been in the works on a new policy, “Institutional authority on political matters.” The proposal was first introduced five months ago, but on Friday, Feb. 2, the USM Faculty Senate had a chance to weigh in on their opinions.

This proposal, Board Policy 214, addresses the exact guidelines for UMS faculty to follow if they plan on engaging in political activity. This includes restrictions such as, no UMS employee may engage in political activity on their work time or use university resources, and they are also not allowed to use university classes to endorse or oppose specific political candidates. However, the policy states that, “This provision will not be construed to restrict legitimate exercises of academic freedom, pursued for legitimate curricular or pedagogical purposes.”

The policy also outlines what issues that the UMS Chancellor and System University Presidents may publicly speak about, using a stoplight diagram. This states that university officials have the authority to speak about issues on behalf of their institution if that issue involves topics such as, academic administration, curriculum, health and safety of students and employees and issues critical to the wellbeing of the institution. Those topics would be considered to be in the green category of the diagram.

In the yellow category it lists topics that are indirectly related to the university, that should be reviewed before discussed, such as climate change and labor standards. Then the red zone lists issues that are not related to the institution, ones that should be strayed away from in discussion, such as abortion policy or tax reform.

At the Faculty Senate meeting, James Thelen, the Chief of Staff and General Council to the UMS system, was in attendance to address comments and concerns from faculty members. At the time of this meeting, revisions had been made to Board Policy 214, after faculty from different UMS campuses had given negative feedback.

Thelen stated that Board Policy 214 had its foundation in Board Policy 212, which address free speech, academic freedom and civility. The free speech policy had been recently revised in March of last year, its first revision since 1974.

In the free inquiry and academic freedom section of Board Policy 212, it states that, “system faculty and staff have the right to comment as employees on matters related to their professional duties, and the functioning of the University. System employees have a responsibility and an obligation to indicate when expressing personal opinions that they are not institutional representatives unless specifically authorized as such.”

These policy changes initially came up after President Trump’s election in 2016. Days after the election the BoT met at the University of Maine in Machias, when a student representative on the board spoke up about the need to take a public stand about civility and political power.

With the new policy, Thelen stated that it was intended to be viewed through the lens of what the rights of free speech are. However, by not actively stating the free speech rights in the policy, they saw backlash from faculty.

“By not directly calling out that we were intentionally trying to address free speech in our first draft, we caused a lot of consternation, and frankly we deserved it,” Thelen said. “Faculty members still have all of the rights that exist in policy 212.” The revised version of the policy includes a paragraph that states that the policy is intended to be read, interpreted and administered in conjunction with Board Policy 212.

During the meeting with the Faculty Senate, Thelen mentioned that the policy was following IRS guidelines about a tax exempt institution and what political activities they can engage in. He also stated that the BoT got feedback from faculty that work on public policy matters, as well as other lawyers.

When it came time for faculty to share their input, Susan Feiner, President of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine (AFUM), spoke up about her concerns.

“This is a policy that is overreached,” Feiner said. “You are trying to craft language that represents us in something we don’t do.” Feiner stated that free speech becomes a contract issue once a policy is explicit on the prohibition to represent the university.

The question arose of what faculty’s rights are in regard to speaking publicly about the university.

“I frequently represent myself as someone against the university,” Feiner added.

Wendy Chapkis, a professor of Women and Gender Studies and Sociology, stated that the policy should be reworked to only address system presidents and the chancellor, not the faculty members, to which several faculty members applauded.

The only official statement before this policy, regarding political activity guidelines for UMS faculty, was written in an administrative practice letter. The statement, which was only one sentence long, only included that faculty couldn’t use university funds for political purposes.

“What we’ve put here is what the law of the land is and the BoT wants to represent that,” Thelen stated.

In response to this, a faculty member in attendance questioned that if the faculty were already governed by federal law, then why wouldn’t that statement be sufficient.

It was also brought up during the meeting that one of the current BoT members is running for governor in the upcoming election. Shawn Moody, the owner of Moody’s Collision Centers and a Gorham resident, has served on the BoT since 2014. He is running as a Republican candidate for governor in Nov. However, his appointment on the BoT is set to expire in May of this year.

Thelen stated that the BoT has reviewed that there is no conflict, and that UMS is not officially endorsing him.

The BoT had met the previous Monday to discuss the revisions to Board Policy 214. USM President Glenn Cummings stated that the feedback that they had gotten from those changes was very positive.

“They did a better job of protecting and drawing a clear bright line between your absolute rights as a citizen to weigh in on whatever you want, as long as you’re not acting in some way that could confused with your position,” Cummings stated.

However, the feedback from the USM Faculty Senate only brought up concerns and criticism regarding the policy, despite the revised changes.

A big concern among faculty is how this policy will affect discussion in the classroom.

“Faculty should have the freedom to explore topics that may be sensitive, controversial, or political, all in the pursuit of understanding, reaching a truth and developing critical thinking skills,” said Daniel Panici, a professor of Communications and Media Studies.

Panici also stated that he thinks the policy undermines students’ ability to critically think and engage in dialogue, and that this policy would only disrupt discussion.

“Almost every issue we deal with in media and communications is political,” Panici said. “It’s going to be messy to have to have a talk with students every time about where my opinions are coming from.”

Cummings touched on this concern for faculty, “if a professor reveals their political predisposition… they are not in danger as long as they are not trying to specifically use a platform to then influence students in that direction.” However, Cummings added that they would have to clearly state, ‘this is what I believe,’ when discussing political matters.

Despite his concerns, Panici stated that he believes this policy is more aimed at university presidents and chancellors, because they are the ones that are engaged in both the educational and political arena, an argument that multiple faculty brought up during the meeting.

To end the Faculty Senate discussion, which had to be cut short due to time constraints, Thelen stated that the BoT will consider whether or not there is a way to remove faculty from the proposal.

A week of crimes on the Portland campus

Mon, 2018-02-12 20:56

Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief


Over the past week a series of crimes have been reported across the USM Portland campus, from Woodbury Campus Center to the Science Building.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Feb. 7, Raymondo Rezendes, 48, of Portland, broke into the Woodbury Campus Center. At 4:30 in the morning, both USM police and the Portland Police Department responded to the call of a reported burglary.

Robert Saindon, Interim Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, stated that Rezendes was found inside Woodbury Campus Center. They found damage to one of the entrance doors to the building, as well as the inside doors to the bookstore.

Rezendes was promptly arrested on the charge of Burglary, Criminal Mischief and Criminal Threatening. He was taken to the Cumberland County Jail in Portland.

Rezendes was a former USM student who was going for a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. It is unknown whether Rezendes finished his degree.

This incident is one of three recent arrests for Rezendes. Last year he was arrested on Dec. 21 on Forest Ave by Officer Matthew Rider, on a charge of criminal mischief. A month earlier he was arrested on Nov. 25, also on Forest Ave by Officer Blake Cunningham, due to an outstanding warrant from another agency.

No known address was given for Rezendes, however his most recent Facebook posts suggest that he was staying at the YMCA in Portland, as he addressed the center directly.

“Living in the YMCA is a constant barrage of sounds and motions that control my thoughts and actions,” Rezendes stated in a Facebook status made on Dec. 6 of last year. The Portland branch of YMCA is also located on Forest Ave, where his arrests had taken place.

This string of crimes on the Portland campus began two days before the break-in, an incident had also occurred in the office for the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity (CSGD). Students in the CSGD reported that on the evening of Monday, Feb. 5, an older gentleman was taking down posters and flyers and harassing students.

The disruption prompted Fatuma Awale, a student who was working in the CSGD at the time, to call campus security. After they had arrived the man was escorted from Woodbury, only to return two times again that night, being escorted away each time.

Early Tuesday morning the same man had returned and sprayed shaving cream in multiple offices in Woodbury, including the CSGD, the Well and the Multicultural Center, as well as took down more posters.

To add to the string of crimes committed in Woodbury, on the evening of Feb. 8, as assault occurred at the Science Building. USM Police reported that an African-American male approached a female in a hallway on the first floor of the building. He introduced himself to her as “James.”

The man attempted to give her a hug twice, while also asking for her number and to go on a date. The woman tried to avoid hugging him by shaking his hand, but he forcibly hugged her and pressed his pelvic area against her.

She was able to push him away and was escorted by a friend to the USM Public Safety office on the Portland campus. The victim did not sustain any injuries.

Chief Saindon alerted the USM community about this assault through an email titled “timely warning.”

The suspect was described as an African-American male in his early 20s, approximately six feet tall and slender. He was wearing a tan hoodie and a snapback hat, as well as dark sweatpants. They reported that he spoke with a heavy accent.

USM Police are still looking for the suspect and urge anyone with information to contact them at 207-780-5211. In light of these recent events, Saindon also included a list of safety tips for USM students to follow, suggesting that students are accompanied by a friend at night and to use the police escort service if they feel unsafe.

USM students have been kept up to date of these recents crimes with notices from both Chief Saindon and the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, David Roussel over email.

In his email about the break-in at Woodbury, Roussel stated, “Our intent is not to upset community members but rather to provide timely information regarding incidents on our campuses.”

Letter from the Editor: Goodbye, Free Press

Wed, 2018-02-07 12:29

Sarah Tewksbury, Editor-in-chief

With this letter, I write my last piece for the Free Press as the editor. At this point in time, I have decided that this is the perfect moment for me to take my leave as the leader of the paper. When I was elected to the position in April, I was an enthusiastic student journalist who thought that I had arrived. The whole world was at my fingertips and I had earned the power and respect to run the paper how I saw fit, make as many changes as were necessary for the good of the paper, and to learn how to lead my peers through a rapid weekly schedule. When I was selected for the job, my predecessor gave me an award that stated I was the staff member who was “most likely to get s*** done and not care what anyone thought.” That was who I was, but it is not who I am today.

When I truly made the decision to take my leave as the editor, a great wave of relief washed over me. Since September, I have poured my entire being into the Free Press. The paper was a distraction and a coping mechanism for me. After a life altering experience during the second week of classes in the fall, I fell into a deep and ultimately therapeutic routine each week at the paper.

However, that event in the fall changed me. Though my face may look the same and I power walk around campus in the same skirt from when I was elected editor, my mind and soul have been changed. I am wiser and more free now, which, it turns out, is both dangerous and thrilling for me and the people in my life. In September, I was assaulted. I’ve written about it before, in a letter I published in October. There is no flowery way to put how I was impacted by the trauma other than, for a little while, I was fallen.

I was not defeated. Today I stand tall, with my head high and chin up. I am changed now. I am not the woman who was elected editor. I am stronger now. Though my own mental capacity extends only so far, I would not be writing this letter, on my way out as editor, without the extreme help and support from my staff and family at the Free Press.

Lucille, the woman who asked me whose ass to kick when she saw the bruise on my face, has never faltered from my side. Courage, determination, bravery, kindness and love have all poured out from this genuine angel. Without Lucille, I would not be where I am right now.

Johnna, the silliest managing editor the Free Press has ever seen, reminded me to laugh, to do it hard and sometimes fall on the floor because of it.

River reminded me what standing beside someone meant and always being there to listen, laugh and enjoy life with when necessary.

Dionne encouraged growth and understanding, humor and care. The resiliency of a friend that can instantaneously charm a smile onto my face.

Mary Ellen, the bright light in all of the darkness, showed me that when someone is down, the most simple act can bring that person back to earth and keep them pushing forward another day.

Lauren, the ridiculous and clever photography director, never failed to show me resilient compassion and generosity.

Orkhan, the most talented creative mind I believe I will ever meet, never failed to share sarcasm and a receptive attitude.

Maverick, the benevolent and compassionate hockey player turned staff writer, did not falter one single time when I needed someone to remind me I was not alone. How many times he said “it is okay not to be okay,” I cannot even count, but it kept me moving forward.

Dennis, the brilliant, astute and wise faculty advisor, trusted in my process and did not shelter me from the work and challenge that being the editor held. A true mentor and friend, he exemplified all the good that there is to strive for in life. USM does not know the shining gem they have in Dennis, hidden among stagnant rocks in the faculty.

These people did for me what I have tried over and over to do for them. Their actions rippled back to me and reminded me of my worth. My time as editor of the Free Press will never be marked by the quality of the paper. Anyone who knows me well knows I place little value on much in life besides human connection. What good is a life, what good is my life, without being able to share it with others? Though I deeply enjoyed the work I did with the paper, what I valued and appreciate the most is the people.

I spent the entire duration of my time as editor of this paper, barely getting through my days. All the energy I had was spent on the product of a weekly paper and the people who were putting it out. The Free Press saved me and in order to save the Free Press, I am leaving now. The woman elected editor last spring is not who is walking out of the house at 92 Bedford Street today. So picture me now my dear Free Press staff, looking at you the way Patrick Swayze looks Jennifer Grey at the end of Dirty Dancing when he mouths, “And I owe it all to you.”

I owe it all to you.


USM encourages all ages to continue their education

Wed, 2018-02-07 12:18

Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer

Nontraditional students, specifically those over 40 years old, are a prominent feature of USM’s student body. Reports from Registration and Scheduling Services show that nearly 17 percent of degree seekers are ages 35 and older, while undergraduate students between ages 18 and 24 comprise only just over half of the student body.

After years or decades away from education spent following myriad different paths of life, nontraditional students eventually return to fulfill a goal or pursue a dream.

Timothy Aliviado, a sophomore education major, says that, for him, going back to school was a chance to do something he found truly meaningful. The 44 year old left the banking industry after moving from San Francisco with his husband, and is working towards becoming an elementary school teacher.

“My motivation is advocating for people who don’t have anything and if I could impact even one or two of those kids, that would make the world for me,” Aliviado explained.

Upon arriving to Maine, Aliviado was offered a job at Morgan Stanley but turned it down. He recalls, “I didn’t want to look back at my life twenty years from now and think ‘I should have taken advantage of the opportunity to get this degree.’”

Joe Harvey, 44, is a sophomore student in the cyber security program. He decided to go back to school later in his life to change careers without having to start over at an entry level position and work his way up the ladder. Harvey works maintaining the Time and Temperature building on Congress Street in downtown Portland, but found throughout his life, any job he applied for required a bachelor’s degree, regardless of his extensive resume of experience.

“Without a college degree I wouldn’t get through the door at other places,” Harvey said.         

A trait all of these students share is perseverance. For Ted Ingraham, a 33 year old theater major, that meant taking classes part-time while caring for his ailing father. After graduating high school in northern Virginia, he enrolled at a local community college and tried film studies, then video game design, theatre, English and finally marketing.

Ingraham’s father passed away the same day he received his acceptance letter from USM, which he was unsure he would get into due to his learning difficulties. It marked a new chapter for him, to earn a degree both for himself and his father’s memory.

“I’ve been held back a lot,” Ingraham says, “Now it’s time to do what I wanted to do.” Living in Upperclass Hall, he feels he has found a home. “USM is the closest thing to family I’ve had outside my family.”

Many nontraditional students always planned on going to college, but the timing was wrong before now.

Wesley Wiggins, from Saco, Maine, but originally Jamaica, says college is a, “lot more expensive there and no financial aid.” At 51, the junior social and behavioral sciences (SBS) major is looking to advance his career and focus on the public health aspect of the field. Wiggins says of his educational goals, “college would have happened whether in Jamaica or the US.”

As for their experiences in the classroom, most view their years generally as a positive asset—though they often get mistaken for the faculty. He recalled walking into algebra class one semester, a student behind him asked, “are you the professor?”

Life experiences, such as formal employment and time in the military, makes up for what these students may ostensibly lack in familiarity with the course material. Harvey says that preoccupation with social status, friends and parties doesn’t slow him down anymore. He thinks that students like himself have their concerns more in perspective now: “Life, death, happiness, health, and family stuff—what you don’t get paid for is what you appreciate.”        

Loretta Powers started her path to USM to become an educational tech, but instead became “inspired to write a book by a creative writing course I took at USM” While keeping her age anonymous, Powers described herself as a senior citizen. “I’m a senior, but not that kind,” Powers said.

Any Maine resident age 65 or older can go to USM tuition free, Powers stated. She plans on using her education to publish the book she wrote because of that first course.

Older students bring to the classroom a sense of purpose, direction and wisdom of a lifetime of survived trials and tribulations. They enjoy sharing their experiences with younger students, and learn from them as well.

Aliviado reflected on insight one professor gave to him during a group project, “when you were 18, would you have approached something like this the way you do now?”

Since USM is a school that attracts a large population of commuter students, that opens the possibility for older, non-traditional students to continue their education as well. These students represent the sort of character that USM prides itself on attracting: focused, driven, and empathetic students intent on making their mark on the world.

Biden stops in Maine, encourages cultural change

Wed, 2018-02-07 12:12

Julie Pike, News Editor

While making no indications of future plans to run for president in 2020, Biden joined in a discussion with former Sen. George Mitchell centered around his new memoir, “Promise Me Dad, A Year of Hope Hardship and Purpose.”

The former vice president made a stop at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on his American Promise tour. On his tour Biden was promoting his recent book, which chronicles his experience as his son Beau, who served as the Attorney General in Delaware, as his lost his battle to brain cancer.

The discussion between the two followed a question and answer format. Mitchell inquired about a variety of topics with Biden, including his family life, his time in the U.S. government and his plans for the future. Biden was introduced by a short video montage, chronicling his life from childhood years to his time as vice president. The video ended with a focus on Beau’s life and tragic death.

Biden addressed his motivation for writing his memoir, which he finished within a year.

“I wanted people… to know what a remarkable man Beau Biden was,” Biden said. “I didn’t want it to be about grief.”

In the 36 years Biden served on the Senate, as well as the two terms as vice president under Barack Obama, he faced multiple instances of death in the family. In his first years in the Senate his first wife Neilia and daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident.

While Biden touched on topics of his past life, he also addressed the crowd about current issues. Biden was in the midst of telling a story of his mother, who he claims instilled the values he follows to this day, when the topic was steered to the situation of women in the U.S. by Mitchell.

Biden has been an active participant in working to end violence against women, he started the Biden Foundation with his family to work towards just that. In 1990, when Biden was serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he drafted the Violence Against Women Act. The act passed in 1994 and allowed for more funding in local communities to address domestic and sexual violence and to raise awareness of the problem.

“There is this underlying sexism that is a cultural problem… but we are in the midst of a cultural change.” Biden then addressed men on college campuses, encouraging them to speak up if they see anyone abusing women.

During the 90 minute discussion Biden and Mitchell addressed both difficult issues as well as lighthearted stories. Biden spoke about his relationship with Obama as well as what compelled him to run as vice president. He joked about the widespread popularity their relationship had spurred on the internet.

“All of those memes are true,” Biden said. “He made the first friendship bracelet though, not me.”

Initially Biden turned down the opportunity to run as vice president with Obama, but Obama wouldn’t take no for an answer. He encouraged Biden to talk it over with his family, who were all in favor of Biden running. In the end it was Biden’s mother who convinced him to do it. Even after their two terms together, Biden stated that their two families remain close and that Obama will always be one of his closest friends.

“When Beau was dying, I couldn’t tell anyone else but Barack,” Biden said. “There has never been a president and vice president closer.”

To end the discussion Mitchell asked Biden about his plans for the future. Biden and his family are devoting their time to their multiple foundations, including the Biden Foundation and the Biden Cancer Initiative, which works to progress cancer research, prevention and care.

To conclude the event Biden addressed the crowd, “I believe you are going to see a big change in the next election.” A woman in the crowd answered him by yelling, “run Joey, run!”

Maine Senator has key role in ending shutdown

Wed, 2018-02-07 12:08

Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer

Senator Susan Collins and the Common Sense Coalition played a vital role in ending the three day government shutdown by the use of a talking stick. The group proposed a compromise that allowed the Senate to pass a short-term funding bill to reopen the government, according to an official statement released by Collins. The compromise did not address the fate of the young undocumented immigrants covered by Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) or border security. Instead, the Senate has until Feb. 8 to work for a resolution.

In 2013, Collins formed the bipartisan group called the Common Sense Coalition to put an end to government shutdowns or to hasten their resolutions.

“Each of my colleagues was committed to getting a resolution,” Collins said. “ Everyone agrees that shutdowns are a terrible failure of government, they represent, in my mind, the ultimate failure to govern.”

What started with 17 senators during the 2013 government shutdown grew to 26 senators this year. Senator Collins and her colleagues wanted to make the shutdown as short as possible, so she retrieved the stick that was kept in her drawer given to her by Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

“From the beginning,” Collins said, “I knew that it was very difficult to control the debate when there were that many people in the room. So I talked to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and I told him I was going to bring out what was called a Masai Talking Stick, which originated from the nomadic tribe in Kenya and in the Sudan. It is used to control the debate by passing the stick from person to person and only that person who has the stick is allowed to speak…  to prevent side conversations and cross jatter.”

Regarding the success of the talking stick, Collins said, “It really is most important as a reminder that people should listen to one another… this simple stick turns out to be powerful in getting people to actually listen to one another.”

Talking sticks are not commonly present in political meetings, but Collins sees a future in the talking stick for future compromises.

“It helped lighten the mood,” Collins said, “but in a more serious way, it actually works to help me keep the debate free and open so everybody had a chance to speak and be listened to.”

Collins said that her office was considered “Switzerland” because it was the “one place that was neutral where Democrats, Independents, and Angus King could come together and discuss issues.”

The Common Sense Coalition compromise of a short-term funding bill was supported, according to the New York Times. Eighty-one senators voted to end the shutdown and postpone an agreed resolution for Feb. 8, while the other 18, two Republicans and the rest Democrats, voted against the measure.

In a released statement, Collins said, “what we shared in common was the determination to reopen government and convince our leaders that there is a path forward that will accommodate those of us who are concerned about the fate of the ‘Dreamers’ who live in this country, many of whom have known no other country as their home.”

According to Mark Niquette, author of “Common-Sense Senators to Reunite Over Dreams, Border,” President Trump’s plan is to offer deportation protections and a path to citizenship for many people under DACA as a trade for $25 billion for the construction of the U.S. and Mexico border wall for border and port security.

Niquette notes that Collins agrees with Trump on security, but she doesn’t agree with a physical wall. She is more focused on a path for citizenship for the ‘dreamers’ and the continuation of the communication and production of the government.

“We met for about an hour and a half in my office and each of us was determined to find a way out of the impasse,” Collins said. “Then night came and the government shut down with truly devastating effects.”

According to Collins, the shutdown jeopardizes 9 million children covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and did nothing to help the ‘Dreamers,’ the young undocumented immigrants. It put nearly 22,000 people in need or at risk of having their healthcare disrupted. It negatively affected the government’s budget through reduced revenues, and 50 percent of civilian workers and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers would be furloughed. People who were applying for social security disability that are applying for benefits would not have their applications processed.

The three day government shutdown was stressful for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, but Collins created a space that forced the politicians to listen to one another and come to a compromise. Although the talking stick led to a successful discussion, it was at one point thrown across the room when a politician spoke out of turn, breaking one of Collins’ artifacts on her shelf, according to CNN.

Collins said, “I’m delighted that our group was able to come up with a compromise that ultimately was accepted by most of the Republicans and the Democratic leaders of the senate and that government was promptly reopened.”

Student Senate reconvenes for a fresh start

Wed, 2018-02-07 12:06

Sam Margolin, Staff Writer

On Friday, Feb. 2, USM’s 46 Student Senate met to discuss various financial and organizational issues as well as to try to regain strength after losing five members over the break. The loss included Senate Chairperson, Muna Adan, as well as Kyle Brundidge, Josh Blake, Aaron Pierce, and Zach Tidd. The Senate was left with only six members with Trevor Hustus replacing Adan as Senate Chair.

The meeting began with the discussion of how the recruitment of new Senators was imperative to securing a diverse and equitable Senate. The desperate lack of new members lead the Senate to cut back their meetings from weekly to monthly and have seen little improvement from the tactic.

Organization of the existing members had to be changed in order to fill in the higher ranks of the Senate. This restructuring helps free up the lower level positions in order to begin the process of interviewing, choosing and filling each of the empty slots. The Senate named Shaman Kirkland as the new Vice Chair, Christopher Wagner as the new Clerk of the Senate and Anthony Emerson as the new Student Affairs Chair.

After internal restructuring was complete the Senate then interviewed James Phillips, a freshman and Political Science Major, for a new Senator position. When asked why he wanted to join the Senate, Phillips said, “becoming a Senator could help me get more involved.” The Senate noted that his lack of experience and circle of influence wasn’t ideal but that freshman hold a key role in letting the Senate know the needs of new students. After deliberation, Phillips was accepted into the Student Senate.

Afterwards the Senate dealt with financial requests and issues. The first was the approval of  $440 to the Circle K Organization for four students to attend a district convention conference taking place in Portsmouth, NH. Circle K is trying to find new service projects and needs the conference to explore new options. The motion was passed unanimously.

The approval for $5000 to go to the Student Performing Artists (SPA) was before the Senate next after it had already passed through the Board of Student Organization (BSO). USM’s policy states that any amount of $5000 or more needs to be approved by both the Senate and the BSO. The money will provide over 20 theater students travel and attendance to a weekend long auditioning workshop. An experience the representative for the SPA says that they can’t find at USM. The motion was passed but brought up another more major issue.

The duties of the BSO is similar to the Student Senate in that student organizations request funds for trips, events, equipment and other expenses through them. The problem is the BSO runs out of funds almost every year. The BSO is requesting a loan of $15,716.86 from the Student Senate while they wait on a check from another source, since the BSO’s balance are already in the negatives. The funds will go directly to the 170 plus students that are working on various projects that have been approved by the BSO. The consensus of the Senate was that the BSO is doing a great job and the negative account balance in no way reflects poor leadership or execution of their power. The fact is that the BSO raises a lot of money for different organizations and their job is to give it away.

Next was the approval of new and returning student organizations and their constitutions. Reinstatements of the Student Nurses Association’s Constitution as well as approval for the USM Navigators Constitution and the Foodies for Social Justice Constitution were all approved.

The representative from Foodies for Social Justice was Mary Moran, a graduate student at USM. Moran outlined that the organization was only six to twelve members but had been only meeting since Sept. of last year.

When asked what the organization’s goals were Moran said, “we would like to engage in events like those held by Universities Fighting World Hunger and different policy forums about food studies.” The organization consists mostly of Food Studies students, a new minor program started last Fall offered to undergraduates.

The Senate then asked if there were any other senatorial candidates that would like to be interviewed and considered for the various open positions. Four additional students volunteered to be interviewed.

The first was Mellisa Shepherd, a freshman psychology major. Shepherd was interviewed for the secretary position. Vice Chair Kirkland asked about her prior experience in student government if any. Shepherd said, “I have always been involved in student community, I am a member of the Circle K student group, the Maine Eco Reps and was a member of student council in my high school.

Zach Marseglia was next, a first-year Pre-law political science major. When asked about his government experience Marseglia noted that he was his high school’s student class president in his senior year.

“I liked it in my high school and would love to continue the experience here in college,” Marseglia said. The Senate pointed out that the position itself would not get you involved with the student body and that a real effort must be made at a personal level to widen one’s circle of influence.

Next was Katelyn Rice, a photographer with the Free Press and a commuter student. Rice outlined that Portland campus lacks adequate health services and the Senate itself lacks a female voice. The Senate agreed that a female presence was necessary in order to maintain a diverse group of ideologies and perspectives.

The final candidate was Derick Klecman, a member of the Gorham Campus Activity Board. Klecman highlighted that he has had a chance to see the Senate work for the last few years and thinks he could improve its interorganizational communication. The Senate brought up the issue that Klecman might be spread a little to thin with all his involvement with other student organization.

The meeting ended with a discussion around the new contract with METRO transportation services USM entered into, to begin in the Fall semester of the 2018-2019 administrative year. The importance of the new contract was outlined. The new contract with METRO provides cheaper, more spacious, and newer buses, and unlike the old Custom Coach buses, the new service will run seven days a week and with an extended range to towns such as Brunswick.

The issues of lateness and seat availability will be eliminated and METRO will provide free services to students, faculty and staff to all its locations with a UMS identification card. The Student Senate enthusiastically supports the partnership and approved the resolution.

The next Student Senate meeting will be held on Feb. 23, in 166 Upton Hastings in Gorham at 1 p.m.

A short-lived government shutdown halts progress

Sun, 2018-01-28 18:51

Maverick Lynes, Staff Writer

The streets of Washington D.C. were quiet the morning of Saturday, Jan. 20 as the U.S. government entered it’s first shutdown in five years. This shutdown was minuscule lasting only three days, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 22, compared to the most recent government shutdown, which lasted for 17 days in Oct. of 2013

The shutdown stemmed from the Senate not being able to get the majority vote in on passing a budget regarding various legislations before the midnight deadline on Jan. 19. Congress also could not figure out a compromise towards the issues on the table in time and therefore missed the deadline to pass the legislation.  

Among the various bills that could not be agreed upon before the deadline, was the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. DACA is the program that protects undocumented immigrants that were brought to America as children. The Democrats are adamant on keeping DACA in place, while the Trump administration wants to end the program. If Trump were to have his immigration plan passed the way it is currently written, the DACA program will be abolished in February of 2018.

Essentially, a government shutdown is when congress does not agree upon a federal budget for the upcoming year. This affects all nonessential functions of the U.S. government until a budget can be approved. Some nonessential departments are education, environment protection agencies, health and human services and various other federal agencies. There are federal programs that are deemed essential that continue to run despite a government shutdown. Some essential departments are law enforcement, military and border patrols.

On Jan. 22, the Senate approved of a compromise that will expire at midnight on Feb. 8. The bill was signed by Trump and passed through the House of Representatives. Both Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement for the compromise. In order to get the Democrats’ votes, the Republicans agreed to be more open to conversation regarding DACA.

A disagreement came when it was proposed that more funding should be put towards the Mexico-U.S. border wall, a focal point in Trump’s presidential campaign.

The shutdown came when the Senate was unable to overturn the filibuster held by the Democrats. Then the shutdown ended because the Democrats agreed to put an end to the filibuster.

A common misconception may be that when the government shuts down, that means all federal duties are on hold. Although, that is not true. Only the operations that are deemed nonessential are shutdown. Jobs that are considered essential continue to operate.

On Twitter, Trump stated that a government shutdown would be “devastating for our military,” Even though the military is considered an essential operation. However, there is a bill from the 2013 shutdown that would have to be re-approved in order for military personnel to continue to receive their paychecks.

For the U.S government and its people, this shutdown did not last long. If it had continued longer than two weeks it could have had a very serious impact on the economic growth of the country.

The government shutdown in 2013, under the Obama administration, had a significant impact on the economy. During this time it was reported from the Obama Administration that the U.S. economic growth slowed by 0.6 percent. It also caused 120,000 jobs to be lost. A total of 850,000 federal employees were furloughed each day, which means they do not go into work and are docked pay.

While some may question the necessity of the shutdown, Trump is considering the short lived shutdown a win for the Republicans. The President is  insisting that the Democrats caved and lost on their gamble of not wavering on the effects of DACA.

On the other hand, there are many immigrants right’s activists who are disappointed with the short shutdown. Activists are saying that the Democrats gave in and did not fight hard enough for DACA.

With there being so few federal institutions and employees in the Maine area, it is likely that a majority of Maine residents did not even notice the government shutdown.

USM was ensured via email from Bob Stein, Executive Director of Public Affairs and Marketing, that despite the possibility of a government shutdown, the university will be operating regardless.

John Waghorn, a senior finance major at USM said that he didn’t notice the shutdown. He added that he believes the shutdown was unnecessary, saying, “I believe they should be more focused on what is better for the people, not what is better for their specific party.”