USM Free Press News Feed
Activist Ruchira Gupta visited USM last week to speak on her experiences fighting to abolish sex trafficking. She started her career as a journalist and won an Emmy for her documentary The Selling of Innocents which explores the plight of young girls in India being taken from their homes and sold into prostitution to work in brothels.
“We urgently need a new law on trafficking, one which is not based on old British colonial laws,” said Gupta.
The laws created by Parliament such as the Contagious Disease Act are designed to provide disease free women to soldiers fighting in the British army.
Gupta believes that change needs to be made across the globe and not just within a certain country. Part of the problem is that with the advancement of technology, traffickers have become much more skilled at what they do, using websites to lure and auction off women.
There seems to be a trend on the class and gender of people that traffickers prey upon. In almost all cases it is generally women living in developing countries like India and poor, younger girls that were sought after by traffickers. The same holds true in the United States, where most of the women trafficked are poor minorities.
Traffickers would also try to make going to work in a brothel sound appealing by telling these young girls that they would get to go live in a big city and make some money for themselves.
Gupta recounted that the youngest girl she had met that was trafficked was only seven years old. The average ages of victims are between 13 and 15 in the United States and nine and 13 in India.
“The traffickers simply met whatever the demands were by these clients,” said Gupta. “They would actually find these girls and bring them to the brothel.”
Gupta believes that in order for there to be change, the laws have to be targeted towards the traffickers and to punish the clients, because a lot of the time the victim has no choice. She also believes that things need to be done so that the buyer has less power and less choices when he decides to go to the brothel.
In countries such as Norway and Sweden purchasing sex is illegal, not the selling of sex. This means that if a trafficker was to be caught or a brothel was searched, the women would not be punished for what they were being forced to do.
“Those governments understood and recognized that prostitution was an outcome of gender inequality, so the women should not be punished,” said Gupta.
Those laws have put the blame on the traffickers, resulting in a decrease in trafficking for those countries. Now many other countries are also starting to adopt a similar model when they craft laws against trafficking.
There has been some success in trying to bring change. Recently, new laws have been passed against trafficking through lobbying and putting pressure on government.
“It has created a new paradigm with how we deal with trafficking,” said Gupta. “We have shifted the blame from the victim to the perpetrator.”
Prostitution will still occur, Gupta said, as long as there is a buyer. Gupta believes that there needs to be partnerships between governments so that policies and laws can be passed to make a difference and to try and protect women against trafficking.
The University of Maine System board of trustees has voted once again to freeze in-state tuition for the fourth year in a row leaving students, faculty and staff wondering what this means for the future of USM.
According to Dan Demeritt, the UMaine system director of public affairs, students can expect Maine’s college tuition to be one of the most affordable in New England.
“It’s critical that the government is making an investment and that the board of trustees is using that to keep tuition flat so it doesn’t get harder for families to finance a college degree,” said Demeritt. “The hope is that as a public institution, it reduces financial barriers for students as well as potential students and reduces indebtedness once students graduate.”
Although other public institutions across the country have increased their tuition by 17 percent over the past four years, Demeritt explained that college competition is higher than ever and believes low tuition is an enticing factor for potential students.
“We’re seeing that the amount of high school students graduating has diminished by almost 20 percent over the past few years,” said Demeritt. “It’s a combination of that and competition between other universities – our customer pool has shrunk and we have more competition.”
Chris Quint, USM’s public affairs director, believes that affordability is a major problem across the country, similarly saying that this issue can be linked to the low high school graduate demographics and the competition between universities.
“We have to do everything we can to be affordable and accessible,” said Quint. “The action the board of trustees took was a positive one in that direction.”
By giving students the confidence that their tuition bill will not increase, Quint said that in-state students can be expected to spend only $8,000 for the school year and out of state students with room and board costs can expect to spend about $20,000.
“We’re one of the better deals in the northeast here at USM,” explained Quint. “Portland is one of the most desirable cities in the northeast and we’re right in the heart of it. We have everything we need to be successful here, we just have to sell it to students.”
Junior finance major Amelia Worthing said that with all the faculty cuts that USM has seen over the past year, the tuition freeze will hopefully bring more students into the university and allow for our budget goals to be met so that more cuts can be avoided.
“The only reason that it’s hard to afford college is because we’re young and we don’t really know how to manage our money yet,” said Worthing. “I bet a lot of us would actually be able to afford our tuition a lot easier if we could manage our money more effectively.”
Worthing also believes that this scenario can also be applied to the university, saying that if USM could properly manage funds then perhaps they wouldn’t need to make the cuts.
To combat USM’s recent fiscal issues and bring more students through the door, Quint said that not only do they have to modernize recruitment strategies but they also want to improve how they market and talk about the university.
“It really comes down to recruiting more students,” said Quint. “We’re hoping that by being a metropolitan university, we will open up enticing opportunities for current and prospective students not only in the classroom but in the community.”
With the arrival of USM’s new president Dr. Harvey Kesselman, Quint also explained that the future of USM is in good hands because he has raised a university from the ashes of financial debt once before.
“When he started as Executive President at Stockton University, they were very much in the same situation as we are,” said Quint. “Along with their faculty and administration, Kesselman was able to turn it around to the point now where they are thriving. I know he can do that for USM.”
Demeritt said that as each university takes the proper action to combat financial issues and the University of Maine System promises to provide Maine’s strongest commitments to affordability. The individuals who voted for the tuition freeze recognize that.
“It really is all about the students,” said Demeritt. “We want to be an option for everyone and that’s why its so important to keep the tuition down.”
There was an event scheduled last Friday for students to meet and learn more about their peers running positions within student government, but no one attended, not even the candidates.
After an email was sent to the USM Events listings confirming the event on Tuesday, it was rescheduled for Monday, but no official notice of the change was posted on university or student government websites or social media accounts.
In an email on Friday evening, student senate vice chair Tom Bahun told the Free Press that an email was supposed to have been sent out by either Dean of Students Joy Pufhal or student life director Jason Saucier.
“The elections committee and the student body president asked to consolidate the Friday event with the Monday event to make a stronger one,” said Saucier in an email on Friday evening. “Unfortunately we did not get a correction out on the e-mail list.”
Within an hour after the event was sent to begin, not a single student wandered into the area where the event was supposed to take place. USM tech support employees had set-up equipment in preparation for the event, but packed up after an hour when no one arrived. They had not been notified of a cancellation.
Senate Chair Judson Cease and Parliamentarian Joshua Tharpe did not respond to emails asking for information sent Friday evening.
Nominations Closed, polls open
This year’s presidential race is between four candidates, including current members of the student government.
Rebecca Tanous, current student body vice president and senior chemistry and education major, is running with junior chemistry major Matthew Creisher.
“I truly believe that this position is where I can best serve the students,” wrote Tanous in her election bio. “Having been a member of the Student Government Association for two full years, I feel confident in my knowledge of how the SGA functions and am passionate on utilizing it to better aid the students.”
The pair list improving USM’s marketing efforts, improving connections between students, faculty and administrators and student organization groups as key issues they hope to focus on.
“Being a transfer student, I have a vested interest in how this University represents itself to those that are potentially interested in enrolling,” wrote Creisher. “As vice president I would be able to work closely with students and faculty members in order to bring about changes to the schools advertising system; in order to showcase a more welcoming and inviting front to those looking into the school.”
Senator John Jackson, a political science and business management major, is running for president with economics major Mackenzie McHatton as his vice president. Information on the candidates’ academic standing was not provided.
“As a Student Senator here at USM this past year, especially during the rollercoaster of an academic year we’ve had, I have not only established relationships with the people that are in the most influential of positions around the University thus allowing me to get tasks done, but I have also have first-hand experience with the requirements and commitments of the position of Student Body President,” wrote Jackson. “I believe that Mackenzie and I are the individuals that can help bring and be able to ensure that the voice of the student body is heard among the faculty, administration and the board of trustees on any subject that the student body wants its opinions voiced.”
Jackson noted that student involvement in university governance, parking problems on campus, university marketing and pushing the metropolitan university model as issues he would tackle.
The final runners for the president’s office are sophomore political science and criminology major Paul McGuire and junior leadership and organizational studies major Camden Ege.
“We are passionate about USM and it’s future,” reads their election bio page. “We recognize that this is an important time in shaping the University and we want the opportunity to do that responsibly.”
Their goals include improving communication across the board at USM and helping students better represent themselves in the surrounding community.
Junior psychology and criminology major Derrick Kennedy is running solo.
“ I want to be Student Body President because I have a voice,” wrote Kennedy,” and I, like many of the students of USM, recognize what the issues are, and believe that I have a powerful enough voice to be heard and to make a difference in bringing about a much needed change.”
Kennedy lists improving student resources on the path to graduation as his one presidential goal. His hobbies include hiking, mountain biking and weight lifting, according to his profile.
Only 13 candidates for the student senate are on the ballot and the senate has 21 seats to fill. It looks like the race for those positions will be completely uncontested this year.
This year’s referendum questions look for student input on adjusting the hours of the Gorham café and Woodbury café to better accommodate late classes, athletics. Another topic up for debate is expanding the Saturday mall bus run to also include stopping at places like Walmart and Target and increasing the frequency of the late-night bus to the Old Port.
The SGA has scheduled a ‘meet the candidates’ event for Monday at 1 p.m. in the Woodbury Campus Center. There will be a debate between the candidates for student body president.
Polls open at 1:30 p.m. and student can vote online through the SGA page on USM’s website.
During a press conference earlier today, USM’s administration excitedly announced that Dr. Harvey Kesselman will be the university’s next president, beginning July 1.
Kesselman expressed deep admiration for The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, his alma mater school and where he’s finishing up his final months as Provost and Executive Vice President, however he is enthusiastic to lead USM and has about 8 years of commitment in him.
“This is my home now,” said Kesselman. “I made a commitment here and this is the place I belong now.”
Kesselman’s plan is to ensure that USM doesn’t shrink under the potential pressure of budget problems as it did last year. He hopes to continue the focus that current situation president David Flanagan initiated: get more students in the door and find a way to keep them here.
“If we could retain even 400 more students, the fiscal problems diminish,” said Kesselman. “What we need to do as a community is to see what stops students from staying at USM. If we’re all working toward that goal I am convinced that the problems will take care of themselves.”
Kesselman believes the university is far too great of an institution to have a retention rate of 65 percent. Finding a solution to this issue will involve starting conversations with faculty, staff and students.
“I am going to spend a lot of time to meet every employee at the institution and immediately have relationships with the faculty senate,” said Kesselman. “I want their voice, it’s critical.”
Kesselman is optimistic that USM’s financial future is on a positive path because of the talents of people that he said are doing everything they can to ensure USM’s physical vitality.
“I’m comfortable in the matter in which we are moving forward will be one of the ways USM ensures long term vitality,” said Kesselman. “Fiscal decisions are critical to the success of any institution.”
Kesselman believes that there are a variety of factors that go into making USM a successful metropolitan university. From the friendly and respectful students, beautiful locations and qualified faculty, he has high hopes that the school will outlast not only his presidency but many more after that. Kesselman also placed faith in the school’s metropolitan vision.
Kesselman said that when metropolitan universities begin, they are often aren’t well received. However, he also said that out of this tension will eventually come progress.
“Had the model not been here, I would not have applied,” said Kesselman. “I thought it was very attractive that USM was going in that direction.”
Kesselman wants to help USM get classified as one of the top community engagement universities in the U.S. by earning the Carnegie Distinction by 2019. The Carnegie Distinction is a prestige given to about 300 schools who are committed to making a local impact and social embeddedness.
“It will open up avenues for USM and make your degree more valuable,” said Kesselman. “We are trying to put theory into practice and that is what I plan to implement. We want engaged students and engaged faculty here at the university.”
University of Maine system chancellor James Page endorsed Kesselman as USM’s next president and said that he’s someone who knows the opportunities and pitfalls of higher education. Kesselman’s priorities around students, enrollment and growing the metropolitan concept played a large part in how they evaluated his candidacy.
“The metropolitan university is going to evolve in many ways that we don’t even see today as it unfolds and develops over the years,” said Page. “It will give the university strength and vision to move along and. Kesselman’s enthusiasm for the university and the state of Maine is high.”
President David Flanagan laid out what his three focuses will be during his final months in office at Friday’s faculty senate meeting: recruitment, retention and transition.
Flanagan said that recruiting new students has been an arduous task for those involved and that while marketing and advertising efforts are likely to help enrollment, faculty need to keep recruitment and retention on their minds as well.
“Trying to attract new students is very important work,” said Flanagan. “Important not only to the people of Maine and this university’s students, but to you [the faculty] as well. If we fall behind, we already know that you are not isolated from the consequences.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to encourage students to enroll, but a lot of it is up to you, in being actively engaged in advising, supporting and counseling outside the classroom as well as in it,” he said.
The sentiment that faculty were responsible for enrollment and that their jobs may be at stake did not sit well with some members of the senate.
“It’s remarkable that your administration and Theo Kalikow’s administration has come in to this university and done as much as you can, much like Putin, turned us into junk bonds in terms of reputation and can take no responsibility for it, and actually come on to the floor of the senate and say that if we don’t do more, more of us will be fired,” said Shelton Waldrep, a professor of English and the Free Press faculty advisor.
“There is no way the reputation of this university can increase, which means attracting students, as long as the administration denigrates faculty and attacks tenure,” he said. “We are an international symbol for the battle over tenure in higher education. That is not a reputation created by the faculty, but one created by you, your predecessor, your chancellor and your board.”
Gary Johnson, an associate professor of history, noted that in his 26 years at USM, someone has presented a new retention plan nearly every year and that while advising and college structures plays a role, it’s young, new faculty and their course offerings that attract students.
“I have to say, we’re not attacking tenure, we’re attacking deficits,” said Flanagan. “And the truth of the matter is, we have been on an unsustainable financial course. You can sit in an ivory tower and say, well that’s not right, but it doesn’t generate any money.”
Bad publicity and the amount of bad press USM has seen recently was a topic of discussion throughout the entire senate meeting and Flanagan said, as he has his entire term as president, that internal conflicts have been the cause.
“You can criticize whatever we do in whatever form, and that’s great, but in a way, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it discourages people from coming here and that starts the death spiral,” he said. “When you attack yourself, when you criticize the university, when somebody getting paid by the university steps up and says we’re vocational, we’re no good, we can’t deliver, go to UNE, that’s ten times more devastating than if a competitor says it.”
Flanagan said that he expects a setback in enrollment and reputation from the faculty cuts he’s made this academic year, but that they have been necessary.
“It is our responsibility as public servants to let people know what is happening here, because we want our students to feel good about USM and we want students to come here,” said Waldrep, defending faculty who have spoken out against administrative actions, “But that will never happen as long as the administration is attacking faculty and the sanctity of tenure.”
“The reality is: we’re not attracting students,” said Flanagan. “We have a lot of negative publicity and it would be in everyone’s best interest to try and turn that around.”
Upper-class engineering students must take professor Ivan Most’s engineering economics class if they want to graduate. Part of their course work is community-based projects, assisting area schools solve their engineering problems.
The class was the brainchild of STEM partnerships coordinator Emily Mitchell, who works in the community engagement office at USM. Her job is to act as a liaison to area schools and USM and foster relationships between the two.
About 40 students are now part of that class working on problems such as energy audits and how best to heat the eight campus Windham school which, as of now, has no centralized heating system.
“Teachers freeze at 68 degrees and boil at 72,” said Bill Hansen, Windham’s school facilities director.
The engineering students will perform a cost analysis on Windham’s HVAC system and also see if a centralized wood-fired heating plant makes sense.
“Can we become a greener campus? Does it make sense financially?” Hansen asked.
It is Hansen’s job to efficiently heat the buildings, but to do so with a public school budget. The USM students will help meet his goals as economically as possible.
“No engineering project goes forward without someone paying for it,” said Most.
“I like to have the teachers focus on teaching and forget about the building. That’s my nirvana,” said Hansen.
Another project the students are working on is building a greenhouse for Riverton Elementary here in Portland. According to Kathy Cole, the community coordinator at Riverton, the school grows a lot of its own food in a community garden and practices composting and recycling.
If it’s feasible, they might even build the greenhouse out of recycled plastic bottles. The students will need to keep in mind it has to be handicap accessible,be able to accommodate 24 students and have the durability to withstand possible vandalism. The idea of plastic bottles sounds promising but if there’s a cheaper material, or something that holds heat better, the students will use that.
“Riverton Elementary is a lower-income school where 75% of students receive free lunch, so money is a big concern,” Cole said. The school hopes to get a Lowe’s playground grant to pay for the project.
One of only four women in the class, Kenzie Sullivan, a junior mechanical engineer major, is working on the Riverton school project.
“It’s always been a male dominated profession,” she said.
Sullivan is excited to mentor little kids and hopefully get some more young women interested in engineering. She actually switched groups to work with the younger kids.
“It’s going to be a cool project for sure,” Sullivan said.
Also working on the Riverton project with her is Matt Araujo, a senior electrical engineering major who was also eager to get started on the project.
“The kids might not even know what engineering is,” Araujo said.
Araujo and others will work with the school kids teaching them what engineering entails by having them observe the projects happening in their schools.
“It’s a practice profession. You have to get out and practice,” said Most. People like Most look forward to teaching more students the economics engineering through real world experience and applications.
“I’m excited for the future of engineering at USM,” said Most.
Starting next fall USM will be streamlining academic advising by assigning every student both a professional and faculty advisor, each playing different roles in the process.
Professional advisors will guide students through the degree progress reports, making sure general education courses, required introductory courses and prerequisites for upper-level courses are met, while faculty advisors will assist students on a purely academic level, providing insight on course-specific issues students might have.
The division of work and goals within advising is meant to make the advising process more efficient and helpful for students, aiding the administration in fixing the university’s retention problem.
According to Joseph McDonnell, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, USM loses nearly 37 percent of students between their first and second year at school.
“We’ve been looking into a new advising model for a while now,” McDonnell told the faculty senate in a meeting last Friday. “Through surveying students, we found that some were served by student success offices, some through their college and others had not been advised at all.”
Some faculty members questioned the reliance on staff to help students navigate specialized degree requirements and more complex programs and speculated on potential issues.
“I’d be concerned about the integrity of these professional advisors,” said Donald Sytsma, an associate professor of psychology. “If there’s a big push to fill seats in classrooms, how do you stay away from an ‘everything is possible’ mentality you might impart to prospective students?”
Sytsma said that he’s had students who were advised one way by student success, but that what they were told was misleading and that he suspects that convincing students to pay money for classes, even though they might not help toward a degree, has been the goal.
McDonnell explained that USM has regularly used professional advisors and that their aim has always been to move a student closer to graduating.
“They aren’t recruiters,” said McDonnell. “They aren’t talking to students they need to convince to take courses. They’re assisting students who are already here.”
McDonnell admitted that he had heard from students about poor advising situations, but said that the advising is generally successful and that poor advising needed to be dealt with on a case-by-case, one-on-one basis.
Lucille Benedict, an associate professor of chemistry, asked if, in the new system, professional advisors would now specialize in specific programs, noting that an advisors lack of knowledge in a program could lead to a student losing interest as well.
“One of my concerns is that chemistry is one of the more rigorous degrees and people have misconceptions about it,” she said. “Students might encounter an advisor that goes, I can remember my chemistry course, and that conversation usually goes south. Advising that isn’t degree specific isn’t going to help anyone.”
According to McDonnell, a select group of faculty have been working in a committee to explore what changes would have to made in order for the new advising system to work well, noting that having advisors with expertise is a point that has been discussed.
“I hope every one in the faculty and administration can agree that, in terms of addressing our retention issue, everyone needs to be building toward attracting the strongest students we can toward the university,” said Wayne Cowart, a professor of linguistics. “Giving bad, misleading advice is not in anyone’s best interest.”
With the financial aid deadline past, students have either completed the appropriate online forms or still have yet to start them. USM’s director of financial aid Keith Dubois urges students who haven’t submitted their FAFSA to do so immediately in order to obtain an appropriate financial aid package.
“Priority deadline was on February 15, which basically means any students who submitted by the date would be on the top of the list to receive financial aid,” said Dubois. “The actual deadline was on March 1. We give these different deadlines because we understand that not everyone has the ability to submit the necessary forms on time.”
Dubois says that financial aid packages vary from student to student. The order of awards starts with grants and scholarships, which is essentially free money given to students for their education based on financial needs. Work study is put in next. Anything that cannot be covered will usually be aided by federal direct loans to cover the rest of the tuition cost.
According to Dubois, the average financial aid package is about $7,796 per student.
“Students need to understand that by filing for financial aid on time, they have a much better chance of having their tuition covered much better than someone who submits late,” said Dubois.
Junior health sciences major Jordon Henry explained that although he hasn’t filed for financial aid yet, he plans to do so very soon because he knows that the longer he waits the smaller his financial aid package will be.
“Often times my parents help me file for financial aid because they both work for colleges. They give me the heads up for when to file and are extremely helpful throughout the whole process,” said Henry. “It’s complicated enough as it is, especially with taxes being done at the same time.”
Dubois points out that the coinciding tax season can be especially difficult for a lot of students, because not everyone has their taxes done in time to file for financial aid and therefore have to go through the process of submitting an estimated income and then have to go back once their taxes have been completed.
“This time of year creates a lot of stress for students and puts a lot of pressure on families who are attempting to juggle both financial aid and tax returns,” said Dubois.
For senior health sciences major Mary Macaluso, filing for financial aid has always been a relatively easy process, however the amount of money she receives from her financial package seems to only get her by.
“I don’t usually receive financial aid because my parents are able to pay for some of it. It’s been difficult but I work two jobs to keep me afloat,” said Macaluso. “I take out loans and my parents pay the rest of my tuition, which is hard because I never get any money in a refund check.”
Dubois points out that although it is uncommon, some students are not eligible for financial aid due to a variety of reasons. He explained that in situations like these, the student accounts office has a variety of payment plans so that instead of paying everything up front, students have the option to pay over a longer period of time. With the financial aid awards anticipated to be sent out by mid-March, Dubois urges students who haven’t filed yet to do so immediately.
“We try and exhaust every option that there is to help a student budget how they will pay any excess charges on their accounts,” said Dubois. “The best option to combat this stressful situation is to simply submit your financial aid on time. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t submit it if you haven’t already, but it’s something to consider for the next time you have to file.”
To drop some must-have sexual knowledge on USM students, social work graduate students Christina Cook and Sarah Milnor organized the first ever ‘Sexpo’ in the Woodbury campus center last week.
“We just wanted to throw a sex positive event and maybe start some conversations,” said Milnor.
Some of the activities students could engage in was a taste test of flavored lube and edible body butter. Several tables provided students with information about engaging in safe sex and awareness pamphlets about sexual assault, rape and stalking.
One hosted table was set-up to show students all the latest sex-related apps available on digital marketplaces. The first app, called “Sex Positive” allows you pick body parts and then a drop down menu will tell you the sexual risks associated with that body part and how to prevent against these risks. The second app, “Circle of Six,” has you to enter six of your friend’s contact information and if you are ever in an emergency situation you can just tap one of the icons and messages will be sent out to your friends, alerting them that you need help.
“All of those options are really helpful,” said Ben Marine, who was manning the table. “If you are in an emergency situation, you can just tap one of the icons instead of fiddling around with your phone, which you might not be able to do.”
Cook commented that one reason for hosting an event like this was to start conversations around positive sexuality, because some students may be uncomfortable with the event’s subject matter.
“By doing an event like this we are trying to reduce discomfort around talking about these issues,” Cook said. “When many people are participating, it helps reduce that discomfort.”
“I think part of the definition of sex positivity is being okay with what your definition of sex is,” said Milnor. “So if you’re slightly uncomfortable with some of this stuff, that’s totally fine. That’s part of the whole event, just letting people have their voice.”
According to Center for Disease Control, one in four college students will contract an STD and 80% of those cases the person won’t even exhibit symptoms. The students volunteering at the tables, passed out condoms to passersbys while reiterating the importance of practicing safe sex.
“Students are going to have sex,” said Rachel Cormier, a student at USM. “I am so much more relieved that they have information and materials that are going to help them be safer and healthier in their own bodies.”
“I would like to hope that these types of programs really encourage students at the university to have safe sex and to be healthy with themselves and their partners,” said Cormier. She also expressed that she would be in favor of more events like this in the future.
At the end of the day, Cook and Milnor felt that the event had been a success, reaching out to an estimated 100 students that passed through. As Milnor looked around, she said it appeared that students were having fun and enjoying themselves.
While they are no confirmed plans for another event such as this in the future, both Cook and Milnor expressed interest in hosting more events such as this one.
Volunteers marched 8 miles through the streets of Portland last week, carrying stones bearing the names of fallen soldiers from Maine, before securing them in a wooden case in the Abromson center.
The march, and subsequent ceremony were part of The Summit Project, a national organization that honors Maine’s fallen soldiers by engraving their names on family-picked stones, and hiking with them all across the state. Along the way, the hikers learn the stories and experiences of the dead men they’re honoring and share them with others, in hopes that people will not forget the price they paid.
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, 67 Mainers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving a branch of the United States military. According to Ted Coffin, a civilian volunteer at the Summit Project, 47 stones have been donated by affected family members, some of which have travelled as far as the peaks of Everest, Kilimanjaro and the more close to home Katahdin.
“What means the most to the hikers is the connection to the stone and furthermore to the soldiers and families attached to them. It’s a bond,” said Coffin. “After two months at USM, the stones will move on and continue their journey.”
Coffin said that there are more stones held at the military entrance processing station (MEPS) in Portland, that anyone can check out and go on tribute hikes with, just as long as the volunteers follow three rules. To participate in the Summit Project, one must learn about the fallen, endure some kind of physical challenge with the stone, and write a letter of reflection to the affected family.
“It brings it full circle and lets the families know that we are getting the word out and their loved one didn’t die in vain,” said Coffin. “The ultimate goal is to make Maine a smaller state, with everyone knowing each others stories.”
Rebecca Tannous, USM’s student body vice president, walked in tribute carrying one of the 12 “spirit stones,” stones that aren’t attached to a specific soldier, but rather a theme that they embody. The words honor, courage, commitment and endurance emblazoned some of the stones. Tannous carried a spirit stone that read “duty.”
“We’re not just carrying stones; we’re carrying memories,” said Tannous. “When looking into what duty means, I discovered that it’s about more than just accepting responsibility, but it’s also about seeking opportunities to improve oneself.”
15 others carried stones symbolizing specific deceased soldiers and marched through the Portland skywalk for the last leg of their journey. They were greeted by a large audience made up of veterans, active duty soldiers, families of the fallen and USM students. In attendance were President David Flanagan, organizer Gregory Johnson and Portland police chief Michael Sauschuck, all of whom spoke to the crowd, thanking the tribute hikers and honoring military servicemen both living and dead.
“USM will take the job of guarding the memories of our fallen soliders very seriously,” said Flanagan.
“I’m proud to be here as an American, as a Mainer, as a former Marine and as a USM graduate,” said Sauschuck. “These people paid the ultimate price on behalf of all of us.”
One of these brave souls was Andrew Hutchins from South Portland, who died four years ago in Afghanistan at the age of 20. According to his father, Jeff Hutchins, he was stationed 10 miles from the Pakistani border and died after being caught in a firefight and shot by the enemy. Due to the laws of engagement, Hutchins was not allowed to fire back, an order that his father believes costed him his life. Hutchins said that his biggest fear, is that his son’s story and sacrifice will be forgotten. But now he feels less lonely, knowing Andrew’s stone, which has travelled over 2,000 miles, is impacting people in a meaningful way.
“He never got to meet his daughter Alyssa, but he did hear his baby’s heartbeat over the phone,” said Hutchins. “All of the families here have a story to share. It’s tough and there will be tears, but if a few people can hear it, it means a lot.”
It’s this combination of physical toil and active remembrance of the lives and deaths of Maine’s soldiers, that inspired David Cote, an active duty Marine, native Mainer and current employee at the Pentagon, to make the Summit Project a reality. Cote got the idea three years ago when hiking Mt. Whitney in California with some Navy Seals.
“I wanted to take the idea of a living memorial and make it a tradition,” said Cote. “Mainers are veterans. We need to match their service with equal measure of passion and devotion.”
Cote said that 1 in 7 Mainers are veterans and it’s important to keep their memories and legacy alive. Cote believes that honoring veterans both dead and alive, can have a positive impact on anybodies psyche.
“These heroes who left Maine can continue to inspire us today,” said Cote. “They push us to make better decisions, be more generous, and put others needs before your own.”
Cote spoke last to the audience and ended with a quote from the speech former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln gave on the freshly bloodied battlefields of Gettysburg.
“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
If you’ve used a restroom on campus in the past week, you’ve likely been complemented by USM’s Bod Squad.
Last week was national eating disorder awareness week and the body-positive student group has been raiding campus with informational materials and leaving inspirational messages on mirrors in public restrooms.
The messages are simple. Stay positive about your body. Believe in yourself. You’re beautiful.
Ann Conley, a nurse practitioner with health and counseling services, hopes that the efforts of the group get students talking about eating disorders.
“We’re hoping that getting information out into the public will help reduce stigmas around eating disorders, help students recognize what constitutes a disorder and let them know that we’re here to help if they need anything,” she said.
According to statistics from the National Eating Disorder Association, 35 percent of “regular” dieters eventually develop eating disorders. Conley said that the rate for college students is slightly higher.
“People don’t always know that they have an eating disorder,” said Conley. “It starts as a habit and then, through a variety of different factors depending on the individual, it can become more serious.”
Students on-campus responded positively to the signs on campus, saying that it was a great reminder to be comfortable with their body.
“With all the modeling shows on TV and in magazines and sex being used in advertising, it’s no wonder that people can sometimes feel uncomfortable in their own skin,” said Sarah Worthington, a freshman marketing major. “Sometimes it’s nice to hear someone say, don’t worry about it, just do your thing.”
“It’s a big problem in our country that needs to be looked at more often,” said undeclared freshman Chelsea Moyer.
Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69 percent say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape and 47 percent say the pictures make them want to lose weight according to reports used by NEDA.
While eating disorders are more regularly attributed to women in the media, it has been reported that roughly 30 percent of cases are in men.
Conley said she hopes that spreading information about eating disorders will help prevent those at risk, urge those with eating disorders to seek help and to help the public get educated.
“There’s a fair amount of shame associated with having an eating disorder and a lot of people will deny having one,” said Conley. “I hope anyone in that position will see that it’s okay and that there’s help out there for them.”
Despite good intentions and efforts from both Aramark and USM Sustainability, dining services wastes about 3,500 pounds of food a week in the Portland and Gorham kitchens.
This information comes from Steve Sweeney, the resource recovery supervisor, who said that about 3,000 pounds of that food waste comes from Gorham because a buffet service is offered there.
“The all you can eat style set up in Gorham, results in a ridiculous amount of food waste,” said Sweeney. “We need to encourage students not to eat in excess.”
Sweeney said that, in light of all the budget problems, he’s happy with their process because it’s one of the most cost effective methods for dealing with several thousand pounds of food waste. The University pays a local farmer $200 a month to pick up food waste every week from both a Portland and Gorham location, regardless of the amount. The farmer then uses the waste as pig feed and the coffee grounds as compost.
While this is a good method of eliminating the food waste on campus, Sweeney believes we should search for ways to reduce that waste in the first place. According to Sweeney there have been recycling competitions in the dorms to encourage students to practice good habits surrounding food wastes.
Chris Kinney, the general manager of Aramark on campus, agrees and said that accurately predicting how many customers will arrive and adhering to strict rules concerning food shelf life are strategies to minimize the amount of food that gets tossed.
“Our team monitors how much food we’re wasting every day,” said Kinney. “I’m happy with our strategy; we have the right people working to execute it.”
While Kinney said that Aramark at USM has more training, tools and experience than a lot of food establishments in the area, there’s always room for improvement.
“Part of my job is to never be satisfied,” said Kinney. “If one kitchen produces 35 pounds of food waste, I’ll challenge them to bring it down to say 27 the next week. I’m always trying to get the team to further reduce food waste.”
Aramark, the dining services company on campus, that also provides food to hospitals and prisons across the country, tries to eliminate food waste by making sure employees follow the standardized recipes when preparing menu items. For Pamela Almodovar, a culinary arts graduate from SMCC and sandwich maker at the Woodbury dining hall, that means when you order a BLT, she’s not allowed to meet your request to add hummus, or slap on extra bacon slices.
“The menu, the schedule and the structure is down to the T here,” said Almodovar. “They say sticking to the Aramark strategy eliminates food waste, yet we throw away a lot of food.”
Despite genuine attempts from the staff of chefs to minimize food wastes, like keeping close tabs on the freshness of produce and slicing vegetables in a specific and economical way, some employees at Aramark are concerned about their full waste bins.
“I think Aramark is wasting too much food,” said Almodovar. “It seems to be a growing issue that bothers the employees the most. The food costs here are getting out of control.”
Almodovar said that during one shift she personally threw away over 25 pounds of food just from the small food station in Luther Bonney. When casually asking a supervisor if she could put a sandwich and chips into her pocket instead of the wastebin, she was met with fierce opposition.
“My supervisor said I could be terminated on the spot,” said Almodovar. “However we’ll also have employees that are enforcing these rules take unpaid food and eat it in front of us.”
Due to liability issues surrounding food borne illnesses, all Aramark employees have to sign a document stating that they won’t sell, donate or eat any out of code food product.
Issues surrounding liability are the main reason a strategy involving donating leftovers to food banks and soup kitchens hasn’t taken off the ground, despite attempts from the USM Eco Reps and the Food Recovery Network.
Joy Grandbois-Gallup said that it took a while for Aramark to respond to the Eco Rep’s request to recover food and when they did they said that students shouldn’t be involved in the process. The reason why: food safety issues.
“We do have an eager group of students who would like to bring this project to life if at all possible,” said Grandbois-Gallup.
Over February break, USM Health & Counseling services sent out two emails to update students about the measles outbreak that has occurred, starting in California and has started to make its way eastward across the United States.
Measles is a viral illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu, and shortly after these symptoms arise a rash appears. The disease is airborne with high transmissibility because of its incubation period of two to three weeks.
Lisa Belanger, director of health services said that the point was not to cause a hysteria or fear of measles among us. “It was more to make students conscious and aware of the fact that this is what we know and be prudent while you’re travelling,” Belanger said.
Right now, the goal is to educate without causing panic. With no confirmed cases so far in Maine, Belanger didn’t want there to be panic and public outcry on campus. Especially since there really is no way of confirming if measles will ever even make it to the state.
“Our messages need to be truthful and not fear based,” said Belanger. “Getting the notice out was not to make people afraid but to empower them with information.”
Another reason for the notice was to get students that still haven’t turned in their records to do so and as soon as possible. Belanger also commented on the fact that this is law in the state of Maine and students are expected to comply.
“It’s not because we are saying this, as USM, it’s the law, said Belanger. “We are required to track and inform students of this requirement.”
“We did the same thing in years passed with tracking immunization.” Belanger said, “This year it’s at least conceivable that measles could make an appearance, so it makes it that much more important and that much more real about the purpose for getting in your shots.”
Enrolled at USM right now are 493 students that have signed declinations to not be vaccinated for measles because of religious, medical or philosophical reason, along with a smaller number of students that have yet to turn in their immunization records. If there were to be a case of measles at USM, these students would be asked to leave and they wouldn’t be allowed to return until the outbreak was deemed over by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Maine.
This would be for the students’ protection. Without the vaccination, they are much more susceptible to the virus.
Students concerned with state appropriation for higher education in Maine will soon have an opportunity to take their thoughts and concerns straight to the state legislature.
In connection with the University of Maine system chancellor’s office, Laura Cyr, a postgraduate fellow in finance and administration, is spearheading the formation of a student advocacy program that would give students from all seven UMaine campuses direct access to their elected officials.
“I think students have been asking for this kind of opportunity for a long time,” said Cyr. “Students have been looking to learn about the decision making process, not only at their university but in their state government as well.”
Cyr spoke with student senators at their meeting last Friday, having recently returned from a visit to all the other UMaine campuses, to explain the program and ask for help in promotion and member selection.
“The program will get students involved in phone-banking, letter writing campaigns and start a dialogue between the student body and legislatures,” she explained.
This year will serve as a pilot year for the program and Cyr will be guiding a to-be-determined group of student representatives throughout the statehouse on March 24. She is currently accepting suggestions and applications for interested students. The goal is to take four students from each of the UMaine campuses.
“There’s no limit to the amount of students who can participate, but for this one-day event we’re testing the waters,” said Cyr. While four students per campus is the aim, Cyr said that she would keep additional interested students on a reserve list, in case a student drops out of attending or there are not enough interested students on a certain campus.
According to a summary of Governor Paul LePage’s 2016-2017 budget, his plan includes a 3.64 percent increase — roughly $14.2 million — for the University of Maine system.
“I think this year, we’re handed an issue on a plate,” said Cyr, “but we’re excited that, in future years, students will be able to bring their own issues to the table.”
Junior student senator John Jackson drafted a resolution that, if passed, would give the program the senate’s full endorsement, urge the faculty senate to pass a similar resolution and provide the manpower to help organize a search for student representatives.
Due to a breakdown in communication between senators, the resolution was not on the agenda despite being submitted earlier in the week. The senate voted to consider passing the proposals after reading and revising the document, but after spending time arguing semantics and grammar in just a few sections of the resolution, voted to table it until their next meeting.
Cyr noted that although this first visit to Augusta will be a pilot trip, that the administration is set to develop and continue the program in the future.
“We’re looking for ways to make this easier and more accessible to students,” said Cyr. “The response [throughout the system] has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re hoping to create a program that will last.”
ISIS, the group of fundamentalist Sunni muslims that have brutally conquered chunks of land in Northern Iraq and Syria under the banner of an “Islamic State,” has dominated headlines of numerous national and international news agencies. And with new reports of kidnappings, air-strikes, vandalism and acts of public torture and execution pour in from the Middle East on a weekly basis, most USM students interviewed said they consider ISIS to be one of the most important news stories to follow.
Just last week the ISIS army, which according to CBC news boasts around 20,000 people willing to die for God and country, has shocked the world with even more acts of senseless violence and destruction.
According to the Fiscal Times, last Monday ISIS militants burned down the public library in Mosul which housed over 8,000 rare manuscripts and books from the Ottoman era. Two days before that they kidnapped 262 Assyrian Christians from the Syrian town of Hasaka, and threatened to slice their throats if Obama doesn’t stop his airstrikes. Since then the U.S. led coalition has backed the Kurdish and Assyrian forces in their defense against ISIS, with more airstrikes. Last Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reported that in a seperate U.S. led airstrike,17 prominent Islamic state militants were killed, but the fate of the Christian hostages is still unknown.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 1,465 ISIS members were killed by American air strikes, as well 1,000 civilians, since September 23, 2014.
Some student veterans, like Samuel Kingsley, a political science major and former U.S. Army infantrymen, believe that military action will do little to quell the rise of Islamic militancy. According to him, after the recent situations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States can’t afford to involve itself in another middle eastern war.
“ISIS is something that only Muslim countries can hope to deal with,” said Kingsley. “The best possible outcome is that the United States will reevaluate its support of these repressive dictatorships [Egypt Jordan Bahrain] and that Islamdom in general will be able to address its own fractionalization and political disunity.”
Kingsley is referring to the fact that ISIS is mostly composed of Sunni muslims, while most government bodies in the middle east have a Shia majority, a population with a different view of Islam and how society should be run. Kingsley predicts that if the U.S. slows its involvement combating ISIS, civil wars will spring up in the middle east and several dictators will rise and fall like during the Arab Spring.
“ISIS arose from a deep-seated mistrust between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq,” said Austin Toothaker, a student veteran and sophomore geography major. “The withdrawal of U.S. troops may have led to the inability of the Iraqi government to contain threats such as ISIS.”
On top of not having the support of the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq and Syria, ISIS is making a laundry list of international enemies. Some 40 countries have joined a coalition against ISIS, including Australia, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and the U.K.
According to Reza Jalali, the multicultural affairs coordinator at USM, ISIS has been doing surprisingly well in attracting foreign fighters and young muslims to their cause despite the opposition. Over 1,700 Russians alone are reportedly said to be fighting alongside ISIS.
“There are some muslims in western society around the world that feel alienated, marginalized and silenced,” said Jalali. “A charming ISIS recruiter attracts them with messages of hope. He might say, ‘come with us, we’ll give you a gun and change the racist system.’ It takes you from being a nobody, a faceless, nameless, invisible person, to this person who has power and can actually be part of a growing army.”
Jalali also believes that when it comes to stopping ISIS, there’s no military solution. He thinks U.S. diplomats need to convince Sunni governments to stop supporting ISIS.
“The can of worms have been opened,” said Jalali. “ISIS is more dangerous than they [Sunni majority governments] think. Name calling all Muslims actually encourages youths to join militant groups.”
While Jalali isn’t necessarily opposed to the creation of an Islamic State, it would have to be under the auspices of peaceful and diplomatic practices. Jalali considers what ISIS is doing completely criminal.
According to Jalali, ISIS kills more muslims than non-muslims, but doesn’t discriminate when it searches for beheading or crucifiction victims. ISIS has killed Christians and Jews that have been living in Syrian towns in complete harmony with Muslims. Beyond the grief and horror of losing a loved one under the knife of a radical fundamentalist, Jalali believes that ISIS’s level of violence has another negative impact; the stereotyping and demonization of what a peaceful religion of 1.6 billion diverse members.
“As a modern Muslim I will say they have very little to do with the Islamic faith,” said Jalali. “They are not the real version of Islam, they are un-Islamic. They’re a group of criminals using the religion to mobilize support for their political cause. They want to restore the state to its former glory under the Caliphate.”
Jalali read one quote from the Koran, noting that ISIS is very selective in which quotes they justify their “sick actions” with from the holy book. “If you kill one, you’ve killed humanity. If you’ve saved one, you’ve saved the entire humanity,” the passage reads.
Kingsley said that Islam has always had a bad reputation in Western nations, but that it stems mostly from ignorance and lack of education.
“People don’t understand the fractionalization, political dynamics and history of Islamic culture so it makes it easy to group all Muslims in together as ‘terrorists,’” said Jalali.
“They’re called a rebel group for a reason,” said Howa Mohamed, a muslim student and health sciences major. “They’ve rebelled against Islam’s commandments of peace and understanding. Does the KKK represent the religion of Christianity?”
Mohamed said that of course she thinks ISIS contributes to casting Islam in a bad light, but that she wishes practicing Muslims didn’t have to constantly defend themselves.
During Kingsley’s five-year career in the Army, he’s heard many of his leaders express anti-Islamic sentiments and cites it as an Army tactic to motivate troops to combat.
“It could be calling them ‘goat fuckers,’ or referring to civilians in a war zone as ‘local nationals,’ which is somewhat cold and impersonal,” said Kingsley. “Although on the surface the Army expresses official concern for civilian casualties, in reality, at my level, there was zero concern for civilians. The only concern was that you may get prosecuted if you accidentally killed a civilian, but in reality there is very little chance of that actually happening. Many of my leaders told stories about how they would kill civilians and carry ‘drop weapons’ (AK’s or other common enemy weapons that were liberated in previous operations) to give the appearance they were in fact killing a combatant.”
While it’s easy to condemn violence done in the name of Islam, Jalali reminds us that all major religions have had atrocities committed in their name, and that the majority of Muslims don’t support ISIS.
“This is not a clash of civilizations,” said Jalali. “It’s a clash of ignorance.”
The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s revised its outlook on the University of Maine System from “stable” to “negative,” the firm announced Monday, citing dropping enrollments and tuition revenues, as well as unstable leadership throughout the system’s network of seven universities.
“The revised negative outlook and rating reflect our view that UMS is experiencing enrollment pressure, having seen a drop in enrollment for fall 2014 and 2013 and anticipating a further decline in fall 2015,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Ken Rodgers in a statement.
“In addition, historically we characterized the system as having strong governance and management and believe for the most part that remains true today,” he continued. “Nevertheless, a significant turnover in leadership at most of its seven universities over roughly the past two years — and with four of the universities currently served by interim presidents — we feel some weakness in governance and management might be occurring.”
Standard & Poor’s did affirm the system’s long-held “AA-” rating, and assigned the “AA-” long-term rating to the system’s $46.24 million in revenue bonds for 2015.
“S&P has affirmed our ‘AA-’ rating, reflecting the university system’s commitment to sound fiscal management,” said system spokesman Dan Demeritt in a Tuesday morning statement. “The agency’s decision to revise its long-term outlook is a realistic assessment of the demographic, fiscal and competitive challenges that led Chancellor [James] Page and the board of trustees to launch a change initiative that will administratively and academically align our seven institutions into one university.”
The Standard & Poor’s announcement also made note of the state of Maine’s “weak economy” and “an unfavorable demographic trend for college-bound high school seniors” as factors preventing the agency from considering a more positive long-term outlook.
Harvey Kesselman, the last presidential candidate to visit USM, cited his long history of experience in higher education and the challenges he’s overcome at transforming school at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey as why he’d be a good fit for USM.
“This is a real match,” said Kesselman, who currently serves as provost and executive vice president at Richard Stockton. “It’s exactly the kind of university I’m looking to work for and understand. I feel like I’m a good fit.”
Kesselman said he’s at a point in his career where becoming a university president is the obvious next step. Before his current position, he has held senior level positions including dean and professor of education, interim vice president for administration and finance, special assistant to the president and vice president for student affairs. His experience at Richard Stockton spans over 30 years and he’s been committed to teaching on top of his other duties.
“I haven’t checked them out, but I doubt the other candidates have the breadth of experience that I do,” said Kesselman. “You can only gain that by committing to a single institution for a considerable amount of time.”
Kesselman told a small crowd of students and staff that he has experience in successfully dealing with challenges that USM and the UMaine System is currently facing. Working to transform a campus culture and boost community engagement and service learning while battling low state funding, declining enrollment and bleak demographics is a situation he’s familiar with.
According to Kesselman, his college and New Jersey gets only 12 percent of its funding from the state government, less than half of the percentage USM receives.
“We’d love to get the percentage you’ve had,” said Kesselman. “We had to be entrepreneurs. We went through what Maine is going through right now years ago.”
The revolving door of leadership, which has given USM three presidents since 2012, is something Kesselman noted as problematic for the university. Citing his long history at Richard Stockton, Kesselman told the group that he was not planning on being a short-term fix, but wanted to be a real piece of the university. He said that if chosen for the position, he has at least eight years of service in him.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but I like to think George Washington got it right,” said Kesselman. “Two terms, eight years as president, feels right. it makes for good business to do so.”
The USM presidential search committee provided Chancellor James Page with the names and assessments of two finalists: Glenn Cummings and Harvey Kesselman. The third candidate, Jose “Zito” Sartarelli, withdrew from the candidacy beforehand.
Sartarelli was unavailable to hold an interview at this point in time.
Cummings and Kesselman are the final two standing, from a pool of approximately 80 applicants – the largest group of applicants for a leadership position in the UMaine System in a number of years.
Both Cummings and Kesselman were given the opportunity for two-day campus visits at the university. During this time, each candidate was able to meet with students, staff and faculty, to answer questions and converse.
Based on these campus visits, as well as references and the application of each candidate in general, the committee shared their assessment of each with the Chancellor.
“I want to thank all of the community members who participated in the finalists’ campus visits,” said Jim Erwin, UMS Trustee and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “By taking the time to listen, and ask questions, you were able to submit insightful and informative feedback to the committee.”
He added that all the candidates came away from the visits with great appreciation for the opportunity to learn so much about USM and to hear from so many faculty, staff, students and members of the community.
Chancellor Page is expected to make his decision in March, after which the vote will be put before the board of trustees. If all goes accordingly, the president will begin their duties and take office in July 2015.
According to Erwin, the candidates were not ranked, nor was a formal recommendation made to the Chancellor.
“The selection now rests with the Chancellor, subject to approval by the board of trustees,” said Erwin. “Chancellor Page expects to make a recommendation to the Board following completion of customary due diligence.”
Additional background information on the two finalists can be found on the presidential search committee’s web page.
Prospective USM president Glenn Cummings met with university leaders last Thursday to discuss how he’d spend his presidency, should he be chosen for the job.
Cummings said he is “a product of Maine.” A 12th generation Mainer, he comes from a line of lobstermen, fishermen and his mother worked at Shaw’s for years. He is the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“USM gives opportunity to people who would not normally have that opportunity,” said Cummings.
He has been an adjunct professor of economics at USM and is currently serving as University of Maine at Augusta’s president. Cummings was appointed to the Department of Education by Barack Obama where he served in Washington, D.C. for a year. He also served as Speaker of the House in the Maine House of Representatives for six years.
Cummings views his background as a teacher and administrator as an asset and an ability to work both sides of the aisle.
“I have no intention of being a patsy for either side,” Cummings said, noting that he understands how to play the balancing act between advocating for the teachers and getting business done on the administrative side.
“I will help us stabilize and ignite enrollment to stop this downward spiral,” said Cummings.
Right now the University of Maine System gives more money to Orono over USM and spreads it around the seven UMS campuses.
“The seven sisters form is not friendly to USM,” said Cummings. “USM should be given a bigger piece of the funds.”
“A dollar spent in Portland has a multiplying effect that ricochets around the community more than Fort Kent or Presque Isle,” said Cummings. “I’m not going to concede on this.”
Student attendance at the meeting was sparse. Lillian Harris, a counseling graduate student said she was “just curious” about the future president. She went to undergraduate school at McGill in Montreal but chose USM for graduate school because of its intimate size. Harris thinks the next president should “convince the Maine government that USM is important,” and that “there’s value in education.”
“I’ve gotten a lot out of USM and I want other people to,” Harris said.
If Cummings had been president during the budget turmoil that saw over 50 faculty get fired and over a hundred staff, he said he wasn’t sure the cuts could have been avoided but faculty would have been the last to go.
“We need to protect our faculty,” said Cummings.
According to Cummings, he would have made sure to have a teach-out plan in place for those students in the programs that had been cut.
Cummings referred to last years cuts as “shortsighted decision making,” and hinted at possibly bringing some majors back.
“Whether it’s me as new president or someone else, they’re going to try to bring back biosciences,” Cummings said noting we have major bioscience industries at home in the Portland area.
Eve Raimon, a professor of English, addressed the rise of part-time teachers on campus and thought there might only be full time tenured teachers at UMF and Orono.
Cummings replied adjuncts are fine but USM is not a community college. “We need full time faculty here at USM teaching and leading research,” said Cummings.
In his pitch to faculty Cummings told them, “I’m not making the argument that you should pick me because I’m from Maine. I know how good you are. You are the heart of the university.”
Cummings mentioned he couldn’t name the president of his undergraduate school but could name three professors that made a difference in his life.
Cummings’ vision of the “metro university” would have seen the economics department at USM working on the budget. He also would like to pair with the Council on International Educational Exchange, a non-profit based in Portland that facilitates study abroad programs, which could increase our international student population. But first, Cummings said he would like to attract “new Mainers” noting the large immigrant population around the Portland area.
“Recruit them before you go overseas,” said Cummings.“USM has a great story and I want to help tell it.”
He added that, working together, the USM community can turn around the aforementioned “downward spiral” because the university is already “great.”
“I don’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t want to be a governor or chancellor. I’ll be here for 10-20 years, if you’ll have me,” said Cummings. “I want to be here.”
Bar and clubs are usually the stereotypical hot spots to pick up women and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, the nightlife in Portland is sure to be filled with thirsty dudes looking for some last minute love. But how do women feel about that?
Based on the experiences of several female students the general consensus is grim: a good portion of men are over-aggressive creeps when it comes to their strategies for scoring dates.
“I’m sure every girl has been hit on, one way or another, in a creepy fashion,” said Nicole Downing, a sophomore art major.
According to Downing, “creepy behavior,” can be anything from prolonged stares, the use of pickup lines, to unwanted touching and grabbing. From the accounts of female students, these behaviors happen far too often and can discourage girls from feeling comfortable in the dating scene.
“Men suck,” said Sarah Morrell, a marketing and business management graduate. “The best ones are either taken or gay.”
“Straight staring makes me uncomfortable,” said Andreanna Anderson, a former USM student. “One of the worst things is when a guy is just staring at me from across the bar.”
Anderson said that once while out in the Old Port, she had a random guy that she never met before come up to her and immediately start groping.
“He just walked up and grabbed my ass and casually walked away,” said Anderson. “I wouldn’t go into the bars looking for my future husband.”
Anderson considers this behavior disrespectful and attributes it to an overabundance of male confidence. Anderson is quick to point out these kind of men, because according to her they are usually the ones that will call you “babe,” or “sexy,” before even learning your name. For her, men that employ that tactic are an instant turn off.
“I really hate it when guys come at me super aggressively and over confident,” said Anderson. “I don’t like guys that think they are the hottest thing on the planet.”
Abby Kohle, a senior communication major, also has had some experience with aggressive men and said that only when she tells pursuers that she has a boyfriend, will they leave her alone.
“It’s really degrading because they’re not respecting me, they’re respecting my boyfriend,” said Kohle. “I know a lot of girls that lie about having a boyfriend just to get them to back off.”
As far as pet names, like “baby,” “sugar” and “sexy,” Kohle considers them all to be disgraceful. According to Kohle, if a man doesn’t ask for her name, or address her by her name, she ignores them. Kohle described the men that employ that kind of approach as cocky instead of genuinely confident.
“Confidence is something everyone should have inherently,” said Kohle. “But when you talk to a girl you should give her your attention, instead of making it all about you and getting her to like you.”
Pickup lines were cited as particularly cringe-worthy methods of seducing women by nearly all the women interviewed. Kohle finds them demeaning to her gender.
“I was at LFK once and met a guy outside while smoking a cigarette,” said Kohle. “The first thing he said was, ‘I’m Alec, a lot of people hate me.’ It was the worst pickup line ever.”
“[Pickup lines] work for men some of the time,” said Rachel Zahn, a music graduate. “I’ve always thought it was cheesy, but some girls who don’t get much attention go for it.”
Zahn thinks that crude, lewd and cheesy behavior might be because some men go through a lot of rejection and don’t know how else to act around women.
“Going through a lot of rejection isn’t even an excuse for the behavior,” said Zahn. “I’ve learned to not even put myself in those situations, it isn’t my duty to take responsibility for those actions.”
Despite the cheesiness of pickup lines, some girls enjoy them, but only if they’re humorous enough.
“I kind of like them because they make me chuckle,” said Anderson. “A sense of humor can go a long way with me.”
Rylee Doiron, a musical theatre graduate, told a bar story about a guy who improvised a line based on the drink that she ordered. The guy approached her, looked at her whiskey drink, and said ‘Lady after my own heart, drinks her scotch neat.’
“I had to give it to him that he paid attention to what I was drinking and found a common ground that we could easily make conversation from,” said Doiron. “My good experiences with guys at bars have only been when they actually notice me and say something that doesn’t have anything to do with my appearance.”
According to Doiron, as long as a man is respectful and treats her like a human being instead of just a piece of meat, then she’s more inclined to like them.
Men like Brandon Owens, a recreation and sports management graduate, and his friend Cody Rohde, a senior sports management major agree and understand that women usually have a “wall of caution” around them when talking to strangers.
“Girls are on their guard a bit more,” said Owen. “Men don’t know what it’s like on their end.”
Owens said that if somebody expresses disinterest in him at a bar, then he immediately stops flirting to avoid coming across as weird or creepy.
While Rohde spoke out against pick up lines and simply hitting on girls, he did say that he’s been persistent on occasion when trying to win a girl’s favor.
“I try to read the vibe a girl is throwing at me,” said Rohde. “If she says no in a serious manner, I’ll back off. But if it’s a playful no, then I might try to persist.”
Anderson offered some advice to anyone looking for a Valentine’s love within Portland’s bar and club scene and said to approach a girl and compliment her, but about something other than her physicality.
“If she’s wearing a nice dress, say something about it, because that girl probably spent a long time picking that dress out,” said Anderson. “All ladies love compliments.”