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“I don’t want to be anywhere else:” Longtime Mainer seeks USM presidency

Thu, 2015-02-19 12:07

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.”

Girls don’t appreciate creepy pickup strategies: Female students share their worst bar stories

Tue, 2015-02-10 14:45

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.”

The lesser known history of Valentine’s Day

Tue, 2015-02-10 14:40

Over priced roses and heart shaped pieces of plastic have adorned department store shelves, signifying that the ancient fertility festival of Lupercalia is almost upon us. But of course, most modern Americans know it as Valentine’s Day.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 62% of American adults celebrated the holiday of love and romance last year, but how many are aware of its pagan and later Christian origins?

After stopping to ask this question to about 25 students in the Woodbury Campus Center last week, the air of uncertainty surrounding the holiday’s beginning was tangible. Most students responded with, “I think it has something to do with St. Valentine,” but not much else.

“It was a religious day right?” said Christina Cook, a first year social work graduate student. “Like St. Valentine did some stuff at one time. I’m sorry, I don’t really know.”

“The only thing that comes to my mind is baby cupid shooting arrows,” said freshman international business major Rona Sayed. “I don’t think most students have an idea about the religious foundings of certain holidays.”

Despite the cute and loving nature of the holiday in its current form, back in Roman times, it was a different sort of celebration. Lupercalia, as it was called back then, was celebrated by sacrificing animals and whipping naked women with their hides in a drunken revelry. The holiday didn’t get its name until 400 A.D. Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 the day to honor two men, both named Valentine, who were executed by the Romans 100 years prior. The Pope wanted a Christian holiday to honor the church but didn’t want to upset the then huge populace of pagans. So Pope Gelasius simply changed the name of Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day in homage to the two bishops who were imprisoned and tortured in Rome before they died as martyrs. However, according to the Roman Martyrology, there’s only one person listed as Saint Valentine.

By the medieval era of the late 1300s the holiday was first associated with love and romance, spurred on by the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. But according to Libby Bischof, a history professor at USM, the Valentine’s Day rituals and symbols that we’re used to didn’t really gain popularity until the 17th and 18th century. After Europe embraced the idea of sending each other Valentines, the tradition carried over to America.

“As you might imagine, the British colonists brought over the tradition of card exchange with them to the New World,” said Bischof.

Bischof collects vintage Valentine’s Day cards from the late 19th century for personal pleasure and for her history students to examine. Bischof said that it is evident from her historic collection where we get our classic symbols of cherubs, hearts, flowers and doves. The cards were highly ornate, with soft tones of pinks, reds and blues and layered with lace and images of Victorian era scenes.

“Much like the women of the time were overdressed with ruffles and lace, these Valentine’s Day cards were way overdone,” said Bischof. “But I love card exchange.”

Bischof said that people living in the Victorian era, which lasted from 1837-1901, were more sentimental than the current generation and spent their Valentine’s Day sending gifts and detailed artistic stationaries to not just their romantic desires, but also to their friends and family.

“Today the honor of ‘my Valentine’ is usually reserved for somebody’s boyfriend or girlfriend,” said Bischof. “Friendships were more intimate back then.”

From the pop up art work, to the romantic verses and handwritten notes to even the envelopes they were sent in, these messages of love followed a structured format, but without lacking in creativity and meaning.

“In the 1700s there were actual manuals and coded social behaviors on what you should put into a Valentine’s Day card,” said Bischof.

Even the direction and angle of the stamp carried some sort of sentiment and meaning. For example a crooked stamp might mean that your intentions are to transcend being friends and start courting.

The art of the handwritten note and the act of making things from scratch in general is something that Bischof believes has for the most part, taken a back seat in modern society.

“Times have changed,” said Bischof. “There’s no handmade touch anymore, when taking the time and sentiment is important. It would be a nice thing if we could do more of it, but it’s gone by the wayside a little, partially from laziness and partially the demands of our time.”

According to Bischof, Valentine’s Day rituals have altered to a point where the holiday is more commercialized and people feel pressured to spend a lot of their money fueling a billion dollar industry. And while according to U.S. Postal Service, 150 million Valentine’s Day cards were sent through the mail last year, most were mass produced.

“Nowadays I’m sure it’s more common to make a Facebook post and tag your significant other in it,” said Bischof. “There was more genuine caring behind the Victorian practices, that may have just been filtered out now.”

Emily Maynard, a community planning and development graduate, used to keep fostering the older card exchange tradition as an R.A. on campus by leaving Valentine’s Day cards under residents’ doors. She believes that handmaking a card and sending it through the mail shows a lot of initiative, but is simply a hobby for some people.

“But that card in the mail has definitely been almost phased out by modern society,” said Maynard. “My parent will send me a card. But I probably won’t send one back.”

“I might send out one card,” said Brandon Owens, a recreation and sports management graduate. “If I had time, I’d try to make something. Creativity does mean more.”

Owens and his friend Cody Rohde, fellow sports management major, said they plan on watching Netflix on Valentine’s Day and think that people view the holiday as just another “Hallmark holiday but don’t really understand it.”

Today the holiday has strayed far from its dark Roman origins and Victorian era days of highly cordial but sincere rituals, into a big, money churning business. According to CNN, two years ago Americans spent more than four billion dollars on just candy and roses and $18.6 billion overall, by the time the day of love appeared on the calendar.

However according to the same survey, 85% of men and women in America say sex is an important part of their Valentine’s Day celebrations, so modern observers of the holiday hanker back to some of their ancient roots.

 

First presidency finalist visits

Tue, 2015-02-10 14:34

The first of the three prospective USM presidents, Jose “Zito” Sartarelli, met with student leaders, faculty and staff Thursday to introduce himself and answer questions about his vision for USM.

“Job one is enrollment. You have to fix enrollment. Job two is fundraising. Fundraising takes time, three to five years,” Sartarelli said. “USM has great bones but absolutely needs a new vision.”

Throughout the day Sartarelli was vocally adamant about recruitment and getting enrollment up by marketing to students.

“That dream of ‘build it and they will come’ – that doesn’t work anymore, you have to go out and sell it,” said Sartarelli. “We have to sell abroad and nationally – make our classrooms more diverse.”

“I have coined a slogan already. ‘USM Rising.’ Rising enrollment. Rising community engagement,” Sartarelli said.

The student senate ate lunch with Sartarelli and were all concerned about what his take of the “metropolitan university model” would be. Sartarelli’s vision entails not just reaching out to local businesses but a global reach. He would like to raise our student population from hovering around 7,000 to 10,000 and have international students be 10% of that makeup.

“One thing is for sure, we have to get our numbers up, it doesn’t matter what a metropolitan university is,” Sartarelli said.

Sartarelli wants to use his diverse international background working for global companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myer Squid, running their Latin American and Asia-Pacific departments.

Sartarelli is currently West Virginia University’s Chief Global Officer and Milan Puskar Dean of the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. He grew up on a farm in Brazil and until the age of seven read by the light of a kerosene lamp. Sartarelli finished high school in Texas and is still close friends with his host family.

“I am the epitome of ‘It takes a village.’ I’ve been helped by a lot of people in my life,” Sartarelli said.

If he was president six months or two years ago, he was asked, would he have gutted the university of professors and courses? Sartarelli said he didn’t like to answer hypothetical questions but he did say when you have a university such as ours that has 75% of its money connected to people, someone will be affected.

“If enrollment doesn’t go up there’s going to be more cuts in the future,” said Sartarelli. “For the greater good of the entity, it takes some pain.”

Megean Bourgeois, an undergraduate voting member of the presidential search board, broached the question of firing tenured professors by voicemail. Sartarelli said there needs to be dignity when releasing professors.

“It’s the termination of a dream. It’s shocking. There needs to be dignity and it must be done face to face,” said Sartarelli.

 

President Flanagan donates half of his salary for scholarship funding

Mon, 2015-02-09 11:32

President David Flanagan announced today that he will be donating half of his annual salary to the USM Foundation, pledging $100,000 to be put toward student scholarships.

“We understand how vital it is for all of us connected to USM–faculty, staff, administration, alumni and friends–to be engaged in supporting our students and strengthening our role in the wider metropolitan community,” said Flanagan in a press release distributed on Monday morning.

The donated funds will be used to provide students with immediate need-based scholarships and to create a new endowed fund called  the David and Kaye’ 73 Flanagan Scholarship Fund, named after Flanagan and his wife.

“Kaye and I both came from modest economic backgrounds, and we know first-hand how important scholarship financial assistance was to us personally,” said David Flanagan. “We’re committed to helping bring the opportunity of a college education into reach for more Maine families.”

“I am proud of my USM education and am happy to contribute to its ongoing mission of affordable quality education for families like ours,” added Kaye Flanagan.

According to the release, this donation was sparked by another substantial donation to USM.

Richard “Doc” Costello, former USM Athletic Director, and his wife Melissa Costello, former chair of the School of Education, have announced that they will bequeath $750,000  to the University of Southern Maine Foundation for improvements to the Costello Sports Complex, the Gorham campus athletics facility named after the couple.

“We are thrilled with this wonderful gift from Melissa and Doc Costello.  Between the two of them, they had a huge impact on USM during their careers, particularly in the School of Education, where they both had faculty appointments,” said Cecile Aitchison, president of the USM Foundation. “As a coach and a teacher, Doc supported students in and out of the classroom.”

 

Consequences are yet to be set for the

Wed, 2015-02-04 12:08

Consequences are yet to be set for the majority of students who haven’t completed the mandatory sexual assault prevention training.

In the middle of November an email was sent out to students, paired with a message on Maine Street, making students aware that the training must be completed. Originally, the training was supposed to be completed before the semester break, but due to lack of completion by a majority of students, no set deadline has been made at this time.

As of now, there are no repercussions for not completing the survey. However, Joy Pufhal, dean of students, believes that there will be consequences, consequences which the board of trustees are currently trying to determine.

“This is the next piece on our agenda,” Pufhal said.

Pufhal also believes that the consequences could be as severe as holds being placed on the student accounts that have failed to complete the assessment, meaning that registering for classes would be impossible until the training is completed.

The amount of people participating in the training is much less than the USM administration hoped. Sarah Holmes, assistant director of student life and diversity, thinks this could be due to the fact that students are only being reached through email and MaineStreet

“A lot of people don’t pay attention to that stuff,” said Holmes. “There has been a slight increase in the number of students participating since the beginning of the spring semester.”

Holmes also commented that there hasn’t been a strong enough effort to get the word around.

“We need other methods of reaching people and letting them know how important this is,” said Holmes.

According to Holmes, that includes putting a blurb in the News Flush, a poster campaign, or starting something on social media to reach more students.

Not only is the training mandatory, but Holmes believes that the training will educate those who may not have any idea that sexual assault and harassment can be a real concern in campus communities. Holmes also is hopeful that as more partake in the training, victims of sexual assault will be able to step forward and know who to turn to when they want to talk about what happened to them.

Library fines add up, lock student accounts

Wed, 2015-02-04 12:07

Students collectively owe the Glickman library in Portland an estimated amount of $4,375 in overdue book charges, with 29 students blocked by student accounts because they owe more than $100.

According to the director of libraries David Nutty, once a book is two weeks overdue, it’s assumed lost and a “billed book policy” is started. The student is then charged $45 for the book, plus a $10 processing and billing fee. If the book is returned all the fees would be waived, if not the bill gets transferred to the student accounts office.

“Our goal is to get the book back, not to make money,” said Nutty. “After two weeks, it becomes an issue with student accounts.”

For 29 students, because of their overage charges, they remain blocked by the registrar, meaning they can’t sign up for classes, get transcripts or even graduate until they settle their debt.

“They either need to pay off the bill, return the book, or speak to us, before they can do business with the university again,” said Nutty. “Under some extenuating circumstances, we’ve let students off the hook in the past.”

Nutty said that the reasons behind students not returning books on time are as varied as the individuals themselves and that forgetfulness and neglect probably play a role.

“Some people frankly just come in and say they’ve lost the book, pay the fees and move on with their lives,” said Nutty.

Another source of expenditure for the library is the occasional theft of property. According to Nutty, there’s been an individual stealing books from the library on two separate occasions: once in January and then again back in July. Nutty said that based on the images captured by security camera footage, the two thefts were committed by the same person.

Earlier in January, the individual set off the alarm and ran from campus with about eight books. By the time the police got there, the individual was already gone.

There is no way to exit the library without passing through the security gate, which reads the magnetic strip embedded within books, in a similar fashion to the gates in retail stores.

“That was the only blatant theft we’ve had in recent times,” said Nutty. “It’s not really a big problem for us. We’ve had more cases of petty thefts like purses or bags missing than anything else.”

 

Presidential search committee chooses three finalists

Wed, 2015-02-04 12:05

Three finalists have been selected by the University of Southern Maine Presidential Search Committee and were announced last week. The candidates will be on all campuses at separate times throughout February.

The search committee included members of the board of trustees, students, staff, faculty, the community, board of visitors and a designee of the Chancellor. According to an email sent out by Chris Quint, executive director of public affairs, the committee began its national search last October. With 80 applicant responses, this presidential search is one of the largest in the last decade for any position within the university system.

Dr. Harvey Kesselman, who will be visiting USM on February 2 and 3, is currently the Provost and Executive Vice President at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

The second candidate, Dr. Jose Sartarelli, is the Chief Global Officer and Milan Puskar Dean of the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. He will be visiting USM on February 5th and 6th.

The final second candidate, who will be visiting USM on February 9 and 10, is Dr. Glenn Cummings, who currently serves as the president of the University of Maine at Augusta.

Kesselman was nominated to the position and in his letter of intent, explained that the mission statement set forth by the search committee was one to be enthused about.

“[I] believe my leadership abilities, skills, proven expertise in higher education, professional qualifications and personal characteristics are consistent with those you seek in your next president,” said Kesselman.

He went on to explain that in his current role, he is responsible for managing a $75 million academic budget, serves 8,600 students as well as 8000 full and part-time faculty and staff, eight academic schools and several supporting divisions throughout the college.

“Working closely with the president and the board of trustees,” he explained, “I have been a transformational leader of Stockton.”

Dr. Jose Sartarelli, the second candidate to visit the university, expressed his interest in the position and explained that he was able to turn a “good college” into a “vibrant one” with the support of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.

“Together we have achieved all-time record fundraising, $30 million in four years, reached all-time record enrollment, 2,709 students versus 1,452 in 2010 and strengthened the financials of the college significantly, with $45 million in net assets versus $29 million in 2010.”

He went on to explain that they have expanded recruitment globally and now some particular programs have ranked globally.

Lastly, Dr. Glenn Cummings, will be visiting the campuses on February 9th and 10th.

In his letter of intent, Cummings explained, “Plainly said, I see this position from a deep-seated and well-informed belief in the power, importance and enormous potential of the University of Southern Maine.”

Despite significant recent struggles, he believes the university possesses all the assets necessary for a significant turnaround.

“My vision includes reshaping the University of Southern Maine into one of the most vibrant metropolitan universities in the country,” said Cummings. “I believe this is a vision that faculty, staff, students and community members share already as stakeholder.”

According to Cummings, with the right leadership, that vision is attainable.

In an email, Quint explained that following the campus visits the search committee will reconvene to consider community comments and finalize recommendations that will be forwarded to the University of Maine System Chancellor James Page. In the spring, the board of trustees will be asked to approve the Chancellor’s selection. The new president is expected to take office early this summer.

On Feb. 2, Kesselman will be having an open meeting with faculty from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00, with students from 1:15 to 2:00 and with staff from 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. in the Glickman Library Events Room on the seventh floor.

Winter storm shuts down USM, classes canceled three days in one week

Wed, 2015-02-04 11:57

USM shut down its campuses, suspending classes and activities, three times last week, in response to a series of snowstorms that blanketed Portland with over two and a half feet of snow.

Bangor Daily News reported that the first storm, colloquially named “Juno” dumped two feet of snow in some Maine communities, while the second one left Portland with another 6-8 inches of accumulation.

On top of the accumulation, wind gusts of over 45 mph resulted in snow drifting from the side of the roads, reducing visibility and making travel conditions very dangerous. Many students, like the student body president Kyle Frazier, believed that it was wise for USM’s administration to heed the National Weather Services predictions and close school, especially on its exclusively commuter Portland campus.

“The cancellations were a good move,” said Frazier. “We have a high amount of commuter students and while attending class is important, it is also important that students are safe, especially when many of them travel a pretty far distance to attend class.”

Students like Chelsea Bard, a sophomore communication and media studies major and her friend Nicole Downing, a sophomore art major, agreed and said that while education is important, it’s not important enough to risk driving during a whiteout blizzard.

“It’s too bad that some people got to miss out on their classes, but it’s better than being in an accident,” said Downing.

“People say ‘oh you’re from Maine, you’re supposed to know how to drive in the snow,’ but it doesn’t matter who you are, driving on snowy roads is sketchy, even for Mainers,” said Bard.

Bard and Downing spent their time off in the same way that they believe most students did: relaxing and binge-watching some Netflix, while school work was put on the back burner.

“It was really nice to just have a couple days to chill,” said Downing.

Downing said that after stocking up on snack food at Hannaford before the storm, she knitted a winter hat, and had a Netflix marathon with her sister, knocking down several episodes of “Psychopath,” “Gossip Girl,” and “Parts Unknown.”

Bard, a resident in Gorham, spent one of her free days playing in the snow.

“I grabbed a sled and went out to the hill behind Robie Andrews,” said Bard. “There were people sledding, snowboarding and making snowmen.”

While it was evident throughout social media that most students enjoyed having three snow days, there were, however, some gripes expressed about the storm.

Downing proudly proclaimed that she didn’t fall down once last week, but she still cited under-plowed sidewalks as an annoying byproduct of the storm. A sidewalk in Gorham proved to be troublesome for Downing who said it was blocked off by a massive snowbank.

“I had to walk on the road for a bit and I kept hoping there would be no cars or buses coming down,” said Downing.

Frazier said that parking was more of an issue for him and his friends than anything else. According to Frazier, cars in the garage were locked within from 10 pm Monday, to 4 pm Wednesday when USM resumed classes.

“I don’t understand why the gates that let cars out one at a time could not have been functioning during the hours they normally do,” said Frazier. “I understand not allowing cars in, but not letting them out seems odd to me.”

However overall students applauded the efforts of USM public safety of keeping the snow clear in a timely manner.

“I think the clean up job was great,” said Frazier. “I couldn’t imagine it being any better considering the amount of snow we got.”

According to the Bangor Daily News, along with USM, over 300 other businesses and events were cancelled across the state because of last week’s weather conditions.

 

UCU opens campus branch: students ready for convenient banking

Thu, 2015-01-29 14:52

Last week, University Credit Union celebrated the grand opening of an on-campus branch in Gorham, giving residential students a quick and convenient banking location.

“We know that managing your finances can be confusing, so we want to be there for USM’s students, staff and faculty if they need any assistance at all,” said Amy Irish, UCU’s assistant vice president of member development.

The Brooks Student Center has housed an official UCU kiosk for years where members could deposit checks, manage their accounts and withdraw cash, but now a branch with regular business hours will provide students with more assistance if needed.
“Not only are we there to open new accounts, but anyone on campus can come to us to talk about loan applications, computer or car loans, budgeting assistance and loan payments, too,” said Irish.
The one-employee branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment during the week and the kiosk will be on and available whenever the student center is open.
Having a credit union on campus means that residential students will no longer have to trudge down to Casco Federal Credit Union on Main Street to access their account.
“Especially in the dead of winter, it can be a pain to leave campus,” said Irish.
“I’ve had late fees charged on my credit card just because I couldn’t bring myself to walk down to the credit union when it was below freezing out,” said junior marketing major Chris Egan.
While they haven’t been in to set-up an account yet, undeclared freshman Melissa Boone and Ashley Shaw said that they planned on looking into it.
“I’ve always been told that credit unions are better places to put your money,” said Shaw. “And since there’s one set-up practically on my way to lunch everyday, I’ll probably stop in.”
The new branch has a table of free UCU items to lure in passersby and Irish says she hopes that the branch will be able to serve more and more of the USM community as time goes on.
“We’ve always had students and staff tell us over the years that we should just open up on campus,” said Irish, noting that UCU has a branch open in Portland just a short walk from campus. “The opportunity presented itself late last year and we’ve been working on it ever since. We’re here to serve the community in any way that we can.”

UCU opens campus branch: students ready for convenient banking

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:14

Last week, University Credit Union celebrated the grand opening of an on-campus branch in Gorham, giving residential students a quick and convenient banking location.

“We know that managing your finances can be confusing, so we want to be there for USM’s students, staff and faculty if they need any assistance at all,” said Amy Irish, UCU’s assistant vice president of member development.

The Brooks Student Center has housed an official UCU kiosk for years where members could deposit checks, manage their accounts and withdraw cash, but now a branch with regular business hours will provide students with more assistance if needed.

“Not only are we there to open new accounts, but anyone on campus can come to us to talk about loan applications, computer or car loans, budgeting assistance and loan payments, too,” said Irish.

The one-employee branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment during the week and the kiosk will be on and available whenever the student center is open.

Having a credit union on campus means that residential students will no longer have to trudge down to Casco Federal Credit Union on Main Street to access their account.

“Especially in the dead of winter, it can be a pain to leave campus,” said Irish.

“I’ve had late fees charged on my credit card just because I couldn’t bring myself to walk down to the credit union when it was below freezing out,” said junior marketing major Chris Egan.

While they haven’t been in to set-up an account yet, undeclared freshman Melissa Boone and Ashley Shaw said that they planned on looking into it.

“I’ve always been told that credit unions are better places to put your money,” said Shaw. “And since there’s one set-up practically on my way to lunch everyday, I’ll probably stop in.”

The new branch has a table of free UCU items to lure in passersby and Irish says she hopes that the branch will be able to serve more and more of the USM community as time goes on.

“We’ve always had students and staff tell us over the years that we should just open up on campus,” said Irish, noting that UCU has a branch open in Portland just a short walk from campus. “The opportunity presented itself late last year and we’ve been working on it ever since. We’re here to serve the community in any way that we can.”

Number of adjunct professors on the rise at USM

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:14

By: Brian Gordon

The university has been firing tenured professors and replacing them with adjuncts or temporary workers as part of executing their vision of a “metropolitan university.” The administration has been carrying this out in the name of saving money.  The national average of adjuncts teaching is 50 percent  at 4-year public universities. USM uses more than 50 percent to teach their classes and is headed towards more as they let more full time professors go.

The adjuncts are paid per class, per semester. On average they are paid $3,215 per class, for a three credit course for a four month semester. Most adjuncts have to work second and third jobs to make ends meet. Still the adjuncts were adamant about their love of teaching and realized they wouldn’t become rich from it.

Michele Cheung has been teaching part time at USM for twenty years. She holds a master’s in Celtic languages and literatures and is also president of the Part Time Faculty Association union.

To make teaching adjunct work, she freelances, does marketing writing and has a share in a local cleaning company.

“It’s a stereotype that we’re not good enough to be full time faculty, this is a lurking attitude,” said Cheung “Most adjuncts don’t want to be full time; we want a life that’s a bit of this and a bit of that. However we do feel that we should be paid on par as full time.”

She used to teach four classes but now they’ve been done away with. This semester she’s only teaching one section of creative writing.

The administration has been pushing to get tenured professors teaching a full load of four classes, rather than two or three. But at the same time, the administration is cutting classes leaving the tenured professors fighting over classes with the adjuncts.

Cheung notes that adjuncts used to only teach introductory classes but now the tenured professors may need those courses to satisfy their own requirements set by the president and provost.

While some adjuncts are being brought in to replace full-time faculty who have been retrenched, in other departments they have been given fewer sections. This situation creates its own problems. As Cheung notes, adjuncts with the most seniority are the only ones left standing.

“The lesser temps can’t find work at USM. There’s no way for a person to make a living teaching one class; they’d have to pump gas or get government aid,” said Cheung.

Elizabeth Peavey was an USM adjunct teacher of public speaking for 20 years before her class was neutralized last fall.

“I knew I was going to dedicate an enormous amount of my week to this one class so then I had to find something to offset that,” said Peavey. “I did advertising work for years.”

“Anybody who goes into teaching, does it with their heart. It’s public service,” said Peavey. “You don’t aspire to teach for money or because it’s going to be easy.”

Andrew Barron just finished his master’s degree at USM in statistics. He is in his fourth semester as an adjunct teaching at USM. Barron would like to get hired on full time but knows that might not happen due to a campus-wide freeze of hiring tenured track professors. For now he’s content teaching adjunct as much as he can at USM and SMCC but realizes if he does want to get a full time job he might have to move out of state.

As for the pay, Barron isn’t complaining because he loves to teach but “you always pretty much have to do something else.” For Barron that something else was bartending and managing at local bar LFK.

“I can make more bartending two nights than a semester of teaching 12 credits.” said Barron. “It’s not the most efficient way to make money. So you have to like it.”

Susan Feiner professor of economics and women and gender studies thinks the use of adjuncts on campus is too prominent. She believes they are taking jobs that should go to tenured-track professors.

Feiner said there is a place for adjunct teachers on campus where they have a lot of experience in their field of expertise. For example, “A nurse, software designer, the judge in the law school,” said Feiner.

“I’m not saying they’re not good in the classrooms, but they are not teacher-scholars,” said Feiner, meaning they haven’t received their Ph.D and they don’t have a research background.

Do students notice a difference in the teaching quality between adjuncts and full time tenured track professors? “When I’m teaching, I’m teaching and my focus is on that. On the other hand I’m not teaching four courses so I can put more energy into the one or two I do,” said Cheung.

Crystal Lancaster, a Health Sciences major who notes she’s had nurses teaching her said, “I respect the adjuncts a lot more because they’re the ones that go out and do it, rather than someone that just blabs from a textbook.”

Some students have noticed a difference in teaching styles like Iris SanGiovanni, a political science sophomore. Her Spanish 201 class taught by an adjunct relied too heavily on English language Youtube videos, whereas a 202 Spanish class taught by a full time professor used more in class discussion taught in Spanish.

“I feel a little like Goldilocks because 201 was a little too relaxed and 202 was too strict. Perhaps if the adjunct professor had more time to commit to classroom preparation, they wouldn’t have needed to rely so heavily on videos,” said SanGiovanni.

Caleb Coleman, a senior economics major has had adjuncts with mixed success.

“Almost every full-time professor I’ve had has seemed more passionate about the content they are teaching.”

Coleman noted he had a great adjunct professor last year but he left for more money.

“It feels like adjuncts are usually there to just teach the class and would rather avoid spending too much extra time helping students, understandable, given their pay.”

Feiner believes relying too heavily on underpaid workers isn’t fair to the adjuncts or the students.

“This is the problem of administrators seeing everyone as assembly line workers. It’s a very diminished view of education,” said Feiner. “To make the part time worker the norm, rather than the exception is very very detrimental to the academic enterprise.”

“As conditions for full time faculty grow worse and more like the conditions for adjuncts faculty, theres going to be more and more alliances and coalition building and backing each other up. I’m all for that,” said Cheung. “It’s just another way the university is not investing in the school by not investing in teachers.”

Students still prefer the classic classroom experience

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:11

In the fall, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences issued a survey to ask students in the department which kind of learning they prefer. A resonating 92 percent answered that they prefer in person instruction, with two percent preferring online, and five percent preferring the blended classroom concept.

Leonard Shedletsky, professor of communication, has focused his teaching efforts online but does enjoy both.

“While the two contexts differ in many ways, there are ways in which they share significant features,” said Shedletsky. “What I have in mind is the potential more and more to meet live or synchronously online, to discuss, hear one another’s voice, see one another, share documents, view texts and videos together and to feel the immediacy of one another.”

Shedletsky noted the results of the survey, but advised that they be considered very carefully.

“These data should not be taken too literally without deeper examination,” Shedletsky said. “I believe that when people imagine the comparison there is a tendency to imagine scenarios that are not realistic. There is a tendency to romanticize the classroom, a world of give and take, authentic talk, engaged debate. Little of that is actually true, however.”

Matthew Killmeier, chair of the department of communication and media studies, explained that the survey was taken in class, which may cause some bias. He also recognized that when the department offers online classes, they fill up quickly.

“The bias is this survey is one we did in class,” said Killmeier. “When we offer an online section of something it usually fills up right away. There is demand. There is a considerable number of students that do do exclusively online.”

Killmeier went onto explain that one of his students, a blueberry farmer in Washington County, completed his communication degree completely online.

“It’s got potential if you do it right, recognizing that online is not for everybody, and I think a lot of students would attest to that,” said Killmeier. “It demands a lot more of the student. They have to be very self-disciplined because it is asynchronous.”

Ashley Belanger, sophomore biology major, believes there are pros and cons to online learning.

“[Online classes are] easier in some aspects because it’s more time friendly and convenient but also harder because it is not the first class you think of and it can be harder to focus,” Belanger said.

Belanger doesn’t believe that students should be able to complete a degree solely online, because that may deprive students of the hands-on aspect that some require to thrive. However, she does think offering online classes to those who may need it is a good route to go.

“I believe that it would be a good idea [to offer more classes online] since a great portion of our students work while going to school or have a family to take care of,” said Belanger. “It would fit better in almost everybody’s schedule.”

Lexi Huot, an undeclared freshman, is currently enrolled in her first online class at USM, but explained that she already knows that she prefers a face-to-face educational environment.

“With my class right now it’s very confusing to know what is due and how the professor wants it done,” said Huot. “Whereas, in a classroom environment they explained how the assignment should be done.”

She added that online classes are helping her manage her time better, since they are more independent.

Huot recognized that online classes are not how everyone learns.

“Many students, like myself, prefer to see the material done in front of us,” said Huot. “I also feel it is easier to engage in a class discussion when you have everyone else in front of you instead of going back to check your computer to see what your other classmates opinion is on the topic.”

Regardless of the preference, all agreed that online learning has potential, but is certainly not something that should be required, as students all have different needs.

“A quality academic experience, whether online or face-to-face is the goal we need to seek,” said Shedletsky. “It can be done if we set our minds to it.”

Michael Berube chairs the AAUP investigation

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:10

Last week, a team was sent to USM by the American Association of University Professors to investigate claims against USM’s execution of academic freedom and shared governance.

Chairing the investigative committee was Michael Berube, director of the institute for arts and humanities at Pennsylvania State University.

According to Berube, hundreds of requests for intervention come before the AAUP every year, regarding what he described as “shady practices in American higher education.” From those, only a handful are selected.

“The investigative process is very labor intensive,” said Berube. “We try to take the ones that we think are the most important for the future of higher education.”

USM fell into that category.

“What’s going on in Southern Maine, it seems, is pretty drastic,” said Berube. “It seems to have pretty far-reaching implications and that’s why it was authorized for investigation.”

Berube explained that the process of investigation includes two main components. First, the committee must read every document relevant to the investigation.

“I’ve read massive amounts of material, ranging from the faculty bylaws, to the constitution; I’ve gone through email exchanges, reports from the administration, various information about financial disaster,” said Berube. “We just try to get the lay of the land here.”

Berube explained that, in an investigation, the team wants to hear as much from administration as it does from faculty.

“We come in as outsiders,” said Berube. “We come in as impartial observers.”

Berube addressed the idea brought up time and time again by USM administration that the AAUP has no standing, and reiterated that it is only true in a “narrow” legal sense.

“The AAUP is in fact a nationally recognized authority on what academic freedom and governance actually are,” said Berube. “So we don’t take this stuff lightly, but we don’t come in with any preconceived notions either.”

Another member on the committee as well as a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, Howard Bunsis is in the process of the financial analysis.

Berube explained that this step has been difficult, because USM has not published all of the information or made available the numbers that they’re basing the financial crisis upon.

“President Flanagan did go over some larger scale demographic and financial projections for the state of Maine,” said Berube. “We have been able to go over published financial information of the system as a whole, but Howard Bunsis has only recently been able to get ahold of specific information about the University of Southern Maine.”

Christopher Quint, executive director of public affairs, explained that USM has been “nothing but transparent” throughout the process of closing the financial gap.

Berube also noted the difficulty in determining the financial status of USM because the numbers they’re looking at are projected, and have been for quite some time now.

“The administration’s approach on this is ‘Yeah, we’ve had a looming problem for quite some time. We’re not making this up, this is a systematic problem.”

The third challenge, Berube said, is not about the numbers or about the money.

“Even if these projections and these predictions are true, is this anyway to run a university?” asked Berube. “Is this really the way we go about retrenching faculty and cutting programs? And that’s a procedural question, but a really important one.”

Berube explained that even if the numbers pan out, the AAUP will still be looking at whether or not the process to filling the budget gap was done in a “proper and professional manner.”

A censure, according to Berube, could have any number of effects, and depends on how willing the administration is to get off the censure list once they’re put on it.

When asked whether USM would make an effort to be removed from the censure list if the university is indeed censured, Quint said, “USM is focused on implementing the Metropolitan University concept and ensuring that we remain an affordable, accessible and quality institution for our current and future students.”

He said that the state university of New York system has been on the censure list since the mid 70s, and will be on the list forever. They have a clause that allows them to fire faculty at will.

On the other hand, Louisiana State University was censured and immediately began working to be removed.

“It’s not like we censure you and we’re done and we never talk to you again,” said Berube. “The idea is not to censure people and show that they’re bad. The idea is to get institutions to stop doing the kinds of things that are getting them censured.”

The vote on whether or not USM will be censured will go before the AAUP during their annual conference in June.

Senate works to retain and train new members

Tue, 2015-01-27 19:08

The student senate shot down a motion last week that would have changed the senator application process for the remainder of the semester. Throughout the year the senate has occasionally questioned whether or not applicants should have to gather signatures from the student body in order to become a senator. On Friday the senate decided that the signature process should remain, but only after thorough discussion.

“The petition process was put in place when the senate was set to have a busy election and thought that the seats were going to fill up instantly,” said senate parliamentarian Joshua Tharpe. “As we all know, that hasn’t been the case.”

The senate has been under seated all year and has suspended the rule requiring signatures in order to appoint senators on occasion. The requirement used to be 100 signatures but was later reduced to just 25.  Recruitment was key in the discussion, as some senators said petitioning could be getting in the way of recruiting new members while they have only 14 of 21 seats filled.

“Not everyone has the go-getter attitude necessary to talk to so many strangers and get signatures,” said senator Emily Rose.

Other senators felt that the petitioning was an important part of the process.

“You should have to work to be on senate,” said senator Ashley Caterina. “If you can’t bother going out and talking to students you’re going to be working for, you shouldn’t get the job.”

“I know it can feel like a hassle and a pain,” said senator John Jackson. “But it forces you to get out there and connect with the community. It really helps put a face to our names, which is something we’ve been working to do.”

Josh Dodge, former senate chair who stepped down to take an out-of-state internship, was in attendance and explained why the signature process was created in the first place.

“There was a point a couple years ago when senate was this empty and we started appointing senators without an election just to fill seats, but there was a little bit of an outrage because people thought senators were abers of certain clubs,” explained Dodge. “With the petitioning, we at least have something saying this handful of students wanted you to be a senator. It’s not an election, but it backed our decisions up.”

There was a motion on the floor to suspend the petition requirements until the senate had at least 18 senators, but was shot down, with only four senators voting to do away with the rule.

The senate has been working to increase the size of the senate, but decided to start from the inside. This week the executive board introduced a senator retention program, pairing up veteran senators with freshly appointed ones to guide them through a handful of meetings and help them get used to their duties.

The senate also assigned senators to each of its entities, including the board of student organizations, the campus events boards and the student communications board, in order to maximize relationships with other student groups.

“I feel like this will help everyone keep on track,” said senate chair Judson Cease. “We’re moving in a good direction.”

 

‘We are on the verge of being censured.’: Faculty senate worried about possible AAUP sanction

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

In response to recent cuts by administration, as well as the threat of a sanction by the American Association for University Professors (AAUP), a special faculty senate meeting was held on Friday to discuss the role of the senate moving forward.

In an almost unanimous vote, the senate passed a resolution to ask for a rescindment of recent acts by administration, as well as a request for administration to work in collaboration with governance documents and the AAUP.

The senate proposed a resolution regarding what they perceived as violations of the USM governance constitution. In response to this, an investigative team will be on campus Sunday and Monday.

According to Nancy Gish, professor of English, there are approximately 1,000 concerns from universities presented to the AAUP each year, and only four or five are selected to investigate, USM being one of those.

“We are on the verge of being censured by the AAUP,” said Carlos Luck, professor of electrical engineering. “Do we know what that means?”

According to the senate, though the AAUP has no legal standing, it will effect the university as a whole in the future. Concerns regarding recruitment and retrenchment were brought up.

In an interview with The Free Press, Chris Quint, executive director of public affairs, explained that USM has reached out to other universities sanctioned by the AAUP and there has been no significant impact on enrollment or recruitment.

“It’s inconsequential,” said Quint. “It doesn’t impact us. It’s in existence for them to promote an agenda.”

“The best people in the field will not apply for jobs here,” said Susan Feiner, professor of economics and professor of women and gender studies.

Mark Lapping, professor in the Muskie School of Public Service, said that people will look at the list of censored institutions and simply not apply.

“Let’s face it, it’s a buyer’s marker,” said Lapping. “It’s a blemish on the system. There are potentially more actions like this that could happen to the system.”

Lucinda Cole, director of the women and gender studies department, explained that USM would not be able to fulfill the universities purpose under these circumstances.

Quint explained, as he has in the past, that the AAUP has no standing in the matters of the university.

“They have zero legal standing. We are meeting with them as a courtesy and there will be no one else meeting with them from administration,” said Quint. “If they accept, they’ll have an opportunity to ask whatever questions they need to.”

“This is a misunderstanding of the word ‘standing.’ Most people think only or imagine only of the legal standing,” said Gish. “The AAUP has immense national standing, professional standing, moral standing, ethical standing, academic standing.”

She went on to explain that the word “standing” is much broader than whether or not there are legal implications.

“If, for example, my doctor were to cause me to be permanently disabled and the AMA took a stand on this, it wouldn’t be legal in court but it would certainly have standing,” said Gish. “If it was made public in the state, it ought to have a powerful impact on people’s views of the university.”

Luck explained that the idea that censure by the AAUP only puts a “damper” on recruitment doesn’t seem like a big enough punishment. However, others explained that there are long term repercussions to take into account.

Jerry LaSala, chair of the faculty senate, explained that governance is one of things considered when becoming accredited.

“I suspect that that would read down upon our accreditation,” said LaSala.

Luck also brought up the issue of recruiting local students in the area.

“What will our potential students do once they hear that USM is being sanctioned?” he asked.

Gish explained that one of the most important things that people could do was read the preamble of the constitution, which includes information about USM’s relationship with the AAUP.

“To say that the AAUP is not and never has had any participation in the policies of the governance system is incorrect,” said Gish. “The BoT is violating its own policies against the constitution.”

Quint rebutted that the only mention of the AAUP is in the preamble, which is simply an acknowledgement.

“There’s one mention in the USM constitution. That’s it,” said Quint. “We don’t have to meet with them, but we’ve offered.”

Quint said that once the investigation is through, he suspects USM will be censured, but that they’ll find exactly the same information that’s been given out since September.

“The same information [President] David [Flanagan] has given to the faculty senate meeting every time,” said Quint. “That information is we have a $16 million structural gap. They’ll find that the numbers are real. Whether they believe it or not, they’ll find that we’ve followed the processes in place.”

Quint believes the visit has a predetermined outcome, and that the AAUP did not plan their visit well.

“We’re closed on Monday and we’ve got other things to do,” said Quint. “If their intention was truly to have an informed investigation, reach out to us on days when we’re not closed or busy.”

Enrollment continues to decline this semester

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

Classrooms this spring semester will have 374 fewer students in them than last year, based on the current headcount released by the academic affairs. 

While not completely final, because students may still add or drop courses during the month, the numbers of enrolled students in the spring these past three years show a steady declin–6,717 students have enrolled so far this spring, compared to 7,652 two years prior. 

The general opinion, after gathering 20 individual responses from both past and current students, is that USM often serves as a prospective students “back up school.” Many said that USM’s biggest attraction is its affordability, an area that the administration wants to focus on when marketing to potential applicants. Despite its competitive price in the higher education market, USM has served as a “last resort” to students like Brianna Wolfe, a risk management graduate. 

“I settled on USM,” said Wolfe. “If I could go back, I probably would have not chosen to com here, although I’ve met some great people here.”

In Wolfe’s opinion, news of program eliminations, faculty layoffs and student protests may have scared off potential applicants. According to Wolfe, USM could also use a “facelift” on its “nasty 60’s and 70’s buildings,” which might help attract more students. 

“If I were applying now to colleges and I heard about USM, I wouldn’t even waste my money on the application fee,” said Wolfe. “Why waste my precious money on a place, like USM, that is going to be dead in only a matter of years?”

Douglas McIntire, an English graduate, also said that the bad press is driving away students and USM wasn’t even on his radar when he was researching grad school. McIntire’s first choice for college was USM, but “wishy washy” guidelines for his then art major and a lack of guidance sent him away to St. Joeseph’s College. According to McIntire, the only reason he came back to USM was because of finances, but after majoring in English he had no regrets. 

“The English department is the best,” said McIntire. “It’s like finding a diamond ring in Goodwill.”

Sarah Gelber, a recent English graduate, agrees and said that her program was a “hidden gem,” but the school overall has a bad reputation it needs to work on. Gelber said that students in high school are hearing rumours that USM is an example of how higher education shouldn’t operate. 

“What ultimately saved my opinion of USM was my program; I can’t tell you how much I loved it,” said Gelber. “I hope USM will remain the same, as I remember it, for future students.”

Although Gelber loves the city of Portland and it influenced her decision to come to USM, she believes that the lack of cohesion with Gorham may contribute to the declining retention. 

“Another big issue at USM is a lack of community,” said Gelber. 

John Finison, an English graduate, also came to USM because of its prime location in Portland, although it was his backup school. Finison said he was originally searching for an “authentic” college experience out of state. 

“I say authentic because it seems USM tries to “reinvent” itself every few years by hiring a new marketing team, when what the school really lacks are traditions,” said Finison. 

Students fresh out of high school, like Colin Broadbent and Emily Cabana, have been accepted to USM, but are still on the fence as to whether or not they’ll attend. Broadbent said that USM’s location and the athletics department are some of the influencing factors in his tentative decision to attend. For Cabana, who plans on being an operating nurse at Maine Medical Center, USM’s nursing school is piquing her interest in becoming a Huskie. 

“I love the atmosphere of the Portland campus,” said Cabana. “My friends that go here already recommended it to me, and I heard the nursing program is really great.” 

The reasons for leaving USM, or never even considering it as a higher education option are diverse and complex. Students cited everything from the lack of academic guidance, to the split campuses as reasons for the slow exodus of prospective Huskies. According to Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, all of the administration’s current initiatives, will capitalize on USM’s strengths and intrinsically attract more students. 

Quint said that the administration has been working to recruit and market to out of state students in the New Hampshire, Connecticut and Northern Massachusetts. USM recruiters are also working to “establish a foothold” in York county, because according to Quint a lot of students from that area choose to go to UNH. 

“The biggest things we’re pushing are our cost, our location and our quality programs; these are our strengths,” said Quint. 

Apart from just an increase in targeted marketing, Quint cited the latest aligning to a metropolitan model, and the consolidation of student services as other initiatives that will help attract and keep students. 

“We’re going to be focusing on the programs that are already doing well,” said Quint. “But there are a number of programs on the precipice of greatness. We want all our programs aligned with the metropolitan model.”

According to the enrollment comparison report, the art education, music performance, theatre, English,  history, philosophy, computer science, political science, engineering, chemistry and environmental science departments were the only ones that showed an increase in students. 

Paul Dexter, the learning coordinator at the learning commons in the Glickman library, said that declining enrollment and retention is a complex issue and there were many forces that contributed to it. 

“This isn’t a campus centric issue, and there’s no one way to resolve it,” said Dexter. “That’s why it’s so important to think of new ideas.”

Dexter said that increasing accessibility to the learning commons, a tutoring space for students, will increase a student’s confidence with their academic path and in turn help with retention. Dexter wants to change the culture of tutoring, to mean less about remediation and more about engaging in concepts learned in the classroom. 

“Tutoring at the library is directly related to a student’s success; it isn’t just for people who are struggling,” said Dexter. “We’re trying to make learning and the appropriate levels of support as efficient and accessible as possible.”

As of now, a student can go online and see the tutoring schedule for the entire semester, and choose from a multitude of subject areas, with a team of over 50 tutors, at no additional cost to them. According to Dexter, the learning commons saw 2,500 different tutoring appointments last year. 

“Students leave for a multitude of reasons, and as a University we need to have a response,” said Dexter. “We need to identify those students early on and make sure we engage them and offer enough support.” 

USM professors help The Phoenix rise from ashes

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

USM professors Ronald Schmidt and Jason Read have been filling holes left in the wake of the mass exodus of Portland Phoenix writers to the new alternative weekly in town, Dig Portland. The two professors have had more or less regular columns in the Phoenix, which comes out every Wednesday in Portland and the surrounding area.

Schmidt, a political science professor by trade who specializes in American politics and political theory, writes about local politics in his column titled “The Red Pencil.”

When Dig started, Dan McLeod, Phoenix editor, got Schmidt on board to replace the old political writer, Al Diamon. They met for coffee to hash it out. McLeod is a former USM student and Free Press alumni. He also recruited Read because he was a fan of his personal blog.

Read is a philosophy professor who writes his monthly column “A Closer Read” which has been about movies and how they can be interpreted from a philosophical view point. Read said he’s not going to write strictly about movies but ties in philosophy with culture, politics and maybe television, all with a Maine connection.

 “I try to name drop a philosopher in every column,” Read said, in the hopes someone will pick up on it and explore it further.

Both authors found the newspaper style liberating in contrast to their academic writing which is rigidly confined and tends to be a lot lengthier.

“I like the idea of being able to write in a different vein and reach out to a different audience than I usually deal with,” Read said.

“My writing style is geared towards at least long papers or short books. With the column, you need your point to be clear in a couple of sentences. And you need to get out. It’s a challenge, but its a fun challenge,” said Schmidt.

Read isn’t going to be quitting his day job anytime soon. 

“No one could make a living writing a column,” he said.

They both said they were having fun and would like to do it as long as possible, but they’d like a bit more feedback from the reading public. 

Read noted, “I want to generate my first angry letter at some point.” Schmidt has received some “really nice emails,” but alas no angry ones.

As for when they find time to teach classes, grade papers and write a column? Schmidt has been squeezing it in when his daughter goes to bed. “You make time. Sometimes I’ve worked on it at 3 in the morning ‘cause that’s the time block I could find.”

Neither could speak to whether or not their involvement in column writing is the idea of rebranding USM as a “metropolitan university.”

“Community service is part of what we’re evaluated on and I think of trying to explain politics in public venues is a big part of my community service,” said Schmidt. “I do hope that over time Jason’s and my column will reiterate that USM is part of Portland and that engaging with other people in Portland and around the city about events going on in the state, is part of what a community is.”

Obama proposes two free years of community college

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:26

Less than two weeks ago, President Barack Obama announced a proposal that would make two years of community college free for student workers in an effort to make college as accessible as high school is for Americans.

The program would require action from a Republican-dominated Congress and the details of the plan haven’t been released but White House officials estimate that 9 million students would participate and save up to $3,800 a year.

“For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class because they’re local, they’re flexible. They work for people who work full-time. They work for parents who have to raise kids full-time. They work for folks who have gone as far as their skills will take them and want to earn new ones, but don’t have the capacity to just suddenly go study for four years and not work,” said Obama during a press conference at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Community colleges should be free for those willing to work for it — because in America, a quality education cannot be a privilege that is reserved for a few. I think it’s a right for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” he continued.

The details of the plan, how it can unfold and it’s cost, should be announced during the State of the Union Address this Tuesday. The plan is modeled after the Tennessee Promise — a state-level free-college plan starting this fall, paid for with Tennessee Lottery proceeds. According to officials, the execution would require collaboration states, community colleges and students in order to pick up the cost.

While nothing has been approved, some students are excited for the plan.

Junior psychology major Kelly Kean said that two free years would’ve given her a comfortable amount of time in college to hash out her interests and pick a major without feeling pressure.

“Those first few semesters are when students take all of their general ed. credits anyway,” said Kean. “If I had the option to get those out of the way for free and they transferred easily, I definitely would’ve gone to a community college.”

“It’s a great idea,” said sophomore history major Daniel Plante. “Everyone deserves to at least have the option of going to college, but obviously the money and time to take classes isn’t always there. We shouldn’t stop free education at the high school level.”

Some students like the idea, but are disappointed that they’ve missed out.

“Free tuition is great and all for those lucky enough to land it, but I’m already paying my bills, so I’m just trying to ignore it,” said senior history major Joe Derks. “I’ve been dealing with financial aid and all that year after year and now some kids just get two years for free? That’s annoying.”

“It’s one of those things you wish had happened just a few years earlier,” said undeclared sophomore Patrick Hawthorne.

Others believe that the idea is doomed to fail and won’t be approved by Congress.

“It’s an absolute pipe-dream,” said undeclared freshman Ashley Braley. “I mean, it’s nice, but it would cost so much money.

White House officials have said that serving the estimated number of students would cost American taxpayers $70 billion.

“Because in the end, nothing is more important to our country than you, our people. That’s our asset.  We’ve got very nice real estate here,” said Obama. “We’ve got this incredible bounty, the God-given resources that we enjoy in this country. But our greatest resources are people.”

Interview process for new president to start soon

Mon, 2015-01-12 14:11

University of Maine System administrators will soon be interviewing candidates who have applied to be the next president at USM after current president David Flanagan leaves at the end of the spring semester.

The window to apply for the position closed in mid-December and the candidate pool has been whittled down to a workable number. Applicant details, such as name, prior experience and background will remain confidential until they are chosen as a last-round candidate and are invited to visit the USM campus, which will happen in February.

Search consultants met with small groups of USM students, staff, faculty and community members throughout the fall semester in order to gauge what USM needs in a president and leader, which resulted in the drafting of an official leadership statement which was posted along with the job description and application.

According to the statement, the new president will be tasked primarily with continuing to implement the metropolitan university vision and strategy, building enrollment by reversing headcount declines, raising retention rates and being more engaged with students and faculty.

“We want someone to be an agent of change, someone who will continue the process we started,” said James Irwin, a UMaine system trustee who has led the search committee, in an interview with the Free Press in December. “We need someone to articulate why USM matters in this community.

Flanagan has repeatedly told the Free Press that he is only on board for the remainder of the academic year and has no intention to stay at USM or apply to extend his contract into the following year.

According to Irwin, the goal is to have a new president start during the summer and be comfortable by the start of the fall semester.

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