USM Free Press News Feed

Subscribe to USM Free Press News Feed feed USM Free Press News Feed
The student newspaper at the University of Southern Maine
Updated: 6 min 22 sec ago

The benefits and rewards of student internships

Mon, 2018-04-09 10:15

By Jessica Pike, Staff Writer

 

Instead of being rewarded financially, academic internships offer experience and academic credit, while helping apply skills learned in college that can help further connections in a student’s chosen field of study. Academic internships, which make use of course teachings, at USM are run through a course, and students can be placed in an internship throughout the semester. Non-academic internships still offer experience, but doesn’t usually include academic credit. However, it is still possible to get credit for an internship that doesn’t take place on campus.

Internships are not typically used until the third or fourth year of college, and not all majors at USM offer or require internships. If a major doesn’t offer an internship, non-academic internships are available or a Career Advisor can work with students to find other possible opportunities. The departments that offer internships at USM include Art, English, Media Studies, Business, Theatre, Political Science, Music, Sociology, Anthropology and Social work to name a few. Also, while not common and most are not available for academic credit, some internships can be a paid job.

If an internship course is taken through USM, it follows the same guidelines as a regular course and includes a cost per credit. Other internships can have a greater cost, but usually has greater benefits and outcomes, like taking place in another part of the world or having a longer work period.

To find an internship through USM, the USM Career Connections site on the campus portal can be used or meet with a Career Hub advisor who will help set up meetings with employers in a specific area of study. To find the Career Connections, log into the campus portal and click on the blue cube. Afterwards, enter in specific requirements and information to find the perfect internship. This will involve submitting cover letters, resumes, interviews, and everything needed for a normal job interview.

While working an internship, students can make a network of contacts that can be used for future employment or as recommendations. To get academic credit for an internship, there are specific requirements and varying credit hours. To find out the specific requirements for each internship, students can contact the internship coordinator for their specific academic department. These advisors are available to answer questions and to inform students about the process of applying for an internship.

Some of the requirements for internships include certain prerequisite courses, having a minimum GPA of 2.33 or higher, filling out approval forms or working a certain amount of hours, which usually 140 hours. Only nine credits can be used towards graduation with each internship being one to three credits each, but students can have multiple or longer internships to help earn credits.

A new program that is offered by the Career and Employment Hub to help students with getting internships is the USM Career Exploration (Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF) Funded) Internship Program. This program accepts applications from both student and employers, and matches them based on the compatibility of the answers provided. However, this program is geared more towards the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students, but can still be helpful for building a resume, writing a cover letter and make employee contacts. Students have a higher success rate and are satisfied to have taken an internship given the chance.

A survey by USM was administered in the fall of 2015 to see the effectiveness of internships on students, which showed an overall positive outcome. The survey can be found on the USM website under the internships tab of the Career and Employment Hub. Also part of the survey is quotes from students about their experience with internships, and how it helped.

“I loved interning in this setting – It definitely gave me stronger writing skills and ultimately got me hired full time. I now have a salaried position doing a job I love and feel confident and supported in!” said Lexi, an intern at The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.

Applying for an internship can potentially help students to advance faster towards graduation, and ultimately, employment.

Student Body President attempts to veto proposal

Mon, 2018-04-09 10:14

By: Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

Current Student Body President, Chase Hewitt, attempted to veto a recent proposal, number 46.23, that was voted upon by the Student Senate. The proposal in question would allow for the Student Senate and the Student Government Association (SGA) to move their finances from their own separate business office, to the USM business office.

Hewitt’s concerns of this proposal arose from the short length of the document, which is approximately a half page, and how Student Senators were told they could not abstain from voting on this proposal, to which Hewitt has done research to find that it was against protocol.

Trevor Hustus, Chair of the Student Senate, explained that with this proposal the Student Senate is trying to move all of their finance accounts to under the umbrella of the university, which would save them approximately $20,000 a year. Under this new system, the Student Senate, the SGA and all of its entities would be using the same software program. All the finances would move to being online on MaineStreet.

The process of creating this proposal, Hustus stated, began a year and a half ago when Humza Khan was Student Body President. Khan worked with multiple USM administrators to discuss how the Student Senate’s and the SGA’s finances were set up.

Once he came into the role as Chair, Hustus continued to work on the proposal. He worked alongside Nancy Griffin, Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Affairs, and  Buster Neel, Interim Chief Financial Officer, as well as Justin Swift, USM Financial Manager, and Rodney Mondor, Dean of Students.

“If for some reason the Student Senate or SGA is sued, the university is not technically supposed to be providing legal council for them,” Hustus stated. “Moving to the system that we passed recently, we will have the entire army of lawyers and university employees to protect us from litigation.”

After the Student Senate meeting on March 23, where this proposal was voted on, Hewitt worked on drafting a proposal to veto it. He stated that he did not want to rush into submitting a veto and he wanted to consider what all of the options were.

Hewitt said that the proposal was too short and too ambiguous and disagreed with the Senate’s vote to disband themselves as a 501(c)(3) organization, which would connect their finances to the university. He sent in a formal proposal to veto, but learned soon after that he had missed the deadline to do so.

As Student Body President, Hewitt cannot vote on Student Senate proposals, but he does have the power to veto them. However, the veto submission has to be sent in within seven days after the vote to go into effect.

Since Hewitt did still submit the veto, the Student Senate will be addressing it at their next meeting. He has asked for an emergency meeting to discuss the matter of his veto and to express his concerns to the Student Senate. A tentative date for this is set for Thursday, April 12.

One of the main concerns that Hewitt addresses in his veto is that Senators were told that they could not abstain from the vote by the Parliamentarian, Tyler Soucy. In response, Hewitt looked through the Student Senate Constitution, Robert’s Rules of Order, a guidebook for parliamentary procedures that the Student Senate bases their meetings on, and USM’s shared Governance Constitution. In these documents, Hewitt found nothing that explained an instance where voters could not abstain.

Under Article Eight of Robert’s Rules of Order Online, in regards to abstaining from voting it states, “While it is the duty of every member who has an opinion on the question to express it by his vote, yet he cannot be compelled to do so. He may prefer to abstain from voting, though he knows the effect is the same as if he voted on the prevailing side.”

Hustus stated that there were three or four Senators he believed were planning on abstaining, out of the 15 current members. Some wanted to abstain because they did not completely understand the proposal.

“People weren’t really asking questions so I didn’t know what they didn’t understand, and I couldn’t explain it more to them,” Hustus stated.

On this proposal that was voted on, three signatures are listed at the bottom, including the Student Body President, Chair of the Senate, and the President of USM. So far two of the three signatures have been completed, but Hewitt refuses to sign. However, Hustus stated that President Cummings and himself are the only ones who actually need to sign the proposal.

“I put Chase’s name on there to have him sign just to make things more clean, so everybody feels like they’re being heard,” Hustus stated. “However, I definitely hear his concerns about some of the lack of understanding amongst some Senators, and I want to make sure that everybody is on the same page.”

In planning this proposal, Hustus conversed with other schools in the University of Maine System that had a similar set-up. Representatives from the University of Maine Farmington and University of Maine Machias informed Hustus that they had no concerns with their current system. Hustus stated that five out of the seven University of Maine schools have the same system that the Student Senate is in the process of moving to.

Moving forward with his concerns about the proposal, Hewitt will be addressing the Student Senate directly.

“My goal is to keep the conversation going, to encourage everyone in the Student Senate, the SGA, and all of its entities, to encourage them to keep talking about it. I want this to happen in a way where we are all on the same page and we all know what the outcome will be,” Hewitt stated.

Letter from the editor: the need for a truly free press

Mon, 2018-04-09 10:11

By Julie Pike, editor-in-chief

After hearing the recent news that a vote within the Student Senate to disband the organization as an independent 501(c)(3) status, I felt compelled to share my opinion, and I figured that there’s no better way to do this than through my letter to our readers.

With this change, the Student Senate, as well as all other Student Government Association (SGA) entities, including the Free Press, would fall under the umbrella of the university. In the past these entities have existed separately. The official proposal, number 46.23, only officially came about a few weeks ago, although the idea had been in discussion for several months.

The Student Senate allocates funding from the Student Activity Fee, which all students pay as part of their tuition. Under this proposal the Senate would still continue to be in control of those funds. However, the question remains what this means for the other entities that are now considered under university control.

What this decision appears to mean is that our newspaper may soon face a dramatic change. We call ourselves the Free Press for a reason, and we want to keep it that way. If the university were to suddenly be able to have control over what we publish, it will be a direct violation of our First Amendment right.

We are a university newspaper in the fact that we report the news that’s relevant to our direct community, including students, staff and faculty. As we have run as a separate entity from the university, we have had the right to publish what we see deem newsworthy. It’s safe to say that we’ve published a few stories that may not paint the university in a positive light. However, our main goal as journalists is to simply publish the truth and inform our readers.

While what we publish may irritate some administrators, but no one can deny that we have a right to publish the facts. If there is something happening within the university that our community has a right to know, it is our duty to provide a platform that people can go to as a way to stay informed.

We may just be students who are producing a small university newspaper, but we are held to the same standards as bigger publications. We deserve to have the same rights.

Not only could this decision impact what we can publish, but the access to our funding becomes unsure. While we are allotted a certain amount from the Student Activity Fee, we raise a lot of outside funding, especially from advertising.

This proposal is presented as a way to simplify the finances for the Student Senate and the SGA. Our funds would now transfer over to the university controlled MaineStreet. While this proposal does not explicitly express that the university is going to have any direct control over these entities, it makes the possibility of that more likely.

There was a case recently at a Kentucky university, where their student newspaper had abruptly half of their funding taken out of their reserves by the university to help their budget deficit.

USA Today reported that at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, students from their school newspaper had to have their questions for when they interviewed administrators screened by the public relations office, who would rewrite any questions they didn’t like.

Faculty advisors from West Virginia’s Fairmont State University have been fired from their positions as a result of backlash from the university. In one instance it was because students had reported about a toxic mold problem that was making people sick in a dormitory.

What I fear is if the university has access or control to our funding, that there could be retaliation if we publish something that reflects the university in a negative way, even if it is one that is true. For this proposal to gain the support of the Free Press, there needs to be clear guidelines and rules stating that we will still be operating as a separate entity aside from how our finances are kept. If these guidelines aren’t clearly stated and the proposal remains too vague, that leaves the door open for the university to step in and control what we publish.

In my First Amendment class, we had a recent discussion about prior restraint, which is suppression of material from being published on the basis that it is libelous or could cause harm. The Supreme Court has had numerous cases regarding prior restraint in which they have supported their ruling that it is unconstitutional, except for in extreme cases, such as national security issues.

Restraining our right to publish is an outcome that I hope this proposal will not bring to the Free Press. I hope that throughout these changes to our financial system, that we can truly remain a “free” press.

Meet the newly elected Student Body President

Mon, 2018-04-02 12:00

By Julie Pike, editor-in-chief

 

In a close vote, so close in fact that a recount was called, Katelyn Seavey emerged as the newly elected Student Body President for USM. Seavey ran against Shaman Kirkland, the Vice Chair of the Student Senate.

Seavey transferred to USM last year from York County Community College. She started out as a biochemistry major but has since switched to psychology, and is set to graduate next year in the spring.

At York County Community College she was on the Student Senate and was the President of Phi Theta Kappa, their honors society. When she first came to USM after transferring, Seavey stated that she was overwhelmed at first, due to the major differences between the two schools, mostly in size.

A year later, after getting situated at USM, she decided to run for Student Body President.

After hearing about the elections through an email sent out to students, Seavey contacted Chase Hewitt, the former Student Body President to meet with him and find out more about the position. After this she realized she only had one more day until the deadline to get the 25 signatures required to run.

Due to the small amount of time Seavey had to get everything submitted to run, she did not end up choosing a vice president beforehand. However, she was told she would have until May 4 to choose who she would like to work with. Trevor Hustus, the current At-Large Student Senator, has offered to take up the position.

In regards to her inspiration for running, Seavey wants to create a more organized student government, as well as bring initiatives of her own.

“I feel right now that it’s [the student senate] very disorganized. When I went to run for presidency, it was very much them running with their heads cut off,” Seavey stated. “They didn’t know the answers to some basic questions that I asked them. Hopefully I can bring more organization to that to be able to get some initiatives going.”

She is trying to bring a national program to USM called The Campus Kitchen Project, a community service initiative to combat hunger in the community. She hopes to partner with Sodexo so they can give away any food that would’ve been otherwise wasted, to be made into meals for food insecure families.

Seavey noted that the Student Senate have not had many initiatives lately, aside from trying to get free printing for students. She hopes to continue some of the current projects at hand, including printing and expanding the textbooks on reserve.

“We are already paying enough as college students it would be nice to rent some things from the library, to have that as a resource,” Seavey said. Seavey also mentioned wanting to get more compositing bins around campus to get more students involved.

One of the first issues that Seavey hopes to combat is better organization. She stated that she plans on going through all of the bylaws, getting them up to date and making sure that everyone is aware of what they need to be doing. Seavey stated that in total only about 80 students out of the approximately 6,000 enrolled participated in the vote for president.

“It’s issues like this that I think lead the Student Senate to be so disorganized because people don’t actually know who they are voting for.”

The Student Senate recently approved the budget of $1500 to buy monogrammed jackets for each Senator. Those who were in support of this stated that they were hoping it would help make Senators more known to students.

“I feel like that is an expense that is not needed,” Seavey stated. “We’re not gonna be wasting money like that in the future. The whole point of student government is to represent students and to do things for the students.”

To begin the year, the main thing that Seavey wants her fellow students to know is that she is going to work hard to meet the needs of the student body.

“I actually do care and will try my best to hear the critiques of students and I hopefully will find a solution that is possible,” said Seavey.

Outdoor spots around campus to soak up some sun

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:58

By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer

 

As spring slowly arrives to campus this year, students are starting to be able to find themselves comfortably outside again. The need for students to go outdoors is important—In 2015, Stanford University found that nature is a potential remedy for mental illness. A 90 minute walk in the woods can improve mood, memory function and symptoms of anxiety.

This effect is not only restricted to forests; any green space (an area of grass and trees used for recreation in an otherwise urban environment) can potentially be enough to produce positive mental health effects, given that the area is well-maintained and healthy. Whether one is hiking in the woods or sitting on a soccer field there could be potential benefits.

Luckily for USM students there is a fair amount of lush area around campus. The USM woods in Gorham are a wonderful resource that should be explored by students, which includes walking paths. The hills by Robie-Andrews or the picnic tables by Upton-Hastings are great places to get outside of the dormitories and get work done.

For those on the Portland campus, they utilize the picnic tables on the lawn between Luther Bonny and Payson-Smith. Also in Portland, Deering Oaks Park is just a 15 minute walk from campus and the entire Eastern Promenade waterfront nearby is gorgeous. Portland is also surrounded by plenty of beaches, either to take a stroll along the shore or to lay out in the sun. One of the many options to choose from includes Kettle Cove Beach in Cape Elizabeth, just a short drive from the Portland campus.

Getting outside in the spring is especially important for those that find themselves depressed throughout the winter. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that between 1 and 10 percent of all Americans feel more depressed during the winter. For some, these feelings can be incredibly severe.

A form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) impacts over 10 million Americans every year, or nearly 5 percent of the U.S population. The disorder is more common in women, who account for four-fifths of all diagnoses. Unfortunately for Mainers, those farther away from the equator are at a heightened risk for developing SAD.

SAD is a depressive disorder associated with changing seasons. Commonly referred to as the “winter blues,” SAD is diagnosable after a person feels intense feelings of: depression, anxiety, mood fluctuations, issues with sleep, irritability and changes in sexuality for two consecutive winters. Unfortunately, SAD is often difficult to differentiate between other forms of depression. Specific symptoms that set it apart from other forms of depression are: craving for carbohydrates, increased appetite, excessive sleepiness and weight gain.

There are a couple hypotheses for the cause of SAD. The levels of serotonin—a natural neuro-chemical associated with mood, appetite and sleep regulation—in certain individuals may be directly correlated to the shorter days and lack of sunlight and therefore decrease during the winter.

Melatonin—a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness—is also influenced by the lack of light. The hormone is released in greater amounts in darkness, which is responsible for chronic fatigue in victims of SAD. Fluctuating melatonin levels can potentially disturb an individual’s biological clock. These changes often do not properly correspond with external clocks and thus negatively affects their lives.

Although there is no cure for SAD, certain proactive choices can be made to help alleviate the symptoms. There has yet to be solid scientific evidence, but psychiatrists have found that light therapy (extended exposure to brightly lit boxes) has assisted 85 percent of those diagnosed. SAD is treated in conventional ways as well; for some therapy and/or medication is the best way to handle it.

Getting help managing SAD symptoms is important: approximately 20 percent of people with a depressive disorder also struggle with substance use. Addiction and depression can potentially escalate together. Often as depression worsens, reliance on substances increases, which then cycles back to strengthening the depression.

If you or someone you know struggles with SAD or any other type of mental illness, do not hesitate to seek help. Seek nature, but also pair this with professional medical advice. Many resources are available on campus; the Portland counseling office can be reached at 207-780-4050, the Gorham office can be at 207-780-5411, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

USM provides seniors with a low cost education

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:55

By Liz Trudel, Staff Writer

    For inquisitive individuals ages 50 plus with a passion for the joy of learning, there is a close-knit community of 2,000 plus like-minded senior learners who are students of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at USM. The OLLI is located in the Wishcamper building on the Portland campus at 34 Bedford Street.

    The OLLI at USM is one of 17 Senior Colleges throughout Maine and participates in the Maine Senior College, a network which contains approximately 6,500 members from across the state. Several counties in Maine have colleges that support this non-profit program including Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Lincoln and Knox, Oxford, Waldo, York, Washington and Penobscot.

     To take part in the institute there are no entrance requirements, grades or tests. Student experience and love of learning are what count. The program is a self-sustaining, self-governing organization supported through an annual membership fee of $25. The membership fee covers the fiscal year July 1 to June 30. The yearly membership allows students to participate in all OLLI at USM courses and special interest groups at OLLI.

With a membership also comes an abundance of perks. Students receive an OLLI-designated USM ID card, the ability to add Husky Bucks to the ID card for tax free use at any of the USM dining facilities and vending machines on campus. They also get access to the USM library, the computer store, wireless Internet, and access to the USM bookstore. Members can attend the Maine Senior College Network statewide conference, receive support for disabilities, and have access to assistive listening equipment available through the OLLI office. Last, but not least, they get USM student discounts on sporting events, theater and music performances, dining and selected local services.

    Courses are offered in the fall and spring terms for eight weeks, and in the winter and summer terms for six weeks. The classes meet for two hours, once a week. Course subjects are extensive, from music and art, to history and science.

    One example of a class held this spring  is titled, “Domestic Policy: Is American Democracy in a Death Spiral? Any Grounds for Optimism?” taught by Professor Bob Goettel. The course explores the topics of, “American lack of trust in government and other institutions, extreme political polarization, congressional inability to address key issues and govern, weakened political parties, and a presidency like no other in our lifetime,”stated Gottel.

     Another course held on Wednesdays from 12:45 pm to 2:45 p.m. this semester is “Gospel Music Comes Alive!” Terry Foster teaches this course. It explores songs, spirituals, and hymns from the Gospel.

    On Thursdays from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., Jack Lynch and Jennifer Frick co-teach the course “Line Dancing: A cross-cultural perspective.” It is a dance class that combines the teachings of a multitude of cultures. In the class, students learn traditional American Country/Western, Greek Circle dances, Brazilian samba, Tango, Rumba, Spanish cha-cha, and the sham jazz line dance from Harlem. The class welcomes all skill levels, and no prior dance experience is necessary.

    Offered on Fridays, is Art Studio taught by Dona Sherburne. This class is a two-hour block of time from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. where like-minded individuals can come together to work at their own pace on their artwork in a relaxed environment while collaborating, encouraging, and sharing ideas with fellow artists.

    Just like any traditional college, the OLLI offers “special interest groups” for individuals to express their interests and mingle with like-minded peers. Some existing special interest groups include; wine tasting club, ski club, science reading club, photography club, outdoor/walking club, OLLI singers, history book club, book club, bridge club and the arts and crafts club.

     To further enhance student-educational opportunities, the OLLI goes on three to four local excursions throughout the year to local points of interest. These take place generally in Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts. They also go on one international trip a year, often in November.

The OLLI international trip for 2018 is a Viking river cruise of the Danube River,  on November 10 through 18. The journey will begin in Nuremberg, Germany, and travel down the Danube through Austria to Budapest, Hungary, stopping at six ports along the way. There will be an included tour at each port, with free time to explore in most ports. Viking enhances the cruise by offering “Culture Curriculum,” which brings local history to life with lectures on history and art, tasting of vintage wines, restaurant menus inspired by local cuisine, informative port talks and performances. They also have an onboard library, with a carefully curated collection of educational and inspirational books.

    OLLI at USM operates on five core values; joy of learning, community, accessibility, excellence, and volunteerism. Jeanie Hirokane, the corporate secretary and program director states, “We believe that continuing to grow and to learn new things is a deeply fulfilling life-long priority. We recognize the importance of interaction with other members to have knowledge and experiences, to expand our perspectives, and to make new friends in an atmosphere of inclusiveness, respect, and openness.  We strive to make classes, workshops, seminars, and activities affordable and accessible to all members. We strive for excellence by committing our intelligence, creativity, and energy to achieving quality in our curriculum, faculty, facilities, operations, and relationships within our community. We recognize the crucial importance of volunteers to the success of our programs. These core values support our vision, shape our culture, and reflect what we value.”

      For more information about joining OLLI at USM, please call 780-4406 or 1-800-800-4876, email olliatusm@maine.edu, or visit usm.maine.edu/olli.

Trump’s budget proposal includes cuts to TRIO

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:54

Emily Adams, Staff Writer

 

 

Colleges across the country face catastrophe from the possible ramifications of President Trump’s proposed budget cuts. On February 12, 2018, President Trump’s administration released the 2019 Fiscal Year’s Budget to Congress, which can be found on the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) website. Part of the proposed budget is an overall cut of $7.1 billion in funding to the Department of Education. Furthermore, President Trump made a proposal to consolidate TRIO and GEAR UP into a $550 million state formula grant program to support evidence based post secondary preparation programs.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the federal TRIO programs (TRIO) are federal outreach and student services designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with disabilities.

Congress decided to pass legislation to raise federal spending for two years. The Fiscal Year of 2019’s budget has a section dealing with funding for TRIO and it’s affiliated services. President Trump proposes that the only programs TRIO be funded for are TRIO Talent Search and Upward Bound programs. Other programs that are currently being funded will lose their funding.

In fact, the budget proposes a cut in all funding for Student Support Services (SSS), McNair Post Baccalaureate and Educational Opportunity Centers programs across the country. McNair Post Baccalaureate programs are opportunities to help prepare participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities, as stated on the Department of Education’s website. Furthermore, it proposes a switch to a single state formula, which would reduce the federal role in administrative competitive educations programs. This would give the States significantly more authority to prioritize support for grantees.

In the proposed budget there are also no funds available for GEAR UP. According to the Department of Education, GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.

The TRIO program at USM includes SSS, Upward Bound, Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) and the Bridge Program. Currently 140 students on the three campuses combined utilize assistance offered through the SSS program. It is 92 percent federally funded with a budget of $220,000 awarded annually. VUB serves 125 low income, first generation veterans per year. VUB “Provides assessment and enhancement of basic skill through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas,” as stated on USM’s TRIO website.

In fact, college bound veterans receive year-round support, academic tutoring, VUB advising, preparation for entrance exams, information about financial aid programs, help with financial aid and many other aspects through this program.

“At USM, we have nearly 350 student veterans – the highest number of any college or university in Maine – and we’ve made it our mission to help them achieve and excel in their academic goals,” stated USM President Glenn Cummings.

The TRIO Upward Bound program at USM assists high school students with graduating from college within six years of enrolling. According to USM’s TRIO website, Upward Bound serves 64 high school students from Bonny Eagle, Massabesic, and Sacopee Valley High Schools, as well as 63 students from Biddeford and Sanford High Schools.

The final program that USM offers through TRIO is the Bridge Program. This is a summer program that “Included opportunities to become familiar with USM’s campuses and resources, increases your Math and English skills, and make new friends who can share your college experience,” as stated on USM’s TRIO website.

The Bridge Program provides ongoing college coaching and academic support. Through this program, individuals have the chance to earn a $250 stipend upon completion of as well as earning two USM college credits.

President Trump’s agenda threatens all the progress and assistance USM’s TRIO program has made with students and their futures. Laurie Davis, the Executive Director of USM’s TRIO program has other concerns regarding Trump’s agenda, and she has stated that there are some other issues which TRIO programs are watching very closely. Issues such as TRIO being a competitive grant program, which will change with President Trump’s new proposal.

Trump’s agenda effects not only at USM’s programs but the TRIO and GEAR UP programs across the state and nation. Currently, TRIO and GEAR UP serve over 16,500 students and participants across the state in 29 different projects. There is over $11 million a year allocated in funds for these programs. Every single University of Maine school, community colleges and Thomas college have a SSS program available to them. President Trump’s proposed cuts will cause this opportunity to become nonexistent to the individuals who need the assistance SSS offers.

Davis shared information about how close knit the Upward Bound and TRIO programs are across the state of Maine. All the heads of the departments from across the state get together at least once a year to talk about their progress and any new developments with the programs. This annual meeting was held last month on March 5. Davis stated that they believe in being a part of the bigger picture and the community that is Upward Bound.

Safezone Project identifies support for LGBTQ+

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:52

By Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer

 

The Safe Zone stickers on office doors, desk spaces or dorm rooms do not only suggest support to the LGBTQ community but it shows that the people behind these doors have been educated through the Safe Zone orientation program. Last week, volunteers underwent a 1.5 to 2 hour orientation to be introduced to the aspects and experiences of individuals from the LGBTQ+ community.

According to their website, the mission of the Safe Zone Project “is to visibly identity and support those members of the University community who are safe and supportive contacts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer students, staff and faculty.”

USM’s Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity oversees the Safe Zone Project. They work to ensure a positive, safe and support environment for individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Sarah Holmes, Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Director, works with the Safe Zone project. When she was a student at USM, she took part in founding the project.

“The Safe Zone Project was created back in the 90s to further educate people, when students didn’t know who would be supportive of them,” Holmes said. “It was a different time. It created a movement of support and made a less judgemental environment.”

The Safe Zone Project has had the same mission and has had a reputation for being supportive over the past 20 years, but the orientation to educate students and faculty is evolving over time, according to Holmes.

“The language we use in the training is constantly changing,” Holmes said. “The words that are used today are definitely different than in the 90s. Some people did it five, 10, 15 years ago, but now they want to do it again because of the new words and terminologies.”

Holmes explains that the training the volunteers undergoes focuses on basic concepts of gender identity and gender expression. There is education on the difference between gender and sex “because there is a difference there,” Holmes said. The training urges individuals to even reflect on their own selves.

“It creates an ally action plan which can consist of less judgement, challenging anti-gay jokes, wrong language, and knowing to ask about someone’s pronouns,” Holmes said.

The movement that the Safe Zone Project promotes and continues is far from over. As Holmes says, “There is still judgement out there and still pockets of biases.”

By attending a Safe Zone Project orientation, not only will the university be marked by the Safe Zone stickers, but the LGBTQ+ community will have the support they need by allies seeking education about their identities and experiences. Project training is ongoing throughout the school year. The next session is on Thursday, April 5 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the Portland Campus in 327 Luther Bonney Hall. For those who are interested in getting involved, you can reach Sarah Holmes at 207-780-5767, or by emailing sarah.e.holmes1@maine.edu.

Letter from the editor: Positive and negative news: finding a balance

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:50

By Julie Pike, editor-in-chief

When you first open a newspaper, what are your eyes drawn to first?

During a panel at our recent Journalism Workshop event, one of the topics that came up was the question of whether news outlets focus too much on negative stories. Most often the most eye-catching stories are going to be the ones that are shocking to an audience, such as a fire, a crime or a car accident. Sometimes it seems like these are the only stories that are reported on, the ones about depressing or terrible events. News outlets are simply doing their job by reporting the news. However, it’s been found that people are more drawn to negative stories than they are to positive ones.

In 2014, BBC reported about a study done at McGill University in Canada. Researchers asked participants to come in for a test of eye tracking. They observed how the participants’ eyes moved, and where they moved to, while they browsed a news website. They were asked to actually read some of the articles, but that it didn’t matter which ones they chose to read. They found that a majority of participants chose stories with a negative tone, with topics such as corruption, setbacks or hypocrisy. Yet during a questionnaire at the end of the study, when asked participants responded that they preferred reading about good news and thought that the media was too focused on negative stories.

This study provided evidence of what psychologists call “negativity bias.” This means that topics of a more negative nature have a greater effect on a person’s psychological state. The study emphasized that people respond quicker to negative words. The researchers also brought up another idea that a majority of people have a positive attitude, so seeing negative headlines in a newspaper are surprising to them, therefore they are drawn to read it.

In light of this, I think it’s important for news outlets to also feature stories with a positive message. I think readers would enjoy a good balance of breaking news along with some uplifting articles to leave them in a better mood. With this in mind, I created a staple news feature that starts this week called “Sunny Side Up.” In each issue going forward our readers can read about a positive or inspiring story.

This addition, however, will not take away from our duty as reporters to share breaking news with our community at USM. I simply want our readers to have something that will cheer them up at the beginning of their week. This piece may cover a story about USM, the state of Maine, our country or even worldwide news, anything that will leave readers feeling hopeful. Amidst the barrage of news we see every day reporting on abuse, sex crimes, murders and so on, we need to hear about some good in the world.

High school students fight back against gun violence

Mon, 2018-03-26 12:38

By Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

Among the dozen or so high schools in Maine that participated in the national walkout to protest gun violence, Westbrook High School had three students come together in hopes to make a difference in their community.

What began as three separate ideas by Sandy Cao, Kelly Maguire and Zoe Popovic, joined together with the help of Westbrook High School’s Principal, Kelly Deveaux. Each of them had gone to Deveaux wanting to organize their own walkout, and she encouraged them to join forces.

“Any kind of participatory exercise in a democracy is a good thing and seeing that in a generation where many of them can’t legally vote yet is hopeful,” said Professor Ronald Schmidt, an Associate Professor of Political Science at USM.

Each of the three students had their own reasons for wanting to organize the protest, but collectively they wanted to incite change.

“When I heard about another shooting and all of the other ones before it, I saw how the young students at Parkland were reacting and that inspired me to join in on this movement,” Cao said. Maguire also noted that Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, delivered a moving speech that prompted her to want to do something.

“I wanted a conversation to be started,” Cao said. “The most important thing before starting change is to have people talking about it first. It gets people to learn more about it, to start their own ideas.” To promote discussion among students and the community, they invited two members of the Maine Legislature, Senator Cathy Breen and Rep. Andrew Gattine to join in a discussion with students about gun control and school safety. Both Breen and Gattine represent districts that include Westbrook.

While the walkout had to be rescheduled due to a snow day, it went on as planned on Thursday, March 15 at 10:25 a.m. The students were given this time by administration to conduct their protest outside in the front of the school. The school grounds were blocked off by police to ensure that students were not disturbed and kept safe.

About 100 students, out of the approximately 700 total who attend Westbrook High, got involved in the walkout, a number Cao stated that was more than they had hoped. Cao, Maguire and Popovic led the protest, beginning by listing off the names of the Parkland school shooting victims, adding in personal details about each of them. Afterwards, a moment of silence was held for 17 minutes, one minute for each victim.

Maguire stated that a majority of the walkout went smoothly, aside from a few students yelling and disrupting during the moment of silence. These students were asked by those around them to be quiet.

“With it being student run, some people don’t listen or just don’t know what it was about,” Popovic stated.

Since the protest was completely student run, they could not advertise about it through school email or in an announcement. Principal Deveaux made the restrictions clear, the school could not explicitly endorse their cause, but the administration ensured that the students had the right to protest. Deveaux also assisted in getting Breen and Gattine to come to the school.

“She didn’t help us just because she agreed with us, it was because she came to her,” Popovic said. “She would have done the same regardless of which side the protest was for.”

Principal Deveaux, who is the first female principal at Westbrook High School in the 68 years of its establishment, was supportive of the three female students in getting their voice heard.

“She’s been so helpful and vocal about the presence of strong female voices, which has helped us organize this protest,” Cao stated. Cao, Maguire and Popovic were all in agreement that female students held the majority of those who were interested in protesting against gun violence, Cao believes that this is due to society and gender roles.

“I think it’s a maturity and social group thing,” Popovic said. “Females are more mature at this age than males. It also has to do with what your friends are supporting. With a lot of guys in our school, if their friends weren’t supporting it, they wouldn’t go out of their way.”

Professor Vassallo, an Associate Professor of Political Science at USM brought up the connection of the walkouts with the Women’s Marches that began last year.

“Overall it has been stated that women now have become more active in political causes than before, maybe because recent actions/decisions have affected women the most,” Vassallo stated. She added that the increase of activism among young people fits with the increase of protest movements in the country.

After school on the same day as the walkout, the students held an open discussion with Breen and Gattine. Breen spoke about her role on the Senate and the role of the Maine Legislature. She also informed the students about two bills that had been put forth related to firearms in Maine.

Bill L.D. 1761, which the Portland Press Herald reported was rejected by the Maine House of Representatives, would have allowed parents and guardians picking up children from school to have firearms in their vehicles. The firearms would have to be unloaded and stored in a locker. In the state of Maine guns are currently not allowed on the entire school property.

Support of this bill came from families who would be out hunting before picking up their children, and didn’t want to have to go home first to drop off their guns, in turn making them late. Breen testified against it, stating that she thought that parents should just have to leave earlier to pick up their kids instead of jeopardizing their safety.

The other bill in discussion is sponsored by Senator Mark Dion of Portland and has not been made public yet. It would allow people in a household or family to be able to go to a judge with an allegation of an imminent safety risk to temporarily suspend a person’s right to possess firearms. The suspension would last for 21 days. After that both parties would appear before the judge again to determine if that person can safely handle a gun.

Breen stated that this bill is still in the premature stages. She thinks that bans on assault rifles or accessories would not pass through the legislative council.

Vassallo is in support of this bill, stating that family members are closer to a person who may be unstable and can help avoid a bad situation from getting worse. Schmidt mentioned that this bill makes sense for situations of domestic abuse as those situations are a likely situation for violence.

“Nothing is going to change about gun control until the Constitution changes,” Breen stated. “As long as we have a Second Amendment in place it’s going to be very difficult to change the status quo.”

Breen also mentioned a proposed bond to increase security measures in school, which has gone through the legislative council. The Portland Press Herald reported that it would be a $20 million bond that could potentially be put up for a vote in the future.

“Members of both parties are all saying that want more school security. They may mean different things by it, but arranging for the money to be there in the first place is a necessary starting place, whether they think that means arming teachers or involving police in moderating schools more closely.” Schmidt sees the school security bond as a more likely winner to pass through the legislature.

A major topic of discussion centered around the need for more young people to vote. Cao, Maguire and Popovic also organized a voter registration to be set up during the day of the protest. Breen encouraged students to vote, run for office or get involved in campaigns.

“I want to believe that the student reaction to Parkland is changing the tide,” Breen said.

The main focus of the high school walkouts is the fact that it is student led. All around the country, high school students got involved in their own protest, wanting to make a difference in the gun violence facing the nation.

“I think it’s so important that we are seeing young people participate in this way,” Schmidt stated. “Through democratic means and through freely assembling, they are providing their argument for how we should read the Second Amendment.”

Student Senate approves budget for individual jackets

Mon, 2018-03-26 12:36

By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer

The Student Senate meeting held in Bailey Hall on March 9, provided an overall reflection on the current work of the Student Senators. The meeting, led by Senate Chairman Trevor Hustus, ensured progress and attention were being maintained in current projects, however it also served as a way to commemorate and celebrate the Senators as several awards were dispersed at the end of the meeting. Of all of the proposals and projects reviewed, the only one to create discourse among the group was a proposal to grant $1500 to the Student Senate for individual jackets.

Representative to the Faculty Senate, David Wagner, explained that these jackets—which would cost about $70 per senator—would be essential branding tools for the Student Senate. He stated that the senators would be, “buying something where you are visibly promoting yourselves as senators.”

Senator Hustus followed this statement by saying, “Most USM students couldn’t name five student senators. This isn’t for free swag, its so people know who we are.” He explained that the Senators would be required to wear these jackets at all school events to better their outreach to the students. They hope that with these jackets they will be more approachable and that it will promote participation.

While some Senators viewed this as a great opportunity to create a wider audience for their activities, others were more critical of the suggestion. Senator Dylan Reynolds, Student Representative to the Board of Trustees, questioned if it would be within their right to spend this money on themselves at all. She was visibly dismayed upon hearing the suggestion and viewed the expenditure as unnecessary. She explained that she respected the aim of the jackets and agreed that branding was important, however she stated that, “there are better ways to get recruitment.”

This sentiment was supported by Senator Kirby Kellogg, who suggested that branding could be accomplished by something far simpler, such as monogrammed water bottles. She stated that she believed these would not only be more cost-efficient than jackets, but more practical too. Supporting Reynolds and Kellogg, Senator Anthony Emerson chimed in that he too thought that, “the money could be better spent.”

Reynolds took into account the high turnover rate of the Student Senate in regards to this decision asking, “Do we really want to start a tradition of buying things for every new senator?” She argued that over time, this could quickly become very costly. These observations come at a time where there are currently six vacancies within the Student Senate.

Outside of the meeting, Senator Shaman Kirkland said that he was neutral on the topic, but stated “I think they’re on the expensive side and I don’t like the idea of spending student money on ourselves. However, I see their value. They’re a good advertising tool, which is important, given a lack of interest from the student body. People could spot us out, hopefully leading to increased conversation and collaboration.”

The discussion concluded with the agreement that—despite not needing to—they would raise 20 percent of the funds themselves. This was decided so that the student senate would be held to the same standards as their peers when making non-essential purchases. With this decision reached, the jackets passed after a vote.

Not on the agenda of the meeting was the resignation of Student Body President, Pdg Muhamiriza, which was announced about halfway through. In light of this information, Vice Student Body President, Chase Hewitt was sworn in to take over for Muhamiriza. The polls for this election, as well as for other Student Senators, closed on March 23, and the results will be posted on March 30.

The meeting concluded with awards granted to nominated senators. The Kathleen Pease Award for Distinguished Service was given to Senator Reynolds and the Student Leader of the Year Award resulted in a tie between Senators Shaman Kirkland, Joe Menard and Chase Hewitt.

The next Student Senate meeting will be held April 6 in 1 Payson-Smith on the Portland campus at 1:00 pm. Students are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Students are fighting back against sexual assault

Mon, 2018-03-26 12:35

By Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer

USM students have ditched silence about rape culture and campus sexual assaults, and have started a discussion with the #MeToo: The Fight Against Campus Sexual Assault event. Huskies for Reproductive Health, USM’s Queer Straight Alliance and the Portland Branch of International Socialist Organization (ISO) teamed up on March 20 for a discussion about campus sexual assault and the #MeToo movement. Featuring a panel of five individuals, each from different backgrounds and with different perspectives, the event was able to tackle the broad subject.

The #MeToo movement has taken the nation by storm; in Hollywood, offices, and universities. The speakers highlighted that USM should not be ignorant of #MeToo. The event description explained what the discussion was based on, including, “what USM can do to help its students, trans and queer violence, what we can do as students to change our culture of campus rape beyond policy, and the culture of rape on college campuses across the country.”

According to Fern Thurston, chair of the event, the #MeToo discussion was inspired by the current lawsuit against USM by a women who is dissatisfied by how her sexual assault case was handled by administration several years ago.

“The news that USM mishandled a sexual assault case in 2012 came out a few weeks back,” said Emma Donnelly, president of Huskies for Reproductive Health and a Women and Gender Studies major.  “It has been increasingly important to recognize that sexual assault happens here on our campus, and to discuss what we as students can do about changing the culture here at USM.”

Donnelly hopes that by attending events like this #MeToo discussion, students “will be empowered to share their #MeToo stories, spark change on campus, whether that’s through one of the student groups sponsoring the event or starting a movement of their own, so that no one ever has to say #MeToo at USM again.”

To begin the event, each member of the panel spoke, then the forum was open up for discussion. Fern Thurston, chair of the event and a member of the ISO, had the introduction. They commented on a new consciousness around sexual assault amidst the discussion and activism around the #MeToo event. They gave the statistic that one in six women are sexually assaulted, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Devyn Adams, a Resident Assistant on the Gorham campus, provided additional statistics, including that 50 percent of trans and bi-women will experience sexual assault. Forty four percent of lesbians and 51 percent of bi-women will experience sexual assault and stalking, compared to 45 percent of heterosexual women. Adams discussed the trouble that queer individuals face, especially if they have not revealed their sexuality to individuals that they know well, to report sexual assault to a university.

Panelist Caitrin Smith-Monahan, from ISO, who is also a middle school educator, shared her story. She explained that, “hearing a survivor break the silence and expose the reality of what womanhood means for some in this country may inspire others to do the same.”

Smith-Monahan discussed her experience of exposing the inappropriate behavior of her professor at her university in Montana, who had been harassing her and other students, especially women. She and the other students were able to get him terminated from the university, but she reflected on how the closed-door deal of his termination had more consequences for the victims than for the guilty professor.

“Today I imagine what would this fight have looked like in the context of #metoo,” Smith-Monahan said. “What if instead of a handful operating in the shadows, we had a whole network of supporters, a movement at our backs?”

She also discussed, along with the other panelists, the fact that most rapes do not happen in a dark alley, but behind a closed door with someone that was thought to be trusted. These are settings out of the public eye and are hard to report. She asked, “Where’s the blue button for that?” referring to the emergency poles that are placed around campus.

Kaylee Wolfe, a Family Crisis Services Campus Advocate, discussed her experiences of becoming an advocate. She went to an all girl Catholic school in Ohio, where their sex education was minimal. She became a sex educator in high school and continued through college. She had expected technical questions about sex from students, but many people wanted to talk about their trauma regarding their sexual experiences.

“They need a space to talk. They need to be believed. They need to be told it is not their fault,” Wolfe said. “Be what they need right then.”

Wolfe said that it is a responsibility one must undertake to be there for people with trauma and get them to a resource. She learned through her experiences how to talk and be there for them.

“Women have to go to the ends of the earth just to be believed,” Donnelly said.

Wolfe provided resources that any person can use for problems that may arise. She insisted that no problem is too big or too small to ask for help. There is the Domestic Violence Resource in Portland. There is a 24 hour domestic abuse and sexual assault hotline. There is an option to contact Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSSM).

#MeToo: Taking a Stand Against Women’s Oppression is an additional event to continue discussing the movement. It will be hosted by the ISO on April 11 in Payson-Smith Room 207 on the Portland campus.

Shauna Shames: Getting millennials involved in politics

Mon, 2018-03-26 12:33

By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer

The Millennial generation is continuing a common trend—young citizens abstaining from political action. Reasons why this occurs and how to change this fate are explored by assistant professor within the Political Science Department at Rutgers University, Shauna Shames, in her presentation “The Great (Political) Divide: Why Women, Minorities, and Millennials are Underrepresented in Politics.”

On March 6 USM welcomed Shames to Talbot Hall. The event was hosted by the Extended Teacher Education Program coordinator Flynn Ross, and was a part of the Gloria S. Duclos Convocation, under the theme of race and participatory democracy. Sponsors of the event included the Scholars Strategy Network, League of Women Voters of Maine, and the University of Maine Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

She has written the book Out of the Running: Why Millenials Reject Political Careers and Why it Matters, which deals with contemporary politics and the lack of representation amongst millennials.

The lecture began with Shames explaining how she reached this topic as a focal point of her book. At Harvard University, she started her doctoral dissertation as “Why don’t more women run in politics,” which then grew to focus on women of color, and then entirely on millenials.

While working on her dissertation she interviewed a group of 750 Harvard attendees who studied politically oriented subjects such as political science, law, and public policy at a graduate level. She viewed this selection of students as some of the most likely to run for a public office. The question she started with was “Are you ambitious?” This resulted in 95 percent saying yes. When asked, “Are you politically ambitious?” the results were significantly lower. Men were much more politically confident than women; an average of 15 percent more men than women said that they were politically ambitious.

This gap is smaller between white men and women, but substantially higher amongst minority groups. Black women reported the lowest amount of political ambition in the entire census. A similar poll was taken using the same group, asking about their trust in the government. Black women were reported as having the lowest trust levels.

Shames contemplated that the reason millennials refuse to participate is attributed to the actual running process. Dave, a student in her research pool, stated: “I… [would] risk capture by going into a political process as corrupted, and sclerotic, and generally putrescent as the American one, so full of money,” when asked why he would refrain from attempting to hold a public office.

A major focal point of Shames’s presentation The key to invoking involvement, Shames stated, is through proving to millennials that there are meaningful rewards for engaging within the political system. Shames said that currently many see the risk to reward ratio as improperly balanced; millenials need to understand that many of the issues that they hold dearly cannot be attained without enduring the sometimes gruelling process of American politics.

Potential remedies to this issue were discussed at the end of the lecture. USM Women and Gender Studies professor, Kimberly Simmons, speculated on the creation of a third party fundraising commission that could compensate women for unique financial barriers such as child care, while running.

Local musician and Maine Committee of Maine Clean Elections activist, Viva, stated that she thinks the solution can be found within campaign alliances. Through this dynamic, politicians would find a group of issues that unites them and they would all share similar platforms. She stated If politicians work together in finding areas that unite them, the hyperpartisianism of our election system could potentially be reduced. This could potentially make voters feel like they have more than just one choice and could be a step towards the spread of ranked choice voting.

Shames looked to Maine politics as a potential inspiration for young people. In particular she mentioned how the Maine Clean Elections Act came into fruition through volunteer collaboration. She suggests that millennials could start making big differences through volunteering with campaigns and community engagement.

Letter from the editor: Look to the women in your life

Mon, 2018-03-26 12:31

By Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

March is the declared month to celebrate the vast contributions that women have made in history, but it’s reminded me to appreciate the aspiring women that are in my life.

Women’s History Month is celebrated in the U.S., U.K and Australia. This month also includes International Women’s Day on the eighth. Thirty-one days of celebrating women.

Several of the stories in this issue fall under this topic. It has been celebrated right at USM with several events that encompassed the broad topic of women, from their role in politics, the feminist movement, and more specific to students at USM, their experience with sexual assault and the #metoo movement.

Personally this entire month has had me reflecting on the influential women in my life. While there are numerous examples of public figures that I admire and look up to, such as Michelle Obama or Beyonce, it’s the people in my everyday life that are the ones to be admired, especially my mom.

I’ve seen first hand the hardships that my mom has had to go through, and it hasn’t been easy for her. She’s been a single mom for close to 19 years now, putting all of her time into her now four children. Eight years ago she selflessly took in a child who did not have a fit mother, and has since been raising him as one of her own. She did what many others would be hesitant to do, and gave him a second chance at life.

Every waking moment she is constantly working or doing something for her kids, and she does this without hesitation. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a more hard working or selfless person in my life. She may not have the celebrity status of Beyonce, but her influence to me is so much greater.

A day in the life of my mother consists of getting up early to make breakfast and get Jacob off to school, then getting to work as soon as possible. She’s juggling two jobs at the moment, so she’s often not done working until eight at night, sometimes later. This long day of hers isn’t complete without constant disruptions, making dinner for Jacob, housework that needs to get done, appointments or meetings. Her work day often gets pushed into well after the sun has gone down.

The next day this cycle repeats all over again, and yet somehow my mother gets through it. She is truly the strongest person I know. While she certainly struggles having this exhausting schedule, she does it because it’s all for her kids. It’s seeing how she can get through all of this that gives me a better perspective of my own life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have children of my own, but I hope that if I do, I can be at least half as good of a mother as she is. She’s given everything she has to her children, and I wish there was a way for me to somehow pay her back for that. But, as I know she would say, that’s the duty of a mother, you don’t expect your kids to return the favor.

With this I encourage all of you to think about the influential women in your life, whether that  may be your own mother, your grandmother, a sister, a colleague, a teacher, whoever they may be. It’s these women in our everyday lives that are the most important role models. While it’s empowering to listen to Michelle Obama deliver speeches full of wisdom, it’s the real life experiences that make the biggest impact.

I’m ecstatic to see that influential and powerful women are becoming more noticed and represented in society, such as how Barbie released a line of dolls based on real-life figures including Amelia Earhart and Frida Kahlo. However, I wish more praise went to everyday women that are the unsung heroes in this world, such as mothers. My mom may not be mentioned in modern day history books, but her influence to me is in no way diminished. Empowering women don’t have to be widely known or popular to be a role model to others.

Let the women in your life that you admire know that they are the true role models in your life, that it is their everyday work and contributions that inspire you. They are the ones that deserve more recognition. Hopefully going forward it’s these women that aren’t just celebrated during one month, but throughout the year.

Women’s History Month widely celebrated in Maine

Mon, 2018-03-26 12:27

By Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

Women’s history month is celebrated each year through March. In the late 1970s, the United States began to observe parts of March as women’s history days and weeks, eventually nationally celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. In 1980, President Carter declared there would be a National Women’s History Week celebrated annually in March. By 1986, individual states were celebrating a National Women’s History Month and in 1987 March officially became the month of celebration across the nation.

The emphasis on women’s history was sparked by a lack of attention focused on women in school education curriculums. In the early days of celebrating women’s history throughout March, volunteers would go into classrooms in public schools and give direct presentations about the additions to society that women have made throughout history. Today, the month long observance is much more multifaceted.

While historical presentations are prominently represented by national organizations, such as the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress and the National Parks Organization, there has been a recent shift in ways of celebrating. In light of the current political moment the U.S. finds itself in, women have taken to filling the month of March with the celebration of what women are doing right now to change their history. The focus has shifted from the past to the present and the cultivation of the future historical footprint women will have.

In Maine, and Portland in particular, women have been joining forces to incite activism to change their paths. Over spring break, USM’s Portland campus was host to a film screening of the locally produced documentary, Maine Girls. The film focuses on a group of thirteen teenaged girls who live in South Portland and spent eight weeks learning about each other classroom. The group was brought together in light of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration stance and rhetoric that was felt to be targeted and unhelpful to the integration of immigrants in South Portland. The film is screened to promote awareness for the situation facing immigrants to Maine and the ways in which communication can facilitate growth and inclusivity. It is also a triumph of female empowerment beginning at a young age.

Maine women are also honoring Women’s History Month at universities across the state. At the University of Maine in Orono, the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies department has an organized calendar that consists of nineteen events that are open to students and individuals, not affiliated with the university. At USM, groups like Huskies for Reproductive Health and the administrative team in the Women and Gender Studies (WGS) department are continuing to host events throughout the month of March. As part of WGS’s celebration of Women’s History Month, Julia Serano, a transfeminist American author, will be hosting a discussion in Glickman Library titled, “Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive.”

This year Women’s History Month is also being celebrated with an increased show of activism, education and awareness for the current political moment and its relation to women. In light of the recent increase of open discussion about sexual assault and harassment through the #MeToo movement, Huskies for Reproductive Health, in partnership with the International Socialist Organization: Portland Branch and USM’s Queer Straight Alliance, held a panel discussion that focused on what identifying with the #MeToo movement was all about. Sharing resources, personal stories and campus processes for reporting sexually based offenses, the event facilitated a discussion about “what we can do as students to change our culture of campus rape beyond policy, and the culture of rape on college campuses across the country. Also included in this discussion will be interpersonal violence, relationship violence, coercion, etc. as this topic is so intricately tied to sexual violence,” according to the official event page.

WGS Coordinator, Cathy Barbarits, shared her thoughts on the increase of activism and importance of its ties to Women’s History Month.

“It feels to me like with the #metoo movement and activism of late that we are heading in a positive, intersectional feminist direction with our conversations as members of a movement. I think as the conversations keep happening, and people who are doing social justice work keep progressing in our understanding of systems of oppression to form increasingly collective goals, the ‘History Month’ thing will fall by the wayside. But I’m skipping ahead a bit,” Barbarits said. “In the meantime, I think that WHM is becoming a celebration of both our contributions of the past, of our hope for the future, and of our ability to affect change. Those things will not be lost even after feminism has done its job obliterating all forms of structural oppression.”

In recent years, USM associate professor Eileen Eagan worked with a group of students to create a Women’s History Trail throughout Portland. Starting as a website, the content was eventually pushed out through an app for smartphones. Funded by the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF), the project turned out a historical walking trail that visitors and locals can use to experience and educate themselves on the history of women in Portland. The significance of the trail is emphasized in a write up by Eagan, where she quotes Maine author Sarah Orne Jewett.

“Nothing you ever read about them can make you know them until you go there,” Jewett said. “Never mind people who tell you there is nothing to see in the place where people lived who interest you. You always find something of what made them the souls they were, and, at any rate, you see their sky and their earth.”

Following in the spirit represented by Eagan and Jewett, women in Maine celebrating Women’s History Month have a multitude of ways to experience their historical footprint. Visiting women’s historical sites, inciting activism and continuing a conversation about the significance of women are all ways which women are celebrating this year.

News Briefs

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:12

Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

Trash filled lot reveals the plywood home of three children

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

Facts gone wrong in White House gun control discussion

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

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

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

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico resigns

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

American chain stores to raise the age to purchase firearms

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

Trial begins for widow of the Pulse Nightclub Killer

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

Letter from the Editor: Riding the train in England

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:12

Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:10

Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell us anything and everything,” said Hustus.

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

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

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

More information about the Master Plan can be found on the USM website, including a link to sign up for email notifications about of the forums. https://usm.maine.edu/president/master-plan

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

Mon, 2018-03-05 14:07

Sam Margolin, Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The quest for consistency in online learning

Mon, 2018-02-26 23:34

Emily Adams, Contributor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pages