Friday, November 24th, 2017

Task force aims to revitalize the Gorham campus

Students board a bus in Gorham. A task force has been formed to look at ways in which to revitalize the Gorham campus community.
Casey Ledoux
Students board a bus in Gorham. A task force has been formed to look at ways in which to revitalize the Gorham campus community.

Posted on October 03, 2011 in News
By Kathryn Rodway

USM President Selma Botman has formed a task force to examine ways to stimulate a more vibrant community on the Gorham campus. The task force met for the first time Friday, with members brought ideas to the table and started to create a strategic plan.

Their first goals are to bring more classes to Gorham, develop strategies to keep students on campus and create a more vibrant community in Gorham, according to Student Body President Chris Camire, a member of the group.

“Today was a very successful first meeting,” said Camire. “I was able to voice several student concerns and they were welcomed by the group. The members of the task force are energetic and determined about moving forward towards our goal for Gorham.”

The task force is chaired by Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell, and is made-up of 18 to 19 administers, faculty and two students. In addition to Camire, Student Senate Chair Morgan DeBlois was originally tapped for the task force, though she declined due to prior commitments. A replacement has not yet been found to replace DeBlois.

According to Caswell, the focus of the task force is to improve the Gorham campus, to attract and retain more students. “When you boil it down to its essence, is to take a hard look at the Gorham experience” said Caswell. “This process is just an outgrowth of student success, which is an ongoing process.”

The task force will meet each Friday until Nov. 4, and shortly after they will present their recommendations to President Selma Botman. “We may see changes as soon as spring semester or as late as next year,” said Caswell.

Camire said he thought it was important that students were asked to be on the task force. “I’m really excited that they want to include students. I think it’s obligatory to have a student voice on the task force” he said. Camire said he intends to hold student concerns forums to hear what issues are important to students in Gorham.

According to Caswell, the results the task force presents to Botman must be fiscally sustainable, academically sound and student success must be central.

Camire said the main focus for residential students is to not only increase residency but to keep students on Gorham campus. Camire said these changes could include maintenance on dorms such as replacing furniture and offering what he called “carbon copies” of classes. “Right now some classes are only offered on one campus. This carbon copied classes would allow students to not have to leave the Gorham campus,” said Camire.

Classes could also be distributed so that campuses have concentrated core areas so that majors are more distributed. “This would make it easier for commuters because they would not have to travel to Gorham,” said Camire. According to Caswell, there is already a committee working on redistributing classes, and a dozen more classes will be offered in Gorham next semester.

Caswell said that the task force needs to look at the problems Gorham faces. “We need to identify wrong, what barriers prevent us from making improvements,” he said.

According to Camire there is a lot of opportunity for improvement in Gorham. “I am keeping a positive outlook on this situation,” he said “There are a lot of people that are dedicated to making Gorham better and I believe this will happen” said Camire.

Caswell said the Gorham campus has already seen significant changes in recent years changes have already taken place. Within the last decade, there has been a new athletic complex built, an expansion of the John Mitchell Center, improvements to Russell Hall and additions to the art studios in Gorham.

Caswell said revitalizing Gorham is not a new issue. “Within the last five years there have been studies to improve the fine and preforming arts and there was a task force ten years ago which also focused on the revitalize of the Gorham campus” he said. Caswell said this new initiative will achieve tangible results. “We have a president with a laser like focus on student success, and she is taking an interest in the Gorham campus, so we will see changes,” he said.


  • Anonymous

    The state of two campuses is an untenably miserable position. In addition to whatever costs are lost from the commute in time and frustration, it destroys the social environment. When I lived on the Gorham campus, it was but a suitcase campus. I’ve seen nothing to think it may have changed. Many students could be counted on to disappear to home ever weekend. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, UMO, the Western Massachusetts colleges, anything in Boston… these all have student communities that can fill one with regret for attending USM.

    I’ve watched over the years as the college splits its allegiance within itself, pouring substantial funds into two campuses at once. Saddled with Portland campus’ limited room for expansion and Gorham’s collection of decayed buildings, the University seems to be certain in taking a road that continues to ensure that any plans of abandoning either campus will continue to have a notable sunk cost in new buildings alongside a notable deferred maintenance issue.

    Kyle Cronin points out the cost of a light rail line… something that would surely be beneficial, but would definitely require funds that come from outside the university. At $315 million, it would be greater than the tuition payments received by USM for an entire year. Yet at the same time, a 10 minute campus-to-campus transit system would change the entire nature of the situation.

    The split campus is a fracture in student life as much as it is a distance between buildings. The ability for the college to remedy its deficient sense of student life is greatly limited by this elephant in the room that I’ve not seen seriously approached for at least the past 8 years. The school really needs to consolidate its two campuses. If it finds finds consolidating the two campuses untenable (a likely finding), then a better transportation link must be sought.

    If nothing else, it would be a great collective degree project for the construction management program.

  • John

    Im not even part of a Greek organization , but it is clear to see that the actions USM has taken against Greek Life at USM is a huge step backwards in making the Gorham Campus more “vibrant”. I have gone to USM for 3 years now, and have visited many schools, and no matter where you go, kids like to have fun. They like to drink on the weekends, and no matter what USM does , that isn’t going to change. As students get into their upperclass level of college, many start to move to Portland, but since USM has been so narcissistic with their system of discipline, students are starting to move to Portland after their freshman year, many even skipping the entire Gorham experience altogether. I know of a student who had 4 friends drinking casually in their room, and a cop came and charged him with furnishing. I know of students who havent drank AT ALL, walking back from Fraternities and are charged with underage drinking. The USM Police is a complete joke, Officer Swan in particular. The stories students pass along about their experiences makes it that much less appealing for more students to want to live in Gorham. I loved Gorham my Freshman year. I can barely stand to be there after seeing how much it has changed since. Take a visit to the University of Connecticut. They have a great system in place, where they are strict on grades, but they have a very loose, relaxed approach when it comes to students partying. They know its going to happen, so they have security in place to make sure that when it happens, the outcome is as safe as it can get. The security will give you a ride home, help you out, etc. USM should take notes from them. USM students love to party, but they also take school very seriously. USM just needs to chill out, and let students do what they came to school to do. Get an education and have FUN. 

  • CC

    Making student involvement groups stronger and not killing them: EXAMPLE GREEK LIFE. It was one of the Maine reasons I chose USM over another university without Greek life. It is a huge party of the college experience wether you join a sorority or fraternity or just hang out at the house. Greek life was also the reason I stayed in Gorham for 2 additional years after moving off campus. Think about it

  • Stimey

    1. Greek life and their involvement with campus is what KEPT me in Gorham. I always knew someone from a fraternity or sorority and they were very very helpful with whatever I needed and helped me to be involved in activities and things on campus. From my understanding, greek life is diminishing just like it did years ago for University of Maine in Presque Isle. Luckily Presque Isle only has one campus and several of their students are from Canada.
    2. What truely attracted me to USM was the commute to and from Portland. It was a good experience to travel from one campus to another.
    If someone doesn’t like to drive there are shuttle buses. It really isn’t a huge deal seeming all students pay for transportation fees anyways.

    Most of the students I have seen on Gorham campus are freshman anyways. I think it’s great that you want to make some changes but I also feel that some changes that have been made is the reason for lack of involvement from other students. The cafeteria doesn’t even seen to be that full anymore as it did when I started going in 2007. The set up was changed and the food choices also did. You have booths in the cafeteria that makes it hard for other students to see everyone else and to make the place a lot more clicky.

  • Guest

    I went to USM for a bit….and left. The issue for me was not a lack of classes, it was more a lack of excitement. I didn’t intend on coming to college to make paintings for the door of my room or carve pumpkins. However, if that’s something you enjoy, all the more power to you. I did my best to follow the rules on campus, but I can’t tell you how many times I got written up and fined for ridiculous things. (music too loud at 9pm or so on a saturday with my door closed was one) Things that when I visited friends at other schools, would have never been an issue. I’m not asking anyone to change laws, or condone any sort of lunatic behavior in public, but, it seems like Gorham is in denial of the fact it’s a college town. I’m glad they’re at least attempting to hear what the students want. I know became disinterested because of what was going on OUTSIDE the classroom. Also, I agree with “Alumna.” Greek Life is a great resource. I think most of those guys and girls understand the town problems more than the rest of the student body. Maybe even use them to educate the new students?

  • Alumna

    just a thought… disbanding Greek life is not the way to keep students on the Gorham campus.  schools with a well-supported Greek system tend have a more vibrant campus community.  

  • Kyle Cronin

    Maybe I’m dreaming, but what I’d like is a faster way to get between the Portland and Gorham campuses. Light rail, for instance. It’s probably pretty expensive* to lay the tracks, get the trains, create stations on both ends, etc, but it would be totally awesome and would completely eliminate the pain of driving to and from Gorham in stop-and-go traffic.

    *According to Wikipedia, most light rail averages around $35 million per mile to create. The 9 mile line between the Portland and Gorham campuses would therefore be approximately $315 million. Considering the Portland campus’s very limited potential for expansion, a rail system would allow future development in Gorham, where it’s significantly easier to expand.