Things of the Week – Good politics, bad politics, and angry students

Alex Greenlee | The Free Press

Posted on March 04, 2013 in Henry's Head, Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Disappointing state political decision of the week

Like a kid holding their breath until they get what they want, Governor Paul LePage threatened on Friday to veto all proposed bills that come across his desk until his hospital debt plan is passed by lawmakers. LePage’s plan is to renegotiate the state of Maine’s contracts on liquor and use those proceeds to pay down all of Maine’s accumulated hospital debt, which stands at $198 million. In addition, this would warrant a matching payment of nearly $300 million from the federal government. My qualm isn’t with the proposed results of the plan because I actually support paying off hospital debt. I do, however, have a problem with LePage’s method of getting this bill to pass. Simply refusing to pass any other bills until his own is passed is not only headstrong, it’s impractical as well. I understand the need to strongarm something every once in awhile, but there are plenty of classier, more reputation-friendly ways of getting your own bill passed. This has made me question any optimism I had for LePage after his successful State of the State address, and I’m really not surprised that it only took him a month to undo much of the progress he made with skeptics. LePage said in the address that it’s “embarrassing to work for a state government that doesn’t pay its bills.” What he clearly doesn’t realize, however, is that it’s even more embarrassing to be a Maine citizen represented by such a obstinate governor.

Wonderful state political decision of the week

Polar opposite to the tone set by Governor LePage’s decision to veto all bills that come across his desk until his hospital debt bill is passed, Maine’s own Chellie Pingree, Mike Michaud, and Angus King are among the 212 congress members who signed an amicus brief to challenge the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act that was enacted in 1996 during the Clinton administration. No Republican congressman, congresswoman or senator signed the brief. While the progress made for equal rights in Maine took a huge leap forward when same-sex marriage was legalized in Nov. 2012, there is still work to be done on a national level. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, federally defines marriage as between “one man and one woman” for lawmaking purposes, and further discriminates against same-sex couples. Surprisingly, Senator Susan Collins did not sign the bill despite her moderate tendencies and involvement in gay rights such as overturning the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Angry student reaction of the week

USM’s Facebook page made a post on Wednesday that said “There are currently no plans to close the Portland and Gorham campuses today,” sparking an angry response from students who left almost 30 comments, including student senate chair Chris Camire who claimed that it was clear to him that student safety is not a high priority for USM. Other commenters also called into question how great a priority the overall safety of USM students is to the administration, and some criticized the University for their poor judgement.

All who commented, however, contributed to a mentality that blew the situation out of proportion.  So USM didn’t cancel school on two different occasions when they probably should have. Should we conclude from this that USM doesn’t care about student safety in general? Not even remotely. Does it mean that all USM officials involved are, as some commenters declared, “careless” and “irrational?” No. Will the lack of a single USM class cancellation mean imminent peril for your college experience and career? Not if you make the decision that is best for you to go home early or go to class. While students have to drive varying distances to get to class, one thing remains the same – we are adults, and we have to make our own decisions. Most professors won’t chastise you if you miss class due to a storm. Some classes have attendance policies, but many of those are for unexcused absences. Send a professor an email, chances are that they will work with you, and any absence will be excused due to a storm.

The outcries of student anger on that Facebook post are based on legitimate concerns and questions – student safety and the poor judgement of the university – but the reaction was perhaps out of proportion with the event. Yes, having a student get injured in a car-related accident due to a snowstorm would be awful, and USM would most certainly rethink its snow day policy.  But if you want to avoid driving in snow, then you should rethink living in New England, which is well-known for it’s snowy weather.