Students continue to organize after denial of bill at state house

After the press conference at 12:30 p.m. at the state house, students made their way around the state house, looking for law makers to talk to about their bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Chipman (I-Portland). Here they spoke to a representative from Senate President Justin Alfond's office. The bill will go through legislative council tomorrow, where lawmakers will decide whether it moves on to the next stage. Student here carried with them flyers that read &quotStand in Solidarity for #UMainefuture," as groups have sprung up not only in USM but also in Orono and Farmington to protest recent cuts across the system.
Sokvonny Chhouk
After the press conference at 12:30 p.m. at the state house, students made their way around the state house, looking for law makers to talk to about their bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Chipman (I-Portland). Here they spoke to a representative from Senate President Justin Alfond's office. The bill will go through legislative council tomorrow, where lawmakers will decide whether it moves on to the next stage. Student here carried with them flyers that read "Stand in Solidarity for #UMainefuture," as groups have sprung up not only in USM but also in Orono and Farmington to protest recent cuts across the system.

Posted on March 26, 2014 in News
By Kirsten Sylvain

Update: March 27, 6:27 p.m.

Students who proposed a bill to analyze the distribution of funding in the UMaine System were disappointed today to hear news that the legislative council had denied advancement of the legislation, but they promptly responded that they would use the result to further mobilize and engage students.

Six voted against of the bill, LR 2883, while four voted in favor of it.

“It is frustrating that the bill was not accepted right now, but this fight is not over,” said bill sponsor Rep. Ben Chipman (I-Portland) to the legislative council today. “I plan to introduce this bill again for the next session because this is a crisis that we need to address.”

Students involved with the #USMfuture and #UMainefuture efforts are continuing to organize and were not deterred by the council’s decision.

“Whether or not the legislative council agreed or disagreed with LR 2883, either outcome works for us,” said Shannon Brennan, an organizer from #UMOFuture in a prepared statement. “If they don’t want to make it a legislative issue, then we’ll make it an election issue.”
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Update: 1:30 p.m.

The press conference convened around 1:00 p.m. At the conference, the group of students from USM, along with one representative from the University of Maine in Orono and sponsor of the bill Rep. Chipman, presented their bill at the state house welcome center, outlining it in detail.

The bill, explained USM Vice Student Body President Marpheen Chann later, will not call for funding, instead it will use existing resources within the Department of Education. It would fund a study group that would assess
whether the current distribution of funds and financial assets within the University of Maine System aligns with goals defined under Maine laws on “Public Policy on Higher Education” (Title 20-A §10902). One student and faculty representative from each  seven branches of the UMS along with the student representative to the Board of Trustees and Commissioner to the DOE  would sit on the group.

The bill also specifies that the group’s work would convene on  June 1, 2014 and that the study would be published by Dec. 1, 2014. The study would be presented to the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, before Jan. 30, 2015. The  bill would also put a moratorium on the elimination of faculty and program eliminations, between March 1, 2014 until March 1, 2015.

Tomorrow the bill will go to the legislative council, where legislators will decide if it will move to the floors of the house and senate and one step closer to being passed.

“If it doesn’t go through [legislative council] it will be more fuel for us to organize more protests across the campuses,” said Chann.

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A group of students met with Rep. Ben Chipman (I-Portland) to draft a bill yesterday that would put a temporary moratorium on cutting while allowing time for a study into the distribution of funding in the University of Maine System.

The bill entitled, “Resolve, an act to analyze the distribution of funding within the UMaine system,” is aimed at increasing financial transparency and sustainability within the UMS, according to a statement released this morning. This bill would also be considered an emergency measure. Specifics of the bill will be detailed in a press conference today scheduled for 12:30 p.m. in the state house welcome center.

“There is a crisis right now in the University of Maine system. This bill will provide a thorough examination of the financial structure of the system and develop solutions to keep our universities sustainable,” said Chipman, sponsor of the bill.

Students and faculty, many of the same who have participated in protests of faculty layoffs throughout the week, plan to attend the conference today. They will also talk to law-makers in an effort to garner support for the bill.

“I believe it will necessary to not only work on changes from within the USM campus, but to look to the state to ensure the health and vitality of our school and the entire UMaine system. We need to support faculty, and in order to do that, we need to have an honest picture of what we’re doing with the resources we’re given,” said Jules Purnell, one of the students who organized the Students for #USMfuture protests and helped to draft the bill.