#USMFuture pledges to keep it up

Meaghan LaSala spoke at Thursday’s rally before the group marches down Congress Street.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Meaghan LaSala spoke at Thursday’s rally before the group marches down Congress Street.

Posted on April 14, 2014 in News
By Sam Hill

#USMFuture protesters were thrilled Friday when President Theo Kalikow reversed all twelve faculty cuts made in mid-March, but the protests’ organizers assured the Free Press, even with summer break quickly approaching, they have no plans to let up on protest efforts.

LaSala said that while the members of the movement are excited for the decision to reinstate faculty, they know that this isn’t the end. “We were amazed and overwhelmed and so grateful, but we are also very hesitant,” said LaSala. “Kalikow said the proposals are off the table for now, but the risk is still there.”

Kalikow’s announcement at the Faculty Senate meeting came as a complete surprise to all in attendance. The decision, Kalikow said, was so spur of the moment that the retrenched faculty had not yet been informed of the reversal.

The day before Kalikow’s decision, around 100 protesters took to the streets of Portland with a coalition of local supporters to march in protest of recent faculty cuts at USM and for an increase in state appropriation for public higher education in Maine. The protest was only one in a series of demonstrations and trips to the state house as part of student efforts to put pressure on USM administrators and state legislators. Many faculty, students and locals praised the efforts of students as a direct cause of the reversal of the cuts.

However, when Kalikow was asked how student efforts to protest the retrenchments affected her decision, she responded that the impact was only “indirect.” She added, however, that she was pleased with the level of student involvement.

“I’ve been waiting for thirty years for students to wake up,” she said.

“I can’t imagine that the outcry from students didn’t affect many administrators,” said Meghan Brodie, a theater professor who had been retrenched. “I think a lot of people were surprised at how vocal they were and how quickly they mobilized. I think it did have an impact. Whether direct or indirect, it was a huge impact.”

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on the administration in the past few weeks,” said Meaghan LaSala,  a junior women and gender studies major and #USMFuture organizer. “Whether they say it aloud or not, I believe we’ve affected their decision.”

The march throughout Portland on Thursday was supported by many local and state-wide organizations, including the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine, the Maine Education Association and the Maine People’s Alliance.

LaSala said that the coalition will continue to be vocal until the administration and Board of Trustees agree to an independent audit of University of Maine System spending.  She also noted that they will stand up to any cuts of staff as well

“We definitely are claiming this a victory, but there is more work to do,” she said.

LaSala added that the movement will not stop with the end of the school year and that there is a dedicated and active community of students and citizens invested in this issue who will be working until their goals are reached.