Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Stonecoast MFA may soon be out of a house

 Faculty and students of the Stonecoast MFA Program for creative writing take a lunch break in one of their week-long residencies, which faculty and alumni describe as one of the more rewarding parts of the program. There are two residencies per year as a part of the program, which involve intensive workshopping at peer-editing sessions.
Courtesy of Stonecoast MFA Program
Faculty and students of the Stonecoast MFA Program for creative writing take a lunch break in one of their week-long residencies, which faculty and alumni describe as one of the more rewarding parts of the program. There are two residencies per year as a part of the program, which involve intensive workshopping at peer-editing sessions.

Posted on April 21, 2014 in News
By Sidney Dritz

Randy Hazelton | The Free Press

One of USM’s most prestigious pieces of architecture may have reached the point where it’s more trouble than it’s worth to the university, according to a recent University of Maine System maintenance report.

When President Kalikow announced her first round of proposed cuts in February, one of the considered cuts was the Stone House, home of the Stonecoast MFA program for creative writing, the Stonecoast Writers’ Conference and a Book Arts Conference directed by Rebecca Goodale each summer.

According to Chief Financial Officer Dick Campbell, the Stonehouse costs significantly more money than it brings in.

“The Stone House and the MFA program are two different things,” said Campbell in an interview with the Free Press last week. “You could have those at another location.”
English Professor Nancy Gish, who directed the Provost’s Writing Seminar at the Stone House for thirteen of the program’s fourteen years, has a different perspective that relates to the importance of the Stone House for the programs it houses. “In my judgement, it was one of the most important parts of the [Provost’s Writing Seminar] program,” Gish said of the house.

2013 Stone Coast MFA graduate Karla Fossett agreed. “I think that the program relies on the house –– the house is where everything happens,” Fossett said.

The Stone House, which was designed by John Calvin Stevens in 1918, is one of the oldest buildings owned by USM, and was, at the time that the UMaine system commissioned a report on building conditions from Sightline, which was delivered in January, 2014, one of three buildings with the highest deferred maintenance and renovation costs per square foot.
The report, said Campbell, was presented before last summer’s series of renovations, making the Stone House the property with the most outstanding costs required to maintain it.
“The Maine system has an aging campuses [sic] with more space in high risk categories than peers. This means that life cycles of many building components are at or past their useful life,” read the Sightlines report, compiled by Jim Kadamus and Emily Morton.

Fossett cited the house’s historical nature and atmosphere as assets to the program. “I always felt really lucky to be able to work in this place that has such historical significance,” she said.

Fossett also described the Stone House as the heart of the MFA program, and explained that students taking part in the program live and do most of their work in various locations, often from a distance, and that the natural beauty and isolation of the location creates an important atmosphere during the workshop periods where the students are together.
Amanda Pleau, another recent Stone Coast graduate, said something similar. “it’s a little bit lonely,” she said of the scattered nature of the students between workshops, “but then we get to the residency and it’s like summer camp.”

According to Campbell, discussions are underway about what to do with the property. “It could be on a historical register, it’s not now,” said Campbell. He said the building might be sold, or converted to a different use by a new owner.

“There are times you might not sell it for a profit as much as for eliminating the cost of using it,” said Campbell. According to Campbell, the cost of operating the Stone House comes to $45,000 per year on top of the money the university receives from the programs which use it. This cost is the minimum needed for limited use, and does not include deferred maintenance costs, including repairs to the sewage system, well and water system, slate roofs, boilers and heating, and the hazardous abatement material necessary to make those repairs. There are also costs associated with meeting various codes the Stone House currently does not meet, like electric codes and ADA compliance.

“We’re fighting it,” said current Stone Coast MFA program director Justin Tussing. Tussing told the Free Press he has attended meetings with the president, the provost and Dean Kuzma of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

When asked about the maintenance costs, Tussing said, “From where I’m standing I don’t think that it’s necessary to do that all at once, but I don’t think administration see the numbers in the same way I do.”

Tussing suggested that one way to bridge the gap between the money brought in by the Stone House and the costs required to maintain it would be to reach out to other groups in the area to share the space and form creative partnerships.

“We’re really problem solving right now, but I’m encouraged, frankly, with how responsive Theo and Michael have been,” Tussing said.

When asked when a conclusion about the fate of the Stone House might be reached, Campbell said, “I would hope we would make some decisions in the next few months.”

  • Anonymous

    I do have the answers about you and will be releasing them to the Free Press as they are fair about reporting…while you, not so much. Let me know which comment of yours, you would like me to pass onto The Free Press for their breaking story…cause I have a lot of them :>)

  • Anonymous

    YOU are being mocked, let’s be clear about that, you do it to others, though you don’t like it much.

    So reread my post, I suggested YOU start a crowd source funding to pay for the Stone House. As usual, you twist the truth, so your student-fans can come crawling to your feet

    (is that why you have that for your profile photo)?
    And yes, I do like my posts, because I am telling the truth, standing up to you and saying loud and clear to USMer’s that you are a bully!! Too bad about your major being cut.

  • Anonymous

    So answer these or wimp out again…..you are probably too busy running the protests for the students…must make you so proud of that accomplishment…
    Be careful for what you ask for….the result will be not want you want in the end..looking forward to visiting you the week of August 21st when reality hits. I am going to enjoy when you have to own up to other faculty for what you brought down on USM.
    Your endless flow of lies about USM are starting to catch up with you…your department’s lack of revenue generating is being currently being reviewed and well, the number is not good, so here comes the axe…chop, chop. No revenue generating, bullying everyone who disagrees with your little gang, so bye-bye to your major, try protecting that …it won’t matter soon, cuts have to happen, forget transparency….your major is already being discussed and the WGS house is being offered to another group. Everyone on campus will be faking how sad they are for Wendy, the 2 Sue, Christy, Meghan, Nancy, Lucinda, Jane.
    I have been looking for other Women Studies & Gender open positions for you,but then realize, in October you won’t have a position here and everyone you bullied at USM, will not write a recommendation for you.

    I do have the answers, and as usual you deflect answering the questions because you think no one will find out the answers or figure out your agenda to cheat the Maine taxpayers. So here is another opportunity.

    1) What are faculty stipends and why is this $ necessary?
    2) How much do you receive for stipend $ which is not reported in your salary data report? This includes any past stipends. Please show proof you have
    not, double check or you might not like explaining what you said above.
    3) What is the average amount of revenue generated by USM faculty?
    4) What is the amount you generate in revenue?
    Four simple questions.

    Don’t forget you have a 10 month salary, so stop whining about your salary. It’s not very lady-like.

    Why are you not answering these questions? Hmmmm?

  • Anonymous

    Please feel free to post the answers that you think you have – I look forward to your answers. and please answer for yourself.

  • Anonymous

    Going to ask you again, to give you last opportunity to announce these answers to Maine taxpayers:

    1) What are faculty stipends and why is this $ necessary?
    2) How much do you receive for stipend $ which is not reported in your salary data report? This includes any past stipends. Please show proof you have not, double check or you might not like explaining what you said above.
    3) What is the average amount of revenue generated by USM faculty?
    4) What is the amount you generate in revenue?
    Four simple questions.

    Why are you not answering these questions? Hmmmm?

  • Anonymous

    When are you going to answer these questions?
    1) What are faculty stipends and why is this $ necessary?
    2) How much do you receive for stipend $ which is not reported in your salary data report? This includes any past stipends. Please show proof you have not, double check or you might not like explaining what you said above.
    3) What is the average amount of revenue generated by USM faculty?
    4) What is the amount you generate in revenue?
    Four simple questions.

    Why are you not answering these questions? Hmmmm?

  • Anonymous

    So are you interested in purchasing it to help this program?

  • Anonymous

    You need to double check whatever records you think you have – no stipend for me. But feel free to start a crowd source funding instead of mocking people who do. and liking your own posts is just sad.

  • Anonymous

    True, because I don’t hear you starting a crowd funding to save it or handing over your stipend $……

  • Anonymous

    There are already feelers out to buyers…USM admin has no doubt already made up their minds and will present it as a done deal.

  • Martin Conte

    Losing this building would be truly short sighted of the administration. Graduate programs in creative writing, contrary to popular belief, are burgeoning and growing. Each has some signature, some aspect that makes them stand out among the rest. This House is our signature, and to lose it would be to severely damage the reputation and lure of the MFA program. Not to mention the heaping number of alternative measures to simply slashing it that have not yet been undertaken, measures I’m confident prof. Tussing will pursue vigorously.