By: Katie Zema
Today at noon students on both the Portland and Gorham USM campuses will walk out of our classes and stand together in solidarity against the recent faculty and program cuts made by the USM administration and the UMaine System Board of Trustees. Students will gather outside of Payson Smith Hall on the Portland campus, and on Hodgdon Field in Gorham.
Why are we doing this? Students in a variety of majors are watching their degree programs—and their university itself—crumble in front of their eyes. USM students are being forced to deal with majors cut, graduation plans needlessly complicated, and we risk losing many professors with whom we have fostered meaningful and irreplaceable relationships. Since October, five programs have been eliminated, and 25 professors retrenched, derailing students’ academic progress and imposing a cloud of fear and uncertainty over day-to-day life at USM. We see a university that the students and faculty are deeply, passionately invested in, yet USM does not seem to be invested in us.
The future of USM towards which the Board of Trustees seems to be leading us is nothing short of frightening, which is why students must stand together today: to demand that the Board reverse the cuts, and use their influence to ensure a growing and thriving USM, instead of one that’s collapsing.
We all are walking out for our own, personal reasons. There are probably as many reasons as there are students. Perhaps you had that one inspiring conversation with a professor that really changed your career path. Or maybe you were in one of the programs that were cut and are unsure what graduating looks like for you. Or perhaps you were close to one of the many faculty members who have unjustly lost their position with our great university. Regardless of your personal reason, it is time to come together to celebrate all the positive ways USM has shaped students, and reclaim a university that is invested in education, and not profit.
What are my own reasons for walking out today, you may ask? I am walking out today for many reasons. One of them is former sociology Professor John Baugher. If I had not sat in his Introduction to Sociology class my first semester at USM, I am not sure where I would be today. It was his Qualitative Research Methods course that showed me a way I want to make a difference in the world. And it was conversations with him, and with other students in his classes, that continue to inspire me everyday.
I am also marching for the Women and Gender Studies program. It was an Introduction to Women and Gender Studies class with Lorrayne Carroll that helped me todevelop my passion for gender justice. The truth is, I am marching for every professor I have had, and all the skills and knowledge I have gained because of their dedication to the students at USM; for the diverse professors who taught me how to write with passion, who helped explain Judith Butler, and who even somehow managed to teach me Newton’s laws of motion. USM faculty have help me grow as a student and person, and I refuse to stand by and watch something that has done so much for me and so many other students fall apart.
So now is the time to walk out and stand up against the Board of Trustees’ decisions—decisions that are having negative effects on so many people, and that are damaging USM’s institutional integrity. This is OUR University and our time to reclaim it. Show that you are here for USM. Be there TODAY AT NOON and be a part of a movement to protect USM, Maine, and higher education as a whole. Whatever or whoever your reason is, join us today to take back USM.
Katie Zema is a Portland resident and Women and Gender Studies and Sociology major at USM.