Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

PEB and GEB merger shot down by student senate

Posted on November 24, 2014 in News
By dakotawing

More than 100 students marched into the board of trustees meeting last week to protest recent faculty and program eliminations.

Students flooded into the Sullivan Gym shouting “invest in USM” and “stop the cuts” while the trustees were taking their lunch break.

“I would be concerned if you weren’t here because that would show your lack of passion for your school and your lack of passion for your courses and your professors,” BoT chair Samuel Collins said to the mob after the trustees had looked on for 10 minutes.

The protesters booed him and refused to stop, and drowned out both Collins and President David Flanagan when they tried to speak.

Protesters slowly inched forward in the gymnasium, and the trustees motioned for a recess of the meeting, while students forced their way into seats at the table. With most of the trustees standing off to the side, protesters began to speak to members of the crowd and the media at the scene.

The protesters had three demands: a reversal of cuts made by the BoT, including faculty retrenchments and the elimination of five academic programs over the past year, a moratorium on all cuts until transparency and shared governance are restored and for the university to convince the state and community to invest in USM.

“These decisions are going to be incredibility ineffective,” said Neal Young, a senior political science student.

“No one on the board has the numbers,” said sophomore English major Ben Davis, referring to two trustees who had previously said they didn’t have access to sufficient data to vote on the elimination of applied medical sciences and French. “[The trustees] should wait until they know everything about a program before they get rid of it.”

Some students at the protest who were directly involved in the affected programs claimed they had never had a chance to tell their stories or speak about their programs publically.

“I didn’t have time to drive the six hours to Fort Kent to speak about my program when you eliminated it,” said Kimberly Clark, a student in the American and New England studies program.

“We’ve played by your rules and you haven’t listened to us,” said Chris Witham, a double major in mathematics and classics.

After nearly an hour of chanting and shouting at cameras, students returned to the gallery and let the board continue their meeting.

“Let them have their seats back so they can do the right thing,” said Meaghan LaSala, a senior women and gender studies major and a key organizer of the protest.

The trustees returned to their seats and picked up the meeting where they had left off, sticking to the agenda. A handful of protesters stayed to listen in on the remainder of the meeting, but most left the gym immediately.

Officials didn’t speak about the protest for the remainder of the meeting, but statements from Collins and Flanagan were issued later via email.

“I understand the frustrations that led to the demonstration that disrupted today’s meeting of the Board of Trustees,” wrote Collins. “Our economic and demographic realities are forcing us to make some very difficult choices as we align the University of Southern Maine with the times and position the university as an affordable institution of higher education into the future.”

Collins noted that he and Flanagan, along with UMaine Chancellor James Page, had met with student leaders, including some involved with the protest, the day before to discuss student concerns at USM.

Flanagan, as he has in the past, praised students for being engaged with the decisions being made at USM, but said that it is unlikely anything will be reversed.

“An engaged student body is part of what makes any university great. The recent changes have been difficult for the students, the faculty, the staff and for the administration as well,” wrote Flanagan. “USM’s leadership is charged with protecting the long term viability of the University and to serving the best interests of its students. We continue to stand by the decisions the trustees have made.”

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