By Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer
Although still in the early stages of development, USM’s chapter of the Maine Student Action group is hoping to inspire a strong presence of young activism on campus. The group met for the first time on Nov. 29 on the Portland campus, and its founder and organizer, Emma Donnelly, discussed the goals for the group .
While the group that gathered was small, only seven individuals total, the energy and enthusiasm of those present was powerful. The gathering was informal and introductory.
According to Donnelly, the goals of USM Student Action are to “start movements and spark positive change” at university, local and state levels. Creating and maintaining a strong presence on campus will be one of the group’s first initiatives. Standing up and making their voices heard against social injustices is a priority.
The first action the group will participate in is a walkout and demonstration on Dec. 5 at noon to show support for the protesters who stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline and to express solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Army Corps of Engineers has required that the protesters evacuate their campsite by noon on Dec. 5, which corresponds with the date and time of USM Student Action’s demonstration.
Another event directly affecting USM students that the Student Action group will likely advocate against is the recent discussion of a tuition increase. The introductory meeting for USM Student Action saw a positive response to the proposal of taking action, and participants denounced the proposed tuition spike. The opportunity for the group to gather will occur on Dec. 6. A town hall style forum will take place to discuss what this tuition increase will mean for students.
Another part of what USM Student Action will do on campus is fundraising. Donnelly proposed that the group choose one or two charities to support each month. The month of December will likely see fundraising efforts to support Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Community Foundation for Greater Flint. Donnelly declared that funds are intended to support “emergency services, nutrition, and water.”
Another key aspect of USM Student Action that was discussed at the introductory meeting is the initiative to build coalitions with other student activist groups at USM as well as Student Action chapters at other institutions, such as SMCC. Events such as the Nov. 30 Sundaes and Solidarity social gathering will hopefully promote solidarity among student groups.
Specifics of the group’s management and bylaws will be determined through the writing of a constitution, which Donnelly will partner with USM Campus Life to create. Though the process is just beginning for USM Student Action, members of the group look like they are ready to hit the ground running and work hard to ignite change.
For more information about USM Student Action, inquiries can be directed to Emma Donnelly or posted on the group’s Facebook page, Maine Student Action: USM.