By: Leah Kravette, Graduate Research Assistant, UMaine Center on Aging
My name is Leah Kravette, and I am an alumni of USM. You may remember me from the work I did with Student for #USMFutures. I remember you being empathetic, encouraging, and open to our goals of making USM a safer place for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, students from immigrant families, and others who were experiencing discrimination on campus. While we didn’t always agree on methods, I believed that you truly wanted USM to be a welcoming place where students could focus on their educations, rather than on concerns about their safety.
With that context, I am honestly horrified at the response that you and your administration have had to Dr. Susan Feiner’s pop-up course. I have observed the administration becoming more and more conservative in your approach towards activist students, which has been disheartening, and this move to not only ban Dr. Feiner from teaching at any University but to engage with extremely partisan media messaging about the reasons for doing so is sad to me, and quite honestly scary.
I am currently working towards my Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Maine, Orono, and live close by in a majority – Republican town. I understand that as a queer, Jewish person in an interfaith relationship with very, very liberal politics, I feel differently about things than many of my neighbors and possibly many of my future clients, whom I will serve with dignity and respect. However, even as I live and work in this community, and build positive relationships with folks with political beliefs very different from my own, I will never stop advocating for my own safety, and for the rights and safety of survivors, and queer people, and people of color. In my experience, it is possible to do both.
All this to say that I know the media may paint you as a partisan, liberal snowflake if you don’t use Dr. Feiner as a scapegoat in this political moment. But I want you to know that there are a lot of us out here who are working towards liberation no matter the risk, using diverse tactics, and as a person with a considerable degree of personal and professional power, you have an opportunity to stand up for what’s right. To not do so is incredibly cowardly, especially when so many of us with so much less power are putting so much more on the line. We see you, President Cummings, and while you may be gaining a political point right now, you are aiding in a collective step towards a world where vulnerable people, like myself and the people in my family and community, are further marginalized.
Dr. Feiner deserves a public apology, and for you to publicly state the facts of her case and lift her teaching ban. I will be following this, and other discriminatory practices at USM closely, and you will certainly hear from me again.
Thank you for your time.