Board meeting in Fort Kent angers USM students

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PORTLAND — Some University of Southern Maine students and faculty are angry about a decision to move a University of Maine Board of Trustees vote hundreds of miles away.

Students and faculty held a press conference Sept. 12 outside the Abromson Center to ask the Board of Trustees to move a scheduled meeting back to Portland. The board, which will be voting on elimination of three USM programs, moved its Sept. 22 meeting to Fort Kent.

Meaghan LaSala, a member of Students for USM Future, said the move will make it impossible for anyone who wants to speak for the programs to do so.

“It’s important because the distance is completely prohibitive to students and faculty who want to attend,” LaSala said.

American and New England studies, geosciences, and the Lewiston-Auburn Arts and Humanities program are the programs up for elimination.

LaSala, 27, of Portland, is a Women and Gender Studies major with an Environmental Studies minor. She said she and others are not giving up on having representation at the meeting.

“I think that we had hoped the Board of Trustees would choose to do the right thing,” LaSala said. “We are making plans to send people to Fort Kent, but it’s not anywhere nearly as many as we had hoped.”

In a Sept. 11 press release, board spokesman Dan Demeritt said the board decided to swap its meeting dates at USM and the University of Maine at Fort Kent because “winter comes early and there was a concern that we could run into weather issues for travelers (to Fort Kent) in November.”

LaSala said she and others need to build momentum in the USM community “to highlight the vital aspects of these programs,” which would be a “profound loss” to the community.

“Whatever reason they could have had for moving the meeting can’t trump rights of the students and faculty to be present at this meeting and to speak out about their livelihoods and their future,” she said in a press release.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.