Over the past couple of weeks, information has been leaking out that the University of Maine administration has plans to cancel Maine Day with minimal regards to student input.
In a Faculty Senate Meeting on Sept. 14, there were discussions surrounding the future of Maine Day and the possibility of canceling it entirely. However, while there were discussions, it seems as though the administration’s actions are more performative than anything since it’s clear their minds have already been made up. The Student Senate was informed this was happening by an advisor, but were told there was little they could do about it. By the time they were informed, the administration was already far along in their discussions.
This decision also includes plans to make classes mandatory to discourage students from partying. UMaine received complaints from the Ave last year about the number of intoxicated students that were partying there on Maine Day.
President Kate Kemper of the Honors Student Advisory Board explains the administration’s safety concerns that are supposedly the reason behind the canceling of Maine Day.
“There were around 40 hospital transports last Maine Day, mostly related to alcohol consumption. Additionally, enrollment in volunteering was at an all-time low this past Maine Day, which is what the day was originally supposed to be for,” Kemper said.
Multiple sources have said that these safety concerns partly stem from videos the Ave showed the Faculty Senate of students partying during last year’s Maine Day. It is unclear whether these videos were shown to the Student Senate when they were informed of this decision.
The safety concerns may be warranted, however, canceling Maine Day is not going to stop people from partying. Most students aren’t going to forfeit a traditionally free day off at the very end of the semester just because UMaine makes classes mandatory. If anything, they are more likely to skip class just to spite the decision.
If UMaine does make classes mandatory on Maine Day, does that mean that professors could get in trouble if they decided not to hold class?
Maine Day takes place on the last Wednesday of the spring semester, acting as a final push before the end of the year. While many students may not help in the service, students still enjoy the day off at the end of a long year. Many students can spend their time studying for finals or hanging out with friends before going home for the summer.
Supposedly, the amount of volunteering on Maine Day has been decreasing. However, it coincides with the Maine Day Meal Packout and Maine Day of Giving as part of the service aspect of the day.
Last year WABI reported on Maine Day since it was the first Maine Day back since COVID-19 and included some statistics on the volunteer efforts.
“Over in the Memorial Gym, volunteers prepared about $15,000 worth of food for local pantries as part of the annual Maine Day Meal Packout,” WABI said. “The university raised more than $2.5 million in the days leading up to it [as part of the Maine Day of Giving].”
Even if the number of people volunteering has decreased, raising that much money helps such a large amount of people. If UMaine cancels Maine Day, it seems like it has the potential to hurt a lot more people that are relying on these services than the people canceling it would help. UMaine wants to understandably stop students from getting injured due to intoxication and related injuries, but stopping Maine Day won’t stop the partying. However, it will impact the people that the Maine Day services have traditionally assisted.
In fact, Maine Day has a long history at UMaine.
“The first Maine Day on May 1, 1935 was intended to lessen the rivalry between first-year and sophomore students; they planted trees and painted fences. Reginald Naugler was elected the first campus mayor,” the UMaine website says. “Classes with three or more weekly meetings are canceled to allow students to participate in volunteerism. Other Maine Day traditions include a campuswide barbecue, parade and games, including Oozeball — mud volleyball.”
The website has a compilation of pictures from various Maine Days across the years of people participating in service, hanging out and having fun. Some of the pictures include people doing activities like cleaning the cannons and sweeping the sidewalks. Most current students don’t participate in these types of activities, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in service. Perhaps it just means UMaine is stuck in the past by trying to get students to follow outdated traditions when there’s an easier way to get students to do service than canceling Maine Day and making classes mandatory.
When asked about the decision, the Student Government President Alyssa Ciasullo described why she thinks UMaine is considering canceling Maine Day.
“It is really a safety issue with Maine Day, not just that the school hates Maine Day. Because so many people at the school love Maine Day, and regardless of if classes are canceled or not there will still be service activities. The service is not going away, I’ll say that,” Ciasullo said.
However, it is even more unlikely that students will attend service events if classes are mandatory. Most students won’t want to spend extra time that they could be spending hanging out outside with friends doing volunteer work. And if there are classes, students who want to party aren’t even going to consider volunteering because they wouldn’t have time for classes, volunteering and partying. That’s if they go to class to begin with.
Students may not all like Maine Day for the original reasons the day was started for, but they still love it regardless. UMaine seems to be in very serious discussions to cancel it, or at the very least, make classes that day mandatory. The worst part about this whole situation; they decided not to include students in these discussions.
According to multiple sources, the meeting where canceling Maine Day was discussed happened over the summer when there was no student representative at the meeting. Importantly, there is always supposed to be a student representative at these meetings to ensure the faculty is taking student voices into consideration with their decisions.
In addition to this, when they informed the Student Senate officers that this was in their discussions, they gave them very few details about their future plans. It seems like some of the general Senators don’t know about this news and next to no students in the general student body know as well.
“We did have a discussion in [our] senate, and we addressed the concerns that the school has. We voiced our opinions, and we really did everything that we could. It is really in the students hands now,” Ciasullo said. “We are really trying to put students’ voices in the conversation, as [the] student government.”
There are members of the Faculty Senate who aren’t comfortable sharing any information until the President’s Office releases a statement. However, at the moment, it doesn’t appear likely they will release a statement any time soon.
Very few people know about this plan, let alone have information about it. An officer in the Honors Student Advisory Board privately reached out to share information they knew.
“The administration is in discussions to get rid of Maine Day and is very much leaning towards scrapping it, without student input or letting the students know. There was one comment made at a student gov meeting by the advisor ‘announcing it’ … They’ve been in discussions all summer, with no student voice,” our anonymous student representative said.
Why is this a topic UMaine is keeping so under wraps that even student representatives know next to nothing about it? Are they so scared that there will be pushback from students that they don’t even want to release the information to us?
Along with this, the Faculty Senate is supposed to post meeting minutes so the whole UMaine community is able to see what is discussed and decided upon when they meet. However, there are still no meeting minutes posted from either meetings from this year, Sept. 14 and Oct. 12, where this issue was allegedly discussed.
If there are legitimate safety concerns, wouldn’t it make more sense to address those to the student body instead of secretly canceling one of the only days every year that is dedicated to service and fun with the UMaine community?
Ciasullo talked about what students can do about this issue.
“Talk to the student government. Tell us about your concerns and we will voice them. Vice President Bray and I meet with Dean Dana regularly and we see Lauri Sidelko every week. We can talk about it with [the] administration and we can always relay student’s voices,” Ciasullo said.
For whatever reason, the administration doesn’t seem to want the student body to know what’s going on. This makes it all the more imperative that students voice their opinions and concerns on something as big and important as Maine Day.
Oct. 19, 2022 Correction: There was a change made to Student Government President Alyssa Ciasullo’s title as she is the vice president of student senate, not the president, as originally written.