By Caty DuDevoir and Grace Blanchard
The faculty senate held a meeting tonight where they chose to table the motion that would recommend reinstalling classes on the last Wednesday in April — officially known as Maine Day.
Over 50 students gathered in the Wells Conference Center to vocalize what Maine Day means to them, as well as their disappointment in the administration’s lack of transparency.
The faculty senate has been discussing this since Sept. 14, after it was brought to their attention by the administration.
According to Nuri Emanetoglu, an associate professor of electrical & computer engineering and member of Faculty Senate, the administration told the Faculty Senate that they would be canceling and rebranding Maine Day regardless of the decision reached at the meeting on Wednesday.
“They asked us for support and the motion that we are discussing is whether or not we are supporting this or not. The students seem to have the impression that the Faculty Senate on its own is trying to cancel Maine Day,” Emanetoglu said.
President Joan Ferrini-Mundy quickly defended her administration’s intentions that public safety is their ultimate concern and their goal was not to cancel Maine Day.
After considering the students’ voices, Ferrini-Mundy decided to form a task force with people passionate about finding a solution to the public safety interests expressed by the administration.
Multiple students vocalized their worries about the lack of transparency from the administration to the faculty and students regarding Maine Day.
“The lack of transparency around the discussions on canceling Maine Day is ridiculous and has only compounded issues,” said Jacob Chaplin, the vice president for the Honors Student Advisory Board and student representative for the faculty senate.
Conversations about the rebranding began during the spring of 2022. According to Vice President for Student Life and Inclusive Excellence and Dean of Students at the University of Maine Robert Dana, emergency medical technicians and police officers reached out after receiving roughly 40 medical calls from students partying at the Avenue (Ave) apartment complex.
Dana commissioned a Maine Day committee due to the safety concerns.
Members of this committee consisted of Dana, the Assistant Town Manager for Orono Belle Ryder, the Assistant Dean and Director of Community Life Lauri Sidelko and Lisa Morin, the coordinator for Barbara Higgins Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism. They met over the summer to discuss possible alternatives to the University of Maine’s annual tradition.
“I am part of a committee that was commissioned by Vice President Dana to talk about the future of Maine Day,” said Sidelko to several members of the student government on Sept. 6. “Essentially, after the past few years, the situations that have occurred have been significantly negative, have been so significant, the university has decided to take a look at the future of Maine Day.”
At the faculty senate meeting, Sidelko and Ryder mentioned they conducted interviews with EMTs, Orono residents and students to understand the issues surrounding Maine Day.
“I’m aware of the Maine Day committee, as the President of student government is supposed to be a member, but I was not asked to be a part of the conversations over the summer,” Alyssa Ciasullo, the president of UMaine Student Government, said.
Echoing the attitude of many students, Ciasullo expressed her grievances about the lack of transparency and student involvement during the Faculty Senate meeting.
“The way to foster school spirit on campus is not to take away the school’s oldest and favorite tradition in conversations behind closed doors,” Ciausullo said. “My role as student body president is to represent student opinion which has been majorly overlooked, especially in conversations regarding Maine Day.”
Prior to the full faculty senate meeting on Sept. 14, Dana provided Mary Jean “MJ” Sedlock, the president of the faculty senate, with a report containing links to publicly available videos on social media depicting parties at the Ave going as far back as 2018. Sedlock shared the links with the rest of the faculty senate. Sept. 14 was also the first time the faculty senate discussed the administration’s stance about Maine Day.
Maine Day has been a valued tradition of the UMaine community for the past 90 years. It started as a day of service, which was a point raised by many students during the faculty senate meeting. Students also encouraged the faculty senate and administration to recognize the need for harm reduction tactics.
“I have seen the police and EMTs there. I’ve never seen a medical tent set up to provide care for students to safely go to as the day progresses in case they’re worried about their friends,” Ben Parks, a fifth-year student at UMaine, said. “I know there was a barricade setup last year which caused students to have to trek through the woods in swamp-like conditions, which I feel like definitely contributed to the injuries that were presented that day.”
Chaplin questioned the sincerity behind the administration’s safety concerns.
“The basic idea is that they want to cancel Maine Day for ‘safety concerns,’ but that really just means their liability is what they are concerned about,” Chaplin said. “Canceling Maine Day won’t do anything about the party, but it definitely will reduce the amount of service hours done in this community.”
While Chaplin’s opinions are not a reflection of the entirety of the student government, many other students expressed the same sentiment.
According to data from local police departments, Dana stated that there were roughly 3,500 students participating in parties at the Ave.
Multiple students attending the meeting highlighted that Maine Day is not all about partying. The philanthropy services traditionally conducted would be affected detrimentally if classes were made mandatory.
“You are talking about reinstating classes and trying to enforce service days in the winter earlier, and quite simply, that’s not going to work. As somebody who runs several organizations on this campus, you are not going to get the amount of service hours [from] students if we don’t get classes off,” said Nick Turner, the president of the Green Team and College Democrats, to the faculty senate. “I will also say that service hours [is] part of that […] pride in your school, a pride that will probably be lost to some degree if the students feel like they’re getting shafted and losing Maine Day.”
Members of the Faculty Senate also recognized the lack of consideration to student voices.
“I would like to propose that the administration really bring the students in. This place exists, we exist, because of these students that pay the tuition,” Sara Lello said, a lecturer in the department of English and a student success advisor.
Lello was one of the members of the Faculty Senate who encouraged the administration not to reinstate classes on Maine Day.
“We have taken away too much. This is their university, we are all in this together,” Lello said.
Influenced by student presence and voices at the meeting, Ferrini-Mundy decided to dedicate a committee of students, faculty and administrators to find ways to mitigate any harmful activity that could occur on Maine Day.
“I am also very persuaded on how deep and complex the issue is by your conversations today,” Ferrini-Mundy stated.
While the discussion is tabled indefinitely, students concerned about the future of Maine Day or who are interested in being part of the collaborative team should reach out directly to Ferrini-Mundy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The administration plans to have a final decision by the end of the fall semester.