Maine Day should not be abolished
Earlier this November, President Joan Ferrini-Mundy sent an announcement to the University of Maine community regarding the future of Maine Day. This announcement indicated that university management was in the process of creating a task force to evaluate the merits and problems associated with Maine Day. Depending on the findings and consensus, the annual tradition could be terminated.
As known by most UMaine students and faculty, Maine Day is an annual tradition that occurs each April or May during the spring semester. Classes are canceled for the day students and the campus community are invited to partake in service to better the campus. This service includes campus-wide “spring cleanups,” gardening, trash removal and more. In addition to campus service and cleanups, there are frequent recreational activities such as a large cookout in the steam plant parking lot, lawn games, and others offered.
Ferrini-Mundy has established this task force, chaired with Dr. Jeffrey Hecker from UMaine’s department of psychology, to assess whether or not to keep holding Maine Day due to the perceived erosion of the levels of genuine service and student engagement during the day. Instead, there has been public concern over off-campus celebrations and possibly dangerous behaviors.
While public concerns about student safety and preventing maladaptive behaviors are legitimate, it would still behoove the university to keep this long-standing tradition. First established in 1935, this 87 year-old tradition should not be abolished lightly.
Maine Day is a great outlet for students and staff to give back to the campus. During times of environmental disdain, pollution and deforestation, any and all efforts to beautify public lands should be encouraged. The flagship Orono campus is on Marsh Island, a land once inhabited by the Penobscot Nation. Devoting even one day a year to beautifying this luscious green campus should be prioritized. Not only does the volunteerism of Maine Day engage the campus community to clean up the campus, but it also encourages future service by epitomizing volunteerism.
While there is truth in the prospect of the tradition devolving from its service-based mission, instead of eliminating the event, there should be greater efforts to rekindle participation in service. For example, a combination of more academic incentives (e.g. extra credit) for volunteering, possibly a stronger police presence and marketing for volunteering activities prior to the event could help foster more proactive behaviors and fewer maladaptive ones.
In addition to being a great way to volunteer and give back to the campus, Maine Day also helps build rapport with the campus community. Students, faculty and staff come together to participate in a shared cause. Alumni and the surrounding community are encouraged to support the college of their hearts. During times of division and disagreement, it is truly special that such a large portion of the campus community can come together for a greater cause.
Maine Day also provides a way for students and the campus to have an enjoyable day. While off-campus recreation or excessive partying can be counterintuitive to the day’s mission, healthy and respectful fun helps create a positive and welcoming atmosphere. Barbeques, lawn games and concerts help foster a team spirit. Maladaptive or off-campus behaviors could be decreased by campus initiatives to increase volunteering rates and encouragement to participate in on-campus celebrations.
Ferrini-Mundy’s establishment of a task force to assess the merits of retaining Maine Day based on community concerns is well founded. However, the benefits of Maine Day include beautifying our campus, encouraging volunteering and fostering community spirit. Instead of eliminating Maine Day, leadership should instead incentivize greater volunteerism (e.g. extra credit) and discourage negative off-campus behaviors (e.g. a stronger police presence). A few bad apples shouldn’t ruin Maine Day for everyone.