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Kavanaugh vote mobilizes student activists

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2018, with a 50-48 vote following several sexual misconduct allegations. When the allegations came out, many people came forward to detail their experiences with sexual assault and denounce Kavanaugh for the nation’s highest court. Maine Sen. Susan Collins was one of the key swing votes in the decision and ultimately voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s election. As a testament to the University of Maine’s strong culture of student political activism, the lead up to the decision saw a rush of student-led debate, advocacy and initiative to influence the vote.

A protest organized by the Women’s Resource Center took place on campus Thursday, Oct. 4. Several student-led organizations attended, including the UMaine College Democrats and Republicans. The UMaine Feminist Collective also attended this protest, as well as participating in phone banking with Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund.

Smith Fenner is a fourth-year marine biology student at UMaine and is the treasurer of the Maine College Republicans.

“As far as I know, we were the only club [that participated in the protest] that was completely for Kavanaugh,” Fenner said. “The biggest worry that I heard from particularly some of my Democrat friends is [Kavanaugh] was going to get in there and going to be the swing vote that abolishes Roe vs. Wade and take away Planned Parenthood.”

President of the UMaine College Democrats Katie Hess said that some of the group’s members attended the protest. She said they started their meeting last week by going around the room and sharing what they were most angry about in the news, and around 90% of members were angry about Kavanaugh being voted into the Supreme Court.

“I understand that obviously Kavanaugh can’t be convicted of anything, you know there’s not enough evidence that you can actually prove that he did any of these things, but what I don’t like is that there’s three women that have come forward and accused him of something,” Hess said. “Things don’t add up […] I think it judges his character.”

Liam Kent, the vice president of the UMaine College Democrats did not attend the protest but called Sen. Collins multiple times in the weeks leading up to her vote.

“People obviously were really angry,” Kent said. “The majority of Americans thought that it would finally change the narrative of ‘no he’s right, she’s wrong,’ but they forgot to count that Washington is always 10 to 20 years behind what the public wants.”

Meghan Frisard is a fourth-year student at UMaine and co-chair of the Feminist Collective. She participated in several events on and off campus to influence Sen. Collins’ vote.

“None of these events were partisan, except that Angus King had already said he would be voting to reject the nomination,” Frisard said. “So all of our efforts were focused specifically on contacting Susan Collins, who ended up being one of the deciding votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”

The Feminist Collective is a group that “builds community among university women and offers opportunities for political activism, as well as educational and social activities,” according to its UMaine website. Frisard said that Kavanaugh’s election could have ramifications relevant to the group’s interests at the local and individual level.

“Many of our events on campus and ideals are centered around protecting access to healthcare including abortion care and contraception and creating a safe environment for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, which are two areas that Brett Kavanaugh showed hostility towards in his past,” Frisard said.

Other members of the UMaine community, including Associate Professor of Political Science and Honors Rob Glover, believed that there were many compounding factors that made this Supreme Court nomination monumental in our country’s history.

“I think any time you have a Supreme Court nomination, it’s going to energize and activate folks on both sides politically,” Glover said. “The stakes are high and the Supreme Court has monumental impacts on virtually every area of American law. But this case was unique, given concern about the fate of Roe v. Wade, the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh’s angry and defiant response, and continued frustration at the refusal by Senate Republicans to consider the President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland prior to the 2016 election.”

Mass amounts of students and student organizations took a stand throughout these past weeks to share their opinion surrounding this topic at UMaine. To get engaged, you can find information about voting on campus on the UMaine UVote website.  Elections will be held on Nov. 6.

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