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Board of Trustees consolidates campus-centered funding allocations for upcoming year

On April 8, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees convened at Randall Student Center on the Augusta campus to consider major funding initiatives for the following fiscal year. The seven university presidents also shared recent system-wide innovative institutional accomplishments.

The Trustees approved several renovation projects on the Orono campus for 63-year-old buildings, supplementing widespread student expectations for improving the quality of residential halls and classrooms.

Hitchner and Bennett Halls received $8.5 million to undergo maintenance advancements, suitable modernization of HVAC systems and design renovations that enhance conditions for faculty and students in classrooms, lecture spaces and research labs.

The university will also allocate up to $1.5 million to fully renovate Hancock Hall, upgrade facility amenities and construct 11 single-use bathrooms without minimizing residential room availability.

The Green Engineering and Materials (GEM) Factory of the Future, an extension of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, acquired $81.3 million to construct two state-of-the-art laboratories housing AI-enabled 3-D printing equipment and advanced machining systems. By allowing students to complete world-class scientific research projects requiring security clearances, the Factory of the Future will increase educational and economic opportunities in the state through active collaboration with industry leaders and immersive, hands-on training for the future manufacturing workforce.

Since Maine’s lawmakers secured $56.5 million worth of federal funding for the University’s 2024 budget through Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) proposals, President Ferrini-Mundy credited U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) for her leadership as Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and thanked Senator Angus King, and Representatives Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree for their support.

Upon unanimous approval of the 2024 tenure nominations, the Board recognized the contributions of 42 distinguished faculty members in serving students with exceptional teaching, mentorship and scholarship. These academic appointments expand faculty opportunities to instill long-lasting impacts throughout Maine’s public universities.

During the public comment section, Derek DeMello, a first-year Ph.D. history student on the Orono campus and member of the University of Maine Graduate Workers Union, remarked: “It is a very tough time to find an affordable place to live.” He continued to condemn the Board of Trustees’ 2023 decision to remove the remaining 17 buildings and 62 units from University Park Family housing, inhabited by 250 graduate, Ph.D. and international students. 

Several students from the Orono campus addressed the rising casualty rates and heightening humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas Islamist militant movement executed a series of attacks against Israel on October 7, instigating the Jewish state’s retaliatory airstrikes and ground assault operations in Rafah.

“As of February of this year, the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 30,000 lives. 43% of those killed have been children. On April 2, an Israel airstrike killed seven foreign aid workers of the World Central Kitchen,” said Willow Cunningham, a fourth-year undergraduate student.

Referencing that UMaine became one of the first universities to join a national divestment campaign in 1982 against the apartheid state of South Africa, Cunningham concluded: “To remain consistent with our past action, the University should join schools like Tufts, Stanford and Princeton in divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

“In the past six months, I have seen more images of dead children and read more testimonies of cruelty and starvation than anyone ever should. We study the horrors of the Holocaust. We talk of land acknowledgments in recognizing the sovereignty of indigenous people. When it comes to Palestine, the University has been silent,” said Esla Molarsky, the Vice president and co-founder of the UMaine Orono chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

“Those of us who have founded this club ask you to divest from companies that support these horrible actions,” Elsa concluded.

During the University President’s Round Robin, University of Maine at Augusta President Jenifer Cushman revealed that the National Security Agency has officially validated UMA’s Bachelor of Science and Cyber Security program for the 2029 academic year.

Jamie Ballinger, UMS Director of Academic and Student Affairs, updated the Trustees on Maine’s direct admissions initiative pilot program, a concerted effort to remove barriers to the college application process, which was launched a year ago. Direct Admissions authorizes collegiate recruiting to 31 institutions, providing qualified, above-average GPA-bearing high-school students with a pathway to undergraduate enrollment.

“This is the future of admissions for our Universities. Why would you go through the effort of filling out the Common App and submitting recommendations and essays when you don’t have to if you’re a 17 or 18-year-old high school senior?” Ballinger explained.

Out of 3,100 targeted early college students graduating high school, 257 have committed to UMS programs for the upcoming fall, a number that will increase significantly within the next few weeks.

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