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Students must exercise their voice if they wish to see changes

There’s a disproportionate number of students who have complaints about university issues and students who actually engage and voice these complaints. Similarly, there’s a lack of engagement with the student body on student government affairs. This leads to issues, like recently seen with the discourse over the “Maine Day Concert.” Some students expressed that they felt robbed due to getting a comedian act rather than getting a Maine Day concert as in previous years. Those who check the emails that employees of UMSG send out would know that the Sammy Rae & The Friends concert was the first part of the Maine Event series and that Joe Gatto was the second. The concert was never promised to be around Maine Day. Traditionally, it takes place around that weekend. This year, however, the decision was made to hold two acts, and the concert came earlier in the semester.

The overall lack of student engagement and participation can be seen in areas such as Sodexo Dining as well. Many students had complaints, but only a small number ended up actually voicing them outside of personal conversation or a social media forum. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that it’s hard to figure out who to talk to. However, with issues of dining specifically, the administration has been consistently open to trying to gauge student interest. York and Hancock see regular visits, for example, from CFO Kelly Sparks, and open discussions with faculty in charge of dining.

This is not to disparage students who don’t personally feel the need to be engaged. Many students who want to speak on these matters simply can’t find the time. There’s no mandate saying you must speak to the Dean every time you have an issue with campus. However, there is a lack of advocacy happening at a systemic level. Students as a population need to become more vocal in the proper areas. Voicing student concerns on social media platforms such as YikYak is a great way to start gathering voices and having conversations among students, but it cannot end there. YikYak is often an echo chamber and not a real way to have important discussions that can create change.

Right now, the UMaine administration is in the public eye for many different reasons. There was a news article discussing student’s problems with the recent dining shift to Sodexo, and there was a real tangible change in the wake of this article. Sodexo was forced to step up because they were in the spotlight. We’ve seen how much power our voice can have. Granted, this will not always work. Students’ interests will not always be listened to and valued. It’s disheartening and upsetting, but important to remember. This should not deter us from getting involved and taking as much action as possible. Student voices are powerful, and with the help of outside support (such as the news), we can create change and apply pressure when the university fails to listen.

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