Press "Enter" to skip to content
Located off College Avenue, University Park offers affordable housing for international students, families, and non-traditional students attending UMaine.

UMaine must stop the demolition of University Park

It is no secret that the University of Maine is financially struggling. From hundreds of millions in deferred maintenance to decreased state funding, UMaine needs to be creative in solutions to fund the daily operations of the university.  

One of the primary cost-cutting strategies is to take older aging infrastructure offline, meaning the closing of existing buildings and consolidation of students and staff into alternative locations on campus. Students took note of student accessibility services moving from the East Annex to the UCU building. While I personally see this as an upgrade for those essential UMaine services, not every student and department is as fortunate. 

On-campus students are losing the most modern housing. Estabrooke, a dorm remodeled in 2016 as housing exclusive to upperclassmen, is being converted to offices to accommodate for staff and facilities. Students have been promised that Hancock will be receiving renovations to make up for the loss of modern single-use bathrooms. However, students are still displeased. Estabrooke is a popular dorm for upperclassmen. The university can renovate Hancock, but students will lose their proximity to York’s dining hall. Students will suffer so the university can save money. 

This isn’t the only housing loss on campus. University Park is a family housing complex run as a service by UMaine. Built with funds from the GI Bill in 1946, University Park provides housing at cost to students and faculty with families. Recently, UMaine has set aside money for the demolition of UPark. 

Derek Demello, a Ph.D. student who spoke out at the grad workers union protest about the closure of UPark, lives in the complex with his wife and young children. Demello raised the point that underpaid graduate students with families cannot compete with the rest of Orono for housing. Offering a family housing service allows non-traditional students to thrive on this campus. This service is also offered to faculty with family as an affordable option for housing in the area. 

This attack is primarily on non-traditional students who have families or support people other than themselves. These students cannot just sign a lease at The Ave or live in Gannet for nine months. I asked Tristin Friend, the student government non-traditional student representative, about the loss of UPark. 

“I think it is unfortunate that this complex is being closed considering non-traditional students already struggle as it is. It decreases opportunities for students who are already struggling,” said Friend.

Friend is right. The cost-cutting measures taking place at this university come at the expense of students. Right now, they are happening at the expense of our most vulnerable populations. 

Affordable housing is already in short supply. Our public university suspending this affordable housing service does not only affect residents of UPark. It impacts all of Orono, which is already losing over 60 affordable housing units. Public universities themselves are supposed to uplift the community, that’s why we receive funding from the state. Have we forgotten the mission of public education? 

How can anyone at the administrative level think this is justified? I certainly don’t. I see this as an attack on students. From the loss of popular modern housing to the loss of essential family housing, students always seem to lose. 

There are a few actions students can take to remedy this. We can hold the university accountable for timely renovations of Hancock Hall. We can email university administrators such as the president, the chief financial officer, and the board of trustees calling for a hold on the demolition of UPark. Advocating for one another is more important than ever as students are under attack. If you haven’t been affected yet, you could be next.

Get the Maine Campus' weekly highlights right to your inbox!
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Secure and Spam free...