Student Involvement Down? Several Clubs Show Declining Participation This Academic Year

By Andrew Devine, Contributing Writer

It seems that campus has been quiet this year. For the better part of the 2016-2017 school year, it appears that student involvement in campus activities has been on the decline. While some groups have shown success, several clubs, organizations, events, and programs in general have been counting fewer attendees than expected or hoped for.

This trend was first noticed by Flyer staff when it was announced that the Humans versus Zombies (HVZ) game, run by the UMF Table Gaming Club, would be postponed due to low registration of players.

Lukas Kenison, a member of the Table Gaming Club (TGC), shared his perspective after tabling for HVZ registration over the past several weeks. “With the Table Gaming Club it is very much an issue of lack of PR and getting people out here,” said Kenison. “People don’t know what HVZ is so they don’t get involved.”

According to Kenison a game of HVZ requires at least 30 players. With only 11 students signed up, TGC had to temporarily postpone the game. However, following the postponement the club was able to garner enough interest to hold a game last week of about 30 players, according to participant Joseph Needle.

Similarly, a problem has surfaced with the Campus Residence Council (CRC). The student representative group for on-campus residents has had information posted regarding open positions for the various residence halls most of the school year. However, the billings show that there are still a number of open positions in most, if not all, residence halls on campus.

Club president Ben Rodriguez weighed in. “There’s difficulty in recruitment for positions because of students’ awareness of CRC, what the organization is and what it does,” said Rodriguez, adding that he believes misconceptions about the time commitment involved may be a factor.

Rodriguez continued, “It’s also difficult to reach out to people in the second semester of the school year since it’s more difficult to add something new to your routine, such as CRC or a new club. I think most clubs and organizations see that challenge at some point but it makes it worth it to see your group succeed.”

Another organization struggling with low attendance is the Association for Campus Entertainment, also known as ACE. Marisa Getchell, treasurer of ACE, wrote in an online interview, “I’d definitely say that attendance has been down this semester and this year, both in terms of club members and in the campus population coming to events that we host/sponsor.”

Getchell suggested that a supposed change in the commuter population may explain the decline. “I’ve also seen an increase of commuters and people who work outside of campus, so their time here is being divided a lot.”

Cody Smith, president of the Commuter Council, reported that while it’s fairly common that students move off campus after their first or second year, this trend has not increased significantly this year. Getchell’s hypothesis may not be far off, but it seems that the numbers don’t exactly show that there are necessarily more students away from campus.

President of Student Senate Jamie Austin also commented on the apparently declining student involvement patterns. “In a lot of clubs, people are just worn out, not wanting to keep involved. Senate itself had a hard time recruiting people for fundraising and volunteer events.”

However, these trends do not reflect across all campus activities. Certain organizations are finding a greater, or at least steady, number of attendees and participants this school year.

For example, Kenison, also a member of the Computer Club, reported that the membership of that group has been steady.

Mainely Outdoors has also been performing well this year according to staffer Robbie Knowles. “We seem to get more and more people to come out to events even when we don’t anticipate it,” said Knowles in a phone interview. “Even in the winter, we get people who want to hike or cross country-ski, surprisingly.”

What are these clubs that are succeeding doing differently from the organizations struggling with declining membership? What can each group do to encourage a better turn-out? These are questions that returning club leaders might keep in mind over the summer as they gear up for member recruitment next fall.

A Response to “UMF Says Goodbye to Geology”

By Sumaya Hamdi, Contributing Writer

We students in the geology program were angry and highly offended by the article, “UMF Says Goodbye to Geology,” published on April 20th in the most recent issue of the Farmington Flyer.

The comments of the Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, Dr. Mariella Passarelli, were particularly offensive. She states that, “we evaluate ourselves every seven years, if we did something wrong, we change it.” This statement about the program review process is misleading.

According to Geology Club advisor Dr. David Gibson, the last program review was done in 2010 by Dr. David Westerman of Norwich University. We read the review and found that it has nothing but praise for our geology program. Westerman states that “the geology program very clearly helps the UMF fulfill its mission.” He goes on to say, “small class sizes, combined with caring, outgoing and engaged faculty, result in inspired students who graduate ready to make a positive difference in the world.”

In regard to its size, standards, and quality, Westerman writes, “The geology program at UMF is well within the norm for small educational institutions offering a bona fide degree in geology.” There is nothing in this document to suggest that there was or currently is anything wrong with our geology program.

We have never been informed of the true reason for this amalgamation with environmental science but suspect that it had more to do with economics than a desire to “unify the department.” We ask, would these changes have been made had there not been a recent budget crisis?

Dr. Passarelli needs to realize a few things. Geologists dominate the field of climate science and environmental remediation. Geology graduates work in fields such as geomorphology, glaciology, climatology, hydrogeology, volcanology, seismology, geo-engineering, geophysics, and geochemistry, to name a few. These fields require a geology degree.

While it is true that many geologists are involved in the extraction of resources in the oil and mining industries, it’s important to remember that this is not driven by geologists, but by consumers. Furthermore, renewable energy resources are dependent on rare earth element minerals, the supply of which would not be possible without geologists.

In March, I attended the annual Geological Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh and met many hard-working scientists working to solve a range of geotechnical and environmental problems from acid mine drainage remediation to slope failure. All these scientists were geologists.

A recent report by the American Geosciences Institute indicates that the gap between employment needs and graduates is widening. UMF cannot afford to lose its geology program or weaken its position. It currently is and will continue to be an important science as we face the challenges of the 21st century.

From an admissions perspective, Westerman wrote in his report that geology, being a visual, comprehensible and adventurous science, “could very effectively highlight this program.”

We would like to have a meeting with our Admissions Office to coordinate school visits to our local high schools. Passarelli promised to meet with us in response to a petition presented to her in May 2015; she never has.

We would like to meet with her and have our concerns regarding how the changes to the department will impact future graduate school admissions and employment opportunities addressed.

I would like potential future students of geology to know one thing; studying geology has been the greatest honor of my life thus far, and there is no title I will ever hold as proudly as “geologist.” We will not be giving up easily, for the earth’s sake.

Faithfully United: A Closer Look at the Three Major Religions

Faithfully United: A Closer Look at the Three Major Religions

By C.L. DeLisle, Contributing Writer

(Photo Courtesy of Pinterest)

(Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

Life has a funny way of leaving us with more questions than answers. Throughout history we have always sought explanations to these existential mysteries. Billions of people have turned to religion and a belief in something beyond this world for solutions. Over half the world’s population worships one of the three major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

These religions are united by one fundamental principle: they worship the same God. Despite the similarities they share, we only ever seem to be reminded of acts of monstrosity that distance people from each other, rather than unite them. When we look beyond the misconceptions, we can start to define ourselves through similarities, rather than differences. To better understand where the common ground lies, I spoke to representatives of the three major religions. Ultimately, one answer became prevalent: we are one.

The religious leaders all expressed a similar benefit that is gained through practice. Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a professor of philosophy at UMF, stated, “practicing Judaism helps give me a peace of mind.”

A stone’s throw away from Cohen’s office, Father Paul Dumais of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church elaborated on this. He said, “Religion yields a peace that arises from responding to a very fundamental truth.”

The ambiguous concept of this “truth” would later be explained by Monsignor Henchal of St. Maximillian Church in Scarborough. Henchal, organizer of “Building Bridges Dinner,” which brought together followers of Christianity and Islam, stated that, “Religion tries to get us beyond the superficial components that sometimes dominate our lives.” He continued, “It tries to get us to something greater. Something more beautiful than what we have.”

These religious leaders expressed how responding to this fundamental truth, a reality which is far greater and more beautiful than we can even comprehend, grants a kind of peace of mind to the faithful. Critics of religion, however, argue against this point by asking the question; how can an omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient God allow so many terrible things to happen? The responses of the religious leaders were once again unanimous.  

“As humans we have a strong desire for free-will, and God gives us that free-will,” said Omar Conteh, the outreach coordinator at the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono. He continued, “How can we then blame God when we see the terrible things that people choose to do with that free-will?”

Father Paul elaborated on this, stating that we must first determine the root of these evils. “We must think about the role of God, but we must also look at our own role and our responsibility in the presence of evils in the world,” he explained.

To understand further where the root of these evils stem from, Monsignor Henchal provided insight. “The line of good and evil doesn’t run between groups of people,” he paused briefly before continuing, “the line of good and evil runs through every human heart.” Before blaming God for the sufferings that we experience, we must first look at our own responsibility for these evils, and how we may be able to overcome them.

Dr. Cohen shared a central idea of Judaism, he stated, “We are partners with God in perfecting this world, and we must do whatever we can with what we have.”

Lastly, Father Paul left us with a message of hope that stems from difficult times. “When we enter into the great mystery,” he continued with a smile, “it’s interesting to see that when something bad happens to us, something good always seems to come out of it.”

My last question sought advice to how we may be able to unite in these challenging times of racial tension and ideological division. Again, their responses reflected a unanimous sentiment.   

“I think the biggest issue is pretending that we don’t have anything in common,” said Conteh. “We live in a world of competing ideas, within that competition we must be able to recognize the vast commonalities we share.”

Cohen shared a similar viewpoint with Conteh, he stated, “we must be able to see ourselves and our own values in another person.”

Monsignor Henchal took this a step further, saying that we actually need each other’s different opinions and beliefs. “There’s an element of truth to everything, but no one has the entire picture.” He continued, “there’s always something that we can learn from each other.”

Father Paul left us with a recipe for acknowledging common ground, while admitting our differences, but always doing it with a deep respect and charity towards each other. Citing Saint Augustine, he stated, “In essential things let there be unity. In doubtful things let there be freedom. In all things let there be charity.”

Travelling to mosques, churches, and temples to create this story, I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity. No matter the location, children’s colorful art could always be found lining the walls. Artwork that innocently depicted the love that God, Allah, or Yahweh has towards his people and the love that his people have for each other and for him.

Monsignor Henchal explained the cause of his Building Bridges Dinner. Said Henchal, “when people see each other for who they are, we realize that we have a lot of the same concerns. We both have little kids running around, and we interact with them in the same way. We have the same hopes and dreams for the future, for ourselves, and for our children.”

As walls continue to rise and ideological alienation worsens, it is important for us to remember where the answers to our questions lie. The answers to our questions do not lie in a news report, a lecture hall, or through a political leader. The answers to our questions lie within. We must look to each other and realize that we share a common dream for ourselves, for our children, and in the hope for a bright future. When we begin to open our hearts and really explore these existential mysteries, we may finally start to understand –– we already know the answers.

Some DAM Good Advice!

Welcome to “Some DAM good Advice,” the Farmington Flyer’s anonymous advice column. Each issue, we will be answering questions submitted by you—the students of UMF. No topic is off limits and submissions are greatly appreciated. If you want to submit a question, you can access the online form from the Farmington Flyer facebook page or visit www.somedamgoodadvice.weebly.com under the “about” section.

Q: I was finally looking forward to warm weather, but we keep getting blasted with snow. How do you handle all of this snow and the cold weather? Signed, Searching for Spring    

A: Well, this is a pretty typical winter for Maine. We’ve been lucky with some of the past milder winters, but this is just one aspect of living in New England. To get your mind away from the snow, we recommend planning game days or movie nights with tons of hot chocolate and good snacks; this will keep your mind off of the cold weather and it will let you do something other than homework when you’re trapped inside. Also, if you’re an outdoorsy person, you could always embrace the snow and go sledding, snowshoeing, or even skiing. We know that it may stink, but spring is almost here!   

Q: I have been having some issues with my self-image. How can I stay positive and keep a real smile on my face? Signed, Need a Boost    

A: First off, you need to stay true to yourself and not put value on what other people say. We suggest surrounding yourself with good friends and spend time doing things that you enjoy and you will find yourself wearing a genuine smile! We know it can be tough to try to stay positive, but you should write down positive messages and compliments about yourself and keep them someplace so that when you are feeling low you can read one and it will be a little confidence boost to get you back to realizing that you are an amazing person and it doesn’t matter what other people think.

Book Review: Crazy Stupid Money

Book Review: Crazy Stupid Money

By Courtney Fowler, President 

(Photo Courtesy of Amazon)

(Photo Courtesy of Amazon)

Okay, I’ll be honest here: I’m already deceiving you with this title. For most, writing a book review would require curling up with a great novel, probably with the smell of dusty pages filling the air around them, as they contemplate the deep life lessons and analyze the complex characters that fill the pages. Don’t get me wrong, that sounds lovely, but sadly, who has time for that anymore? So let’s start off by renaming the title to more accurately describe what I did here – “Kindle Single Review: Crazy Stupid Money.”

For those who don’t know, a Kindle Single is probably the best thing ever created – a short, quick read that serves as the perfect excuse to take a break from studying for your test. They’re even better for those of you who like to read but can hardly commit to finding the time to read a 500+ page book. I’m right there with you, don’t worry. Most of the Kindle Singles are free if you have Amazon Prime or Amazon Student, so even if you’re not loving “Crazy Stupid Money,” one of them surely will catch your attention. So, with my spiel on Kindle Single complete, let’s jump into what I am actually supposed to be doing here: reviewing a fabulous short story by Rachel Shukert.

How do you define yourself in this crazy world? Hopefully not by your appearance or the material items that have piled up in your dorm room or apartment over the years. Maybe you view and judge yourself based upon your education level or occupation, feeling most successful when you land an interview at your dream workplace or most likely, on your college graduation day.

These characteristics are certainly notable, but what about money? Are you more likable, more successful, or happier if you have more money? At the center of her book, Shukert discussed the one thing we avoid in most conversations: the importance of money not only as we struggle to survive, but in the process of navigating relationships with those around us.

In one highly applicable tale, particularly for my fellow classmates who, like me, are swimming in mounds of debt that we owe for our college education, Shukert speaks to her struggle of barely having enough money to pay her monthly rent of $3,400. Let’s all take a minute to appreciate the comparatively low rents in Farmington, but the significance still applies.

 What stood out was not her struggle to earn money through her freelance writing career, but how such a lack of money made her feel: insignificant, worthless, and desperate. Though Shukert apparently had enough money to continue to order food each night for dinner (I’m a horrible cook too, so this is mildly understandable), her lack of substantial money tore apart her relationship, causing anxiety and a constant sense of frustration. Money certainly cannot buy happiness, but can it make our lives just a little more carefree?

Throughout her short story, Shukert grasps reader’s attention with her wit and humor, while managing to discuss the tricky “adult” topic of how to navigate the world with little income. It is the honesty and bravery of her work that is truly compelling, as she shares deep emotions that many of us fear to examine ourselves. Though masked with a comical storyline that will keep you laughing and engaged, Shukert addresses topics that many of us lack the confidence to face on our own.

This read will be a quick one for you (see: Kindle Single definition, above), but one that you certainly should not pass up. I can always appreciate a book that will make me literally laugh out loud, but more than this, one where I respect the author for her bold and raw emotional tales. Shukert not only exposes herself through her examination of money, power, and love, but will make you ponder the ever-persisting question – “Will I be a better, happier person when I earn more money in the future?”

The 2017 AWP Experience

The 2017 AWP Experience

By Courtney Fowler, President 

Fowler exploring Washington DC at the 50th annual AWP Conference. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Fowler)

Fowler exploring Washington DC at the 50th annual AWP Conference. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Fowler)

“Write drunk, edit sober” was the advice from award-winning science journalist Jenny J. Chen, as she laughed hysterically and followed with, “take that with a grain of salt people!” Last week at the 50th annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, Chen, along with her fellow panel members, led a discussion on how to balance the fact-based demands of journalism with the creative and emotional craft of creative writing. This laugh out loud panel discussion was only one of the memorable experiences I had at the conference, which for those of you who don’t know, was held in the fabulous, picturesque city of Washington, D.C.

As a whole, AWP is kind of like one of the Scholastic book fairs you went to at your elementary school library, but 10,000 times bigger and on a whole lot of steroids. From the 1,000 tables set up at the book fair, to the 675 possible panel discussions and conference events you can attend, AWP is truly a writer’s dream. Thousands attend the conference each year, ranging from college students who run their school newspaper (yes, that would be us) to world-renowned authors who are celebrating the launch of a new book. With such a range of age and experience, the opportunities to learn and network are endless.

Fowler with 2017 AWP Journalism panelists. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Fowler)

Fowler with 2017 AWP Journalism panelists. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Fowler)

In one panel, Washington Post reporter Dan Zak discussed the troubling reality of the emergence of fake news in recent months. Not only are news stories becoming opinion-based, but the truly alarming fact is that one in five adults receive their news from social media. Social media was created as a platform for human expression, not a credible source for the most current and pressing news stories like some may believe.

In this distressing time, how are journalists able overcome such challenges? Coincidentally, I had this exact conversation with my Uber driver just hours before, a nice man from Uruguay who had recently moved to America to find a better life. “I fear for journalists these days,” he said. “Not only are they constantly targeted by our new president, but must deal with the fake stories that undermine their hard work.”

Serious topics aside, AWP also provided us with a fabulous time to have fun and enjoy the city outside of the panels and book fair as well. Hundreds of off-site events were offered at local restaurants and bars in D.C. We enjoyed socials, dances, and of course, free drinks!

From l to r: Kurt Mason, Rose Miller, Molly Dalton, and Courtney Fowler touring the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo Courtesy of Courtney Fowler)

From l to r: Kurt Mason, Rose Miller, Molly Dalton, and Courtney Fowler touring the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Fowler)

If you follow the Flyer on any social media platforms, you probably also saw that we were able to take advantage of the excellent location of this year’s conference to explore our nation’s capitol on our own. We enjoyed 60-degree weather (basically summer compared to the horrible amount of snow we just got) while touring the Capitol Building and taking photos with Senator Susan Collins. We visited monuments and saw the most breathtaking view of the city from 15 stories up at the Skydome Restaurant in Arlington. I even got the chance to sneak away and visit a few graduate schools when we had some free time. Because honestly, why wouldn’t I want to live in such an amazing place after graduation?

AWP is more than just our annual trip to a writer’s convention, but a time to leave Farmington behind and experience the wonderful country we live in beyond UMF. And of course, the conference always has a way of sneaking in a few life lessons into panel discussions when you least expect it. My favorite this year was an insightful quote from Zak, one that seemed quite relevant as I pondered my recent trips to graduate schools and the daunting fact that graduation is soon approaching. “Embrace ignorance and do not be afraid to admit when you’re lost,” he said. “It’s a big world out there and we should honor the messiness in our lives.”

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