UMF Athletics Creates Racial Equity Committee

By Paige Lilly, Contributing Writer

    The UMF Athletics Department recently announced the start of its Racial Equity Committee (REC), which aims to create a safe environment where racially marginalized students can share their experiences while also working to make an impact here on campus. The REC announced its official presence on Monday in an Instagram post.

    The group began soon after Molly Wilkie was named the UMF Athletics Diversity and Inclusion designee, a new role the NCAA now requires schools to have. As part of a group of people with this same designation at their respective Maine Division III (DIII) Universities, Wilkie realized that UMF was one of the few schools yet to have a group of this type. “I learned that many of the other schools had coalitions and groups specifically for their student athletes of color [the names of the groups are all slightly different],” Wilkie said in an email. “After learning about what other schools were doing I thought it was something vital that UMF athletics should be engaging in as well.” 

    Wilkie then reached out to a number of students-athletes who she thought may want to be a part of the group. “Molly emailed us and asked if it would be something we were interested in,” said Chloe Horn, a junior, field hockey player and a member of REC. “I believe she got the list of our names from our various coaches. Then we were able to set up our first meeting.” 

    Wilkie stressed the importance of student leaders like Horn in the success of the group thus far. “Although I am facilitating this group, it is all about the student-athlete leaders and working to support and amplify their voices and ideas,” said Wilkie. 

    The group aims to provide students who identify as non-white with a safe space to discuss their experiences. “Our group … wants to create a safe space for racially marginalized student-athletes for support and advocacy,” Wilkie said. “The group also wants to play a role in helping to educate about and identify the racial inequities that exist on our campus.” 

    “It’s the start of a conversation many students here don’t realize needs to be had,” said sophomore Mullein Francis, who is a nordic skier for UMF and a member of REC. “Because we all go to a school that is mostly white, I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s rural Maine, we don’t have to worry about that here,’ but in reality we do,” said Francis. “There are a lot of people here who deal with this kind of thing, and it’s good to be able to talk about it with people who understand.” 

    In fact, it’s that understanding that sparked the friendship between Horn and Francis. “We didn’t know each other before the group, it kind of started our friendship,” Horn said, sharing a laugh with Francis.  

    In that way, they believe the group is already beginning to be successful in bringing students who identify as non-white together, but they won’t stop there. “We have a lot of big goals,” said Francis. “We are thinking about eventually hopefully having a system where we can include other students as well, not just student athletes.” 

    However, Francis and Horn both agreed that the group needs a strong foundation before they can move to that goal. “We’re so ambitious, but we know that if we get too excited and try to move too fast it might hurt us in the long run. We know we need to build the group so that it’s strong, doing little events before big ones,” said Horn. In these efforts, these student-athletes believe they will be able to start an important conversation that lasts even after they graduate from UMF.

    Any questions about REC should be brought to their Instagram account @umf_rec or emailed to Molly Wilkie at molly.wilkie@maine.edu. 

UMF Fall Athletic Teams Look Forward to the 2021 Season

By Abby Pomerleau, Contributing Writer

    After some sports weren’t able to play games during the fall 2020 athletic season, UMF is planning to have a successful fall athletics season next semester with scheduled games and events. 

    Teams who could play and practice were restricted to social distancing and wearing masks while practicing and student-athletes had to complete a form before every practice for a COVID-19 screening. 

    With the 2021 spring season approaching, the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) and the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), the conferences UMF’s fall athletics play in, are planning competitive games and events. “Travel restrictions will be lifted by next fall, so all things point to us being able to travel and play outside of the state of Maine,” said Cynthia Pratt, head coach of the UMF field hockey team.

    Although competitions are taking place, there will still be possible restrictions during the season, such as wearing masks, and the success of the season may depend on factors related to COVID-19 vaccinations. “I am pretty confident about having fall seasons that look and feel more like a normal season,” said Julie Davis, UMF’s Director of Athletics, in an email. “So much will depend on the state of the virus, including the vaccination rate. I won’t be surprised if there is still some masking required we’ve learned when they are used consistently and properly, they work to protect both ourselves and others. I am just hopeful that the context doesn’t require them to the degree they are now.” 

    Games and events may be resuming as normal, but other aspects of the season may change. “I feel like bus rides and hotel stays are going to look a bit different with more spacing being put in place” said Jonah Sautter, a current junior who plays for the men’s soccer team. Bus rides and hotels are places where teams bond. Having this built-in team bonding time taken away or altered may affect the morale of the team. 

    In the fall of 2020, teams did practices, but they were not able to compete. Having an entire year off of competition raises concern. “My only worries are for the players on my team and how taking an entire season off might affect them,” said Pratt. “Will they be ready in the fall? Will they once again regain that competitive spirit? It will be my responsibility as a coach to be sure they are focused and prepared. I can give them all the tools and then they have to commit to being the best they can be.”

    As the 2021 season rolls around, hopes are high for the competitive season to go as planned. “I’m excited and looking forward to a sense of normalcy,” said Sautter. “It’s crazy to think all of these guidelines and rules have been in place for over a year now, but I just look forward to things beginning to go back to normal.”

    The athletic department may have a new normal, but the importance of the game remains the same. “I am excited to coach games,” said Pratt. “I love competition and watching my players compete to the best of their ability. I love watching them get better at practice everyday and taking all the things we work on and apply it to a game situation.”

    The expectation regarding fans is that they will be able to attend outdoor games as long as they are wearing masks and social distancing. The plans for the season as well as the topic of fans are subject to change as the fall season becomes closer.

    To stay updated on fall athletics or get in contact with staff in the athletic department, visit athletics.umf.maine.edu. 

University of Maine Systems Prepare for Traditional College Experience in the Fall

University of Maine Systems Prepare for Traditional College Experience in the Fall

University of Maine Farmington by Sam Shirley.

University of Maine Farmington by Sam Shirley.

By Daniela Lilly Rodiles, Staff Writer

    Chancellor Malloy announced to faculty, staff, and students of the University of Maine System (UMS) the return to normalcy through traditional and in-person college experience in the coming fall 2021 semester. 

    The prioritization and continuation of COVID-19 asymptomatic testing together with mask wearing and physical distancing will continue to be in place as a way to assure student and faculty safety for the ongoing spring semester and commencement plans.

    “We’re kicking our planning into high gear to provide the most traditional, on-campus college experiences this fall that we can safely manage,” said Malloy. This return to normalcy is focused on resuming in-class instruction, campus activities for the community, and residence hall occupancy resembling pre-pandemic conditions on campus. 

    UMF students have regained a sense of hopefulness and confidence regarding the plans to return to the conventional college experience that most students knew before the start of the pandemic, and that we all continue to miss. “I feel relieved,” said Anika Slowing-Romero, a freshman majoring in Rehabilitation and Psychology. “This year has been extremely hard and not what I expected at all, college-wise. But I am very hopeful and excited for what’s to come in the next semester.”

    Chancellor Malloy’s email became the topic of discussion and conversation between peers, lighting up the possibility of brighter days around the corner, whilst acknowledging the outstanding resilience and commitment that has led all of us to this great news. “Your health and safety, and the health and safety of our university communities, remains our top priority,” stated Malloy, as he confirmed the plans that rely on the pandemic-ending vaccines and health safety practices imposed by the UMS Scientific Advisory Board, as well as Maine’s public health authorities as the basis to keep the UMS community safe. 

    The plans for commencement at UMF continue to uphold a remote ceremony to celebrate the class of 2021 and their achievements. “We promise to create a wonderful, albeit virtual, celebration experience and program with distinct recognition and personal touches especially for you and your achievements,” stated President Edward Serna. 

    The University will continue asymptomatic strategies and monitoring for COVID-19 throughout the semester to assure the safety of all students and staff until the last week of the semester.

The United States Returns to the Paris Agreement

By Malcolm Langner, Assistant Editor

    On Jan. 20, Joe Biden, in his first day in office, officially signed the documentation which allowed the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement, a deal which was originally signed back in 2016 by nearly 200 countries. The United States had been one of the many countries to sign on with the deal, but decided to leave the agreement under the Trump Administration on Nov. 4, 2019.

    Marcia Hartwell, a political science professor at UMF, believes that The Paris Agreement holds plenty of importance throughout the world, especially with the recent and ongoing concerns over global warming. “I believe it is important for the U.S. to align themselves with the global issues, as no country is unaffected by climate change and related government issues.” said Hartwell. “Rejoining the Paris Agreement sends a signal that the U.S. acknowledges its national and global importance.” 

    Global warming has provoked extreme weather across the globe, and such weather is appearing to become more and more common. The U.S. is one of the greatest contributors to the effects of global warming. When the U.S. left the agreement, many feared industrial regulations would be limited and these worldwide concerns would only grow larger. “The 2019 UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction documented in their 2019 report ‘Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019’, that the extreme weather events experienced by the U.S. such as hurricanes, excessive rain and violent storms, extreme heat and cold, have accelerated worldwide in the past twenty years,” Hartwell said. “These events cross international borders and no country has escaped the human, social, and economic costs to its infrastructure.”

    The ramifications for a widespread, unified coalition benefit the majority of parties across the world. Hartwell believes that maintaining close relationships globally will help combat cross-border environmental disasters. “Building international coalitions to assist with cross border emergency responses and collaboratively plan prevention strategies will help all countries manage and reduce current and future impacts and risks,” said Hartwell. Hartwell also notes that emergency response units like firefighters, paramedics, and the Red Cross will have greater capabilities in assisting those in need. 

    The Paris Agreement also creates a widespread sense of community. It helps send out a message of willingness to tackle one of this generation’s greatest obstacles. “The U.S. can also intensify efforts to increase climate change education, training, public awareness, participation, and access to information by utilizing transparent and relevant communication strategies on the local, regional, national, and international levels,” Hartwell said. “These are the first steps in the many needed to maintain and create a better global environment.”

    The news comes during the transition of the end of Donald Trump’s presidency to the start of Joe Biden’s. Trump had little environmental plans and put greater emphasis on fewer restrictions, favoring the economy over the environment. Biden has already displayed vastly different ideals, putting the environment and the well-being of the planet ahead of economic value. Despite this, the Biden administration is seeking out environmental changes which can also help boost the economy. 

Virtual Fun: The New Normal

Virtual Fun: The New Normal

By Samantha Pond, Contributing Writer

The Farmington Recreation Department by Sam Shirley.

The Farmington Recreation Department by Sam Shirley.

    While school-age children are finding themselves stuck at home without access to activities and sports, the Farmington Recreation Department has stepped up to bring the community together.

    Farmington Parks and Recreation, also known as Farmington Parks and Recreation, is an organization that provides activities and facilities to all members of the community. This organization is where children often attend after school programs, sport practices, and fun activities. COVID-19 has created unforeseen struggles within the organization, but they have found a way to bring the community together through the Internet.

    The Farmington Parks and Recreation Facebook page has become an outlet for the community to learn new things, have access to arts and crafts, and partake in fun activities. Marissa Goodwin, a second year student at UMF, has been a part of the Farmington Recreation Department for two years now. She has also been a part of providing an outlet for children online. “We started creating online videos of all sorts of things so that the kids could watch them and learn new things,” Goodwin said. “We have all kinds of things like cooking, exercising, ice fishing, sign language, yoga, and the list goes on.”

    Each activity targets a wide range of people, not just the youth of the community. Parents can also learn new things from the short videos alongside their children.

    The videos have become weekly for the recreation department. At the beginning of each week one can find a day-to-day schedule of activities to watch for free. The Facebook page also provides updates on sports opportunities and updates for the local ice skating rink.

    COVID-19 has played a role in every decision this year and definitely brought some difficulties to the recreation department, as the usual activities for the recreation department came to a halt. “The [Recreation Department] decided that it was safer not to have the after school program,” said Goodwin. “So instead, we have been extremely busy trying to think of ways to keep the children active.”    

    Although this has overall been well-received by the local community, it will always be hard to replicate in-person activities because the energy isn’t the same. “Things are a lot quieter when I go in now. Normally there is lots of noise because of the kids,” Goodwin said. “I love going to work and joking around with the kids. I miss being able to run around and play games with them the most.” 

    The Farmington Recreation Department has been constantly coming up with new exciting ideas for the community. “We recently put together a February vacation box with a bunch of activities for the children to do over break.” Goodwin said. 

    These activities have provided a break for parents who have become overwhelmed with remote learning and those who are struggling to find activities for children to be involved in. “I think the kids are getting entertainment from the videos and activities we have been putting out for them,” Goodwin said. “I think it is a really great thing, especially for the kids who don’t have a lot to do at home.”

    If community members or UMF students are interested in getting involved with Farmington Parks and Recreation, Matt Foster can be reached via phone at (207) 778-6538 or you can email the Farmington Recreation Department at info@farmington-maine.org.

Meet UMF’s New Spanish Professor

by Maxen Ryder, Distribution Manager

     UMF is welcoming Cortney Benjamin as a new Spanish professor this year. With Benjamin’s experiences visiting Buenos Aires and passion for the Spanish language, she has been labeled as a great addition to the UMF language faculty.

     Benjamin has been learning Spanish most of her life. However, she was originally intent on learning French. “I was in middle school and I really wanted to take French, but my mom told me I had to take Spanish since there were more Spanish speaking communities near me when I was growing up. She thought it would be more useful, so I took both,” said Benjamin. 

    When planning out her young adult life, Benjamin was advised to stick to one language and dive into one culture. “I planned on taking both [Spanish and French] all through college and when it came time to study abroad I was gonna do one semester in Buenos Aires and one semester in Paris, but the study abroad advisor told me it would be a better idea to just pick one place and stick with it the whole year,” said Benjamin.

     Originally from North Dakota, Benjamin felt a culture shock while experiencing Buenos Aires. “It was a very big change for me,” said Benjamin. “You know, I’m from Fargo, which is the biggest city in North Dakota, but it’s still not that big. And it’s not a place that people move to from other places. You are either born in North Dakota, or you’ve moved away from North Dakota…But Buenos Aires was huge, and I remember feeling like I had so much freedom.”

    However, Buenos Aires was a great influential experience for her. “It’s such a wonderful place,” said Benjamin. “The architecture is so beautiful. It’s a very international city because of the different waves of immigration that came to Buenos Aires. Yeah, it really opened my eyes to living somewhere besides North Dakota.”

     These experiences clearly instilled a passion for the language in Benjamin, as noticed by student Rachel Beechin. “I thought she had a real passion for the subject and was always eager to answer questions,” Beechin said.

    When first arriving at UMF, Benjamin liked the small, tight-knit liberal arts community. “I think the liberal arts are so important. It’s so important to learn to think creatively and think critically, it’s important to learn how to write well,” said Benjamin. “It seemed like the students really had a voice on campus…and I really like the close relationship between faculty and students on campus.”

     Benjamin’s background and values have increased her strengths as a Spanish professor. Alba Fernández, a Spanish teaching assistant, admires Benjamin’s passion for going above and beyond in teaching Spanish.”She teaches from a cultural perspective. She cares a lot about each student. If you have a particular situation and you need help, if you need to Zoom from home, or if you need extra help, she is willing to help,” said Fernández. “Learning a language involves your previous knowledge and your skills depend a lot on your work, but also who’s there on the other side helping you.”

     To Fernández, having that personalized attention from the professor can make a difference when learning a new language. “Cortney [Benjamin] really cares about your particular case, not only with your schedule or personal issues and stuff, but she [also] cares about your individual learning process,” said Fernández.

     Benjamin has found that the most meaningful benefit for her through teaching is the impact she has on her students. “I think it’s just helping students find their place as a global citizen, to think about themselves as citizens of the world,” said Benjamin. 

    Benjamin finds herself in a lot of students that haven’t explored the world outside of New England, as she had once been a young person who had never left her home state of North Dakota. “I think language classes are a way to explore the rest of the world in a fun way that may lead to future career opportunities and future travel once the pandemic is over, hopefully,” said Benjamin. “So I think what’s important to me is helping students develop some cultural humility and realize how hard it is to learn another language.”

     Because of her experiences studying abroad, she always encourages students to take the opportunity to explore the world while attending UMF during safer circumstances through the international study abroad programs. “Study abroad is so important and it’s so important to what I do,” said Benjamin. “Hopefully, once the pandemic is over, there will be a lot of opportunities for UMF students to study abroad.”

    If students are interested in studying abroad, she welcomes students to come to her with any questions they may have. “I’m always available to talk to students about my study abroad experience in Buenos Aires because it was such a life-changing experience for me,” said Benjamin. “It really opened my eyes coming from a more rural area of the United States. I hope that UMF students are able to take part in that sooner rather than later.”

    If students are interested in studying abroad, email Lynne Eustis, Assistant Director of Global Education, at leustis@maine.edu to schedule an advising session or visit the Office for Global Education in room 106 in the Fusion Center.