Who Chooses when UMF closes for a Snow Day?

By Aislinn Forbes Contributing Writer

  Already this year, the UMF campus has had two cancellations because of dangerous weather,  but the student and staff on campus don’t seem to know who is actually responsible for making those decisions.

   Through an email interview, Administrative Specialist Amy Perrault wrote that if classes will be delayed or cancelled, the alert will be sent no later than 6:15 AM. “It is difficult to track down the one responsible for a storm closure,” said Perrault. “Because the decision is a committee decision and does not land solely on one person to make the call.”  

  The committee takes into account more than just forecasts. The members monitor road closures throughout the night and early morning, weather warnings, and local contacts, including Mt. Blue High School. It is impossible to confirm these methods with any of the committee members directly because only a select few know who they are.

    “It’s one the hardest jobs on campus,” wrote Perrault. “The committee members are a well-guarded secret.”

   Professors likely don’t know either so they are following the same procedures as the students. At least, Professor of History, Allison Hepler is.

   Hepler commutes from Woolwich to Farmington three days a week, leaving at 3:30 AM in order to arrive on campus by 5:00. Often, weather will be different at her home on the coast than in Farmington, so she often has to play the odds.

   “If I’m here the night before and it’s iffy, I will prevail on one of my friends and stay over,” said Hepler. “I have sometimes stayed overnight thinking that there’s no way they’ll cancel school, and I get to work at 5:00 and then my phone dings at quarter to six.”

   Along with Hepler, Jeff Mckay, the Director of Facilities, and his team are also on campus in the early mornings. McKay oversees between four and twelve people responsible for campus clean up during and after storms. They are often on campus by three or four in the morning. “We always plan as if we are going to open,” said McKay.

 There is a reason that the decision isn’t made earlier. According to Professor Pamela Mitchell, forecasts can be pretty accurate when it comes to location of storms in the 12-24 hours before they arrive. “I think that forecasting the exact amount of snowfall is pretty difficult and this is where there seems to be some inaccuracy,” said Mitchell.

   McKay is someone who monitors the weather separately from the committee and knows that large storms, especially, require a lot of planning. “If we had a storm coming tomorrow,” said McKay, “we would have already been planning yesterday.”

   Despite the hard work, the decisions aren’t always perfect. Allison Bernier, a Senior and a commuter from Livermore Falls, had to miss class on Tuesday Nov. 13th because of weather. “I didn’t want to skip class,” said Bernier. “But it wasn’t worth it to put myself in danger.”

   It was a day that began with quickly falling snow, the sticky kind that gets stuck in tire treads. Mitchell said, “Second most dangerous (weather for drivers) is wet snow, which facilitates hydroplaning.”

   That Tuesday, UMF did not delay classes despite the fact that Mt. Blue had announced a delay, and Spruce Mountain High School had cancelled school all together. Bernier recalls seeing someone off the road as she attempted to drive into Farmington.

    Conditions were dangerous enough that Campus Police issued a warning to students crossing the road to Scott Hall. It reads, “Give cars and especially trucks extra time to stop before attempting to cross. They are having a hard time making the hill by Scott Hall on Main Street.” This warning was posted at 10:19 a.m.

   Commuting students shouldn’t feel pressured to make a dangerous trip if the weather is unexpected. “I tell students, you use your own judgement,” said Hepler.

   “Students need to make decisions on their own based on how safe they feel,” agreed McKay. “We certainly wouldn’t want the fact that we’re open to be the determining factor

UMF Practical Politics Class Provides Students with an Opportunity to get Involved

By Aislinn Forbes Contributing Writer

Local Maine politics isn’t flashy. Candidates for Maine State Congress don’t have a lot of money, or high profile campaign organizers, or ads with perfect production value. But they do have a lot of say in Mainers’ daily lives.

Mariah Langton has been deeply involved with Jan Collin’s campaign, a Democratic candidate running for State Senate in Farmington’s district. Every week, Langton grabs a clipboard and walks or drives around Franklin County neighborhoods with Collins, knocking on doors and starting conversations with local residents about the elections. Langton has also served as a bridge between the other members of Collins’ campaign and the younger generation.

“I’m by far the youngest person on the team,” said Langton. “She really values my opinion.”

Langton is enrolled in UMF’s Practical Politics class, currently taught by James Melcher, which requires students to choose a campaign they would like to work on and dedicate time every week to their chosen campaign.

 “Students can pick whatever campaign they want,” assured Melcher. “I just want my students to play clean, fight hard, and learn something.”

Students aren’t limited to local campaigns; for example some students have contributed to Angus King’s campaign this semester and local candidates are very receptive to student involvement. Some local candidates even seek out Melcher to find out if there are students in the class at the time of their candidacy.  

Candidates, and their representatives, come into the class so students can get an idea of who they might like to work with. Allison Hepler, a History professor at UMF, spoke to the class about her bid to represent district 53 in the Maine House. Hepler was ecstatic to have students involved in her campaign.

 “Not only is it more efficient for me as a candidate,” said Hepler, “but also more fun!”

Langton decided to take the class because of her limited experiences and opportunities in the past. Living in rural Maine made it difficult for her to travel or get accurate information about her local campaigns, especially before she turned 18. The Practical Politics class presented her with the opportunity to learn more and get involved.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Langton. “But as I learned it, it didn’t feel like a lot.”

 “Most people [that take the class] have never been involved in a campaign before,” said Melcher. But it’s not just about the experience and connections, ethics is also a big part of the class. Melcher wants his students to ask themselves, “What is ethical to do in a campaign?” and “Do I want to run myself?”


    Melcher inherited the class from his predecessor, Jack Quinn. Though Melcher is unsure of what year the class started, he knows it has been around since the early 1980’s at least. Many of the alumni of the class have gone on to professionally manage campaigns and serve in the Maine State Legislature, on both sides of the aisle. Lance Harvell, an alumni of the class, represents the Farmington area in the Maine House of representatives as a republican and has since 2009.


   “I’m proud,” Melcher said fiercely, “that my students are all over the spectrum.”

Mantor Library Gets a Summer Makeover

Mantor Library Gets a Summer Makeover

Aislinn Forbes Contributing Writer

  Returning students are sure to have noticed some changes to the Mantor Library, including the larger menu at Mantor cafe and the new layout of the second and third floors.

   Tamra Hartley is the full-time supervisor at Mantor Cafe, and she had a lot to say about the new menu. Last year, Hartley and two student workers created specials nearly every week, and Hartley said customers enjoyed that. “We took the most popular ones and added them to the menu,” said Hartley.

Barista Jane Metsker whips up many of the drinks featured on Mantor Cafe’s new menu (Photo by Keely McConomy)

   The updated menu includes frozen beverages and fresh spices. The chai tea is now homemade, entirely with fresh ingredients. “The old Chai we had was pure sugar,” said Hartley. “I know that students and faculty are tired, stressed, and sick, so we want to give them the best.”

   Not to mention, some of the best selling specials from last year are now full-time items. Hartley assured that there would continue to be specials again this year created by the staff. “It’s a real group collaboration,” said Hartley.

   The menu isn’t set in stone either, new favorites will continue to be added if they have enough support. “It’s about having a real cafe experience,” said Hartley.

   While Tamra and crew were updating the cafe, the summer Mantor staff were busy doing manual labor. Three summer work study students and the full-time staff moved nearly all of the books that were on the second floor into the basement or third floor by the cartful. It took them about a month to get all of the books shifted into their new homes. Opening up the second floor has turned the space into a quiet study area, as well as a place for presentations.

   Bryce Cundik, the library director, felt that the move provided the best use of space for the library. “We just finished a seven year “weeding project” which freed up a lot of shelf space,” said Cundik.

   Weeding is the process of removing books that are outdated or not in use, something Jessica Isler, the Head of Circulation, described as a normal and necessary practice for a good library.

    The weeding process left a lot of empty shelf space. This presented Cundik with an opportunity to solve another problem he had noticed in the library. “Pre-Student Learning Commons, [the first floor] was our reference area and it was a quiet space,” Cundik said. “We removed the shelves there and turned the whole reference area into the active learning space that it is right now.”

   While Cundik recognizes that the Learning Commons is great and popular, it’s no longer quiet. “One of our goals was to get a silent study space back into the library,” said Cundik.

      There is another reason the space would be useful on campus. When Cundik spoke to Eric Brown, the Interm President, Brown was interested in having a new meeting place on campus. “If you’ve got the Chancellor coming, and you want to have a nice room to meet in with everybody, something that’s not necessarily as big as Lincoln, but you’d like it to look nicer than the North Dining Hall,” said Cundik. “We didn’t really have anything like that.”

   Despite the multi-use of the space, both Isler and Cundik said that quiet study space would take priority. Around Midterms and the final two weeks of the semester, the second floor will be exclusively for students. “We’re very protective of the idea of keeping a quiet study space for students,” said Isler.

   These changes have been made to create a library that’s more welcoming to everyone, and an opportunity for students to influence campus. “This is kind of like a work-in-progress, this is not the final itteration,” Cundik said.

   If students have ideas about how to make the second floor a better place, email bryce.cundik@maine.edu or stop into Cundik’s office in the Learning Commons.


UMF Theater Presents “A Curious Case of a Dog in the Night-time”

UMF Theater Presents “A Curious Case of a Dog in the Night-time”

By Aislinn Forbes Contributing Writer

The wood creaked under Brock Bubar’s feet as he entered Alumni Theater through the dark hallway that circles around the seating, having arrived a half an hour before rehearsal starts. Bubar stretches, bending in half or standing on one foot, while he studies his script. “You know, just to go over lines,”

Jonas Maines as main character, Christopher. (Photo by Steffon Gales)

Bubar said, chuckling good naturedly. “There’s a couple lines I always mess up so I have to look at them over and over again.”

Hope Lash, the stage manager, is also there early. Lash is small in stature, but has clear focus and command of a room. Lash has a lot of responsibilities before the actors arrive and after they leave. “My job basically involves knowing everything that happens during a production,” Lash said. As the stage manager, Lash is responsible for communication between the various departments; lights, sound, props, costumes, actors, director.

“Stage managers have such value in the rehearsal and performance process because there is a point where the play moves from the director’s hands to the stage manager’s,” Director Jayne Decker wrote in an email. “Hope worked with me on last year’s production of “Hamlet”, and I’m so glad she is back for our current play.”

Lash’s experience with Hamlet has prepared her well for “A Curious Case of a Dog in the Night-time”. “It’s smaller, it’s a lot smaller.” Lash said, relieved, “The cast is only 10 people, in “Hamlet” there was 22.”

Both Lash and Bubar remarked that the experience developing A Curious Case of a Dog in the Night-time has been rewarding because of the many new faces. “I think about half the cast is incoming students,” Lash’s voice dropped with sincerity, “and they’ve been amazing to work with too, and getting to know them.”

   Bubar enthusiastically stated, “That’s one of the best parts about the theater, getting to know everyone you work with.”

The nature of the play and the size of the cast causes most of the actors to play more than one role. Bubar has to portray five separate characters, with two different accents. In order to make costume changes faster between characters, “Everyone has a base of black,” explained Bubar. “And the other stuff is like decoration on top.”

According to Lash, this fits well with the design of the set, “the colors are very muted.”

Decker wrote that she chose the play in order to challenge the actors. “There is great physical work for many of them, including fight choreography and stylized movement.” However, the actor only represent a fraction of the people needed to make the production work.

“One of the great joys in directing a play like Curious Incident is the opportunity to collaborate with scenic and lighting artist, Stan Spilecki,” Decker said, “and sound designer, Michael Diffin because the technical elements establish context for the play.”

Stan Spilecki, in an email interview, described the concept behind the set design. He took the personality of the main character into account when designing the setting, which he calls non-realistic. “Christopher is a mathematics prodigy who needs to order his life,” Spilecki said. “This brings thoughts of order and chaos and thus a version of the Rubik’s Cube.”

Costumes and props are handled by students. Declan Attaway-Murphey and Samantha Wood are responsible for the costume design, the two of them spend hours in the basement of the theater searching through boxes of clothes for things that fit both the show and the actors.

Senior Jessica Leibowitz designs, crafts and organizes the props. “Jess has been working on something all summer,” said Bubar mysteriously. “I haven’t been allowed to see it.”

“A Curious Case of a Dog in the Night-time” opens on Thur., Oct. 18th and will play through Sun., Oct 21st. To purchase tickets students will need to call the UMF box office at (207) 778-7465. Tickets are $5 for students.

UMF Career Counselors Offer Drop-in Career Counseling

UMF Career Counselors Offer Drop-in Career Counseling

By Aislinn Forbes Contributing Writer

UMF Career Counselors Cyndi McShane and Stephen Davis have made themselves more available to busy students by beginning a new service, Drop-in Career Counseling, for those seeking advice on their career path or academic exploration.

Cyndi McShane, a UMF career counselor and graduate, helps guide students to success after they have completed their time at UMF.

   Right now, students who need to go over their resume or an application have to make an appointment a week in advance and travel to the second floor of Franklin Hall. With the Drop-in Hour, students can have a resumé proofread in under 10 minutes by a professional. This will make McShane and Davis more available to students in need of longer, one-on-one sessions.

   McShane’s goal was to encourage students who might not have anyone else to turn to. “I like to think I can offer comfort and support,” said McShane. Recent graduate Madison Uliano visited the Career office only once, but that visit had a lasting impact. “Career services really increased my confidence in myself and my career options,” said Uliano.

   Astra Pierson, who graduated in Spring 2018, said, “I went to see Steve at a very turbulent time in my life. I never would have gotten through my senior year without Steve’s help.” Pierson is now a grassroot organizer for the Maine Democratic Party.

   “It’s fun to work with university students,” said Davis. “I like to hear their stories, learn about where they come from.”

   “We subscribe to what’s called the ‘Planned Happenstance’ philosophy,” said McShane. “Planned Happenstance” work

s by searching for opportunities to explore their interests and skills by going to events and meeting people in that field. When in doubt, “action is the right answer,” said McShane.

   There are many events planned for the rest of the semester. October is Graduate School and Other Post-College Opportunities month. The career office will be driving students to graduate and professional school fairs at Bates and Colby, which students can sign up for by emailing McShane at cynthia.mcshane@maine.edu. Other events will be on the MyCampus calendar.

    Both counselors encouraged students to visit anytime. “There is never a wrong time to talk to a career counselor, about anything,” McShane said.

McShane has a few perks if you schedule a meeting. “I have chocolate,” she said. “And I have a dog, his name is Cosmo, I’ll tell you about him and show you pictures if you come and see me.”

   UMF offers career counseling in the Fall, Winter and Spring, to all students and alumni. For students who are interested in meeting one-on-one for the full hour, meeting can be scheduled on MyCampus. Go to the Career Counseling page, click on Davis or McShane, and a calendar will be provided of their availability and instructions on how to contact them.

   Drop-in Counselling will be available in Olsen Student Center room 108 on Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. McShane and Davis will alternate staffing every week.