An Out of State Student’s Perspective: Coronavirus in New Jersey

Brooke Valentin Contributing Writer

    Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has put the entire state on lockdown due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). On Saturday, March 21, Murphy ordered all residents to stay home, banned all gatherings, and told nonessential businesses to close in order to slow the spread of Coronavirus. The people excluded from this are: health care workers, emergency responders, some federal offices, food bank workers and grocery store workers as well as other employees deemed essential staff. People are advised only to leave their home for essential needs, such as groceries and essential medicines and to visit family or others you have a “close personal relationship with” such as a significant other. The state also has an 8 p.m. curfew and people will be given a ticket if violating this curfew.

    Many people in the state have begun social distancing and have not left their home unless absolutely necessary. Miranda Redish, a student at Middlesex County College in New Jersey, will have to start changing her normal routine from attending classes and spending time with friends. “Since my school has switched to online learning, I would say it’s more difficult because I’m more of a hands-on learner,” said Redish. “It’s been really tough adjusting to this new routine.” 

    Many colleges across the country have switched to remote learning, which has been a challenge for many students. Redish is grateful she can access the internet at home but that is not the case for many students. “My daily life has changed. Instead of going out with friends and visiting family I’ve been spending more time at home unless I have to work. I’m doing everything I can to help stop the spread of this virus so life can go back to normal. More people should be taking this seriously.” Redish said.

    In New Jersey there are 13,386 people infected with COVID-19 and there have been 161 deaths according to a New York Times Coronavirus tracker as of this afternoon. Governor Murphy is encouraging people to stay home and avoid social contact with anyone outside of their social circle, but many are still not taking the virus seriously and are continuing to go about their daily lives. 

    Douglas Brook, a dairy clerk at Shoprite, has witnessed people out like nothing is happening. “I’ve seen people come into the store with their entire families, ignoring the governor’s request that only one person go out of their house if they need to,” Brook said. 

    This virus is serious and can affect you if you’re young or old. “People are still going to their friends houses and not taking social distancing seriously,” said Brook. “Just this weekend, a group of my friends got together and hung out. They think because they are young this virus can’t affect them.”

    New Jersey is opening a number of testing centers throughout the state. Passaic County is opening its first testing center for residents at William Paterson University. Other universities, such as Kean University, are following suit. There will also be a bigger testing center at the PNC Bank Arts Center. Practicing social distancing and staying home, no matter where you are, is crucial.

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Social at UMF for Bernie Sanders

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Social at UMF for Bernie Sanders

Brooke Valentin Contributing Writer

     In the midst of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, popular ice cream makers Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben and Jerry’s, recently visited campus to host an ice cream social in support of Sanders’ campaign. 

    The event was hosted by the UMF College Democrats in the Landing. Kurtis Morton, Democrats president, was contacted by Representative Ben Collings, of Maine District 42, who is the head of Sanders’ campaign in Portland, about hosting an ice cream social for students to learn more about the campaign. “Ben emailed me last minute and asked if we would be interested in hosting an ice cream social about Bernie Sanders campaign,” Morton said. “We thought it would be a good idea for Bernie supporters.” 

    Collings kicked off the social by discussing his role in the campaign and its importance to him before introducing Cohen and Greenfield. Cohen said, “Before Bernie, Jerry and I used to be the most famous guys from Vermont, but we’re really happy to turn that title over to Bernie. Ice cream is good but a President of the United States who truly believes in justice in all its flavors is euphoric.”

     Ben and Jerry’s has become well known as a politically motivated company, both Cohen and Greenfield having been arrested at a Democracy Spring protest in April 2016, rallying against the influence of money in politics. Their website outlines a variety of issues the company has stances on including climate justice, refugees, LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice and GMO labeling. 

Brooke Valentin with Ben and Jerry. Photo Courtesy of Brooke Valentine.

    Though the Ben and Jerry’s company claims no political affiliations, both Cohen and Greenfield are loud and proud about their personal support for Sanders, the ice cream being only a courtesy. “I’ve been thinking lately about the Pledge of Allegiance strangely enough. It’s something we all said everyday in public school. The pledge ends with ‘and justice for all,’” Cohen said at the social. “It’s about equality and fairness, but then you get out into the real world and realize that this isn’t true. Bernie believes in justice for all, he believes that the country should be based on love, compassion and generosity.” 

     Greenfield then took the mic to talk about the importance of voting. He said, “A whole bunch of people who don’t normally vote in democratic primaries have to get out and vote in democratic primaries.” 

    According to an article by the Pew Research Center, as of Nov. 2016 there were about 245.5 million people in the U.S. of voting age, but only 157.6 million who were registered. To impress the importance of getting out and voting, Cohen urged students at the social to consider their priorities come election day, that they may have weigh going on a date over going to the booth. But when one student called from the crowd, “Bring your date to the booth!” Cohen called back, “Yes! Bring your date to the booth! Do it in the booth for Bernie!” 

    “It’s wonderful to see all of you here and to feel the energy here. This is what it’s going to take to bring about a political revolution,” Greenfield said. “There’s nothing Ben and I would rather do then come out and scoop ice cream for Bernie supporters.” 

    Students interested in the College Democrats can find the club at meetings every Tuesday from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. in the Roberts room 103, or follow the club on Instagram @umfdems.

Praxis: Friend or Foe?

Colin Harris Contributing Writer

   With books, homework, tests and quizzes piled high on already strenuously busy education majors, why not add more? The mandatory Praxis exam seems to be the answer.

   The four and a half hour long test, composed of a reading section, math section and two essay prompts, seems almost unbearable for some education majors. It measures students’ capability with these subjects and must be completed before they start their student teaching. 

    Without passing the Praxis, education students may not be able to take certain higher level courses. In the special education department, students must pass the exam in order to take classes above the 200 level, according to special education major Heather McDonald. 

    The Praxis requires a minimum score of 156 in reading, 162 in writing and 150 in math. If these scores aren’t met, the student must retake the exam again until the benchmarks have been reached. 

    Brooke Valentin, a second-year rehabilitation service major, has mixed feelings about Praxis. “I was an [early childhood special education] major but I just recently made the switch over to rehabilitation services. I realized that being in the classroom isn’t for me and I like more one on one with children,” Valentin said. 

      She struggled with the Praxis exam and it impeded her progression through the education program. “I took math and writing twice. I’ve never been good at math so the math test was really hard for me and caused lots of anxiety and worry.” Valentin said. “I felt like I was stuck.” She attributes part of her struggle to her issues with standardized testing and the “high stakes” of these exams.

     Valentin made an effort to improve her scores through serious study but was still challenged. “I bought a book designed for Praxis Core and met with a tutor in the Learning Commons,” she said. “It definitely helped, but it’s hard to teach all that math in just a month.”

    “I think the Praxis should be re-evaluated,” Valentin said. “It should be more of a test about the learning standards and developmentally appropriate practices. The test should focus on what an educator is actually going to be teaching in their classroom, rather than general overall knowledge.”

    Ripley Biggs, a third year early childhood special education major, has taken Praxis a total of four times as of now. “I took my first Praxis test at the beginning of sophomore year. I was able to pass two out of the three sections, but kept tripping up on the math section,” Biggs said. “I feel like I’m just repeating this test over and over again.”

    Biggs has spent copious amounts of money preparing for the exam. “I bought the big textbook to get ready [and] I bought the online study service that is around $60 a month to study for Praxis.” She’s found these resources to be helpful, but not enough to bring her scores up where they need to be. 

    On top of expenses related to study materials, the Praxis Core costs $90 for each subtest or $150 for the combined test, according to the Praxis website. The high cost becomes a serious burden on students in financially unstable positions who are already struggling under tuition, fees and living expenses. To have to repeat the test in order to continue with their education only heightens this stress. 

   Biggs agrees with Valentin’s sentiment on the importance of Praxis as well as critiques on the content it tests. “I believe that Praxis should be required for education majors, however, the test needs to be fixed,” Biggs said. “The test should be focused more on what I need in the field.” For instance, Biggs must answer exam questions on statistics and probability even though the highest math she would be teaching is counting due to her concentration.

New Pizzeria Slices into the Farmington Community

New Pizzeria Slices into the Farmington Community

Taylor Burke Contributing Writer

    A new restaurant, Mary Jane’s Slice of Heaven, is bringing fresh flavors and perspectives to the restaurant scene in Farmington. 

    Mary Ellis Jamison, owner, and her mother Jane Ellis recently opened the pizzeria at 103 Narrow Gauge Square. The restaurant features a full bar, specialty pizzas, regular and gluten-free options along with burgers and salads. Customers can dine-in, take out or grab pizza by the slice. 

     Jamison, a Dixfield resident, has worked for her father for the last 23 years at Ellis Variety and Diner and spent the last four years managing the business.

    Ellis, a Farmington resident, has worked at and managed the Big Stop restaurant at Irving in Farmington.

    Jamison and Ellis began planning for the restaurant while in their future location, when the building was leased by Uno Mas. “Certainly isn’t an easy task opening a business,” Jamison said. She had to wait for her pizza oven to come in as well as other things, delaying the opening from the original Jan. 7 date. 

Jane Ellis (left) and Mary Ellis Jamison (right) sit at one of the tables in their newly opened pizzeria. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Burke)

    “It’s frustrating, as far as trying to set up a business,” Ellis said. “There’s no handbook out there that tells you that, so you kind of have to figure out what licenses you need and who to contact,” she said.

    She has a passion for cooking, especially pizza, and she loves the challenge of being busy and getting orders out on time. “It is the most exhilarating thing,” she said, “it’s fun for me.” 

     Mary Jane’s provides services and products that other pizza restaurants may not have. “Nobody else has a full bar,” Ellis said, “Nobody else has the ingredients we have. So that makes us unique.” The restaurant uses fresh ingredients, not frozen. The fries are freshly cut, the dough is hand-tossed using Jamison’s own recipe and they incorporate Maine-made products wherever they can.

     The restaurant has monthly specialty pizzas and burgers that aren’t on the daily menu. Upcoming specialty pizzas include Reuben, Cuban and even a Thanksgiving pizza. 

     “I want to make sure people are getting the quality and quantity that they are paying for,” Jamison said. This isn’t easy as fresh ingredients cost more than frozen and employees must be paid minimum wage, $12 per hour.

     Jamison sees her restaurant as a starter job where employees, some who have never worked in the restaurant business, gain career building skills

. “I love to teach people,” she said, “you don’t learn things by just seeing it once.” 

     Brooke Valentin, a UMF sophomore and employee at Mary Jane’s, has worked in catering but never at a restaurant. She’s had some obstacles along the way but is really liking her new job as a waitress and hostess. “It is really stressful, but they do make it fun,” she said. 

     Some of the logistics of waitressing are taking time to get used to. “My thing is just having trouble remembering the numbers of the tables,” Valentin said, “because the set-up is a little weird.” When she gets overwhelmed, Ellis is always there to support her, offering patience and friendliness to the working environment.

    Brianna McGrath, a UMF senior, recently tried Mary Jane’s. She had heard that the pizza was good so her expectations were high. “They did not disappoint,” she said. “I think I’ll definitely go back.” 

    Jamison wants to create a welcoming atmosphere for all ages and share her passion for pizza with the people of Farmington.“I like providing the service to the community,” she said, “and providing a product that is a happy product.” 

     Jamison and Ellis are planning on introducing events like open mic and trivia nights, as well as new menu items like dessert pizza, in the future. Although they are now open, they will have a grand opening in the spring providing access to the patio and giveaways for customers.

Extensive Damage to Mantor Library Third Floor in Flooding from Burst Pipes

Extensive Damage to Mantor Library Third Floor in Flooding from Burst Pipes

Brooke Valentin Contributing Writer

    In Jan., varying temperatures caused the pipes on the third floor of the Mantor Library to leak and flood the space, forcing the library to restrict access to the third floor indefinitely. 

    Keenan Farwell, the interim Director of Facilities and Project Manager for UMS, said the damage was fairly extensive, damaging the ceiling tiles, sheetrock walls, carpet, lights, and ventilation. He also said, “The coil, damper and the computer for the rooftop unit all failed and will need to be replaced. We also had 2 VFD [Variable Frequency Drives] fail with coils that froze and broke, causing water to run into other areas.”

    Bryce Cundick, the director of Mantor Library, found the IT department to be hit particularly hard by the flooding. “There was three inches of standing water on the floor,” said Cundick. “It really hurt IT’s area more than the library’s area, but in order to get rid of all the damage to the carpet, ceiling, and the vent, they had to move everything out of half of the space up there.” 

    While investigating the damage, signs of asbestos were found which had to be removed promptly. Asbestos is a mineral containing fibers that can be woven into fabrics. These fibers are composed of many microscopic ‘fibrils’ that can be released into the atmosphere. When inhaled, they can aggravate and scar lung tissue. The asbestos abatement alone cost UMF around $8,000.

Bryce Cundick examining the damage. (Photo courtesy of Brook Valentin)

        The third floor housed the A through E books, juvenile and young author books, IT’s offices, study spaces and the Peter Mills Electronic Classroom. Preventive measures were enacted to protect the computers and books housed on the third floor. 

    “All of those computers were fine, but in our effort to get all of the books away from the water, they ended up in The Peter Mills Classroom,” said Cundick. The computers in that classroom were moved to Fusion 104, previously the Mac Lab, and is now the library instruction room until the third floor is safe to enter. 

    Despite the significant movement of equipment and books, only two books were damaged in the flood. But as the books are currently unorganized, they are not available to students. 

    Farwell recalled receiving the news about the flood over winter break on Jan. 17. “7:30 Friday morning I received a call from our HVAC Tech stating that there was water pouring from the ceiling and that the rooftop heating unit had failed and a coil had frozen,” he said. “When I arrived we manually shut off the water and the heating units to the whole building to stop the water from continuing to run, and then we started removing wet ceiling tiles and extracting the carpet.” 

    He was incredibly grateful to everyone who helped out, as he said, “Emergencies like this are all hands on deck and I am very thankful to have a team that will drop everything and start helping in any way that is needed.” 

    The library will be opening areas up for use as they become available. Farwell says that the library has a specific plan for this process. “We will be trying to phase the opening of the areas,” he said. “First should be the book shelving area, to allow access to research materials and also the computer lab, then IT space should be opened, and then the remaining areas will be opened when the project is complete.” The third floor is estimated to be fully up and running in three months.