UMF Reflects on Confederate Monuments in Roundtable Discussion

By Andrew Devine Editor-in-Chief

UMF recently hosted campus and community members for a UMF Roundtable discussion of the issues that arise around “Statues, Memorials and Memory.”

The United States has been reckoning with its past these past few months, occasionally at a full-throated yell. The debate over the removal of the Confederate statues in Charlottesville and other cities has brought to the forefront difficult questions about what we wish to memorialize and why.

This event was sponsored by the UMF Division of Social Sciences and Business and the International and Global Studies Program. Scheduled UMF faculty participants included: Linda Beck, Linda Britt, Allison Hepler, Luke Kellett, Sarah Maline, Jean Oplinger, Jesse Potts, Michael Schoeppner and Anne Marie Wolf.

This panel was open to discussing that beyond Confederate memorials, other conflicts, such as the Vietnam War, are also controversial in the way they are memorialized. In  an interview prior to the event, Professor Chris O’Brien, chair of the UMF Division of Social Sciences and Business, reviewed the planning for the event.

“The way that [roundtable events] work, if we’re good, is that they are responsive to immediate questions,” said O’Brien. “[Planning] actually happened after Charlottesville.”

There was a diverse crowd in attendance with representatives from the university, UMF students and community members. Hunter Kent, a UMF sophomore and Anthropology major, said this was a good thing.

“It’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives of current events,” Kent said. “I have gone to several of the roundtables before and I found that they were really helpful and informative.”

One of the leading organizers of the roundtable event series, Nicole Kellett, Associate Professor of Anthropology, was part of a report done on the event by WABI TV5, Bangor.

“We really want to get the word out to bring other people into the fold, to hear diverse perspectives,” said Kellett. “Sometimes there can be an echo-chamber in university settings.”

Silence and uncertainty snuck into the conversation. O’Brien would describe this as the distance between the commentators at UMF and the monuments being discussed.

“It’s easy if one only thinks of confederate memorials, and one is located in Maine,” said O’Brien. “We’re proud of what Maine did during the Civil War; the confederate memorial question is somewhat distant. I think of memorials more broadly. There’s some real questions about what we choose to memorialize and why.”

Following the event, Michael Schoeppner, Assistant Professor of History, said the event went well.

“I think it’s a healthy part of democratic politics to reexamine which stories deserve greater recognition in our contemporary discourse,” said Schoeppner.

To a similar degree, Kellett concluded in her separate interview that “it’s not a debate, it’s not looking at proving any particular stance, or having an answer by the end; but really to engage with the complexity of the issues.”