Darby Murnane, Editor-In-Chief
We close out the year with the spring’s final issue of the Farmington Flyer. As with the previous issue, we are still solely online with our contributing writers and reporters scattered across Maine and the U.S. Our stories in this issue continue to look outward from the UMF campus and cover a greater range of material from as many regions as our writers reside.
It is strange not to be holding the final issue in my hands, not to be writing these words on campus but rather from six states away. This is certainly not the proper ending to my time on Flyer that I had imagined, but so very few endings ever feel right and proper. So I will take what I have and make of it what I can.
Though this may be an ending for me, it is a beginning for the new staff who will be taking the reins on the paper for the year to come. I’d like to introduce Portia Hardy and Colin Harris as the new Editor in Chief and Assistant Editor. The current Assistant Editor and Secretary Emma Pierce will be guiding the new staff into their roles with her experience and expertise, as well her unending patience from dealing with me.
And to Portia and Colin, I offer you some advice that hopefully can be construed as wisdom and thoughts to keep with you as you take this paper and make it your own: This is the time to practice looking at the world with a more piercing gaze than you would’ve looked with before. There is always another layer to a story, another question to ask, another perspective to seek, another angle to consider. Pay attention to the story itself- this might sound silly, what else would you be paying attention to? But sometimes the story knows how it wants to be told, how it needs to be told, and if you don’t pay attention, you run the risk of telling it wrong as some stories require a specific form and voice. You will miss things- constantly. But don’t be afraid of that. Learn to ask yourself, “What am I missing? How do I find it?” Ask for help. This is not a job done alone, and should never be. I would never have survived without my fellow editors and relied daily on the support of their teamwork. And beyond even the staff, remember that this job is done with the help of those who agree to talk to you. Never forget your sources and the favor they have done you by donating their time and voices. Remember your empathy. If you don’t have an honest connection to your sources, if you don’t earn their trust, you have nothing. If a story of some sensitivity and weight lands on your desk, your every decision should be made with respect, dignity, and care. Not every detail, not every piece of a person, is meant for a larger audience.
Remember your grit, your resilience, your spine. It is your job in your reporting to maintain accountability and transparency. It’s your job to ensure nothing stays hidden or swept under the rug. But sometimes doing that job will start a fire. Even a small student paper like ours can, and has, sparked change. There will be days when it feels like everyone and their grandmother is coming after you. And it may induce the urge to throttle someone. Resist the urge, I beg you. And listen. Has there been a mistake? If so, how do you fix it? If you can swear up and down that you’ve done everything right, you may very well feel a wave of righteous anger, a sense of how dare you, and feel as though you should express all those feelings in the strongest possible terms. Don’t. If you can, wait 24 hours to collect yourself. If you can’t wait and an immediate response is required, never underestimate the power of asking “Can you tell me about your concerns?” It’s when you refuse to listen that a real problem will arise.
An editorial position is a lot to take on and I will not hide that from you. Just take it one story, one issue at a time and have mercy on yourself.
And to you, dear readers, be gentle. A student newspaper staff is perpetually in the learning curve as roles change hands every year. But still, hold us accountable as we hope to hold the community accountable. We will never continue to grow if our faults are hidden from us.
Thank you for your time, your voices, and your stories. Until we meet again.
Goodnight and Good News,
Darby Murnane, Editor-In-Chief 2019-2020
Dear Farmington Flyer Readers,
I write to you from my home in central New Jersey, where I have been careful to distance myself from others as the cases of and deaths from COVID-19 in my home state skyrocket. As all University of Maine System (UMS) campuses have closed for the remainder of the semester and some of the Flyer staff, such as myself, have had to leave Farmington, we are moving the remaining Flyer issues for this spring to be solely online.
Some of our stories are going to look different as well, due to the move from print to a solely digital platform. As we rely on our contributing writers for the majority of our content, some of our coverage will be less UMF centered than what we typically run as many of our contributors are scattered across Maine and the U.S. The pandemic touches everyone and everything, and we are choosing to acknowledge that in our stories as we cannot write as if any one place or person is isolated and unaffected by the virus.
We still plan to run our fifth and final issue of the semester which should be posted Monday, April 20. Our staff remains diligent in tracking any and all UMF campus updates and we will be reporting on them as they happen.
As editor in chief, I grieve for the loss of my final semester in the position, for not being able to see out the final months of my UMF journalistic career on campus with my friends and my staff, and for not being able to hold a hard copy of my last Flyer issue in my hands. Some of you may have seen me in the student center during the last week on campus, soberly handing out our third print issue and bemoaning it being the last print issue of my undergraduate work as a journalist. I often say, “We’re a two-bit peasant student paper and we know it,” but it is said with the utmost affection for a paper and a staff that I cherish. It’s said with pride and appreciation for the people behind the publication that have spent hours hunched over laptops and scattered papers in the Flyer office, slaving over meticulous edits and hunting down more sources and information to round out a story for the best possible coverage for our readers, until ultimately, we fall asleep on our creaky, old futon.
I’ve been known to refer to the Flyer as my baby, and though it may be a strange choice of words, there is truth in the sentiment. This is a project that was passed down to me with trust and confidence that I would work to do right by the paper and readers. And I hope that I have done right. It’s a project into which I’ve channeled so much of my time and myself with love for the work and craft of reporting. Working on the Flyer has been integral to my growth not just as a writer and aspiring reporter, but as a person.
There have certainly been mistakes: wrong dates, misspelled names, articles pulled back at the last minute. And I thank my staff for catching those mistakes and swiftly correcting them. Though, I know I will never live down misspelling the name of my friend and WUMF e-board member Syl Schulze as “Sly.”
And I know that none of our work on the Flyer could be accomplished without you, dear readers. You are the ones who even allow us to have stories to run in the first place, by donating your time and voices, and letting us into a story when you could’ve said no, as many do. Our work only exists because of the simple fact that you agreed to talk to us. For that, we cannot properly express our gratitude. Please keep using your voices and using them loudly in a time when free speech and a free press are more integral to society than ever.
Goodnight and Good News,
Darby Murnane, Editor in Chief
Andrea Swiedom, Staff Reporter
The National Student Exchange (NSE) provides UMF students with the unique opportunity to study at different campuses in the U.S. and surrounding territories, such as Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada for a semester or full year. Students choose their top three campuses from the list of participating institutions and are accepted based on placement availability.
What makes NSE alluring is the program’s affordability, as Lynne Eustis, Assistant Director of Global Education, explained in an email. “Students pay their normal tuition and fees to UMF, and do not pay tuition to the host school,” she said. “Room and board are paid directly to the host school. Financial aid can be used for this exchange program.”
UMF senior Darby Murnane studied for the Fall 2018 semester at the State Univeristy of New York at Potsdam (SUNY), and was able to apply all of her scholarships and grants towards the exchange tuition. The ability to apply her financial aid towards SUNY was integral to her decision to participate in the NSE program.
She had been considering transferring to another school, but her impressive financial aid package from UMF made her feel obligated to stay. “I started shopping around, and when I heard about the NSE program I thought it was a way to transfer without commitment,” Murnane said.
For senior Zoe Stonetree, NSE was a means to visit a place that has always intrigued her. “I got an email,” Stonetree said excitedly. “The title of the email read, ‘you can go to Alaska.’ I had already been thinking about Alaska, so I took it as a sign, as silly as that sounds.”
Stonetree spent the Fall 2018 semester at the University of Alaska Southeast, in the southeastern capital city of Juneau, Alaska. While there, she took an environmental science course with a lab that included a conference on marine mammalogy, to fulfill a general education requirement. She also took a creative writing course that counted towards her creative writing major, and some endemic courses like backpacking in Alaska.
“We had a bear safety course, learned how to use a compass and what kind of equipment is necessary, and we had a couple of overnight trips,” Stonetree said.
Over the years, Eustis has seen students use this exchange program for a variety of purposes. “Students participate in NSE for many different reasons. . . to take classes not available at UMF, broaden their education perspective, pursue research, field studies, internship opportunities, investigate graduate schools, and make connections in a new job market,” Eustis said.
Ultimately for Stonetree, experiencing all that Alaska had to offer was more important to her than the university, but for Murnane, the courses at SUNY were her main motivators for choosing NSE. “I had discovered that journalism was what I wanted to do,” Murnane said. “They just had more journalistic resources for me to test out.”
While at SUNY, Murnane took courses in magazine writing and mass media, and worked as a staff reporter for the school newspaper. She was very involved with her temporary campus during her time there, participating in swing dancing, mixed martial arts, the school’s radio station as well as working as a lifeguard and swim instructor. Murnane enjoyed SUNY’s vibrant campus life and a change in environment that even included an emphasis on healthy, fresh food.
“There were three places where I could get pasta sauteed to order! Oh my god, the tortellini,” Murnane said, waving her hand in the air. “They didn’t have a third-party food company; they cooked everything in-house. They even had salad greens growing under UV lights in the dining hall!”
Despite Murnane’s positive experience at SUNY and decadent dining, she realized that UMF was where she wanted to be, which is also what junior Megan Scheckells realized after her NSE year.
Scheckells originates from Kansas City, KS, and was attending Emporia State University when she applied to UMF for the 2018-2019 academic year through the NSE program. “I thought, I am just going to do this for a year to test the waters and try out life someplace new,” Scheckells said.
Much like Stonetree’s reason for choosing Alaska, Scheckells chose UMF because she had always felt drawn to Maine. “I feel like a lot of people just have that state that they want to go to, and they don’t have a specific reason why,” Scheckells said.
During Scheckells’ NSE year at UMF, she built unique and important bonds with people, which she attributed to NSE’s requirement that exchange students live on-campus. “I never intended to take the dorm option, but I think they want to create a community, ” Scheckells said. “In the long run, I think it was good.”
Stonetree also attributed the connections she made in Juneau to NSE’s dorm requirement, which inevitably puts students in touch with other NSE exchange students. “I did feel pretty comfortable pretty quickly,” Stonetree said. “There was a big group of NSE people, so it was pretty easy for me to fall into that group.”
While Scheckells spent her first year in Maine, she grew enamored with the close proximity to outdoor activities compared to Kansas, and she went on her first hike to Bald Mountain. “You’re just not surrounded by the woods and mountains [in Kansas] the same way you are here.”
Scheckells was also impressed by the discussion-based English courses offered at UMF, and as her exchange year came to an end, she felt very strongly about staying. “There was a lot to think about just with my family missing me and money-wise, because the flights to and from Kansas are a lot of money,” Scheckells said. “Quite frankly, the biggest reason for me moving to Maine was because I made a lot of genuine connections.”
NSE was also such a positive experience for Stonetree that she considered extending her semester into a year long exchange in Juneau, but was ultimately happy to return to Maine. “I noticed that once I came back from Juneau I was way more into Farmington. I had much more of a desire to be a part of the community,” Stonetree said, pausing to articulate herself. “I have more awareness in general about Maine and what it’s like as a place, because having lived nowhere else I didn’t really know what was particular about living in Maine.”
NSE brought a new perspective to all three students, allowing for a greater appreciation of Maine and UMF. Even so, they all confirmed that they would eventually move on to pursue opportunities in other places. Scheckells wants to go into publishing and plans on moving out of Maine for a job or internship in the future. Stonetree is still exploring her options after graduation. Murnane will be starting graduate school at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2020.
If students are interested in participating in NSE for the Fall 2020 semester, Eustis urges students to contact her immediately as the application deadline is April 1. For more information, students can visit the NSE website (https://www.nse.org/) and request an advising session with Eustis (email@example.com) through the google form: (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdd8QrtU8xlPB1ls58vQWfc1hhjwUZtXuIodoHbJMHZTvIzdQ/viewform).
Portia Hardy Contributing Writer
The beloved UMF “Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadowcast is in danger of disappearing due to a lack of Student Senate Spring Fling funding. Head director, senior Chloe Woodward, and her directing team are fighting to surpass financial obstacles for at least one more show this spring.
“Rocky Horror might not happen next year,” said Woodard. “We have always received funding through the Spring Fling senate funding. [But] there is no Spring fling, that is confirmed.”
Choreographer Alexis Ramee, a junior, is concerned for the show’s usual charitable donations and new monetary stress placed on the cast. “. . .everything we raised as a group went straight to SAPARS (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services),” she said in an email interview. “Now that there is no Spring Fling any more, we, as a whole group, have to come together to raise money so we can get the costumes and props we need for the show.”
Woodward said cast members have had to dip into their own personal funds for supplies. “I’ve already spent over 200 dollars on getting to start the show. The cut of funding might mean that there is no more Rocky.”
Rocky Horror has been shown at UMF for about 10 years now as a shadowcast, where actors and dancers perform on stage with the movie playing on screen behind them. Shadowcast origins trace back to the film’s release in the 1970’s, as does its reputation as a cult-classic.
“Rocky Horror is a movie that was made in the 70’s that didn’t do good at all when first released so they then moved it to the midnight showings,” Ramee said in her email, disclosing a brief history of the show. “By doing that only a select few people could even watch it but it was those people that got stuck on it. That’s how the ‘cult’ part all started,” she said. “It influences today’s viewers because a lot of us go in knowing what the call lines are or even what the purpose of the movie as a whole was. Even people who haven’t seen it or haven’t immersed themselves within this culture come out of the woodworks to see the UMF production. The cast members are the audience members as well.”
Senior Darby Murnane has been involved with Rocky for three years now, playing lead roles like Janet and Frank-N-Furter. This year, on the directing team, her current title is “Helping Princess,” she said.
“[Rocky] is an erotizised paradody of ‘Frankenstein,’ in which our Dr. Frank-N-Furter, our Frankenstein copy, is building himself a lover instead of a monster, and the deep subplot is he’s going to build multiple lovers and sell them off for profit,” said Murnane.
The show is unique for the audience participation in call-lines, developed by early audiences who saw midnight showings on a regular basis. The audience often yells, “Asshole!” and “Slut!” at characters Brad and Janet, a newly engaged couple.
The plot follows Brad and Janet as they stumble across Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s mansion one dark night looking for a telephone to use, “and then everything goes wrong,” Murnane explains.
The show’s rich history of traditions is the cast’s responsibility to uphold. “It carries a lot of weight, the call lines created a forced interaction and participation with the film,” Murnane said. “It’s not really a zone-out show, because there’s so much happening, you really have to be in on it. It’s primarily a cult of the LGBTQ community and the torch gets passed along from cast to cast to uphold the culture there.”
Ramee and Murnane hold out hope that someone will take over the show to keep it alive on campus next year. “I do hope a club will come and start doing Rocky. It will be very sad to see it end. But if this is the end, then you should be damn sure we are going out with a bang,” Ramee wrote.
The directors are prioritizing the survival of the family-oriented nature of the cast. “The Rocky cast really is a family for the people that are in it and I would like to see that continued for people who really need that in the way that I needed it and still do. I found Rocky when I was struggling and it saved my life in more ways than one,” Murnane said.
In Woodward’s time as assistant director and now leader, she’s seen what the Rocky family means. “There’s been so many people that come up to me after the show and say, ‘Wow, you guys really helped me through all these hard times,’” she said. “One of our biggest things is consent, it really helps people who have struggled with sexual assault.”
“It’s a day where people can just be themselves without fear of judgment or cruelty,” said Ramee.
Those interested in helping can donate to the cast or Woodward’s GoFundMe page.
Darby Murnane Editor in Chief
On Jan. 26 and 27, the University of Maine System (UMS) Board of Trustees will convene on the UMaine campus in Orono to vote on whether or not UMS will transition to a unified accreditation, rather than function with each university being individually accredited.
Accreditation is the process by which a university is vetted for the quality of its programs and improvements as well as allowing students attending the school to seek federal aid. UMS institutions are accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
The new UMS chancellor, Dannel Malloy who was formerly a two-term Governor of Connecticut, is leading the push for unified accreditation for UMS as a means of cutting system costs and opening a pathway for greater collaboration among the universities.
At a November forum held at UMF on the initiative, Malloy said, “What I’m trying to get to is a much more student-centric focus, so that we understand our consumers as well as our human product at the end of the process is better served.”
According to documents released by the chancellor online, the One University initiative for unified accreditation was first proposed in 1986 and revisited in 2015 but not fulfilled. Malloy’s push to unify the system is driven by the need to protect the system financially.
Student Senate reported that UMF has had a significant decrease in enrollment in the past three years, leading to some financial distress with less funding coming from students’ tuition and fees. This reflects a statewide issue of depopulation as the birthrate in Maine has been in decline for several years, according to a report on the state population outlook released by the Maine State Economist.
It has then become increasingly difficult for UMS to justify multiple accreditations, as Malloy noted, because the repetitive process is costly.
“We know that we could potentially be under financial strain at any moment, because recessions do that sort of thing,” Malloy said. “So we want to make sure that we’re able to preserve even very small programs that in some cases might get wiped out because there’s not enough students on one campus to justify the commitment to professors and instructors. But maybe we can retain those things in difficult times if we can do it across multiple campuses.”
The One University initiative also seeks to remove the roadblocks that currently stand in the way of sharing resources among UMS institutions. During the forum, the chancellor mentioned that professors from across the system had met to discuss the possibility of creating a system-wide program, but accreditors said it could not be done under the current individual accreditations as it would be difficult to report on the program to a singular leader or entity.
Clyde Mitchell, professor of business and UMF’s faculty representative on the matter of accreditation, has seen firsthand the difficulty in attempting to collaborate across campuses under the current accreditation structure. “I have experienced the frustration on many of my students, struggling to take a class or two on other campuses and not being able to do this easily, due to multiple administrative barriers,” Mitchell said in an email interview. “I also know of many barriers that have been experienced by faculty wishing to collaborate with peers at other campuses. . .”
Malloy noted at the forum that these barriers have halted the progress of students’ degrees in their struggle to meet course requirements. “We know that at some of our smaller universities these people are not graduating on time because they missed the once every two years or once a year offering of a course,” he said, “and therefore they can’t get their license if they want to be an educator.”
Michael Poliakoff, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, supports unified accreditation initiatives among state university systems and sees the endeavor as a way to rectify the issues UMS institutions currently face. In a phone interview, Poliakoff noted that the prime directive of a university should be the “finest possible education at the lowest possible cost.”
“And when a system comes together and seeks a single accreditation, it sends a very strong signal that this is no longer a situation where individual campuses are competing with each other and wasting resources,” he said, “but the birth of a new efficiency whereby each campus looks at itself as part of a unit that’s entirely focused on the optimization of resources.”
For universities with a focus on liberal arts education such as UMF, inclusive and collaborative environments are vital. However, with the barriers of the current accreditation preventing this collaboration, UMS administrative practices appear dated.
“In the 21st century the word is interdisciplinary,” Poliakoff said. “But that’s just a cliche if you’ve got a bunch of campuses, each one thinking of itself as a single treehouse wanting as many different options as possible. . . rather than thinking of interdisciplinary as a way to develop programs in which scholars are sharing in the development of academic offerings of research.”
To amend the situation, Poliakoff recommends looking to technological advancements to enhance learning environments. He said, “When you have small campuses widely dispersed, in the 21st century the remedy for that is not to have an independent set of duplicative resources at each location, but to use interactive video, which has now gotten so good, in the sharing of academic resources.”
Yet, this sharing is complicated by the credit standings of UMS institutions as UMF is unique in being four-credit based while the other universities are three-credit. At the chancellor’s forum, President Edward Serna discussed the difficulty in working with fellow UMS schools due to the credit difference. He told the chancellor, “So we’re looking at a collaborative nursing program with Augusta, but three-credit hour [and] four-credit hour bear a lot of work to get it done.”
This has induced some fear among UMF students about how unified accreditation may impact the university’s credit load, many believing that it will be necessary to drop to a three-credit basis. However, Malloy ensured students that it is not part of the One University proposal to force the universities to all became three or four-credit based. “That’s up to your campus, and your leadership and your faculty. We’re not insisting on that,” he said.
One student raised some concern over how it would be feasible to open up cross-listed courses between universities under unified accreditation without matching the credit load of each school. Malloy did not give a definitive answer, but said it would have to be a topic of discussion among administrators should the vote pass.
Students were also assured that whatever the decision may be, any credits already earned by students, under whatever credit load their universities offer, are protected.
However, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Eric Brown raises the question of the necessity of UMF’s credit model. He said in an email interview, “I think the larger question is: do students, faculty, and staff here at UMF still see abiding value and competitive advantage in the 4-credit model? So this is an opportunity to reassess and address those kinds of questions, but operating under single accreditation will not in itself force a change.”
He hopes that the One University initiative will “help UMF to become more nimble when change is called for and better able to develop and innovate on the academic side without the additional steps and reviews that individual campus accreditation has required.”