How UMF is Trying to Improve Safety Across Campus

How UMF is Trying to Improve Safety Across Campus

Jocea Jordan, Contributing Writer

    After Title IX issues relating to sexual misconduct occurred across the UMF campus last year and were publicized by Bangor Daily News, changes are being made to safety procedures and policies. 

    Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex includes pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as sexual assault and sexual coercion.

    Hope Shore, the Title IX Deputy Coordinator, commented on safety improvements in an email interview.  “For my specific area, we are making sure that information about resources, where to report and information about procedures is more visible on campus. Bystander intervention training is being offered frequently on campus with student leaders such as CAs and Orientation Leaders.”

    Hope also said, “We are continuing to have good dialogue with faculty, staff and students to make sure everyone is informed on how to report, who to report to, how our process works and information about resources. We will continue to have programs, trainings and events related to prevention, education and information around the areas of Title IX.”

Katerina Burns (left) and Eila McCulloch (right), co-presidents of LUITE, are major contributors toward recent growth in safety at UMF

    The Campus Police department has recently made some changes to their staff, ensuring that there was a Sergeant accessible for at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week. There are now two Sergeants who work for Campus police and they have a rotating schedule, switching off every weekend. 

    Sergeant Wayne Drake said, “We restructured the department in such a way that we could hire another sergeant, so I am the Assistant Director of Public Safety and then what we did was hire Marc Bowering, who spent twenty years as the detective in Farmington and recently retired.” The Campus Police department is also the only department that is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

    “Having two sergeants has enabled us to have more continuity, a more consistent response. . . the call boxes have been fixed, the security escorts have been doing their training this week. . . it’s going to be fully staffed and we are running Sunday night through Thursday night to cover all of the classes,” said Drake. The escort program provides students with trained escorts to walk them from any place on campus back to their dorms or other buildings to ensure that they get back safely.

    Eila McCulloch, a UMF student and co-president of Look Us In The Eyes (LUITE), a student advocacy group which formed last year in the wake of the BDN articles, noted specific changes she hopes to see in the future to improve the safety of students in messages sent to the Flyer. 

    “Better lighting, as was discussed last semester, would help prevent a lot of incidents and would help students feel safer at night,” McCulloch said. “Last semester a sexual health course and self defense training classes were offered as ideas and the school seemed to be on board. However, the health course never launched and the self defense class was a two-session course on a Friday night which is an incredibly inconvenient time for many people,” said McCulloch. 

   The sexual health course in question was proposed last spring by students and was designed to focus on sexual consent, wellness, and healthy relationships. According to community health professor Dr. Kelly Bentley, in comments posted on the LUITE Facebook page, “. . .the courses did not fill. So, the committee will reconvene. Stay tuned!” In another comment she also noted, “[The class] was planned as a pilot. New courses always have lots of planning details to figure out. I believe advocacy is important as it will take a while to figure out the kinks.”

    Katerina Burns, who is also the co-president of  LUITE, said in messages sent to the Flyer, “ I’m really glad that the University is standing by its position and supporting survivors. . .I am glad that UMF continues to listen, support and provide a sense of affirmation.” 

    Burns believes that support in the UMF community is vital to helping the campus to become a safer place. “My hope is that President Serna and the school will continue to work with SAPARS and LUITE to make our campus as safe as it can be. A big step in doing that would be getting the [sexual health] class reinstated. Our former group president Amy Fortier-Brown had pushed very hard to have a physical health class that would include topics like consent, healthy relationships and safe sex. I think that would be incredibly useful, especially given the recent Title IX controversies at our school,” said Burns.

Students Share Their Pain And Demand Better University Practices at Protest in Olson

Students Share Their Pain And Demand Better University Practices at Protest in Olson

The student led group “Look Us In The Eyes” shared their experience while speaking out for better treatment of victims of sexual assault. (Photo by Keely McConomy)

By Nathan McIvor Vice-President

   On Friday February 15th, a crowd gathered in Olsen Student Center in movement of solidarity against sexual assault on campus, with President Eric Brown in attendance. Individuals stepped forward to share their stories of sexual assault, thoughts on how the culture treats women, or reforms the University must make in handling Title IX cases.  After someone finished their piece, the crowd shouted “Look Me In The Eyes!”

    The gathering was spurred by a Bangor Daily News (BDN) article that brought to light two sexual assault cases at UMF where the accused were found responsible, but the Title IX panel’s findings were overturned by former President Kathryn Foster, allowing the alleged perpetrators to stay on campus. “Look Me In The Eyes” formed immediately following the article’s release.

   The coalition advocates for improved sexual assault response policies and serves as a sort of community outreach “for students who feel passionate about sexual assault prevention and Title IX rights,” said Claudia Intama, an administrator for the Facebook group, in a previous interview for the Flyer (“Student Activists Make Themselves Known” Feb. 2019).

   Amanda Whitten stepped forward and asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if you know someone who has been hurt by sexual assault.” Everyone in the crowd raised their hand.

   “The school swept under the rug an assault that literally happened in the room right next to mine,” said Eila McCulloch, addressing the crowd. She criticized the school’s unresponsiveness to sexual assault before telling the crowd that “as a woman in college, I have to carry a jackknife in my purse.”

   “Look Me In The Eyes!” the crowd shouted when McColluch finished.

   Darby Murnane echoed McCulloch’s sentiment by saying, “Watch what you say if you won’t say it while looking me in the eyes!” Murnane talked about having to learn self-defense in order to feel safe as a college student before criticizing the school’s assurance to prospective students and families that UMF “has a crime rate of almost zero.” Murnane concluded: ”I’d rather be at a school that reports statistics [about sexual assault] honestly than one that tries to hide them. You have the ears of some important people, what do you want to say?”

   “There should be counselors here who specialize in sexual assault issues,” said Tim DiNinno, who stepped up next. DiNinno went on to argue that the services should be independent of insurance as “having insurance could be an issue for some people. Also, I don’t think people want their parents to see the kind of treatment they’re getting,” DiNinno said.

   “Most people consider this a safe space,” Whitten said.  “I think it’s good that people are listening to what we have to say and that Eric Brown is here,” Whitten said after she ceded center stage to someone else. “It’s really important for people to know that we’re not just here because we’re angry, but because we love UMF and believe it can be better.”

   Another student stepped forward and argued that “no one should shame people for having sex. Never make them feel as if they’re wrong.”

   “I’m very grateful for the invitation to listen to this. I’ve paid attention to what everyone’s saying,” said President Brown. “A lot of the ideas being talked about here are consistent with what I want to do and I think it’s an important opportunity to have this conversation.”

UMF Administrators Restructure Policy on Investigations of Misconduct

By Darby Murnane Assistant Editor

   The administration is seeking to amend policies within the Student Code of Conduct on the investigation of sexual misconduct, as part of the ongoing collaboration with students, faculty and campus organizations.

   The Administration Campus is working with organizations such as Look Us In The Eyes (LUITE) and the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) to foster a conversation about sexual assault in the community. An “Open letter to the Students of UMF,” written by Dr. Karol Maybury in cooperation with the Diversity and Inclusion Action Team, also called for a greater effort to provide education on sexual consent, health, and wellness, Title IX training and more readily accessible information on these matters.

   The Code of Conduct, which applies to the University of Maine System as a whole, was revised in July 2018, but there is a push from the community to amend it further- specifically, a revision of how final appeals are heard during investigations of misconduct.

   Interim President Dr. Eric Brown has proposed an amendment to section VII. A. of the Code which would prevent the president from making the final decision on a final appeal during investigations. “The addendum we would make in house would direct a president of our university, as standard practice, to choose a review panel rather than a single individual to hear a final appeal,” Dr. Brown says.

   As the Code currently stands, the president has the authority to choose -or have a designee choose – a single faculty or staff member to review a case as part of a final appeal. They president can also choose a review panel of three.

   The purpose of such a change is to bring more perspectives with which to review case information and keep the power of decision-making dispersed. “It protects both sides [in an investigation] because you don’t want to be a single person making that decision, I think if you can help it,” Brown said, “but I think that it’s tricky with a smaller campus because we have a smaller pool to draw from of trained individuals to serve on those appeals boards.”

   To combat conflicts of interest that arise from a small population like that of UMF, Brown hopes to expand the pool of individuals from which investigating committees and panels are chosen to a system-wide search.

   The Code provides flexibility for individual campuses to make such changes, as Section V. states: “Each University campus may adopt procedures for carrying out the provisions of the Code within the guideline set forth by the Code as described below and consistent with the Code.”

   “So that suggests that there is some leeway for each campus to make some procedural choices for themselves as long as it doesn’t contradict the guidelines of the code,” Brown said.

   As these changes are made, it is important to remember that the UMaine system only has authority in restructuring administrative policy, not the Title IX procedures as that is federal law. “There is a misperception that UMF wrote the policy and we did not,” Chief Brock Caton of Campus Police said in an email interview. “So a systematic change needs to be done and we are doing our part to improve/effect that change.”

   Within his own department, Chief Caton has increased training requisites for his officers and opened up a Police Sergeant’s position. “I have required my officers to complete the UMS Academy Mandatory Training which covers, basic safety, information security, Sexual Harassment, FERPA and Title IX training,” said Caton via email.

   Looking to the future, Brown intends to keep the community conversation on sexual misconduct going strong. “One immediate concern I have after talking with the student leaders of the campus of CVPC, LUITE, is that I want to make sure that all the good being done by those groups and others continues past this semester,” Brown said. “You don’t want to return to a comfortable status quo, and particularly with an issue like this, there’s going to be a lot of pull for that to happen.” He intends to keep up what he calls, “a productive level of disruption.”

Student Activists Make Themselves Known

By Emily Mokler Editor-in-Chief

   In response to the Jan. 28 Bangor Daily News (BDN) article about the experiences of two UMF students after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted, a coalition called Look Us in the Eyes (LUITE) has become an independent movement advocating for “changes with the way the university responds to sexual assault, provide education and work with a wide group of students who feel passionate about sexual assault prevention and Title IX rights,” according to Claudia Intama, an administrator for the Facebook group.

    In the time since the article’s publication, the group has grown to over 260 members, including UMS students, alumni, and faculty.

    Amy Fortier-Brown, a senior political science major, created the group within hours of the release of the BDN article. “I created this group because the BDN article made me feel betrayed by the University. I am not the type to sit and writhe in anger; I instead prefer to use that energy to change the situation. Thus, I decided I wanted to have a protest on campus to bring attention to this issue,” Fortier-Brown said in an email interview.

   LUITE is holding a peaceful protest in a common area on the UMF campus on February 15 at noon “to address the way that the University of Maine System handles sexual assault cases,” according to their Facebook page.

   “I obviously would like to create positive change on UMF’s campus to address sexual assault issues with a holistic approach. This includes improvements at all levels- students, faculty, and administration,” Fortier-Brown said.

   On February 6, one of the first steps of discussing sexual assault on campus since the BDN article was published was a panel hosted by the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) called “Campus Conversations Part One.” At this event, five panelists with various backgrounds came together to answer student questions. Intama, who is also the President of CVPC, worked as a moderator of the event.

    While LUITE is an independent student group, “CVPC is a university sanctioned group of students, faculty and staff that have the same goals in mind,” according to Intama.

   Intama acknowledges the role that the article has played in the increase of discussion about sexual assault on campus. “It really was the BDN article that sparked discussion and action here at UMF.  I am thankful for all the survivors who have been brave to tell their stories, and am glad to see the UMF community rally together to think of ways to increase knowledge, education and training around sexual assault and harassment,” Intama said. “Although the article painted UMF in a not-so-favorable light, the changes that are being talked about now are helpful and positive.”

   There is a bittersweet quality to the student response. “I love that people are involved and excited about this issue, but I am sad that we have to have this conversation. We have been failed,” said Fortier-Brown.

    Intama said that sexual assault “is a national issue, but our community is driven to make sure our university is safe and provides a supporting environment for all who attend here.”

   Fortier-Brown said that she “absolutely believe[s] that there are people here who are pioneers for change and want to ensure that UMF is safe and is living up to our high (and justified) standards. I have no doubt that admin[istration] is working with us to change.”

   Fortier-Brown also said that “if [administration] ever become[s] complacent, we are also here to push them to keep going and support them when needed. Overall, it is striking how well we- LUITE, Staff, and Admin- are working together.”

   Fortier-Brown said, “This is our #MeToo movement. Maine is late to everything.”

   A screening and subsequent discussion of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” was initially scheduled for January 30, but was changed to February 13.

   Students interested in being involved with CVPC may contact Claudia Intama or Jordan Shaw. Students interested in joining LUITE may contact Amy Fortier-Brown at