College Democrats Disband in Response to Administrative “Confusion and Injustice”

Milo Fitzgerald, Contributing Writer

In the wake of clashes with the administration this semester, the College Democrats have dissolved as a student organization, in protest of what one club member deemed as “censoring a club’s right to discuss a political topic.” This follows the series of Bangor Daily News (BDN) articles about the handling of sexual assault cases by UMF staff and administration.

   Prior to the BDN articles published earlier this year, an individual messaged former Secretary Hope Lash, senior, on Facebook in what she said was an “extremely disrespectful” and “inappropriate” manner. Lash, at the time on a May 2018 travel course, had never spoken to the individual before and declined his advances, then blocked him on her personal Facebook account.

   Sometime following the first BDN article, the individual reported to Student Senate that he was blocked from accessing the public College Democrats Facebook page. This accusation was not verified by the Senate before action was taken. In fact, it became clear that the individual was not blocked from the Facebook page, because he had sent messages to the page asking for meeting times. Because the College Democrats generally did not get much activity on the Facebook page, they were not checking the page very often.

   However, the individual reported the accusation to a member of the Senate, who directed the case to Student Life. The College Democrats were told by Marie Prevost, Graduate Area Coordinator for Student Life and their own club advisor, that the club would become defunct if they did not allow the individual to come to club meetings. After Lash discovered the messages sent to the Facebook page, Prevost declined to take any action and told her to take her complaint to Brian Ufford, Director of Student Life.

   “There were many in the club uncomfortable around the person,” former President of the College Democrats, Jeffrey Willey, senior, said in an email interview.

   Dominic Stevens, former Treasurer, admitted that the individual had an “unsettling demeanor.”

   However, Willey added, “I told them that, due to University policy, we could not prevent the person from attending.” Because students are required to pay an activity fee, unless there is a legal restraining order, a student cannot be prevented from joining any club.

   The College Democrats planned their next meeting, which took place directly before the first Campus Violence Prevention Coalition panel on Wednesday, Feb. 6, wanting to discuss a range of topics, from budget hearings and the State of the Union Address to the Women’s March and “the importance of solidarity as well as unity when it comes to sexual assault,” Lash said in her personal statement to Brian Ufford. “Given the current events which have been unfolding for weeks on this campus, as well as the situation we had seemingly been placed in we felt we had a responsibility to those who attend our meetings to educate, protect, and discuss with members sexual assault and violence.”

   By discussing the topic at large, Lash continued, the goal was to “solidify where we as a group stood on the subject, making it clear to all those who attend our meetings that the College Democrats support victims in these cases, and will continue to listen to the voices of men and women who speak out in courage against their assaulters.”

   However, Lash and the other members were not allowed to speak about the topic of sexual assault during their meeting. Fifteen minutes before the meeting began, Lash reported, Brian Ufford pulled aside Willey for a private conversation. During this conversation, Ufford informed him that Title IX action would be brought against the club, which would result in its dissolution, if the College Democrats were to keep speaking out against the current sexual assault issues.

   “I realized quickly during our meeting Wednesday,” Lash said in her personal statement, “that Student Life cared more for censoring a club’s right to discuss a political topic as all conversation regarding sexual assault was avoided with the exception of a comment I had made when the CVPC forum was brought up, to which I was promptly interrupted by Miss Prevost who essentially told me to be quiet.”

   After realizing that she had no other option, Lash announced that she was resigning as the College Democrats’ Secretary. By that Friday, the rest of the E-board had joined her.

   “I refuse to be party to the confusion and injustice that the administration has caused as a result of the misuse of power when Title IX is involved,” Lash said. “I’d rather there be no club at all, than put members’ safety and comfort at risk.”

   Following the Wednesday meeting, Lash and the other members were contacted by Robert Pederson, President’s Council member and Director of Center for Student Development, on behalf of Interim President Eric Brown, asking for in person meetings or email statements about the dissolution of the College Democrats. “Eric Brown told him to get to the bottom of things,” said Stevens, who met with Pederson in person. Lash reported that she sent her email statement on Feb. 19, and has still not received a response from either Pederson or Brown.

   “I want people to understand how admin, particularly Student Life, sees and treats students,” Lash said in her personal statement. “We are tired of the neglect, we are tired of the lack of transparency, and most of all we are tired of being unheard. If UMF is to succeed it must listen to our voices and concerns with kindness, as well as respect.”

   Willey also voiced concern for the future. “While I will not be here next semester, I still do care about our University and those that will attend after myself, and I would not want this to ever happen to anyone again,” Willey wrote in an email interview.

   Hope Shore, Assistant Director of Student Life and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, declined to comment on the situation, as well as Prevost. Amie Parker, Director of Human Resources, did not respond to an email inquiry, and Brian Ufford did not respond to multiple email inquiries.




Section 402, the UMaine System (UMS) interpretation of Title IX, states that all UMaine universities “will not tolerate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, or retaliation in any form. All conduct of this nature is considered a violation of this policy.” Retaliation is defined as “intimidating, threatening, coercing, or in any way discriminating against an individual because of the individual’s complaint or participation.” Furthermore, UMF’s Student Conduct Code states that retaliation is an “action taken by the University or any individual or group against any person for opposing any practices prohibited by the Code or for filing a complaint, testifying, assisting, or participating in an investigation or proceeding under the Code.” As stated, the College Democrats took no action to prevent the individual from accessing the Facebook page or attending the meetings. There is nothing in either of these official documents that would indicate a violation by the College Democrats.


Belly of the Beast

By Milo Fitzgerald Contributing Writer

   As I stood in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C., protest sign in hand and comrades by my side, I couldn’t help but laugh at the White House. That laughter turned from genuine to exasperated as a tour group of kids no older than twelve, wearing USA hoodies and MAGA caps, strutted past with their phones directed at us, pointing and laughing. We were the entertainment part of their tour.

   I was in D.C. that day to march alongside the Answer Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation in a demonstration condemning U.S. intervention and imperialism in Venezuela. Under the socialist-leaning government of the late Hugo Chávez and current president Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has provided its people with hundreds of social programs benefiting millions of its poorest citizens. Maduro’s Venezuela has protected Indigenous rights, raised literacy rates to nearly 100%, and continued the legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuela has even been providing free oil heating to impoverished communities in the South Bronx since 2006.

   An article from teleSUR written by former war correspondent John Pilger reports that the 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections, where President Maduro was re-elected with 68% of the vote, were free of crime and corruption. “‘Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored,” said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world, “I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” By way of contrast, said Carter, the U.S. election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, “is one of the worst.’”

   Venezuela also happens to have the current largest natural oil reserves on the planet. What a coincidence that the U.S. is attempting a coup, right? Not like the same excuse hasn’t been used in Iraq or anything.

   The United States is using its power and leverage to economically choke the Venezuelan people through sanctions and support terrorist opposition groups and leaders, including Juan Guaidó, the self-declared “president” who 81% of Venezuelans had never heard of prior to his announcement. Through decades of sanctions, the United States has banned Venezuela from importing food, medicine and other life necessities, and from nationalizing their oil reserves, which could dramatically boost their economy. On top of this, the U.S., Canada and Europe are holding over $23 billion dollars of Venezuelan gold and refuse to give it back to the country unless Guaido is sworn in as president. This is what you call democracy?

   Several weeks ago, a “humanitarian aid” truck tried crossing over the Colombia-Venezuela border. In western media outlets, including CNN and BBC, it was reported that the food aid in the truck was burned by President Maduro’s National Guard. This lie was spread across the globe until a few weeks later, when the New York Times published an article admitting there was video evidence of the opposition group (under Juan Guaidó) making molotov cocktails and burning the “aid.” The Intercept claims, “The liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent.”

   This is not to say that the government of Venezuela is blocking genuine humanitarian aid. The only countries blocked from sending aid are the U.S., Brazil (under fascist President Bolsonaro) and Colombia. The Intercept reports, “Both the Red Cross and the United Nations expressed concerns about ‘humanitarian aid’ from the U.S. on the grounds that it was a pretext for regime change and would politicize humanitarian aid,” as it has done so in the past.

   Venezuela has every right to doubt the authenticity of U.S. aid. Elliott Abrams, Mr. Trump’s newly-appointed special envoy to Venezuela, was let off the hook by President Bush in the 1980s for helping smuggle illegal weapons to terrorist organizations in Nicaragua in the Iran-Contra scandal. Seriously, look it up. There is no doubt in my mind that the same thing is happening in Venezuela. Just within the past couple months, the U.S. has sent cargo planes to Venezuela containing assault rifles, ammo and radios intended for Juan Guaidó and his mercenaries.

    We are witnessing a sequel to the 2003 Iraq invasion, although it can be hardly called a sequel when the United States has attempted to overthrow foreign governments over one hundred times within the past century.

   You will hear propaganda about the “corruption” and the “repression of free speech” in Venezuela, repeated by white Venezuelan bourgeois in Miami and American war mongers alike. I implore you to study these accounts critically. The U.S. has lied to you about nuclear weapons in the Gulf War, Iraq and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They have lied to you about the civil wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

   They have lied to you about the social and economic progress achieved through socialism in Cuba, and the intake of hundreds of Nazi war criminals into the U.S. following WW2, who would later become doctors, scientists, researchers and CIA agents. They have lied to you about the genocides in North America, Palestine, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, East Timor, the Philippines and Afghanistan.

   It seemed almost funny to me that day at Lafayette Park, that the world’s most brutal military force receives orders from such a disappointing and lame building surrounded by brainwashed children with red hats. As the sun burned my neck and my voice became hoarse, while men in business suits lined up on rooftops to observe our march and I was offered water, snacks and hot packs, I realized that we are living in the belly of the beast and have the ability to take direct action against the capitalist and imperialist forces that threaten freedom and self-determination at home and abroad. The heart of the empire is a scary place to be, but that’s where the change needs to be demanded.

   History will absolve us.


Colombian Psychedelic Rock – Wait, What!?

By Milo Fitzgerald Contributing Writer

    Every Monday from 6pm to 8pm, Ale Zarco takes to the small, dark DJ booth across from the Dining Hall armed with an array of nearly unknown music genres and history lessons for cultural context, she challenges listeners to step out of their comfort zone through her radio show What!?

   “What!? is supposed to be a place where you hear things that challenge your ears a little bit,” Zarco said. They make an effort to share music that won’t be played on any other radio station. However, like most people, Zarco has their standards. “I do a lot,” Zarco said, “But I don’t do classic, and I don’t do white country music.”

   Zarco instead shares black country artists, who are “more representative of the beginning of country music in America.”

   “Pioneers of music and music styles, people who stood out for how they changed the genre,” Zarco said are the type of artists they enjoy featuring on What!? British-Iraqi hip hop, psychedelic cumbia, African blues, Egyptian pop, and Latin American jazz are just a few of the various genres featured on the show.

   Along with discovering new artists, Zarco takes inspiration from music she has collected over time.  “I have four years of playlists on Spotify that I draw upon,” they said. The playlist titles are as diverse as the music itself, from “Moondayz” and “ThissHeavy” to “friends with stress”, “wqit actually what is this?” and “soothing nuclear ear candy”.

   “I like it when people start dancing to some music that they would have never heard on any other radio station,” Zarco said.

   For most people, music is catalyst for expression and has the power to elicit strong emotional responses. Through consideration, representation, and unification, “music is a way for people to express themselves,” Zarco said. “I think music can be a tool for building compassion and building understanding between people.”

   Zarco shares her public Spotify playlists on Facebook on the evening she will be playing them. Recently, they posted a playlist called “Dubby Queen” with the caption “Gonna be playing music that brings a healing sound to ill societies. Peaceful beats against a marching army. Beautiful melodies to soothe the pain of hardship.”

   Music is also a universal language with the capacity to transcend place. “Borders don’t stop music, and music is a traveling thing and can be moved across different cultures, for good reasons and for bad reasons, I guess,” Zarco said. “I definitely like finding people that I think respect the genres that they use, and try to add something new and authentic to it.”

   Her current favorite genre of music is Colombian psychedelic cumbia, which came of age in the 1960’s. Cumbia is an Afro-Colombian genre that became popular in coastal cities in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. The fusion of psychedelic rock and cumbia began as a result of globalization and opposition to the Vietnam War, which made the cumbia genre more accessible to younger generations.

   In this sense, it is clear that music never really goes out of style, but is constantly evolving and reviving over time and space. Music is never static, and What!? is here to remind us of that.

Adventurous Students Prepare for a Journey Across Peru This Spring

Adventurous Students Prepare for a Journey Across Peru This Spring

By Milo Fitzgerald Contributing Writer

    Preparations are underway for fourteen students to take on an intensive Peru travel course during the upcoming May term, from May 20th to June 6th. The travel course is led by Professors of Anthropolo

2017 travel course participants with Peruvians in Sacclaya. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Kellett)

gy Nicole and Lucas Kellett, who started the travel course in 2013 and have offered it every two years since then.

   According to Nicole Kellett, “Students will see a huge variety of landscapes,” ranging from the urban city and dry coast of Lima, to the rural highlands of Andahuaylas, to the rich (and treacherous) biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest, as well as Ayacu

cho, Cusco, and Aguas Calientes. The students will also visit el Museo de la Memoria in Ayacucho, a historic site created by – and dedicated to – the victims of the civil war that began in 1980.

   This year’s itinerary has been revamped to offer students more time in the areas that have been popular with previous travel course participants. This year’s travellers will therefore be spending an additional night in the Amazon Rainforest, meaning they will be in the jungle for three full days and four nights.

   Many students who sign up for a non-European travel course will experience some culture shock after witnessing the vastly different types of food and living conditions present in these countries, including limited accessibility to clean water. Kellett suspects that experiences like these “put things in stark relief” for students, which is why they often return to the United States with a new sense of prioritization.

   The students will be taking a crash-course in Spanish during May term prior to departure to alleviate some of the language barrier, but they are hoping to pick up more of the language during the trip.  

   “There is no better way to learn a language than to go to a country that speaks it,” said Ze’ev Shames, a sophomore Anthropology major who is going on the trip. The group believes that traveling helps break down ethnocentric views of the world.

   While Shames is most looking forward to learning about Peruvian history and current politics, Nolan Crandall, currently an undeclared sophomore, is most excited about spending time in the rural communities of Andahuaylas with his fellow students. “Every time I travel, I get something unique from that experience. Every time I go to a different country and meet different people, my perspective on the world widens,” said Crandall.

   Students also enjoy socializing with local children throughout the trip. “Soccer is like a universal language,” Kellett said

   While the Kellett’s will return to Peru with a group of students for the fourth time this spring, the couple has travelled to the South American country far more often than that. The two professors have done extensive anthropological and archaeological research in Peru. “It’s like a second home for us,” said Kellett.

   Above all, Kellett’s favorite part of the travel course is “seeing Peru through the students’ eyes,” while also witnessing the beginning of “enduring friendships” that students make with each other along the way.

   Grace Hansen, a junior Anthropology major with a Spanish minor, participated in the Peru travel course as a freshman in 2017. She believes that the close connections she made with her classmates on the trip was a unique and unreplicable experience. Hansen advises the future travelers to do their coursework, but to also “be open-minded” and enjoy the non-academic experiences of the trip, too.