by Sydney Beecher, Contributing Writer
Aiming to help students register to vote, UMF’s branch of the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) held a voter registration drive at the end of September. The drive was an astounding success, with 40 UMF students registering to vote over a span of two days.
This program was headed by senior Samantha Wood, CEEP Fellow and the voter drive event organizer, along with four volunteers. Together they led students through the process of filling out an official registration form. “It’s easy for on-campus students to register to vote because UMF sent a residence list to the town clerk’s office so students do not need to provide proof of residency,” Wood said. “For those who live off-campus, all we ask of them is to bring proof of residency such as a piece of mail or their driver’s license when they come to register.”
Creating a voter registration drive on campus helps to build a habit of civic engagement in students. Voters between the ages of 18 and 21 have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
According to Political Science Professor James Melcher, this can cause the views of younger voters to be underrepresented. “Here in the 2nd Congressional District in Maine, voters have the chance to vote in some of the most hotly contested races in the nation,” said Melcher. “Maine’s 2nd District electoral vote, U.S. House race, and U.S. Senate race are all extraordinarily competitive and crucial votes.”
Ciera Miller, one of the volunteers at the drive, echoed this message and stressed the importance of voting. “I wanted to volunteer because it’s important that we vote in elections for who’s going to be given power in our town, state, or country… [and] I want to help others who were never taught the impact their vote has so they can be more aware of how important their voice is as a US citizen. They should know that their voice matters,” said Miller.
Another important aspect of the drive was to provide unbiased information to students who registered. CEEP is committed to being non-partisan and is considering creating a non-partisan club on campus in the future. “It’s important for students to get involved politically and having only political party affiliated clubs is going to scare students away,” said Wood. “We’re seeing a change in young people where they don’t want to affiliate with a political party; they just want someone to uphold their views.”
UMF’s branch of CEEP maintains a Twitter and Instagram account called ‘UMF Votes’ and a Facebook account called ‘UMF Students Vote.’ Here, they post information regarding voting information or campus events. They plan to participate in an upcoming virtual legislative candidate series on Monday, October 12th, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the political party affiliated clubs on campus. The online forum will include candidates in District 17 such as Jan Collins and Russel Black.
by Malcolm Langner, Contributing Writer
Due to the changes across campus from COVID-19, UMF students and professors are trying to stay optimistic despite not fully knowing how next semester will unfold, especially with classes.
One of the aspects that might cause challenges is online vs. in-person classes. “It is more of a matter of being prepared to have the courses work differently for me rather than writing the syllabus differently. One big change is being ready to have more tests be take-home tests,” said James Melcher, Professor of Political Science at UMF.
The changes which surround the UMF community during the pandemic expand further than physical challenges, but into emotional stress. “It’s stressful, and knowing it is for my students as well, also adds to my stress,” Melcher said. “I have a tendency to worry sometimes, and I don’t enjoy having this much uncertainty around these things.”
Melcher doesn’t plan on letting these uncertainties disrupt him from his classes, “I try to be in command enough that my students can rely on me.”
Despite the possible hardships next semester, Melcher believes in the UMF system. “I think there is a good chance the University [of Maine] System will have a plan by then, said Melcher. “However, pandemics are unpredictable, and we have to be ready to respond if an outbreak happens.”
Melcher continued to say that the use of Brightspace this semester could pay dividends in next semester. “I have worked hard to learn Brightspace this summer and fall; if we go online again, knowing that new system will be more crucial than ever,” said Melcher.
Melcher noted that the changes this semester have even extended into his home. “The single biggest piece of prep I have done was to improve my home internet service this summer,” said Melcher. “It had worked very poorly in handling the demands of teaching online last spring.”
The uncertainty of going online is voiced by students as well. Cooper Millet, a junior at UMF, is finding that signing up for classes next semester is more challenging than ever. “It’s very frustrating not knowing what next semester will look like.” Millett said. “I am definitely an in-person learner, and not knowing whether or not I will be at my best for my classes is concerning.”
Due to COVID-19, students have to take into account new aspects of a class before signing up, “I can’t look at my requirements and just sign up for classes. Now, I have to really understand the difficulty of it and make sure I would be able to understand the subject without an in-person professor,” Millett said.
As for on-campus living, Millett can only hope for the best. “I love living on campus.” Millett said. “Not knowing whether or not I will be back here with my friends is more than unnerving.”
For Millett, this uncertainty expands even further. “I play baseball. I would be very disappointed if we don’t have a season for the second year in a row,” he said.
While slightly discouraged by the situation, Millett understands that precautions come first. “COVID-19 has been unstable, and trying to allow too much on campus could definitely make things worse.”
Despite next semester appearing to be hazy, Millett remains positive. “I love it here,” he said. “I think UMF has done a great job with everything so far and will continue to be a fun, safe place next semester as well. We don’t really know much about next semester, so all we can do is wait it out.”