By Reese Remington, contributing writer
Farmington, ME – In a country where the Kyle Rittenhouse’s run free, Black people march for their lives, and a new culture is emerging where America’s inequalities are finally being highlighted for what they are, there lies a small campus amongst it all – the University of Maine at Farmington.
What does a small school like UMF have anything to do with this? Seemingly nothing, and yet everything. Like every university in America, it is a small piece of a much larger pie.
Similar to other minorities on campus, the beginning of the year looked different for me compared to my white peers. Yes, the first-day jitters are the same, followed by a silent prayer that I have a great semester. That my professors understand me, and I make some friends. However, I understood the risks that come with attending a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). This means also hoping that there are other like-minded minorities on campus, nothing racist happens towards me, and make peace with the microaggressions that will inevitably happen.
On campus, everywhere you turn there’s some kind of incident happening against minority students. Though I suppose we should be grateful that there isn’t any ‘KKK’ type of racism taking place here, the microaggressions and tone-deafness run rampant. In my first week, I heard students saying the N-word in a song. Later on in the semester, I was accused of stealing; like other minorities on campus who have been accused of crimes that they didn’t commit. There have been too many microaggressions to count – from comments about my hair, the way I present myself, down to interactions with other students. I have simultaneously been used as the Black spokesperson in my class while also being encouraged to use ’empathy’ and ‘compassion’ when responding to racist discussion posts. On campus, you either love or hate that I am ‘opinionated’ and always have something to say. But if Black people don’t speak up against racism, who will? My classmates, professors, and community members have shown that they won’t. Unless of course, it’s in the form of an Instagram story so everyone knows that they aren’t racist – outwardly at least.
This isn’t to say that UMF isn’t inclusive. It is – to an extent. UMF prides itself on being a strong LGBTQ+ friendly campus, striving to include everyone on campus. Though the tone-deafness outshines the efforts being made. UMF refers to their LGBTQ+ students as the minorities and diversity on campus. To be frank, when the campus is predominantly LGBTQ+, it is no longer a minority. The minorities on campus are the Black and POC students.
If you look around you, the tone-deafness is everywhere – though only if you want to see it. It’s in the buildings where they put posters of how “we appreciate our UMF students and the DIVERSITY they bring to campus” in all rainbow lettering for the LGBTQ+ community. They use the Black power fists for club posters without a single Black member in the club. It’s in the way they handle racist incidents privately and put other incidents [with white students] in a campus email. Don’t minority students deserve to know what’s going on around campus? And it’s especially in the way the school handled the ‘Ed situation’, yet lacks that same passion when it comes to the real minorities on campus.
However, times are changing. It’s been a year and a half since the BLM marches took place and we as a community decided it was time to rise and do better. For ourselves, and our underrepresented minorities in our community. UMF now has a Black Student Union for the first time in history. While other clubs have been up and running for years, the BSU has just begun. Even when established, it wasn’t without questioning whether white students could join and what would happen if there was racism in the club. Anything minority students have done or created on campus has been met with resistance, but this doesn’t stop us. Minority students are creating a more inclusive and safer community for future minorities on this campus.
So, where do we as a school go from here? First, you show up. Show up for your minority peers by calling out racism and microaggressions on campus – beyond posting a simple Instagram story. Forgive me for not expressing gratitude to those that do the bare minimum. As minorities strive to change the racist culture that still runs strong in America, we no longer accept the low-level work that is being done to ease any white guilt. Or at least I won’t. I would say most importantly, show up by educating yourself; Black people are not your Black encyclopedia, every Black experience on this campus is unique. We are not all the same.
Second, advocate. Advocate for more classes that properly teach the history of minorities in America. Advocate for Black and POC voices on campus. We need more minorities in leadership roles. From professors and within the administration, down to leadership roles in the clubs, sports, and elected positions among the campus. The representation we have on campus now – is only a start and not nearly enough. We cannot advertise ourselves as an inclusive school for minorities and then miss the mark when it comes to being inclusive.
Lastly, realize that this change doesn’t happen with just the minorities on campus pushing for it. This isn’t a quick fix situation, it takes time to break down a system that then needs to be rebuilt so that real change can occur. It may not happen overnight, but as a campus, we can do better. Know when to speak up for your classmates, and when to sit back and listen to them. Understand that in striving to be an inclusive campus, UMF has left a part of their own in the shadows: minorities on campus.
There’s a new club on campus making history with its formation. The Black Student Union (BSU) aims to create space for Black students- something that UMF hasn’t had before.
The BSU was founded by Junior Aman Hagos, who led three different BLM protests in Farmington last year. Hagos saw the need for a space for minority students to feel safe and seen.
This year’s freshman class is more diverse than ever before, and several Black students have confirmed Hagos’ feelings of a lack of space for Black students. Two freshmen on campus are excited to be a part of the change: Suki Fuzzell and Klaus Jacobs, originally from New York and Maryland respectively, came to UMF for the outdoors and a change of scenery from the city life. However, it hasn’t been a smooth transition.
Fuzzell recalls her time on campus as a minority as just okay. “I’ve had a couple of microaggressions here and there, but there’s nothing to do about it so you just keep going,” Fuzzell said. “However, I did drop my history class because it was kind of weird to be the only Black person in there and have them talk about slavery while being stared at so I dropped it for my own comfort.”
Jacobs shared a similar stance with their experience. “It’s been okay. Because I’m not as outgoing as other people it’s hard to make friends,” Jacobs said. “With white people sometimes they’re really close-knit – and that’s not a bad thing, but it’s hard to insert yourself into a close group. There have been people though who are understanding and can see that it’s hard being a Black woman on campus. It was a shaky start but overall good.”
Among other minority students on campus, the biggest issue Jacobs and Fuzzell have noticed at UMF is the lack of thoroughness and assertiveness towards racist events that take place. When asked if they believed UMF was inclusive, there was hesitation.
“I don’t think Farmington isn’t not inclusive but I think they could be a lot more inclusive,” said Fuzzell. “A lot of the issues that have happened with minority students have been brushed under the rug but if it’s a white student, it’s out in an email and everyone knows about it. It’s hard to not notice those types of things when there have been serious issues that aren’t being talked about.”
Jacobs and Fuzzell both agreed that Black students have a right to know what’s happening on campus, especially in regards to race.
“When you’re literally outnumbered by everyone on campus, your safety – it should be a top priority and sometimes it isn’t so you never really know what’s going on because you can’t prepare yourself for what’s going on if you don’t know,” Fuzzell said.
Despite the shaky start of the semester, Fuzzell and Jacobs both hope to see a difference by the time they are seniors, starting with the BSU.
“Honestly, I just want there to be more diversity by the time I’m a senior. I hope to see more cultural clubs that teach and celebrate different cultures – not just for us but for other students to learn about things that they might not really know because they aren’t taught about it here,” Fuzzell said.
Fuzzell also hopes to see more friends come out of the club. “When I came here, I was a little intimidated to go up to other Black students because they have been here longer than I have but having a club like this will open up that door and make it easier to find friends on campus that are other Black people instead of kind of feeling singled out,” she said.
Jacobs hopes for the same type of experience from a BSU on campus. “With a Black Student Union, it would be like having a little community – sometimes I need something for my hair or a product and I can’t ask my roommate or most of my friends so it’s little stuff like that, that matters.”
The Senate voted Monday, Nov. 1st, 2021 to make the BSU an official club on campus.
By: Reese Remington, Contributing Writer.
Farmington, ME – Earlier this year, the announcement came that classes would return in person. This brought an influx of students back to campus, which also meant more students looking for housing. Despite students’ eagerness to live off-campus this year, it was going to be an uphill battle with Farmington’s small real estate pool and competitive market.
One student, Riley Bartell, a fifth-year senior, had a rough time finding housing around Farmington. He even considered living in neighboring towns. After searching all summer, he was only able to find an apartment in Livermore Falls but it fell through.
“There were over 500 applications for this apartment, but I never heard back about it,” Bartell said.
Thankfully, a couple of friends from the baseball team had a room available near campus. Now Bartell doesn’t have to commute to school for his last year.
Roommates, Bailey Blow and Julia Halley are first-time off-campus living students. Their experiences also had obstacles. Both Blow and Halley lived on campus last year and knew it was time to transition to an apartment this year.
“It’s been great. I like that we have roommate dinners – it’s like have a little family. It’s cute. The dining hall was a reason for moving off-campus, so it’s nice having a kitchen and cooking.” Halley said.
Living off-campus doesn’t come easily though. Planning is key to work with how competitive the market is. For Blow and Halley, finding an apartment took months in advance.
“Look early. It was really hard to find this place. Make sure you can financially do it, too because it is a really big commitment. We started looking over winter break (Dec. 2020) for this apartment because three and four bedrooms are a lot harder to find.” Blow said.
While residents in Farmington are calling it a housing crisis, realtor Byron Staples at Foothills Management isn’t as quick to call it that. He sees it as more of a competitive market right now due to a couple of factors. Two large issues that are contributing to the market are the lack of residents moving out of their current residence, and “outside people” coming in. Staples said about “two-thirds of apartments” that typically would go on the market during the season, didn’t.
Currently, there is a solar farm project in Farmington that began in July 2020. The project employed over 300 out-of-state employees all of whom took up any available housing in the area, whether it was hotels or residences.
However, the project should be slowing down by winter this year. With limited housing, it’s important to be sure and proactive while looking for housing, according to Staples.
“In this area, companies market June availability in Jan. and Feb. This means you have to be proactive. Don’t hesitate, and when a landlord reaches out, consider it as a job interview.” Staples said.
It would seem that the competitive market in Farmington may be opening up soon. Though with the pandemic still ongoing, it’s uncertain just how much will change.
For students looking to transition from on-campus to off-campus housing next year, being proactive during the process is key.