By Paige Lusczky, contributing writer
If you have taken a Physical Education class on campus, you are aware that it is a requirement to go to an extra class, outside of class hours, on Bystander Intervention Training hosted by the campus Step UP! Program. For a lot of new UMF students, Bystander Intervention Training is all they hear from the campus Step UP! Program. So, why is it such a big deal?
“Step UP! is a prosocial behavior and Bystander Intervention Program that educates participants to be proactive in helping others” as said by the National Step UP! Program.
UMF Step UP! Program advisor and UMF counselor, Gavin Pickering, said “UMF prides ourselves on being a supportive and caring campus” and “this program provides tangible procedures and action steps to support.”
“Students will become each other’s allies and have the confidence to go to parties or walk around campus knowing that there is someone in the vicinity who has their back and is willing to step in,” said the original proposer of the program coming to UMF, Professor Kathy Kemp.
The Step UP! Program not only promotes Bystander Intervention but also the “Seize the Awkward” campaign about reaching out to those who may be suffering from mental health and trauma. When the program was originally proposed as an Honors Enrichment Proposal with Kemp, it was written that “[UMF] needs to talk about violence, and be able to say the words rape, consent, and abuse, without a backlash of scoffing, head-turning, and eye rolls.”
The program has a large group of UMF student involvement but has unfortunately been pushed to the background because of the pandemic. “We have a lot of big ideas but we can’t do as much as we would like,” Pickering said.
You can mainly see student workers promoting it by tabeling or getting involved with Community Assistants and the resident halls. Currently, the Step UP! Program is also working with the Campus Safety Project to evaluate what else they could be doing.
Around Halloween, the Step UP! Program was tabeling to inform students on what type of Halloween Costumes would be considered cultural appropriation. With UMF sitting on Native American Land, it is important to promote respect for all cultures and not use them as a costume. Last year, the group tabled for National Women’s Day as well.
Pickering believes that it is important that students be involved in the Step UP! Program because “getting information from peers is more meaningful to students than being told by authority figures” and students “have to help each other too.” This is why Step UP! is even considered a work-study job opportunity on campus.
The campus Step UP! Program is a “challenge for people to change the culture,” Pickering said. Pickering believes for those who want to see change, the program is an “opportunity to pay students to implement change on campus.”
There are three work-study positions available, if interested, please contact Pickering at email@example.com or if you would like more information about the national program, please go to StepUpProgram.org.
By Sophia Turgeon, contributing writer
UMF will be implementing a new curriculum and credit system in the fall of 2023; the Board of Trustees of the University of Maine System approved the campus to alter from a four-credit system to a three-credit system.
This system is one that many University of Maine System schools use, but it comes with a catch. Currently, full-time students take four classes a semester and earn a total of 16 credits (four credits per class). Beginning in September 2023, full-time students will need to take five classes to earn a total of 15 credits (three credits per class).
The overall intention of this change is to match UMF’s curriculum with other University of Maine System schools. This will allow UMF to begin increasing the amount of collaboration between other schools in the system. Additionally, it is also intended to make the transfer of students to UMF easier.
Provost and Vice Principal of Academic Affairs at UMF, Eric Brown, believes that students should not be too alarmed by this change. Program requirements will remain the same for students and the amount of credits needed to graduate will be decreased to accommodate this curriculum. With that being said, UMF faculty is currently reshaping their classes in order to account for the reduced amount of time spent in the classroom.
“No students should be adversely affected by this change in terms of program requirements or path to graduation,” Brown said. “And for many current students the change will likely mean a slightly lower cost for their UMF education, since they will only need 120 rather than 128 credits to graduate,” Brown said.
Brown also admitted that though this shift may be difficult, it will not be disastrous. “… there is time to adjust and anticipate what the changes will look like,” Brown said. “I was here at UMF when we shifted from 3-credits to 4-credits and the adjustment didn’t happen overnight. But at some point it will become a new normal.”
When it comes to students wishing to transfer to UMF, Brown trusts that this credit system will make the transition much smoother. According to Brown, more than half (55%) of the transfer students at UMF that were surveyed confessed that they had lost credits during their transition to UMF. Moreover, 45% reported being required to take more classes than they had initially planned.
“One of the primary reasons for making this change is actually to better align our curriculum with all of the other University of Maine System schools,” Brown said. “This will facilitate one of the System’s strategic goals in the coming years—more multicampus collaboration and more seamless movement for students between and among campuses. But what makes UMF special, in my experience—the close and authentic bonds between faculty and staff and students—will not change. And no one anytime soon will mistake Farmington for Portland or Presque Isle.”
When considering the kind of school UMF is, Brown believes that UMF has always been an amazing university for students to attend, even before the switch to a four-credit system. “UMF was a fantastic school before we switched to a 4-credit curriculum and will continue to be so once we have switched back to a 3-credit model,” Brown said. “It doesn’t mean the transition will be easy or always graceful but the core mission and values of this place will maintain. It really is a rare opportunity to reimagine our best practices collectively as an institution, and to continue to improve upon our well-established record of student success. And I do believe we can emerge stronger as a university once we are on the other side of the work to get us there.”
Andrea Swiedom Staff Reporter
Title IX is a federal law that protects individuals at federally-funded institutions like UMF from discrimination including sexual harassment and assault as these impede on a person’s participation in education. When students experience sexual harassment and/or assault on campus, they have the option of reporting their case to mandated reporters who include the majority of faculty, staff, certain students employees, volunteers and peer advocates.
“The only people out of this list who are not mandated reporters are the mental health counselors in the Center for Student Development, the UMF Health Center Staff, and Athletic Trainers when they are working in their Athletic Training capacity,” said Hope Shore, Assistant Director of Student Life & Deputy Title IX Coordinator through an email interview.
When a student reports an incident, the mandated reporter must then inform Shore of the incident.
“I will then reach out to the student to see if they would like to meet,” Shore said. “If the student is interested, I will provide them with information about resources, support, campus policies and procedures and available accommodations.”
Students or anyone concerned with an incident may bypass a mandated reporter by filling out the Title IX Incident Reporting Form online located on MyCampus under the Campus Safety tab or through the UMF Title IX website. This online form allows individuals to file their incident anonymously.
Franklin Hall, Counseling is located on the second floor (Photo courtesy of Andrea Swiedom).
Individuals can also report an incident directly to Shore, which is what a group of students did in Dec. 2018 after encountering several occurrences of sexual harassment from the same individual.
The group of students will remain anonymous for their protection as the Flyer staff is aware of their identities and is confident in the credibility of their stories.
The group created a form for everyone involved to fill out and turn into Shore that described their experiences with this individual. One of the students involved expected the incident to be filed under the group’s name. However, even if a case is recorded with a group, each person’s case is treated as an individual report.
Although students have no obligation to go any further once an incident has been brought to Shore’s attention, one of the members of the group that reported the harassment decided to proceed with the Title IX process. “I can back out at any point, but since I knew others were moving forward, I was going to move forward,” they said.
After the group filed their statement, the student met with Shore one-on-one to continue with the process. “I got this big folder of information and she basically told me that she would make the decision on who she would kind of push my case to next and it ended up going to Christine Wilson,” said the student.
They met with Wilson, the Vice President of Student Affairs, to provide yet another statement that would determine whether or not the case would receive a full investigation. “It felt very official, kind of intimidatingly official,” the student said. “I thought I was just meeting with Christine, but when I got there, there was another woman directly connected with Title IX who was just there for recording.”
The student was allowed to bring a person along for support while giving their official statement. “They were not allowed to say anything, but they were allowed to just be there, which I thought was a really nice thing that you can do,” they said.
The incident was warranted a full investigation at the end of January. They were anxious and afraid while awaiting a verdict as they still had to function in classes, school activities and live on campus around the accused individual.
“I don’t want this to last the entire semester. I just wish they had given me a rough timeline. It’s just, you’ll hear from us when you hear from us,” they said.
Shore’s office also provides students with the option to file a No-Contact order, which prohibits the accused from interacting with the accuser until a verdict is reached. However, the No-Contact order has its limitations.
The student described an interaction they had recently in the Student Center with the individual whom they filed the complaint against, while tabling for a club. “He decided to walk right up to the table to start talking to a person next to me. I asked Hope if this breaks the No-Contact order and she said no. I was having a panic attack and I wasn’t able to do anything about it,” they said.
Whether or not students go through with the Title IX process, there are several support resources available on campus that Shore reviews with students during initial meetings. “[Shore] asked me if I knew what services are available. I kind of knew, but at the same time I didn’t,” the student said. “I still said that I knew because I didn’t want to be there, but at the same time, I know that the counselors in Franklin have a month-long waiting list.”
None of the counselors were available for an interview, but students can visit the counseling services website for more information or visit their office on the second floor of Franklin Hall, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Counseling Center also provides emergency walk-in hours that students may take advantage of at any time.
Shawna Austin, SAPARS Associate Director (Photo Courtesy of Shawna Austin).
There is also a confidential, free drop-in support service available in room 112 in the Student Center every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS). “This is a specific time where an advocate can be accessible to answer questions, be a listening ear, and/or work together with students to engage in awareness raising events and/or other projects,” said Associate Director of SAPARS Shawna Austin in an email interview.
SAPARS isn’t affiliated with UMF, but offers an impressive amount of free and confidential support services, including a 24-hour helpline (1-800-871-7741) to assist anyone affected by sexual harassment and/or assault, support groups, and a Sexual Assault Response Team well-versed in legal procedures that will even accompany individuals to police stations.