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Faculty, students decry layoffs at USM

Faculty and students protested layoffs at University of Southern Maine, calling the reductions an attack on the university and on Maine's creative economy.10-31-14-USM-cuts-1
Layoffs occurred in multiple departments including computer science and economics, the Maine Education Association reported, spurring a press conference on the Portland campus Wednesday.
Paul Christiansen, associate professor of musicology, told a crowd outside Payson Smith Hall, "I've been at USM for nine years, I've been tenured for three years, I've been fired by voicemail, and I'm supposed to get a letter sometime today by I guess express mail. Pretty pathetic."
Christiansen said his position's elimination will affect students.10-31-14-USM-cuts-2
"How will music undergraduate and graduate students be able to graduate without the music history courses that I've been teaching here since I've been here?" he asked. "How will they be able to graduate without a PhD teaching these courses? And I was the only music historian not only at USM but in the entire University of Maine system."
Prefacing his comments with the remark, "Well, here we go again," Christiansen noted that cuts have buffeted the university over the entire year. He said the impacts will be felt outside the halls of higher education.
"This is even worse for the entire state of Maine. They're destroying USM and this comprehensive public university that serves the economic and cultural center of the state," Christiansen said.10-31-14-USM-cuts-3
"There's an utter lack of vision or leadership among these administrators. It's mere bean counting, not higher education," he said.
Rachel Bouvier, associate professor of economics, said her layoff notice led to gifts of chocolates and flowers from students, but she urged them to go beyond commiserating. She urged students to share their stories about the value of the economics department and professors' role in their education.
"You need to tell your stories to the legislators, and you need to tell your stories to the community. You need to tell them that your education is not just about a diploma, it's not just about a degree," Bouvier said.
Relationships with faculty and the experience at USM also play an important role in a student's development, she said.
"My beloved, beautiful, bright students, I hope that I will be able to be part of your future," Bouvier said, holding out hope that the cuts might be reversed.
"We are not a diploma mill, we are educating our students," she said.10-31-14-USM-cuts-4
Wil Aitchison, a sophomore from Portland in business finance, said he was planning to double major in economics prior to the cuts.
"Now, based on half of the department being cut, it seems, I don't know if that is even possible at USM anymore," Aitchison said.
According to the Muskie School of Public Service Student Organization, as part of the plan to cut costs, "the administration seeks to eliminate all but one or at most two Public Policy and Management (PPM) and Community Planning Development (CPD) faculty, and merge PPM, CPD, Geography and Anthropology (GYA), and Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) in order to create one new graduate degree program. In addition, the proposed elimination of the Applied Medical Sciences (AMS) graduate degree adversely impacts the Master's degree in Public Health (MPH) through the loss of quality faculty who teach core curriculum in the MPH program."
A $16 million shortfall at USM for fiscal year 2016 has been blamed for a host of painful cuts, including recent elimination of two academic programs.
Earlier this month the University of Southern Maine launched a "strategic academic alignment of its programs" as the university began conversion to a "Metropolitan University." The alignment, the University of Maine Board of Trustees reported, will save approximately $6 million by reducing the faculty by 50 positions. The academic alignment is the first phase in closing USM's $16 million structural gap for FY 2016, the
The University of Maine Board of Trustees voted on Oct. 24 to approve USM's proposal to eliminate two academic programs. The eliminated programs include a Master's in Science in Applied Medical Science and a Bachelor of Arts in French, a UMaine press release reported. Trustees approved the elimination proposal by a vote of 9-2 after hearing from approximately 60 speakers in a four-hour public comment session, the press release reported.
The Masters in Science in Applied Medical Science has, on average, graduated 4.6 students over the last five years. Over the same period the net cost of the program to the university is $983,868 annually, the press release stated. In response to concerns from the medical and biomedical industries, USM and the University of Maine will hold discussions about how UMaine's graduate programs may serve students impacted by the program elimination, the press release stated.
The Bachelor of Arts in French program at USM has graduated 4.8 students on average over the last five years and operated at an average annual deficit between faculty expense and tuition revenue of $25,723, the press release continued.
The University of Southern Maine will work with declared majors within these programs to assist them with the completion of their course work, the press release stated.
The board materials can be found at http://www.maine.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Full-Meeting-Materials-Oct-24-20147.pdf.
Critics say the reductions at USM miss the mark.
Christiansen said, "We have a creative economy, and we need cultural capital."

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:26

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Circus college holds inaugural acts at Thompson's Point

The Circus Conservatory of America, the first circus college in the country that plans to open in the fall of 2016, gave a glimpse of what's to come Saturday night with their first circus acts in their new Thompson's Point location.10-28-14-TG-circus-Josh-Oliver-the-Circus-Conservatory-of-Americas-technical-director

Krin Marin Haglund, the emcee, stole the show with her hilarious antics and amazing work on the Cyr wheel, but the other performers kept up with her pace with hand-balancing, aerial straps gymnastics, a diablo juggle and a tight wire act.

Haglund is a multidisciplinary circus artist and the first woman in the world to perform the Cyr wheel, or single wheel. Her first solo-show, The Rendez-Vous Galant, premiered in June of last year at the Irish Aerial Dance Festival and the St-Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival.10-28-14-TG-circus-Peter-Nielsen-president-of-Circus-Conservatory-of-America-with-the-troupe

Haglund is an original cast member of Cirque Éloize "Rain," and has performed with Cirque du Soleil, Sept Doigts de la Main (7 Fingers), Riksteatret National Theater of Norway, and toured with the Dresden Dolls.

Cory Tabino, a world-class circus performer with 20 years of stage experience, kicked off the evening's acrobatics with hand-balancing. He trained at École Nationale de Cirque in Montréal, and worked with circus icon Gypsy Snyder, as well as Cirque Du Soleil, Les Sept Doigts de la Main, Cirque Productions, New Pickle Circus, Acrobat Productions, and Cirque Fantastique.10-28-14-TG-circus-wheel

Haglund interspersed her comic wit between acts and mesmerized the crowd with her Cyr wheel act.

Ariele Ebacher was on the tight wire. She has trained with high wire walker Jade Kindar-Martin and low wire dancer Molly Saudek. Over the past 13 years, she has toured the world with circus, variety and circus-theatre productions, including Midnight Circus, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Aloft Circus Arts and Zoppe Circus.

Josh Oliver, the conservatory's technical director, performed on the aerial straps and gave a look at what future students at the college will be able to do.

After the circus acts and while Miss Fairchild, the band, got warmed up, guests were able to enjoy a drink poured by one of the juggling bartenders: Cris Clark, the college's head recreational coach, Blain Tully, general manager, Kerry Kaye, coach and rigger, and Colin Boyd, a volunteer.10-28-14-TG-circus-wire

Hillary Webb, vice president and academic dean at the Circus Conservatory of America, said their inaugural circus event was a huge hit.

"I'm incredibly pleased and proud in seeing our community's enthusiasm," said Webb, who holds a PhD in psychology. Before she came to the CC of A, she was on the faculty and board of trustees at Goddard College in Vermont.

"I fell in love with contemporary circus while a student (undergrad) at NYU. I went to a Cirque de Soleil show in New York, and sat there seeing the potential of the human body in space, as it's moving around with objects," she said. "It was a profound moment for me, and I've been a follower now for 20 years or more."

She became involved with the conservatory at the beginning of the year when she joined their recreation program.

"I was engaging with their coaches and finding out what my 42-year body could do, what challenges it could overcome," she said. "Then, I became more involved in the curricular and academic side of it."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:25

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Maine readies for medical worker who worked with Ebola patients

A healthcare worker traveling from West Africa may arrive in Maine, prompting a statement from the governor about the state's Ebola guidelines.

CNBC News reported Monday that "the medical worker at the center of a political firestorm over her involuntary quarantining in New Jersey after working with Ebola patients will be allowed to leave that state and travel to Maine, officials said Monday."

In reaction, Gov. Paul LePage issued a statement Monday, saying the healthcare worker "who may be returning to Maine after traveling from West Africa" will be subject to federal health guidelines.

"We commend all healthcare workers for their humanitarian work in West Africa and other regions of the world, and we are proud that they are always ready to help others," LePage said. "Upon the healthcare workers' return home, we will follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients. Additionally, we will work with the healthcare worker to establish an in-home quarantine protocol to ensure there is no direct contact with other Mainers until the period for potential infection has passed. We will help make sure the healthcare worker has everything to make this time as comfortable as possible."

Maine has established protocols for the monitoring of any individual who returns to Maine after traveling from West African regions that have been impacted by Ebola, LePage said. These protocols include monitoring the individual for 21 days after the last possible exposure to Ebola. Twenty-one days is the longest time it can take from the time a person is infected with Ebola until that person has symptoms of Ebola.

"We certainly understand healthcare workers' desire to get home after doing good work in West Africa," said LePage. "But we must be vigilant in our duty to protect the health and safety of all Mainers, as well as anyone who may come in contact with someone who has been exposed to Ebola."

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "Maine continues to be in close contact with our federal partners and is actively monitoring travelers from this region of the world with Maine as their final destination."

On Saturday, the Maine CDC reported, "We are currently monitoring one traveler who has returned to Maine. The individual has no symptoms of the disease and had no contact with an Ebola patient."

The Maine CDC noted, "Ebola is transmitted only if an individual has direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from a person who is showing symptoms. It is not an airborne disease, nor can a person get Ebola when they have contact with a person who is not showing symptoms."

The University of Maine reported Monday that officials at the University of Maine at Fort Kent have been working closely with state and local public health officials "to ensure the campus is prepared to safely support students or anyone from the community potentially impacted by the Ebola outbreak."

Campus officials have received updates on safety protocols and they have been in direct discussions with Maine Emergency Management officials and staff at Northern Maine Medical Center, the university reported. UMFK has also established a response team to track developments, coordinate among local and public health officials, and to share information with members of the campus and throughout the St. John Valley.

For the latest information regarding Ebola and responses in Maine, the public can visit http://www.maine.gov/ebola.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 October 2014 22:38

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Cutler urges Michaud to release supporters ... and explains that high-five at the debate

In the race to unseat Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Independent candidate Eliot Cutler said that a continued three-way contest "may mean that Mr. LePage gets re-elected," reminiscent of 2010.10-28-14-cutler-2

Cutler has urged Democratic candidate Michael Michaud to "release his voters" and clear them to vote for Cutler in the statewide election on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

During a campaign stop in Bath Saturday, Cutler spoke with The Sun about his campaign; the three-way race against Michaud and LePage; and Cutler's call late last week for Michaud to release his voters, a request that was rebuffed by the Michaud campaign, which calls Cutler unelectable and a potential spoiler.

Cutler said the recent gubernatorial debates "damaged" Michaud.

"I've been all over the state of Maine in the last 48 hours, and there's clearly a lot of movement, and people desperately want to get rid of LePage, a lot of people do," Cutler said. "What I'm saying is, 'Look, Mr. Michaud, if what you really want to do is get rid of LePage, if that's really important to you, then give your voters permission to vote for someone else if they think you can't win on Election Day because it's pretty clear that you can't win.' I'm the one candidate in this race who can put together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans and Independents and prevail. And I hope that Mr. Michaud sees the light. If he doesn't, I'm going to try and win this race, and I assume he will try, and it may mean that Mr. LePage gets re-elected."

Democrats fear that Cutler will pull votes away from Michaud, who is seeking to unseat the Republican incumbent, LePage. Polls seem to reflect a tight race between LePage and Michaud, with Cutler in a more distant third place.

On Oct. 9, the Pan Atlantic SMS Group Omnibus poll was released showing LePage with 39.3 percent of the "votes" of respondents, Michaud with 33.6 percent and Cutler with 19.5 percent. The poll was conducted with a randomly selected stratified sample of 400 "likely" Maine voters between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29, the polling organization reported.

On Saturday, Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald reported, "Republican Gov. Paul LePage has opened a lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the closing weeks of the gubernatorial campaign, according to a Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald poll. The findings mark a significant shift from previous polls showing both candidates running in a virtual dead heat. LePage leads Michaud 45 percent to 35 percent, with Independent Eliot Cutler at 16 percent and 4 percent undecided, according to the poll of 639 likely voters conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. The landline and cellphone poll has a 3.8 percent margin of error and was conducted from Oct. 15 to 21, a period that coincided with three televised debates, leaving questions about whether the forums affected the results."

The Michaud campaign reacted to the PPH poll with a press release, which read, in part, "Despite being out of line with every poll of the governor's race, which all show a tight battle between U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Governor Paul LePage, a new survey from the Portland Press Herald confirms that Michaud is the only candidate who can defeat the unpopular Republican governor. A more recent poll of the race, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows Michaud and LePage deadlocked at 40."

"This is a tight race between Mike and the governor, with the third-place candidate far behind," said David Farmer, a senior adviser to the Michaud campaign, as quoted in the press release. "While the Press Herald poll is out of line with all polling between LePage and Michaud, it does confirm that the third-place candidate simply cannot win. Because of his record of working across the aisle to deliver results for the middle class, Mike is the only candidate who can defeat LePage and end the embarrassment and divisiveness of the LePage years that is holding Maine back."

On Sunday, Cutler's campaign issued a press release in which Cutler stated that the latest poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald and new attack ads against him by the Democrats "both confirm that the campaign of Michaud is collapsing in the final days of the race for governor and that only Cutler can assemble the coalition of Democrats, Independents and Republican voters that is needed to defeat Governor LePage."

The Press Herald poll, Cutler noted, shows that even when Cutler is factored out, Michaud still loses to LePage by seven points, a 14-point drop since the question was first asked in June.

Cutler said in a recent press release, "Maine voters have increasingly come to realize that Mike Michaud can't close the deal with voters – he can't win, whether I'm in the race or not."

And Cutler referred to an Oct. 23 statewide "debate" on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network – which his two opponents declined to attend – in which Cutler issued a challenge to Michaud.

On Saturday, Cutler explained that he wasn't urging Michaud to bow out but rather to give his supporters permission to vote for someone else.

"I suggested he do what I did, which is say to your supporters, 'If you don't think I can win on Election Day, then you have my blessing to vote for someone else.' I said that to my supporters several months ago. Now after months and months and months of more money than Croesus, from out-of-state special interest groups; more first ladies and presidents and everybody else than I've ever seen come to the state of Maine and try to shore up a candidacy, after all of these advantages, he can't win. He can't win a two-way race, he can't win a three-way race."

Cutler also commented on possible déjà vu from 2010, when Cutler narrowly lost to LePage in a three-way race in which the results were split with Democrat Libby Mitchell.

"What's remarkable to me is the similarities between 2010 and now," Cutler said. "The conventional wisdom for months has been that Mike Michaud is a stronger candidate than Libby was. I think Libby would have been a better governor than Mike would be."

And Cutler disputed "conventional wisdom," saying Michaud compared to Mitchell is "not a stronger candidate, and as he loses altitude in this race, as Libby did in 2010, the Democrats are now going negative on me as they did in 2010, and I think Maine voters see through all this."

Cutler's reference to "first ladies and presidents" was a poke at Michaud, who has brought in President Bill Clinton and prospective presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in recent weeks to campaign with him. President Barack Obama will be joining Michaud on the campaign trail on Thursday, Oct. 30, when they will appear at the Portland Expo.

President Obama's visit this week will not necessarily help Michaud, Cutler said.

"I'm not sure whose popularity in Maine is plunging faster, Michaud's or Obama's," Cutler said.

Then, there was an image that galvanized debate about Cutler's relationship with LePage. A high-five that Cutler and LePage shared at a debate sparked a brief controversy and allegations of collaboration (speculation buoyed in recent days by advertising for Cutler allegedly sponsored by Republicans).

"There's nothing there," Cutler said, about the debate high-five with LePage.

"I'm standing next to LePage, LePage yields me, as I recall, 10 seconds of his time because he had taken up some of mine, and I hit it right on the mark, I hit the 10 seconds, and he turns to me, he goes like this," Cutler recalled, making a high-five gesture by lifting a hand, palm out, "and says, 'You hit it right on the mark.' Well, when someone turns to you and goes like this," Cutler said, repeating the gesture, "you don't turn your back on them, that's not who I am."

On Friday, Cutler released a press release stating that his campaign had raised a total of $2,863,184 in contributions, loans and in-kind contributions for the campaign to date. For the period Sept. 16 to Oct. 24, the campaign raised $183,088 in direct contributions and has a cash balance of $136,353, according to the campaign finance report filed with the Maine Ethics Commission.

"That includes the money I've put into it, but yeah, we have. And we've raised three times as much money as we did in 2010," Cutler said Saturday.

"We're being outspent 12-to-1, and we're still going to win, and that in itself is a testament to Maine voters," Cutler said.

As for those polls showing him locked in third place ...

"Polls in three-way races are terribly unpredictive," Cutler said.

As of this Tuesday, the election is a week away.

On Tuesday, Governor LePage is having a 5:30 p.m. rally and fundraiser at the Bangor Banquet & Conference Center. For details on LePage events, visit http://lepage2014.com.

According to his website, Michaud has several scheduled public events Tuesday, including
greeting workers at Bath Iron Works Tuesday morning; and an event to accept the Maine Small Business Coalition endorsement at Arabica Coffee House on Commercial Street, Portland. He also is preparing for President Obama's visit on Thursday, with doors opening at 4 p.m. at the Portland Expo. For details, visit http://www.michaud2014.com.

Cutler did not have any listed events for Tuesday but his schedule is available at http://www.cutlerformaine.com/events.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:24

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'The Vikings in Ireland' author delves into Norse influence

Maine author James L. Nelson returns to the Maine Irish Heritage Center this Sunday, Oct. 26, with "Dubh-linn," the second book in his trilogy "The Norsemen Saga."10-24-14-TG-vikings-pic-by-Zachary-Hollen

Nelson's talk will focus on how the Vikings became integrated into Irish society and the significant influence the Norsemen had on Irish art, culture, and trade. It begins at 2 p.m.

Dubh-linn is the Gaelic place name that means "Black Pool" and is the origins of modern-day Dublin. "Dubh gall" was the word the Irish used for the Danes, and they called the Norwegians "Fin gall," which means "White Strangers" in Irish Gaelic, and is the name of Nelson's first book in this series. Nelson is looking forward to continuing a discussion be began a year ago, about the Norse invasion of Ireland and how they spread out, started plundering, and then began settling there.

"On Sunday, I'll talk more about how Viking and Irish societies melded," said Nelson, a Harpswell resident of Norse ancestry who used to sail professionally on traditional ships.
He will discuss "loan words, where one language adopts the words of another," and offered the example of Wicklow, the county town of County Wicklow in Ireland. The word comes from the Old Norse word "Vikinglo" or "Vik-lo," which means "Viking meadow," and the Irish phrase "Cill Mhantáin," which means "church of the toothless one." (Nelson is working on the third book in "The Norsemen Saga" and plans to call it "Vik-Lo." For this next book, he has been reading a lot about Irish leather boats called "curraghs.")

On Sunday, he will also address other Scandinavian influences on the Emerald Isle, including the exchanges that took place in artwork.

"The Celtic knot design and the elaborate interwoven characters were originally a Norse style adopted by the Irish, and it became a style shared by both cultures," he said. "Irish maritime history was also influenced by the Vikings. The Irish now have a reputation for being great seafarers, but they didn't go to sea that much before the Viking arrival, so most words used in boatbuilding are Scandinavian loan words."

Until recently, Nelson had been the education coordinator at the Maine Maritime Museum, but is now back to writing full-time. He has written 18 books, 13 of them fiction. Whether he's creating an imagined realm of Vikings in Ireland or pirates in Colonial America, or chronicling the history of battling ironclad ships, Nelson said "the overarching theme has always been maritime history. I love the American Revolutionary period the most, and most of my writing is focused on that."

His earlier work making up stories and developing characters helped to inform his later historical writing.

"It was an advantage for me to begin my writing career by writing fiction," he said. "You develop certain story-telling techniques that can be applied to non-fiction."

Nelson is most pleased when a reader of his non-fiction tells him it reads like a novel. Although his published work tends toward longer narratives, both real and imagined, the author does dip into the shorter form at least once a year.

"I usually write a sonnet for my wife, Lisa, on Valentine's Day," he said. "I give it to her with the understanding that she not show it to anyone."

They have been married for 21 years, and he has written almost as many sonnets for her, but in busy years, he said he's resorted to limericks.


Event Details:
The Vikings in Ireland: A Meeting and Melding
with author James L. Nelson
Sunday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m.
Maine Irish Heritage Center
Corner of State and Gray streets, Portland
Admission $5/Free for MIHC members
For more information, visit www.maineirish.com or call 780-0118

Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 00:36

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