FORMER USM PRESIDENT SELMA BOTMAN
In May, more than half of the University of Southern Maine's faculty voted "no confidence" in school president Selma Botman, citing her unreasonable consolidation proposal, unfair pay raises (or the lack thereof), and general malcontent. "This place used to sing," Mark Lapping, executive director of USM's Muskie School of Public Service told the Bangor Daily News at the time. "This university was going places; this university really hung together . . . I've never seen morale this low." Despite the fact that the sizeable no-confidence vote wasn't sufficient to be labeled "the will of the faculty," Botman did resign in July to take a systemwide position expanding UMaine's international education programs. (Former UMaine-Farmington president Theo Kalikow stepped in to take Botman's place.) "President Botman proposed to me that new leadership might be the best direction to go in and, in a characteristically selfless move, she requested reassignment," system chancellor James Page said in a statement. We're not sure what part of keeping her $203,000 president's salary reads as "selfless," but we're happy to have order (somewhat) restored at one of Maine's most important institutes of higher learning.
LEWISTON MAYOR ROBERT MACDONALD
It's been almost 10 years since Ziad Hamzeh's documentary The Letter shed light on the tensions between longtime (white) Lewiston residents and new American Somali refugees. Much progress has been made in the interim, but how much of it was erased by current Lewiston mayor Robert MacDonald's divisive statements in September remains to be seen. "If you believe in [Somali culture] so much, why aren't you over there fighting for it?" Macdonald said in a WGME interview — and this was him clarifying his original offensive remarks, mind you. "If you believe in it so much, why aren't you over there shedding your blood to get it? Why are you over here shirking your duties?" When combined with Charlie Webster's black-voter comments this month, this turkey talk makes Maine seem backward and intolerant of diversity, and that's absolutely not the way life should be.
Finally, those turkeys got cooked. After years of hosting the mostly anonymous diatribes of racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and the grammatically challenged, the Portland Press Herald decided earlier this year to change its online commenting system. As of mid-October, those who wish to comment on PPH stories now have to log in using their Facebook account to do so. "We chose Facebook because most people use their real names when they log in to it," wrote Angie Muhs, the Press Herald's executive editor for interactive. "It's an easily accessible, free system, and one that many of our readers likely already participate in. We realize that for some people, this will be a big change. It's one we made after studying industry trends and having a lot of discussions internally about what we valued and what we no longer wanted to see in our comments online." For this, we are thankful.
EASTLAND PARK HOTEL OWNERS
The owners and developers associated with the Eastland's proposed hotel expansion — especially the part about the massive ballroom that would eat up most of Congress Square Plaza — are the types who want both drumsticks at Thanksgiving. A little greedy, perhaps? Or at the very least, not aware of how their gluttonous appetite affects everyone else at the table? We're not taking issue with the overhaul of the 85-year-old hotel (though we are skeptical of Portland "room boom," with four new hotels in the works), but we don't want to see it done at the expense of public space, or safe, healthy working conditions. Extra GIBLETS to those who tried to turn this into an opportunity to disparage the disadvantaged Mainers who are regulars in the plaza.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD PROTESTERS
It's enough to make you lose your appetite. Since Planned Parenthood of Northern New England moved its Portland offices and clinic to a beautiful new space on Congress Street, anti-choice protesters, along with their graphic signage, have been more visible downtown. We're all for free speech and the right to assemble. But that doesn't mean we agree with every message.
USM STUDENT ACTIVITIES COMMITTEE
As much as we hate to pick on college kids, we can't avoid nominating the USM Student Activities Committee for their real big expensive lesson in the changing dynamics of the music industry. It all started back in February, when armed with a $27,000 budget, the Student Senate wanted to make a splash with a big spring concert. After bumping the date from April to September, public opposition to the idea grew more vocal. As local musician Ben Meiklejohn wrote in a letter to the Free Press on April 9: "27,000! With this amount of cash, USM could be hosting 20-50 local bands, paying them varying amounts between $300-1000, and holding an on-campus concert (twice a weekend) for an entire semester)."
The Senate didn't take the bait. Whether they felt compelled to keep pace with other Maine campuses (who've brought Girl Talk, RJD2, Snoop Dogg, and Deerhunter in recent years) or by the memory of their own big ticket concerts of the past (Fugazi in 1995, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in 2000), USM netted the juvenile California ska-punk band Reel Big Fish for a September 29 concert in Gorham. Needing to sell over 1000 tickets (at $15-25 apiece) to break even, they had sold none before the week of the show, and its ultimate attendance of 202 fell way short of the bottom line. You have to wonder: What would've happened if USM had gone the local-music route, sponsoring several smaller events instead of one colossally outmoded whopper?
Or, as another argument goes, what if they'd booked a band people actually still like? Had USM thrown $27,000 at, say, Passion Pit or MGMT instead of the obviously washed-up Reel Big Fish, they might've at least achieved the goal of turning a profit. As it stood, a concert intended to invigorate the community instead infused it with an uncomfortable amount of discord. And while we can entertain the argument for a great national act over a bunch of readily available local ones, the event's failure was undoubtedly a sour note for Maine music. Mistakes are mistakes -- and USM's in a position of transparency that most private companies would sooner move to Dubai than replicate -- but it's worth noting that it's mishaps like this that get education-reform reactionaries drooling about the "efficiency" of for-profit universities.