UMaine president stops 'hastily arranged' for-credit Kavanaugh protest
The University of Southern Maine halted a proposed pop-up course offering a free credit to students to travel to Washington, D.C. to join “social justice organizations” in meeting with Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a swing vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
USM’s diversity and inclusive programming coordinator Gabriel Demaine floated the idea of the credit offering to Peter Witham, an administrative specialist at the school, in an email obtained by the Maine Republican Party. But the school's president and provost ultimately scrapped the offer.
“Students can earn 1 credit FREE for enrolling...requirements of the pop-up include: busing overnight to Washington, D.C. to join activists, political action groups, and social justice organizations to meet with Sen. Collins.”
“This pop-up-course was hastily arranged, without the knowledge of the Provost or myself," USM President Glenn Cummings said via a post on the Maine Republican Party Facebook page. "It was not appropriately reviewed nor went through proper channels."
"As soon as the Provost and I were apprised of the course, we immediately pulled the one-credit offering. We also made sure that no USM monies were being used for the trip," Cummings added.
“Students can earn 1 credit FREE for enrolling in this Pop-Up course on ‘Engaged Citizenship,’” Demaine said in the email. “The requirements of the pop-up include: busing overnight to Washington, D.C. to join activists, political action groups, and social justice organizations to meet with Sen. Collins.”
“Rally up around the FBI investigation of the Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh," the email added.
A survey link was included in the email which asked students to "check" off statements that applied to them. Statements included, "I am interested in civil disobedience/willing to get arrested (Bail is about $50/arrest. Please have a plan)" and "I am a survivor and willing to share my story to the public (Livestream, rally, press)."
The diversity and inclusive programming coordinator noted that the bus was scheduled to leave Portland, Maine at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and arrive in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning. The students were scheduled to travel back to Portland on Friday morning.
“This Pop-Up Course is Tuition FREE for all matriculated USM undergrads,” Demaine noted. “Tuition fees waived at completion of course.”
Collins lambasted President Donald Trump after he imitated Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago, for her inability to remember certain details of the alleged incident.
“The president’s comments were just plain wrong,” Collins told reporters, according to The Washington Post.
Cummings said that university policy explicitly states that taxpayer-financed schools must be impartial with regard to religious, political, and social issues that fall outside USM's research, education, and public service objectives.
"While I think getting student[s] involved in politics and use their freedom of speech, it is important to not use taxpayers' dollars or student tuition to do so as there are other ways to do the same thing. If students want to say something they’ll find the way," University of Southern Maine student Makenzie Baber told Campus Reform.
"As a college student, I’ve worked hard for ways to reduce college tuition. [A] one-credit class would be an excellent idea but not on other people’s dime. I support the University’s decision to withdraw from offering this opportunity as it an unfair use of my money and many others. While I think [sic] the faculty’s support for students to be engaged the money should’ve come from one funder or the students going on the trip," Baber added.