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The future of Maine Day at UMaine is uncertain

The University of Maine Faculty Senate held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss mandating classes on Maine Day over safety concerns.

ORONO, Maine — Members of the University of Maine Faculty Senate met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the future of Maine Day, citing community-wide safety concerns. 

According to the UMaine website, Maine Day is a volunteer-centered holiday that traditionally takes place on the final Wednesday of the spring semester. Maine Day traditions include a campus-wide barbecue, parade, and games, among community service efforts. Classes are typically canceled on this day. 

Members of the university's Faculty Senate, which consists of UMaine administration and faculty members, met to discuss the possibility of reinstating classes on April 26, 2023, scheduled as Maine Day next year, due to growing safety concerns.

These concerns stemmed from student Maine Day parties and activities from this past year in particular. 

Among those who spoke at Wednesday's meeting was UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy to share her concerns. 

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"The prospect of something terrible happening at these parties is still very alarming to me," Ferrini-Mundy said.

Ferrini-Mundy and Robert Dana, Dean of Students, both said whether to hold classes ultimately comes down to student safety. They noted videos and pictures had circulated of alcohol and drug overdoses, students being sent to the hospital, and general dangers and violent incidents.

"It's become a high-risk hazardous public health concern," Dana said. 

Some students said they’re frustrated about a lack of transparency and little clarification from administration, claiming students have largely been uninvolved in the discussion to mandate classes.

"We would not go down without a fight if you guys cancel Maine Day," a UMaine student said during the meeting Wednesday.

Peter Alexander, another UMaine student, said most students have had to find out about this decision through social media. 

"This is a big decision to make without the students even knowing about it," Alexander said. 

Alexander said they tried to rally as many students as possible to show up to Wednesday's Faculty Senate meeting in support of Maine Day. He also argued this isn't the only time there's excessive partying on campus. 

"The same thing happens on homecoming, you know, even on the weekend, students go out to OHOP, they go out to the local areas, Kanu, whatever it may be," Alexander said.

Faculty members and school administrators said they don't want to cancel the tradition, but rather want to take a look at how it can be done differently. 

"I just want to be very honest with you, it's the concern and safety for our public and for our student community that is driving my deep commitment to figuring something out," Ferrini-Mundy said. 

"What's more important, having Maine Day survive or having students survive? It seems like student lives may be more important," Timothy Waring, UMaine associate professor and member of the Faculty Senate, said.

Students added harm reduction should be the focus, because they said the parties will still happen whether the day is recognized or not. 

"If you guys want to do something about the partying, then do something about the partying, not about the day of service," another UMaine student said.

RELATED: UMaine Culturefest returns in-person for 2022 celebration

The Faculty Senate determined Wednesday to table the discussion until more conversations can be had. 

An official statement is expected from administration later this week to be released for students and UMaine community members about the matter. 

Ferrini-Mundy asked students who spoke Wednesday to email her why they feel they should be selected for a task force to discuss the future of Maine Day. She added a final decision will be determined before the start of next semester. 

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