This post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds
The University of Southern Maine (USM) is a multi-campus public (i.e., taxpayer-supported) university and part of the University of Maine System. USM’s three primary campuses are located in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston.
Susan Feiner, 64, a recently-retired USM professor of women and gender studies, created a one-credit, tuition-free “pop-up” course on “Engaged Citizenship”. Pop-up courses offer credits that can be counted toward the 120 credit hours required for graduation. Students who enroll in Feiner’s course are required to bus to Washington, D.C., to harass (“meet with”) Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
On Oct. 3, 2018, Maine Republican Party posted this alert on its Facebook page:
RED ALERT: The University of Southern Maine uses your tax dollars, offers college credit to protest Sen. Collins in Washington D.C.
In an email from a University of Southern Maine Community Outreach Coordinator, U Maine students are told that they they can earn a free credit if they hop on a free bus ride down to Washington D.C. to protest Senator Collins.
The event page goes so far as to ask if STUDENTS are okay with being ARRESTED….
In case you were wondering, students who want to support Senator Collins are not welcome, as one individual who asked found out.
Below is the email from USM Community Outreach Coordinator Gabriel Demaine:
The Press Herald reports on Oct. 3, 2018, that USM President Glenn Cummings denounced the actions of Dr. Susan Feiner, a former professor of economics and women and gender studies, who had retired from the university on July 1. Calling her behavior “inappropriate” and “unacceptable,” Cummings said Feiner acted in a “very rogue manner” when she offered students a “pop-up” course and college credit to take a bus to Washington, D.C., with demonstrators planning to urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Cummings said the university is investigating how Feiner was able to advertise the course, which was done without approval from the committee of faculty and deans that reviews all pop-up course offerings.
Although Feiner’s bus did leave Portland, ME at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, President Cummings issued this statement:
This pop-up course was hastily arranged in the past 24 hours, without the knowledge of the Provost or myself. 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.
University policy makes it absolutely clear that our public, taxpayer funded institutions must be non-partisan in terms of political activity and institutionally impartial in all political, religious, and social matters that are unrelated to our universities’ core mission of education, research and public service.
James Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System, also issued a statement late Wednesday night:
“The use of institutional resources to advance a partisan agenda violates Board policies established to ensure Maine’s public universities remain non-partisan and politically neutral. Inviting arrest for college credit goes much further, violating the trust our students, their families, and Maine taxpayers have placed in our universities and could result in serious professional consequences.”
Cummings said he is not certain if or how Feiner, who has taught at USM for more than 30 years, could be disciplined since she has retired and is no longer working at USM.
However, Feiner says that although she is retired from the university, she intends to remain involved with the university’s Francis Perkins Institute that organizes pop-up courses. The courses are funded by a grant and offered free to students. Her goal is to offer 6 to 12 pop-up courses each semester.
Susan Feiner’s Facebook page here; LinkedIn profile here; student evaluations on RateMyProfessors here.