The Chancellor of the University of Maine system is reviewing a taxpayer funded course that offered free credit hours to students participating in a trip to Washington, D.C. to protest Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“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,” said James Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System. “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.”
Big League Politics first reported Wednesday:
“Students can earn 1 credit FREE for enrolling in this Pop-Up course on “Engaged Citizenship,” the email said. “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 Sen. Collins. Rally up around the FBI investigation of the Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.”
The email describes the trip’s agenda, which includes the students being “escorted to the capitol Thursday morning.”
“This Pop-Up Course is Tuition FREE for all matriculated USM undergrads,” according to the email. Tuition fees waved at completion of course.”
A Google doc attachment asks students what type of protest they are interested in – including whether they are willing to get arrested, and informs the students that “bail is about $50/arrest,” instructing them to “have a plan.”
Glenn Cummings, University of Southern Maine president, released the following 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.”
But late Wednesday evening, Susan Feiner, a former professor at the school said that school was indeed funding such “pop-up” courses, and that trips like the one to D.C. to protest Kavanaugh are the designed purpose of the courses.
“Dr. Feiner is technically retired,” Cummings said in a statement. “Dr. Feiner acted in a very rogue manner. Her behavior was inappropriate. It was unacceptable.”
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