University of Maine at Augusta student seeks identity

Augusta students living at Orono campus face calendar, housing problems

By Ryan Robbins
Maine Campus staff

AUGUSTA -- Lyn McLaughlin is a University of Maine at Augusta student. She takes classes at University College of Bangor. She also takes classes at the University of Maine. And during the school year she lives at a UMaine dormitory. When people ask her where she attends school, she doesn't know what to tell them.

Confused? McLaughlin is.

McLaughlin testified before the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee Wednesday in support of a bill that would rename UMA, its campuses and centers to Maine State University. The bill's supporters told the committee the name change would eliminate confusion and would better convey UMA's mission. Approximately two-thirds of students attending UMA never step foot on the August campus but are educated at the campus's satellite sites and the Education Network of Maine.

The bill also calls for UMA to be severed from the university system, but its sponsor, Carol Kontos, D-Windham, who has taught at UMA since 1981, told the committee she had second thoughts about the severance provision.

"The motive behind that kind of language represents the kind of deep frustration that many of my staff colleagues have felt about what's happened with our particular campus over the last few years," Kontos said.

"I'm not sure where I go to school," McLaughlin told the committee before a packed room in the State Office Building. She told the committee that when she applies for jobs employers ask her whether she knows which campus she attends.

"It's confusing to me. I sat out school a semester because I didn't know what to do," McLaughlin said. "I knew I wanted to get a degree in criminal justice, and I knew I wanted to get a degree in history. But I'm being bounced around a lot, and I'm getting really tired of it."

Ironically, McLaughlin's home is in Augusta, which further confuses people.

As it is, McLaughlin has to give a written request to Bangor officials before they can transfer her records from Augusta to Orono.

McLaughlin also told the committee about the housing situation that Bangor students living on the Orono campus face.

While most Orono dorms were closed during Orono's spring break, Bangor students still had classes. McLaughlin had to move her essential belongings from Aroostook Hall to guest housing in Hancock Hall during Orono's break. However, she couldn't use her meal plan.

"I needed to buy food out of my own pocket," McLaughlin told the committee. "I was very angry for the last two weeks."

A senior at Bangor who will graduate this coming December with a degree in criminal justice, McLaughlin will enroll full time at UMaine in the fall to get a degree in history and public administration. However, a lot of the credits she has earned at Bangor won't transfer to UMaine, she told the committee. She will likely enroll full time at UMaine this fall as a freshmen even though she has been in college two years. She said she would like to see easier transferability of credits among the campuses

Committee member Tina Baker, D-Bangor, an English professor at the Bangor campus, nodded throughout McLaughlin's testimony.

"What you have just described is an outrage," Baker said. "Something must be done."

In response to McLaughlin's testimony about housing, UMaine President Frederick Hutchinson's office contacted Campus Living Director Scott Anchors after the hearing.

In a two-page response to Hutchinson forwarded to the education committee Thursday, Anchors said Bangor students not already living in dorms that are open during breaks were given three options in December:

They could relocate to dorms that provide break housing;

They could remain in their current dorms but relocate to guest housing in Hancock Hall during breaks; or

They could move off campus during breaks.

Thursday night McLaughlin said she opted not to relocate to break housing because she liked her neighbors in Aroostook Hall.

"Would you want to leave your friends -- your 'neighborhood' -- because of two weeks of pure hell?" McLaughlin said. "I have friends in my dorm. I like living near them."

She said Campus Living should have assigned Bangor students to break housing at the beginning of the year.

Anchors said Campus Living doesn't have access to Bangor students' records, so his department doesn't know students' situations. Campus Living also doesn't know what Bangor campus officials have told students about housing, he added.

"We're not going to have this problem next year," Anchors said. "We're going to make sure that without a doubt 100 percent of them get break housing, or if they don't get break housing that they must be local area folks and want to live at home over breaks."

If Bangor campus students request non-break housing, Campus Living will charge them for staying at guest housing in Hancock if they choose to stay on campus during break.

"If they don't want it then they can choose not to have it, but we can't guarantee that Hancock would be available," Anchors said. "We would have to charge them."

Anchors said Campus Living hasn't made any decisions yet about next year's housing policy for Bangor campus students.

This story originally appeared in the March 24, 1997, edition of The Maine Campus. 1997, Ryan R. Robbins.