By Brian Miller, Staff Writer
As the campaign issues heat up and the election draws near, so do the campaign materials and campaign related events found on campus. Students are urged to be careful how they share their opinions with the rest of the student body.
“Our main goal is to allow the flow of discussion where all parties are represented equally in order to spark ideas and knowledge…being part of the democratic process,” said Brian Ufford, Director for Housing and Residence Life, “The University of Maine system has to be unbiased. It’s not like students check in their rights at the door. They are welcome to have their own conversations about political and religious issues. What we’re concerned with is student privacy in the dorms.”
While students are encouraged to have structured debates about any religious or political issue as long as all parties are equally represented on campus, some feel they aren’t being allowed to fully exercise their rights to free speech due to policies on UMF and University of Maine campuses.
Robert Robilliard, a Sophomore and President of the College Democrats said, “First of all, I understand that the importance of the University itself remaining neutral in terms of candidates and issues. That being said, I really feel as though student’s political speech is being held back by this policy. For those of us living on campus, there aren’t many places for us to post campaign signs. I would really like to see a revision of this policy that works more towards promoting the political activism of UMF’s students.”
Other students disagree. “Residence Life prohibits door to door solicitation no matter what reason it is for, whether for a political campaign or for a product promotion. It is kind of peaceful without all the advertisement people or the campaign people knocking on your door while you’re trying to do homework to ask for your attention and or opinion,” said John Ochira, a junior at UMF and a Community Assistant in Mallet Hall, “I think it is a sensible policy that preserves peace and privacy in the residence halls and I support it 100 percent. As supportive as people are of any campaign, I still think that bringing it to the residence halls is not necessary. I think that programs can run in the residence halls that touches the issue of campaigning/election. It just cannot be divisive or biased. The program can inform, but it cannot, I don’t think, present just one side.”
Ufford’s opinion is that the campuses’ two main goals when it comes to residence life and major social issues, is to stay neutral and protect its residents privacy. Soliciting of any kind is not tolerated in the residence halls. “The closest thing we have to solicitation is Trick or Treaters that come through the dorms. It gives back to the community,” he said.