By Nick Bray, Staff Writer
Governor Paul LePage recently visited UMF to speak at the dedication of the Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center. President Kalikow was UMF’s leader from 1994 until 2012. During her time here she helped lead the charge to make our school carbon neutral by the year 2035 and she helped develop the Education Center as a green building, which earned LEED Silver certification.
I believe if it wasn’t for her forward thinking on the environment, we wouldn’t have have seen many of the green features of our campus be built, including the biomass plant which opened earlier this semester. Naming the Education Center after President Kalikow was a perfect choice. After making such a significant impact on our university during her time as president this is a permanent way to show our gratitude to her.
My idea to protest Governor LePage’s presence at the ceremony came shortly after I learned he was going to be in attendance at the building dedication. I thought that it was ironic that he was coming to celebrate one of UMF’s greatest environmental accomplishments, yet his policies as governor have done little to help protect and preserve our environment. Governor LePage has used his bully pulpit to obstruct environmental projects in our state.
In recent time, the governor refused to sign the bonds that would fund conservation projects through the Land for Maine’s Future program. These bonds were approved by voters in 2010 and 2012, and required the governor’s signature in order for funds to be sold. He decided he could use the environment as a pawn in his own political agenda. He refused to sign the bonds until the legislature backed his plan to pay off the state’s debt to hospitals and a plan to increase timber harvesting on public lands. Thankfully the bonds were eventually signed but only after a political firestorm erupted.
I don’t think that Governor LePage realizes how important our natural resources are to the state. Our biggest industry in Maine is tourism, and the tourists come here to see pristine land, from Katahdin to Acadia. Our state policies should be developed, recognizing climate change as a economic and cultural problem, to address the changes that come as a result of the warming planet, and to preserve our natural assets.
Governor LePage has been unwilling to listen to the needs and wants of his constituents. Almost every time our governor speaks out in public, he has something critical to say about a specific policy, a legislator, or the media. Every time our governor makes an outburst, it attracts national attention and tarnishes our state’s reputation.
I could provide a laundry list of reasons how LePage has hurt our state, but I was specifically angered when he was going to speak in support of a building and a university that has shown such a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment. I believe it was inappropriate for our governor to speak in support of this building and the university president who made it all possible.
I decided to let Governor LePage know that I was dissatisfied with his environmental policies by giving him an “F” on a report card. To contrast his poor record, I also gave President Kalikow a grade; she earned an “A+”. Within moments of beginning his speech I held my sign up, joined by Allyson Hammond, who was also dissatisfied with the governor. Her poster was a bit more harsh, naming LePage “Maine’s Shame.” His speech didn’t even last one minute. He noticed our posters and abruptly stopped speaking and left the stage. Before entering into the Technology Commons, he called Ally and I idiots, and the ceremony continued on without him.
I have no regrets about making this protest. It is our right as Americans to question and criticize our elected officials, no matter the occasion. Our protests did not diminish from honoring President Kalikow in any way. I was not attending UMF while Theo was president, but I am thankful for her contributions to the school.
I am proud to go to UMF because of its commitment to the environment. It is something that attracts learners to our school. Our university realizes how precious our natural resources are, and the importance of establishing policies that will reduce our impact. I look forward to the future plans that UMF will make to get closer to our carbon neutral goal.