The thought of graduating doesn’t scare me that much even as my black polyester robe, cords, and cap loom large in my closet. I have a plan, future goals, and aspirations—none of which will require my diploma to be mounted on a wall as validation. I have arrived at a place where I know that wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I will be in pursuit of more knowledge and thinking critically about the things I do learn.
I am saddened by the people I will not see everyday, in particular the influential professors who have—and I hope they know this by now—changed my life: Gustavo and Gaelyn Aguilar, Mellisa Clawson, Sabine Klein, and Michael Johnson. All of the faculty I have encountered here have shaped me, compelled me to read more, become increasingly self-reflective, and put me into that frustrating tempest of what Cornel West has called “intellectual vertigo.” It’s a state of being I’ve come to love—feeling my synapses fire unremittingly for days while on reading binges, lapsing into melancholia at the state of the world, and rising out of ash again, reaffirmed by acts of love which temporarily restore my faith in humanity. It is the poisonous pill of knowledge.
I will miss my friends and co-workers as well. I’ve had lively discussions with them all ranging from Marxism to the merits of being a hipster. But with that, I look forward to the exciting changes ahead. I feel like Sylvia Plath’s Fourth of July rocket, bursting forth with joy on to a new scene.
I have no regrets, but I do wish I could be proud of the institution, not just my education. The faculty and staff are quickly approaching a year without a contract and four years without a pay raise. From 2006 to 2012, the UMaine system gave out $7 million dollars in pay raises. Of the 5,756 employees in the system, 809 received all of that money in what are being called “job reclassifications.” UMF received 5.3% of that $7 million, or $375,569.
I’m leaving a place that wants its faculty to assist in increasing enrollment numbers, that can’t provide basic accommodations for some of the science labs, that has yet to implement a comprehensive plan for making the campus sustainable, among other things. I’m leaving a place knowing there is more to be done and that is such an unfamiliar feeling to me. I hope other students will take up the cause of defending the faculty and the ideals of what a university can and should be. True change at UMF will arrive when the change we want is no longer signaled by the apolitical action of social networking, but by human action—by protesting (non-violently, of course), by writing, by making art which stands against an administrative university in favor of an institution that humanizes us all.