The University of New England's Premier Student News Publication

Nor'easter News

The University of New England's Premier Student News Publication

Nor'easter News

The University of New England's Premier Student News Publication

Nor'easter News

Conflicting Opinions: UNE Resumes Classes While Manhunt for Lewiston Shooter Continues

Maine residents watched the news in horror on Wednesday night, October 25th, after a mass killing in Lewiston unfolded. 18 people have been confirmed dead, 13 injured. The nation, and the entirety of Maine, is mourning for those harmed by this tragedy.
Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP taken from the Washington Post

Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP taken from the Washington Post

Despite various business closures and shelter-in-place mandates, the University of New England has resumed class as normal.

Lewiston, as well as surrounding towns, have gone into lockdown while the manhunt for the shooter reaches the 48-hour mark.

The shelter-in-place order was effective across an estimated 700 square miles of Maine territory. Manhunt efforts have spread statewide, stretching to the borders of Massachusetts and Canada, reports CBS. The U.S. Coast Guard has also been alerted to the situation and is monitoring local waterways.

Primary schools in Biddeford, Brunswick, Saco, Portland, New Gloucester, China, Falmouth, Dayton, Gorham, Lewiston, Fryeburg, Bath, Massabesic, South Portland, and Scarborough, among many others, have closed indefinitely.

Public entities such as libraries, YMCA locations, churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, Town Halls, and banks have also closed.

Screenshot from the University of Southern Maine website announcing all classes being canceled (source)

Colleges and universities closed until further notice, including Bowdoin College, Bates College, Central Maine Community College, Maine College of Art, Portland, Southern Maine Community College, University of Maine at Augusta, and York County Community College.

UNE has resumed class as normal.

Looking at a national response, President Biden, proclaiming a mourning period for Lewiston, has lowered all flags to half-staff until October 30th. “The whole nation is mourning with us. Why are we being asked to continue as usual?” commented a UNE staff member who wished to remain anonymous.

Outside of local colleges, other public school districts in Maine, at least 60 minutes away from where the shooting occurred, also chose to close today. Four of these towns include Dayton, China, Fryeburg, and Massabesic.

Dayton and China are 60 minutes away from Lewiston, Fryeburg is 75 minutes, and Massabesic is 70. In comparison, UNE is 60 minutes away from Lewiston and only 15 minutes from the Saco Army Reserve, where the shooter worked.

See the graphic below for town proximities to Lewiston.

Lewiston in relation to Dayton, China, Fryeburg, and Massabesic. Graphic is credited to Mya Hankes.
(Mya Hankes)

Primary schools close to UNE, including Biddeford, Portland, and other surrounding towns, closed today.

Lewiston in relation to Biddeford, Saco, South Portland, and Portland. Graphic is credited to Mya Hankes.

The proximity of UNE to Lewiston and Saco was commented on by President Herbert in an email sent to students at 4:46 am, October 27th, stating that “we have no reason to believe that there is an elevated risk to the Biddeford or Portland communities where our campuses are located.”

Despite this, students have raised concerns about how close UNE is to the shootings, as well as mentioning that many government-regulated public schools chose to close despite their further distance from the events that took place on Wednesday.

“With not many updates on the state of the manhunt, I think it was potentially dangerous to have school open today. In terms of the mental health impact this has on our community, I think it was a bad decision,” said Brady Spring, a junior Environmental Studies major.

Elia O’Hara, a Junior English & Political Science Major, felt that UNE handled the situation properly, given the circumstances. “I felt that my professors showed great compassion for the students’ needs today, and even though I was deeply unsettled and saddened by the events still underway today, the campus felt like a community. I would have appreciated more information on what went into determining our level of threat on campus and what led to certain decisions, like keeping the doors under electronic access, only based on my anxieties. Nonetheless, I understand it’s always a very difficult decision and that sometimes, being together through difficult times can be immensely strengthening.”

Although controversial among students, the decision was made “based on the information available and through close consultation with local law enforcement,” President Herbert stated in his October 27th email. “ Given the current state of the investigation, we have therefore made the decision to resume classes and normal University operations, including athletics activities.”

“Given the current state of the investigation, we have therefore made the decision to resume classes and normal University operations, including athletics activities.”

— President Herbert

The Biddeford School Department, which makes decisions for the Biddeford primary schools, canceled classes today. The organization posted this statement to their Facebook account: “After careful consideration and consultation with law enforcement, schools will be closed today, Friday, October 27th. This decision is not made lightly…Our goal is to remain open whenever possible, but not if doing so presents a potential risk to our students. With

the suspect in the Lewiston shooting still at-large and with emergency services stretched thin, we feel that students are safest at home.”

Image of the Post from the Biddeford School Department’s Facebook Page. Retrieved by Emily Hedegard.

Many students have noted discrepancies between the Biddeford School Department’s commentary and President Herbert’s statement. One student anonymously posted this comment to the app YikYak, “Biddeford public schools consulted with police, and they told them to close. How did UNE consult with the police and get a different answer?”

Due to being mainly funded through tuition fees and donations, UNE, as a private institution, is not required to follow government regulations, only government laws. Therefore, UNE holds more power when making decisions for the community.

Additionally, unlike Biddeford public schools, UNE has its own security team. According to the President’s email, “additional security [will be provided] on both campuses.”

This has not swayed student opinion on the matter, as all local colleges that have closed, except the Maine College of Art, also have their own security offices.

The Bolt contacted the UNE’s Security Office for a statement but has not received a response.

In addition to safety concerns, many students feel that resuming classes at this point is insensitive. “I am NOT proud to be a Nor’easter today,” one YikYak post commented. This statement has received nearly 200 likes from fellow UNE students since it has gone up.

A petition titled ‘UNE Class Cancellation’ has been created by a student using the pseudonym ‘E. Faulkner.’ The Bolt has contacted all students who could be ‘E. Faulkner’ and have not received a response at this time.

Faulkner writes that this petition matters because “the expectation for students to return to classes as normal is inexcusable and ridiculous. I’m incredulous at the callous lack of care shown by the school, as are many others. Additionally, the insensitivity to the situation is abhorrent.”

As of right now, the petition has yet to reach its goal of 50 signatures.

UNE’s student government addressed the shooting in an Instagram post today, writing, “we want you to know that you are not alone in your pain. In times like these, we, your student government, stand with you, offering our deepest condolences and unwavering support.”

The Bolt contacted the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), requesting a statement regarding student safety concerns when resuming classes. The request also asked for a statement as to why it is important to continue classes. USG has declined to comment. “At this time, the Ecouncil feels that it is not appropriate for [us to make] any further comment on the issue,” they wrote.

Despite UNE reopening, faculty and staff have acknowledged that students may need mental health support. UNE Community, a group email chain for university notices, emailed students at 1:23 pm today with a list of “self-care resources” for those struggling during this distressing time.

Additionally, many professors have made the difficult decision not to hold their classes today. Professor Susan McHugh, one of these professors, said this in an email conversation with The Bolt:

An anonymous professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, who did not hold class today, wrote this in an email to The Bolt:

“The truth is I was hoping to hold class and thought it would be safe to do so. I started to hear from a lot of students who were uncomfortable coming in but did not want to ‘miss something important’ or have it ‘count against them.’I thought half or more of the students would miss class. So, I just thought it would make more sense to wait until next week and that it would soothe these student’s anxiety during an anxious time.”

Despite a large group of professors canceling today’s classes, the majority went about the day as normal. Similarly, although many students chose not to attend class today, the majority did.

While opinions on the resumption of classes may differ, it remains true that ensuring both safety and mental health is essential during these distressing times.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Nor'easter News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *