I watched the Sept. 27 Brett Kavanaugh-Christine Blasey Ford hearing. Like everyone, I was stunned when, on Sept. 28, Sen. Jeff Flake bought us a week by requesting an investigation. At noon that day, I joined a demonstration outside Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland office.

With several hundred Mainers I listened, deeply moved, as women recounted their sexual assaults. Before realizing it, I was telling my story. Of assault. By a star high school athlete. Traumatic then. Wrenching now.

Now, though, I have a voice. I told my story publicly for the first time. Fueled by 50 years of rage, I spoke as powerfully as I could. And to my surprise, speaking publicly about those events affected me in ways I still now struggle to describe.

From Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, local activists worked furiously to locate, charter and pay for a bus to D.C. Any and all Mainers – with a story to tell, a demand to make, a position to take – were invited to join us. We’d travel 500 miles overnight to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed right to petition our government, participate in democracy and watch “herstory” unfold. With travel logistics in place, I came up with the idea for a pop-up course titled “Engaged Citizenship” (an explicitly stated goal of a University of Maine System education). A carefully nonpartisan course description was submitted to the registrar. The core of the course that wasn’t? The personal is political. Yes, it’s political. But partisan? Not.

With 48 hours to fill the bus, I failed to submit the application required to offer pop-up courses through our Frances Perkins Initiative grant. That’s why the course was not reviewed.

The afternoon of Oct. 3, I joined several Maine professors – survivors all – in a video conference with Sen. Collins. She listened attentively. We felt heard. Then, exiting Collins’ office, I learned that the University of Southern Maine had canceled the course and WCSH-TV wanted an interview.


Without ever talking to me – and with the Maine Republican Party on his case – USM President Glenn Cummings capitulated to the moment’s rabid misogyny. The state Republican Party went on the warpath as soon as it learned of the course, alleging, among other things, a “misuse of taxpayer dollars.” (This is flatly wrong. The proposed activities were grant-funded. USM officials always knew that.)

Right-wing radio hosts piled on, alleging indoctrination, misuse of public funds, partisanship. Every bit of right-wing spin was and is untrue. But today’s falsehoods are the new truth. News is fake. And the right savages anyone – especially women – who dare object.

Radio audiences were exhorted to call the university. They did. Apparently USM received over 300 vile, threatening phone calls, including death threats.

On WCSH, I took responsibility for not following procedure. I explained that no taxpayer money was involved and that the course was open to all students, regardless of political persuasion. And that, in a world of adults, would have brought closure. In my desire to help students be part of this historic moment, I didn’t follow the procedures to which I had agreed. I accept responsibility.

On Oct. 5, the USM provost barred me from teaching, pending an investigation. The investigators have no plans to talk with me.

Indeed, before any investigation started, USM painted me the “rogue” professor and misrepresented my willingness to accept consequences for my poor judgment. Instead, the university broadcast my punishment while highlighting the Republican Party’s obsequious flattery of USM’s president. No mention of taking responsibility, the grant funds or right-wing terror threats. Worse, the school failed to mention either the importance of free speech, or efforts to curb sexual violence on UMaine System campuses.

The lesson from the course that wasn’t? Under the pretense of nonpartisanship, the UMaine System (whose board includes a brother of Susan Collins and the Republican gubernatorial candidate) accused me of partisanship. That’s the Republican MO. Rig the system, plunder the treasury, incite mobs. Then claim your opponents don’t play fair, have their hands in the till, are on the warpath. That’s called “projection.”

No rogue professor undermined the university’s integrity. The university did that.


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