On Oct. 18, the Portland Press Herald ran a front-page story about the University of Southern Maine barring Dr. Susan Feiner from any future teaching at the university.

I worked closely with Professor Feiner for over 20 years until her retirement last year. She is an accomplished scholar with a passion for gender and racial equality and economic justice. She also served as our union president, on the front lines defending dozens of tenured faculty who were fired by interim President David Flanagan in 2014.

Dr. Feiner was also an astonishingly successful grant writer who brought hundreds of thousands of dollars into USM’s coffers, benefiting not only USM students and faculty but also the taxpayers of Maine.

Her final grant supported short-term, topical courses on matters of social justice. Because of that grant from the National Education Association, USM students have been able to take courses free of charge on subjects such as “Decolonizing Casco Bay”; “Food and Social Justice“; “Uncovering Black History in Maine“; “Harm Reduction as Social Policy,” and “Framing Immigration.” Importantly, the grant – not students, and not taxpayers – covers the tuition.

Important, too, and also often lost in the coverage, is the purpose of the one-credit course: to offer students the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital to discuss with our senior senator credible assault charges against a Supreme Court nominee, and to observe governmental politics and public participation close up at this unprecedented historic moment.

In this context, the response by USM and the University of Maine System to Dr. Feiner’s procedural errors is overblown. If demanding accountability for sexual assault, and encouraging engaged citizenship, are now “partisan” activities, consider me a “rogue” scholar as well.

Wendy Chapkis

Portland