I am a student at the University of Southern Maine, Lewiston-Auburn College. Recently, university officials have decided to undergo a change. As part of that change, they are looking to cut the arts and humanities program.

Though small, I believe that the arts help define Maine. So I ask, what kind of university do we want Lewiston-Auburn College to be? Better yet, what kind of Maine do we want to live in?

I have a vision of a university that promotes free thinking and the betterment of life around us. This is an idea that is promoted by Lewiston-Auburn College’s Arts and Humanities department. If university officials decide to cut that program, they will be turning their backs and their awareness on the foundation that has made Maine the home it is for so many today.

To appreciate Maine is to understand its people. We have a rich history built on the backs of great minds, artists and architects that fought for the betterment of human life.

In 1851 the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe began writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in Brunswick. This is a woman who used her voice to inspire abolitionists across our young country. She has been quoted as saying, “In all ranks of life the human heart yearns for the beautiful.”

That is the type of thought that inspires people.

Stowe inspired a young Joshua Chamberlain. A Brunswick native, Chamberlain was a professor of language, English literature and persuasive writing. He had successfully defended Little Round Top against Confederate troops at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Chamberlain’s actions arguably served as the turning point of that battle.

In regard to his troops Chamberlain said, “Every pioneer and musician who could carry a musket went into the ranks. Even the sick and foot-sore, who could not keep up in the march, came up as soon as they could find their regiments, and took their places in line of battle.”

Those words echo in my soul. As a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I know what it means to stand up for those without a voice. I’m referring to the future students of the Arts and Humanities program.

The University of Southern Maine mission statement reads: “The faculty is committed to fostering a spirit of critical inquiry and civic participation. USM embraces academic freedom for students.”

Isn’t this at the core of arts and humanities?

I thought this university wanted to be part of molding individuals who change the world.

Cutting the program will mean the university is turning its back on the building blocks that are the studies of languages, literature, philosophy, religion, visual and performing arts. Humanities are also present in the social sciences that include history, anthropology, communication studies, cultural studies and law.

What is the physical makeup of the Maine we enjoy today? Without a human spirit, we would not be able to enjoy this great state.

In 1931, Gov. Percival Baxter began buying land in northern Maine for the purpose of establishing a game reserve. Think about the beauty of this state we enjoy every day.

Gov. Baxter was right when he said, “In the heart of the wilderness of these woods stands Mt. Katahdin, the greatest monument of nature east of the Mississippi river. This mountain raises its head aloft, unafraid of the passing storm, and is typical of the rugged character of the people of Maine. The purchase of this mountain will constitute a fitting memorial to the past.”

History isn’t its own category. It is part of the human experience. It helps us know where we have been so we can know where we are going.

We are in the middle of our own storm right now. I understand that enrollment isn’t at the numbers the university desires, but can we let a number determine the quality of an education?

For me, having a degree in arts and humanities will give me a fundamental foundation to ask questions and create in a way that is for the betterment and beauty of the human race.

I understand that I will be able to graduate with that degree, but what about those future voices being silenced?

A dawn is upon us; it is here now like a beautiful sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Will this university look to the east in all its beauty, or turn its head to the west and deny what’s at the heart of all education — human involvement?

I beg university officials to reconsider the decision to cut the Arts and Humanities Program at LAC. It is a program that promotes a betterment of life for all.

Raymond MacGregor of Harrison is a student at the University of Southern Maine.


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