(Note: this is a letter I sent to the University of Southern Maine to urge them to keep the Stone House. This is a house in Wolf’s Neck in Freeport overlooking the ocean. The property is used by the Stonecoast writing program where I received my MFA. The school is considering selling this piece of property. That idea doesn’t sit well with me.)
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter in support of the University of Southern Maine keeping the Stone House. I am both an alumnus of Stonecoast (’13) and a resident of the great state of Maine. Both affiliations compel me to write this letter.
One of the greatest gifts of the Stonecoast MFA program is the Stone House. It was a sublime backdrop to the knotty conversations about fiction writing I had in my tenure in the program. During my residencies I made it a point to walk the winding path behind the Stone House and stand by the ocean in order to process the fertile education I was immersed in. Learning to be a writer—a real writer who digs into the white-hot center of existence and refuses to look away—is a life changing experience. A writer of this ilk must stand naked on the page. A writer of this ilk must be willing to take dangerous emotional risks. This program strips you down to your core. It is beautiful and exhausting. The Stone House offers the perfect setting for writers to free-fall into the writing life. Its location is serene. The house is storied. The architecture is stunning. I’m not sure I would have been so drawn to this program had it been set elsewhere.
As a Maine resident and a teacher at Gorham High School, I have seen the effects of the recent cuts made at the University of Southern Maine. I have students whose parents have been laid off from their jobs at your school. I have seen the human face of the financial decisions the University is making. Parents uncertain of how they will pay for college. Students anxious about having to move because of their parents were laid off. I also have a personal friend whose position was abruptly cut without warning. While I do not stand in judgment of your institution for making difficult financial decisions, I do feel it is my duty to write this letter to save the Stone House. It is unfathomable that the Stone House be rendered in these budget cuts on top of all of the human positions that are being slashed. I wonder how much the University can cut away before the heart and soul of the institution dissipates in the process.
Without the Stone House, it’s hard for me to imagine recommending the program to fellow writers. Even the thought of this cut causes me pause in recommending your undergraduate programs to my current high school students. The Stone House is a member of the Stonecoast and University of Southern Maine communities. With its dismissal, part of my connection to Stonecoast and the University will wilt, making me an ineffective alumnus—someone I loathe to be.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my thoughts and the thoughts of my fellow Stonecoast writers. The Stone House is a unique fixture for the University and shedding it from the institution threatens to destroy any individuality the school hopes to possess.