Gov. Paul LePage has made three nominations to the University of Maine board of trustees, and one candidate is already raising eyebrows with one Democratic lawmaker.
Among the nominees for UMaine’s leadership is Susan Dench, a Falmouth author and conservative activist. Dench, a former BDN blogger, leads the Informed Women’s Network, a group with chapters around the country that advocates for conservative causes.
Dench drew some criticism Friday from Rep. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick, who serves on the education committee, which will hold a confirmation hearing for Dench and the other candidates on Sept. 26.
Daughtry said that while she hadn’t seen Dench’s resume yet, she had concerns about Dench’s views, and worried they’d harm her ability to lead UMaine.
Daughtry referred to a particular blog post by Dench, in which the author decried the “feminizing” of schools, writing:
“… In our quest to build girls up, we’ve also feminized our schools, making them more sensitive, less competitive, more cooperative places that mitigate risk-taking and failure. We’ve given out medals for just showing up. And instead of encouraging boys and girls to achieve at a higher level, we’ve lowered the bar to the lowest common denominator, so we don’t hurt the feelings of those who don’t achieve.”
Dench elsewhere blamed feminism for the rise of “hook-up culture” and opined that “schoolboys should be taught to grow into real men, not women,” writing that while women really want “manly men,” they have told all menfolk they must be “sensitive, caring and nurturing — all feminine traits. When we ask males to deny their testosterone-driven attributes we are denying nature. And then we complain to each other about all the wimps out there.”
Daughtry said those blog posts made her worry about Dench’s “expressed views of gender paradigms.”
“I don’t want someone steering the college into the 21st century while leaving one foot in the Leave-It-to-Beaver version of the 20th century,” she said.
Daughtry said that despite her reservations about Dench’s views, she’ll enter the hearing later this month with an open mind.
Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, is also a member, and former chairman, of the education committee. He said he’s not familiar with Dench, but said the confirmation system is designed to offer ample opportunity for questions, public comment and deliberation — even if most confirmations go unnoticed by the public.
Langley also said the committee will be mostly concerned with relevant experience to the position, whether that be in education, business or some other field that could bring valuable insight to the board of trustees.
Dench’s background is in advertising and marketing. She’s also written a book title “The Power of Personal Responsibility.” Efforts Friday afternoon to contact Dench for this blog post were unsuccessful.
She and her husband, Bryan, are also contributors to LePage’s re-election bid in this year’s gubernatorial election. Bryan Dench is also LePage’s campaign treasurer, according to the Maine Ethics Commission. Combined, the Denches given $2,600 to the governor’s re-election.
LePage also nominated James Donnelly of Brewer and Samuel Collins of Caribou.
Donnelly is a former House Republican leader in the Legislature, where he served four terms in the early ’90s. Today, he’s executive vice president of Machias Savings Bank, and member of the Board of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.
Collins, brother of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, is a former chairman of the University of Maine System board of trustees, having termed out of the position in May. He’s also president of S.W. Collins, a lumber and building supply company with several locations in Aroostook County.