With nomination of Susan Dench, LePage cronyism continues

To nobody’s surprise, Governor LePage’s nominations to the University of Maine board of trustees have drawn criticism. Of his three nominations, the one who has immediately grabbed headlines is former BDN blogger, Susan Dench.

denchDench, from Falmouth, , leads the Informed Women’s Network, a conservative advocacy group with chapters around the country.

Following LePage’s nominations, which require a confirmation hearing by the state’s education committee, committee member Rep. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick has already expressed concerns over the possible appointment of Dench.

For me personally, Dench’s blog was consistently offensive and thoughtless. She seemed to enjoy stoking the most lowbrow, elitist, and bigoted sentiments on issues like childhood obesity, gender roles in society, and education.

In other words, in my opinion, she might not be the best person to serve on UMaine’s board of trustees.

Or, as Daughtry is quoted in fellow BDN writer Mario Moretto’s coverage of the story, “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.”

Also interviewed by Moretto was Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who is also a member, and former chairman, of the education committee.

According to Moretto, Langley “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 cited “relevant experience to the position,” as a factor in the committee’s decision making.

With a background in advertising and marketing, one might wonder just how a controversial blogger who lacks a background in education could receive this type of nomination.

But when you look into her connections to the LePage administation the picture becomes much clearer. Dench and her husband, Bryan, have contributed $2,600 to the governor’s re-election campaign.

Not only that, but according to the Maine Ethics Commission, Bryan is also LePage’s campaign treasurer.

So it’s pretty easy to see how Dench got the nomination, and unfortunately this sort of cronyism is nothing new to the LePage administration.

What won’t be easy to understand- with her lack of credentials and the clear disconnect with present day education, childhood, and family issues that she has so vehemently displayed through her writing- will be if the education committee actually approves her for the position.

To paint a clearer picture, I’ve gone through several of her old blog posts and highlighted some of her more troubling comments which point to her ineptitude as a potential trustee of our state’s public university system.

Here they are:

Dench on childhood obesity:

“Some kids are fat, and others not. Don’t all our children live in the same country with the same cultural influences?”

Dench on worker’s unions:

“Democrats love slogans so much they all use the same ones in lockstep, over and over.”

“The truth is both workers and companies prosper in right-to-work states.”

“News flash: A job is a job.”

Dench on equal pay for women:

“The big differences came from the fact that women tend to cluster in lower-paying occupations.”

“Another aspect to consider is that women just don’t negotiate as well as men.”

“I still talk with women who simply have never been taught to ask for what they want properly.”

“Money doesn’t buy happiness.”

Dench on how to engage women politically:

“Inspire us. Shout about American exceptionalism from the rooftops. Tell us how you are going to make sure our best days are to come. There are a lot of scary things going on in the world. We want to know that you are going to keep our country strong and our families safe.”

Dench on Title IX legislation:

“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.”
Dench on corporate competitiveness:

“We need many average or ordinary people living their lives, doing their duty, to have a healthy and stable society.”

“America can’t exist without “average” people. Average people raise their families, bake cakes, volunteer in the community, coach the local Little League team and sit on their town planning board.”

Dench on gender roles:

“If you’re looking for “gravitas” from the top, search elsewhere. Extended adolescence, being “cool,” and having fun seem to be celebrated at the White House. Coming of age now appears to have risen to the ripe old age of 26, with Obamacare letting “kids” stay on their parents’ health care plans until then.”

“Men are failing in school, getting fewer college degrees and finding their incomes slowly declining… That means that when women get married — if they get married — they have a strong probability of marrying down.”

“Schoolboys should be taught to grow into real men, not women.”

Dench on sports trophies for all youth participants:

“So the message was, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if you practiced more, worked your butt off, are more skilled or had a more winning attitude on the field. We want to play down to the lowest common denominator and treat everyone equally. You’re special, just like everyone else. Otherwise, we might hurt some feelings and damage kids’ self esteem.” Good grief.”

“When we were growing up, your trophy was a cast on your broken leg that you received blocking a ferocious shot and thereby saving the game. When asked, you could proudly tell the tale about how you actually earned your scars.”

There will be a period for public comment during the committee’s confirmation hearing, which will be held on Sept. 26.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.