By Marah Russell

The University Times Staff

Presque Isle–The University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) kicked off their “Solar-Bration” with the unveiling of a 23-foot-tall, three-dimensional sun model. The unveiling occurred on Monday, April 8 at 10 a.m. in front of Preble Hall. 

Preparations to include the additional section into the Maine Solar System Model began last summer. The $75,000 project succeeded after a 4-month fundraising effort.

News of the unveiling garnered local, state, and some national media attention. This attracted significant negative attention on social media, much of it focused on the model’s appearance. There were complaints about the sun’s appearance, cost, and location on campus. 

Despite the praise it received from UMPI’s marketing and communication department, many students have also expressed their disappointment with the unveiling. 

“Although I don’t think it will draw anyone away, it’s nothing special,” Said Ethan Whitty, student ambassador and campus tour guide. “When I’m giving tours to prospective students, I want to tell them ‘this is the sun, this completes our solar system,’ but what’s disappointing is it doesn’t look like the sun.”

The purpose of the installation was to boost the visibility of the greatest celestial body in the solar system from U.S. Route 1. Its initial location–the south entrance of Folsom Hall–was thought to be too challenging for guests to locate. Students still criticize the shift to Preble Hall, even though it fixed this long-standing issue. 

“It looks like a jungle gym that kids can climb on. It’s just a hazard waiting to happen,” said Jackman Daigle, resident assistant and physical education major at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “What a waste of fundraised money. If I put my money into that, frankly, I would be disappointed in what that turned out to be.” 

Brecken Sargent, another physical education major at UMPI, voiced her opinion on the model by saying, “I feel like it was just a waste of money because nobody knows what it actually is. You drive by it and you don’t get the idea that it’s a sun, you get the idea that it’s an art piece.” 

Although students are dissatisfied with the present installation, Kevin McCartney, retired professor of geology, Maine Solar System Model coordinator, and fundraising lead, intends to improve it by adding a walkway and other features after the ground thaws. Additionally, he plans to raise money in the future to install one or two Maine-stone benches. While McCartney said there were very little students could’ve done to contribute to the sun model, he added that perhaps the Class of 2024 could assist in future fundraising efforts.