The importance of regular, transparent Herbst office hours

Susan Herbst has periodically held open office hours during her tenure as the President of the University of Connecticut. Herbst opened her office on Oct. 21 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., allowing students to speak directly with the head of their university. This opportunity is a positive step in promoting transparency and direct advocacy. 

These office hours are beneficial to the UConn community and student body, but would be more impactful if held regularly. Holding two-hour open office hours only a few times a year severely limits student accessibility to this valuable resource. Furthermore, in order to ensure that student concerns are addressed moving forward, President Herbst should inform students which ideas and criticisms she plans to consider after the conclusion of each session.

According to an article published earlier in the Daily Campus, Susan Herbst said during her time at UConn, many “students [have] come up to me on campus and are usually friendly and fun.” While students often approach Herbst on campus, more formal office hours provide motivated students a valuable forum to express their concerns and promote their ideas for the student body.

Though Herbst has limited free time, budgeting more time for meetings with students will send a powerful message to the student body. Part of the concern with having such infrequent office hours is the negative impact of their scarcity. If office hours were held more regularly, students would be better motivated to attend, as the chance to speak at length with the President would improve. 

Even with an increase in frequency, there is a distinct lack of post-meeting communication from Susan Herbst and her staff. Clearly, many students come to the President’s office with ideas and criticism. In order to ensure that students attend these office hours, Herbst should set a policy for communicating the administration’s intentions regarding the concerns brought forward. Unless the administration addresses or acknowledges the grievances and ideas presented, these office hours will devolve into a futile exercise in public relations.   

UConn students maintain a skeptical view of President Susan Herbst and university administration in general. Herbst clearly initiated these open office hours with an eye towards ameliorating this relationship, and improving her image with the student body. While office hours are a good step forward, there exists room for improvement.

A combination of more frequent open office hours and better communication after meetings conclude will make a valuable improvement to the administration-student body relationship.