Board of Trustees calls for public participation at Wednesday meeting

Members of the UConn Board of Trustees are seen during a meeting on Sept. 30, 2015. (Allen Lang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday in the Lewis B. Rome Commons Ballroom. The meeting will commence at 9:45 a.m. with a call for public participation.

It’s an opportunity for students and locals to speak their mind.

It’s been an eventful semester. Below is a summary of the most important issues for UConn students in the coming weeks:

Students face tuition increase, university faces state cuts

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget would cut a combined $31.2 million from UConn and UConn Health.

“The problem is not confined to this one year alone,” UConn President Susan Herbst wrote in a letter to students. “The larger issue is that this cut, if adopted, would contribute to a combined total loss of $139 million for UConn – including UConn Health – over the last seven years, all due to state cuts, rescissions and fund sweeps.”

On the night of Feb. 10, a group of fifty students led by Undergraduate Student Government President Rachel Conboy visited the capitol to call on legislators to oppose the cuts.

 “What will the state lose if the university is forced to cut back?” Conboy said. “Can the state afford to drain resources from one of the most iconic pieces of Connecticut’s identity?”

Herbst said at the capitol that further tuition increases could be on the table because of the cuts.

“Not only programs being cut, but tuition being raised is a huge concern,” Conboy said. “I think last time (in December) we said, ‘Okay, we understand this position we’re in,’ but if tuition gets raised again, that’s an issue. Students are struggling to pay.”

Professor’s union negotiations and defining 'the university'

UConn’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is in the midst of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with administration. 

On Feb. 18, the AAUP’s UConn for Quality Education panel called for unity and highlighted the issues relevant in the negotiations: adjunct professors’ rights, faculty’s voice in governing education, perceived privatizing of public education and simply what it means to be part of a university.

“The university (is defined as) the Board of Trustees, the President, the Provost and the Deans,” administration’s chief negotiator stated.

This definition does not include students, faculty, the physical space occupied by UConn or the community of people who have typically identified as “huskies.”

Faculty are also advocating for empowerment of adjunct faculty.

“Despite two-thirds of the classes being taught by adjuncts they have no share in governance, this affects quality,” English professor Rebecca Rumbo said at the Feb. 18 panel. “Adjuncts are excluded typically from administrative and departmental meetings, committee meetings you-name-it.”

Rumbo has been teaching at UConn since 1997 but is still considered a temporary employee. 

The UConn AAUP will host a follow up event on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 12:30 p.m. on Fairfield Way called “We are UConn! Rally for a Strong Educator Voice.”

Co-op up for bid

The UConn Co-op is competing with four unidentified bidders to determine the future of the university’s bookstores. For students, textbook affordability could be the key issue.

“This process began last year when the Co-op’s board told the university they doubted the Co-op’s long-term sustainability because of persistent financial problems and management challenges, and asked UConn to consider taking it over,” said Michael Kirk, deputy chief of staff to UConn President Susan Herbst and head of the committee evaluating proposals.

Timothy Dzurilla, chair of the Co-op’s board, said the financial difficulties the Co-op faces have since decreased and that the Co-op remains students’ best option. 

According to the Co-op’s price comparison software, the Co-op’s 20 most expensive textbooks are cheaper than those of Barnes & Noble and Follett, the two likeliest competitors to be the university’s new bookstore.

Dzurilla emphasized the Co-op support for open-source textbooks, as well.

“We are committed to supporting open source textbook solutions on campus,” Dzurilla said. “It doesn’t get cheaper than free.”

The Co-op’s non-profit model allows it to focus on service to students even if that does not necessarily mean profit for the bookstore, Dzurilla said. Economically, a for-profit company would not have motivation to support free textbooks because it would remove one of their sources of income.

Daniel Byrd, chairman of the Undergraduate Student Government's external affairs committee and longtime advocate for open-source, credited the Co-op with giving key information on textbook pricing to the open-source textbook initiative.

“Because of our existing relationship with the Co-op, we know the Co-op is willing to work with us [on open-open source textbooks],” Byrd said. “A private company may be willing to work with us but we can’t be sure.”

An online “Save the Co-op” petition has gained 4,835 supporters, according to Change.org. 

Chief diversity hiring process

The university is creating a new Chief Diversity Officer position, originally announced by President Herbst on Nov. 9. 

“The role of this campus leader will be to serve as the university's main strategist responsible for guiding efforts and creating substantive programs to define, assess and promote diversity and inclusion, educational and employment opportunity, and cultural proficiency at UConn,” Herbst said in her email to the entire faculty, staff and student body.

Herbst’s announcement

Recently Lisa McBride, one of the candidates for the new position, gave a presentation on her credentials and experiences at the Dodd Center. 

McBride has previously worked as a police officer, detective, professor and as CDO of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.


Christopher McDermott is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.