The year 2017 brought triumphs, setbacks and changes, both to the world as a whole and to the University of Connecticut.
UConn made national headlines several times, from being featured on Saturday Night Live in February, to the women’s basketball team losing their 111-game winning streak to Mississippi in March, to conservative speaker Lucian Wintrich sparking riots on campus in November.
National events on a larger scale rippled through campus, as well as President Trump’s DACA decision and travel ban left students reeling and Hurricane Maria inspired student action for those living in Puerto Rico and other affected areas.
Overall, activism was a major theme for the year. There were Women’s Marches occurring across the country in January following the presidential election; the March for Science in Hartford and UConn’s satellite campuses; DACA protest marches both on and off campus; the #SaveUConn rally amidst possibly devastating budget cuts for UConn; and most recently, the March for Action in light of Wintrich’s arrest on campus.
While the future of 2018 is unknown, here’s hoping that whatever may come next year will be met with fairness, peace and understanding. But before then, here’s a look back at the phenomenon that was 2017.
Name: Gabriella DeBenedictis
Headline: Trump’s inauguration and Women’s Marches
On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.
In his inaugural address, Trump spoke on ending the prosperity of Washington elites at the expense of everyday Americans, putting “America first” and bringing back jobs, borders and wealth to the country.
“American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” Trump said.
On Jan. 21, the Women’s March on Washington occurred, with an estimated 2.5 million people marching both on the nation’s Capitol Building and in 672 “sister marches” throughout the country and the world to protest the misogyny, racism, homophobia and bigotry they believe Trump represents.
Former UConn student Olivia Bonnanzio told The Daily Campus she attended the march in Hartford and thinks “it’s good to know there are still people who think women are awesome.”
“The showing everywhere, no matter what city, has me proud, and it shows we won’t go down without a fight,” Bonnanzio said.
Three-sentence summary: On Jan. 20, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. On Jan. 21, millions of people across the country and around the world marched in Women’s Marches to protest the inauguration.
Name: Marlese Lessing
Headline: UConn subject of Saturday Night Live Sketch ‘Dry Fridays’
UConn was featured on “Saturday Night Live” when “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart played a UConn student recounting her drunken revelries at the university, including cutting down pine trees behind the North Quad and getting a “nohawk.”
Comedian Streeter Seidell, who has performed at UConn before and whose wife graduated from the university, wrote the sketch, trying to recapture some of the “UConn insanity” he encountered when visiting during his student days.
“I guess it’s calmed down recently, but to me it will always be the place that sets cars on fire when its basketball team wins games,” Seidell said.
The sketch currently has over three million views on SNL’s YouTube page.
Three-sentence summary: UConn was featured on Saturday Night Live in a comedic sketch, “Dry Fridays,” with “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart playing a student recalling her drunken antics at North Campus. Comedian Streeter Seidell helped bring the sketch to life, calling back on his days as a student who visited UConn frequently. The video drew in laughs and over three million views on YouTube.
Name: Rachel Philipson
Headline: UConn’s women's basketball loses 111-game winning streak
The historic 111-game winning streak of the UConn women's basketball team ended on March 31 to Mississippi State in the Final Four. The game ended 66-64 with Mississippi State’s Morgan William’s overtime buzzer beater.
UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson tied the game with 26.6 seconds left, capping off a comeback from the 16-point deficit they faced when starting the fourth quarter, the first time all season the team trailed in the final quarter.
The winning streak started on Nov. 17, 2014 against Stanford. This season, the team now started 7-0, slowly gaining back their streak.
Three-sentence summary: On March 31, the UConn women’s basketball team lost their historic 111-game winning streak to Mississippi State during the Final Four. The game ended 66-64 when Mississippi State’s Morgan William hit an overtime buzzer beater.
Name: Nicholas Hampton
Headline: Lil Uzi concert canceled
Students waited in the rain outside Gampel Pavilion on Thursday, April 6 for rapper Lil Uzi Vert, who never came.
Vert’s flight from Atlanta was canceled by bad weather conditions, Marissa Carbone, Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG) President at the time, said.
Vert tweeted, “@UConn I Love You Today was suppose to be special” a little after 7 p.m. the same night.
Students stood outside of Gampel after the announcement was made, yelling and shouting “Bullsh*t!”
Mindy Gosselin, a fifth-semester natural resources major, said she couldn’t believe it was canceled because it happened so close to the time it was supposed to start. She was attending with her sister, her sister’s friend and her sorority little.
“I had to call my sister to tell her to turn around. It was really awkward,” Gosselin said. “I was so ready for (the concert). I had such a long day and I was ready to have fun.”
SUBOG recently released a survey this semester to determine which artist will be hosted for the spring 2018 concert.
Name: Marlese Lessing
Headline: Student protest Chief Diversity Officer’s Homecoming policies
Students called for Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison to be put on probation, amidst Murchison’s call for cultural centers to not participate in the Homecoming Parade, or display floats, under cultural center names.
Murchison said this policy was created to help foster an open, inclusive community that encourages participation in Homecoming.
“What we did decide was that the centers, which are administrative, would not be moving forward (with Homecoming floats),” Murchison said. “It would be akin to the Bursar’s Office having a float.”
Murchison said that while students within the cultural centers would still be able to participate, they would have to rename themselves. Student groups protested Murchison’s statements and claimed she did not include students in the decision-making process.
“If (Murchison) looked at our history, she’d know that we started out as organizations that grew, and became recognized by the administration,” said Ana Ocasio, an eighth-semester human development and family studies major who is involved with the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC). “We’re not Dining Services. We’re not the Bursar’s Office. It’s not that we put PRLACC on our signs because we operate out of (it). It’s because there’s unity behind those names.”
Name: Collin Sitz
Headline: UConn’s landscaping barn burns down
On May 9, a historic UConn landscaping barn went up in flames.
At approximately 11 p.m., witnesses reported seeing smoke and flames coming from the Horsebarn Hill area. Shortly after, first responders arrived at the scene and quickly called for backup.
The fire, the cause of which is unknown, took five hours and multiple crews from various organizations such as Connecticut Natural Gas, Eversource and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to help put the blaze out.
Among the structures destroyed were various pieces of landscaping equipment, such as lawnmowers and construction tractors. No humans or animals were harmed.
The space the barn once occupied is now a parking lot.
Name: Roisin Coleman
Headline: Trump’s immigration ban goes into effect
After months of revision, President Donald Trump’s second travel ban went into effect June 29. This modified version of President’s Trump’s first ban reinstates the bona fide relationship that travelers must claim to enter the United States.
Among those affected by the ban were 87 UConn students who identify with one of the six Muslim majority countries.
According to CNN politics, a credible bona fide relationship must be between an entity, such as a job, or a person in the United States.
If this relationship is not established, then the traveler is banned from the U.S. for 90 days if they are from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen or Sudan, and 120 days if they are a refugee from any other country.
The travel ban exempts U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, current visa holders, dual nationals, anyone granted asylum, refugees already admitted to the U.S. and those with a bona fide relationship.
Name: Ashley Anglisano
Headline: On-campus housing below capacity for 2017-2018 academic year
On-campus housing was below capacity for the 2017-2018 academic year as a result of a decrease in the incoming freshmen size, according to university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.
This also determined that there would be no expansion to on-campus housing.
“The original Next Generation Connecticut plan envisioned the construction of an Honors Dorm, but that’s on hold now because we’ve had to level off enrollment as the state’s annual block grant to UConn has been decreasing,” Reitz said.
Despite the decrease in students living on-campus, the cost of on-campus living has remained the same, according to the UConn Residential Life website.
Name: Allie Retter
Headline: UConn gathers at Candlelight Vigil for Memory and Justice in response to Charlottesville violence
Hundreds of UConn community members came together on the evening of Aug. 30 for the Candlelight Vigil for Memory and Justice, a response to the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12 when white nationalists protesting the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee clashed with counter-demonstrators.
President Susan Herbst sent an email to the UConn community on Aug. 16 in response to the events in Charlottesville. In the email, Herbst condemned white supremacy, calling it a “noxious philosophy;” Herbst also condemned fascism and racism, referring to them as “despicable ideologies.”
Herbst said in the email that the university is devoted to the promotion of free expression. Herbst also affirmed the university’s dedication to upholding particular values, including democracy and civil discourse.
On Aug. 24, students received an email on behalf of Eleanor J.B. Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students in the Division of Student Affairs, and Joelle Murchison, Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which stated the university’s commitment to creating a respectful, safe environment in which free expression can take place.
Name: Anna Zarra Aldrich
Headline: Trump's DACA decision leaves students 'heartbroken’
In early September, President Trump announced that he would be ending the DACA program which allowed many undocumented people who were brought into the country as children to remain here on temporary visas.
This led UConn students to mobilize and organize a rally during which many DACA recipients spoke passionately about the importance of the program.
“I was scared to come out about my status. DACA gave me a chance to come out of the shadows,” said Karla Garcia, president of UConn Students Without Borders. “DACA being removed will try to push undocumented folks back into the shadows.”
The university and Undergraduate Student Government also issued statements in support of these students.
Name: Marlese Lessing
Headline: Hurricanes presented setbacks, inspired action from students
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ravaged their way across the United States, the Dominican Islands and Puerto Rico, causing billions of dollars in damage, leaving hundreds dead and millions more homeless and struggling.
Hurricane Maria, the 10th most devastating Atlantic hurricane on record, ravaged Puerto Rico in particular. It left much of the territory without infrastructure such as hospitals, affecting millions who live in the area and students at UConn with family there.
Student organizations such as UConn Health, the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center and others made efforts to raise money and donate supplies to those in need in Puerto Rico.
Research efforts down in Puerto Rico conducted by UConn environmental engineering scientists were adversely affected, as equipment was damaged and the ecosystem of the local forests were impacted by the hurricane.
Name: Rachel Philipson
Headline: Harvey Weinstein faces sexual misconduct allegations
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the New York Times published an article detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, now a former film executive.
The allegations came from multiple actresses, including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd, who said Weinstein forced women to massage him and promised to advance their careers in return for sexual favors.
Over the month, the allegations grew more serious with multiple actresses claiming Weinstein raped them. The allegations resulted in Weinstein’s removal from his film company, Harvard University stripping him of his Du Bois medal, the British Film Institute withdrawing his BFI Fellowship and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelling him.
The allegations against Weinstein and immediate responses from organizations have led to multiple women speaking out about their personal experiences with facing sexual misconduct. Other celebrities that have been named so far are Louis C.K, Charlie Rose, Dustin Hoffman, Matt Lauer and Kevin Spacey.
In a Nov. 15 email to the UConn community, President Susan Herbst reiterated the university’s policies against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
“Our Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence specifically prohibits sex and gender-based discrimination and harassment,” Herbst said in the email. “Each of us has an opportunity during this time of national reflection to closely review UConn’s policy and assess our own actions as peers and colleagues. This simple step will help to ensure that we are all doing our part to create an environment where people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or interpersonal violence.”
Name: Rachel Philipson
Headline:Connecticut state budget cuts $143 million from UConn’s budget
On Oct. 26, 2017, the Connecticut General Assembly approved a bipartisan budget agreement that will cause a $143 million reduction in state funding toward UConn over the next two years.
This agreement came as a compromise after the suggested $309 million cut that the legislature was voting to approve. This would have been more than triple what the university was prepared to manage, according to an email sent out by President Susan Herbst.
The more dramatic cuts were avoided with help from all members of the UConn community including the #SaveUConn rallies. The rally on Sept. 20 had approximately 1,200 students holding blue posters saying #SaveUConn and voices expressing their fears. The rallies, in addition to communicating with legislators, aided in obtaining the reduced cut.
Name: Anna Zarra Aldrich
Headline: White House correspondent arrested during speech at ‘It’s OK to be White’ event
When Gateway Pundit correspondent Lucian Wintrich came to speak on campus after being invited by the UConn College Republicans, chaos ensued.
Protesters filled Andre Schenker Hall on the evening of Nov. 28 shouting things such as “go home Nazi” throughout Wintrich’s speech, titled “It’s OK to be White.” As people began to leave in protest, one woman grabbed Wintrich’s notes from the podium. Wintrich then grabbed the woman and pulled her back.
Wintrich was arrested for second-degree breach of peace. Sean Miller was arrested for second-degree criminal mischief and breach of peace for breaking one of the lecture hall’s windows.
“[Wintrich’s] opinion is not an opinion,” said Ven Gopal, a seventh-semester economics and political science major, one of the creators of the protest. “It is just hate speech. He came to campus to incite violence and spread hate, and he succeeded.”
Name: Gabriella DeBenedictis
Headline: ‘March for Action’ held in response to Lucian Wintrich’s arrest
On Dec. 1, UConn students rallied in a “March for Action” against the university’s delayed response to Gateway Pundit correspondent Lucian Wintrich’s arrest on Nov. 28.
The march began at the Jonathan statue next to Gampel Pavilion, where several students spoke to the crowd.
“It’s okay to be white, but understand you will never know what it’ll feel like to be ashamed of your culture,” said Shreya Khadka, a fifth-semester marketing and advertising major.
Seventh-semester human rights and political science major Rebecca Kaufman said the problem with “it’s okay to be white” is that, for centuries, it has only been okay to be white.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” Kaufman said.
President Herbst later issued another statement saying the university would institute a modified review process for speakers before allowing them to come to campus.