Three candidates competing to represent undergraduates on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees debated their plans to protect student services in difficult financial times at the Undergraduate Student Government’s annual debate forum Thursday night.
The debate came two weeks after Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal showed plans to reduce UConn’s state funding by seven percent for the next two fiscal years, and the possibility of a cut to services or a raise in tuition.
USG Speaker George P. Wang discussed his experiences organizing and managing student government and serving on multiple university committees. He said that his work has left him with an “extensive knowledge” of how the university operates.
USG Sen. Josh Wojtyna prioritized his experience as president of the Hartford Campus’s student body during his freshman year. He said that he had a deep passion for UConn that came from growing up around the university.
“I’ve gotten so much out of UConn that I do want to reciprocate and give back to UConn, and I think this is one of the ways I can do so,” Wojtyna said in his opening remarks. “Because as a USG member, while I have been selected, it’s just been more of a title to me. I haven’t been able to apply myself as much as I would have liked to and so I want to promote myself into a higher position so that I could have much more of an impact.”
Former USG Sen. Christine Savino prioritized her time as part of current trustee Adam Kuegler’s advisory committee and said that she’s worked towards this position for most of her time at UConn. Savino resigned from USG on Feb. 16, after learning of a case accusing her of plagiarizing her campaign platform would go to hearing. (http://dailycampus.com/stories/2017/2/20/student-trustee-candidate-resigns-usg-amid-plagiarism-allegations)
In his opening remarks, Wang acknowledged to the audience that a tuition hike was a strong possibility in this fiscal environment.
“I cannot promise this university will not take more budget cuts and that we won’t have to raise tuition as a result, but we need to be responsible about it,” Wang said. “We need to ensure that financial aid rises along with tuition and that accessibility to that financial aid increases as well.”
Wang said UConn would need to expand its endowment and that the most successful state schools rely significantly less on state funding than UConn currently does. He added that even tuition hikes would not necessarily be bad if connected to synchronous increases in financial aid.
Savino proposed to protect student services by cutting the salaries of higher-level administrators at the university and diverting the funds to student development and mental health services.
The candidates also shared competing visions for increasing student awareness and involvement in the Board’s business.
Wang proposed a web-based platform to explain the Board’s business to students and engage with them, which he said would make it possible for students across the state to be involved. He emphasized that he intended to work with multiple groups in
Savino emphasized her work with the student trustee advisory committee and proposed expanding it with regional campus representation.
Wojtyna said his past experience as student body president of the Hartford campus gave him a strong connection to the regional campuses and added that increased advertising of the Board’s activities could bring more students in.
Undergraduate students will be able to cast their vote for student trustee and other student leadership positions on March 1 and 2.
Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.