Strange, shocking and monumental things happen everywhere, many of them on college campuses. The past year at the University of Connecticut has been one of change, both on a national and local scale. Here are the top, most controversial, most impactful and straight out weirdest stories published this year.
August 29: Natural History Museum Relocated
The closure and relocation of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History sparked some suspicious surrounding the deal. Later on in November, former lawmaker Jonathan Pelto revealed that UConn had broken the law in making this decision, since the state museum was originally intended to have a physical space. Currently, Pelto is meeting with university officials to negotiate finding a building for the museum to reside in once again.
Both Cedar Ridge Apartments and Hilltop apartments experienced issues with water discoloration in September 2016. Cedar Ridge residents reported brown, discolored water when using the sinks, baths and toilets. Though building managers reported the discoloration to be due to sediment from the pipes, the problem was not fixed for a month. In the meantime, residents were given bottled water and Subway gift cards as compensation. Later on, in October, Hilltop apartments residents encountered off-blue, copper-tinged water when using their sinks. The two incidents were reported to be unrelated to each other.
The decade-old sober ride service Guard Dogs was disbanded, due to lack of interest and an increase in training requirements. The club was originally founded in 2005, and had 250 members in 2010. However, membership began to dwindle in the following years, as USG began to require drivers to have first-aid training and proof of insurance, and students turned to other platforms such as the UConn Buy or Sell Facebook page to find rides. The club was put on hiatus in 2014, and experienced a revival in 2015. However, due to lack of membership, the organization officially disbanded.
Students wielding baseball bats, hockey sticks and other impromptu weaponry crowded by North Campus in wake of an alleged clown sighting, which was part of a larger trend of clown sightings seen across the country. The UConn Police Department reported no clowns and no arrests.
October 26: UConn Mourns Death of Jeffny Pally
Delta Gamma member and UConn sophomore Jeffny Pally, 19, was killed by a UConn fire response vehicle, when she leaned against a firehouse garage door and fell into the path of a vehicle responding to what turned out to be a false fire alarm early in the morning. Students mourned and held a candlelight vigil for Pally, and, later on, six members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity were arrested for providing minors with alcohol at a party. Pally, who was seen drinking at the party, had a blood-alcohol level three times over the legal limit at her time of death. The Kappa Sigma fraternity itself was permanently expelled from the university and had its national charter revoked in February 2017.
October 24: Power Outage due to Squirrel Cancels Classes
A squirrel fatally caught in a transformer outside Torrey Life Sciences shut down dozens of buildings across campus, including residential halls and classrooms. Classes were cancelled in all affected buildings, and students and professors were evacuated out of the impacted areas. This was the second incident involving TLS in a week the first being a fire in a basement laboratory that led to the building’s evacuation the week before.
Provost Mun Choi announced that he would be leaving his position as UConn Provost in order to serve as the president of Mizzou, after former president Timothy Wolfe resigned amid student and faculty protests in November 2015. Currently, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Jeremy Teitelbaum serves as interim provost.
January 27: Blended Burger met with Criticism
Dining Service’s move to replace the beef burger with a half-mushroom, half-beef burger for the spring 2017 semester proved to be a controversial one. Students complained about the burger’s taste and texture, and even started a petition to change the menu back to the former beef burger. Dining Services executive director Dennis Pierce said that the blended burger was more sustainable, since mushroom uses less water and resources to produce.
February 22: UNESCO Chair Dismissed
Human Rights activist and UConn history professor Dr. Amii Omara-Otunnu was dismissed from his position as the UNESCO Chair for UConn in December 2016, ending a 15-year appointment by the United Nations. The dismissal was reportedly due to the university not refiling the paperwork needed to renew the position. Student ambassadors protested the decision, though as of now, the chair position has not been fulfilled.
March 4: USG Elections
2017’s student elections proved to be rife with scandal, as Board of Trustees candidate Christine Savino was accused of both plagiarism of a fellow candidate's platform, and disqualified from the election following a failure to disclose her financial statement. Savino later appealed the disqualification and won, becoming the undergraduate student trustee for UConn’s Board. In the USG elections, results were delayed for nearly a week as USG judiciary charged presidential candidate Andrew Stern’s campaign with slander against his opponent, Irma Valverde. In the end, Valverde won the election and became USG president.
Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison faced criticism from students when she announced that Cultural Centers could no longer participate in the Homecoming Parade, due to their status as administrative offices and not student organizations. Students attended a Board of Trustees meeting and called for Murchison to be put on probation, citing her lack of student input and her disrespect towards students as grounds for a probationary period. President Susan Herbst sided with Murchison, stating that as Diversity Officer she had the authority to make all final decisions.
Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.