Board approves ASL degree, new Asian fast food restaurant in Union; Chairman steps down

Board of Trustees meets at Wilbur Cross Reading Room on Wednesday morning and approves programs like an American Sign Language Major. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Board of Trustees meets at Wilbur Cross Reading Room on Wednesday morning and approves programs like an American Sign Language Major. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees confirmed a new degree program for American Sign Language studies Wednesday morning, the first of its kind in the United States. The board also approved funding for renovations on the former Panda Express space in the Student Union in order to build a UConn Dining-Services-based Asian fast food restaurant, and bid farewell to to current chairman Thomas Krueger.

The Academic Affairs Committee approved of the Bachelor of Arts degree program for American sign language, which interim provost John A. Elliott said was “one of the most commonly studied languages behind French and Spanish.”

The degree will allow students to not only study to become interpreters, but also incorporate sign language into other careers, including medicine, business and speech-language pathology, as double majors, Elliot said. Courses will include ASL I and II, as well as courses such as Intro to the Sociolinguistics of the Deaf Community. Students may choose between two concentrations: Deaf Studies, which focuses on Deaf culture, and Interpreting ASL and English.

The board also approved a $700,000 allocation to renovate the former Wendy’s/Panda Express location in the Student Union. Since there have been no bids from franchised companies to take over the space, UConn Dining Services will instead operate an Asian fast-food restaurant, based on the food’s popularity with students, Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan said.

“We’re having a hard time maintaining those franchises,” Jordan said. “We expect [the new restaurant] would be profitable. It would pay for itself.”

The board also approved the consolidation of the Towers laundry rooms from 16 rooms to two, while maintaining the same number of laundry and dryer machines, Associate Vice President of Facilities Operations Mike Jednak said.

As the meeting closed, chairman Krueger bid farewell to board. Kruger is being replaced by a new chairman appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont. Vice-chairman Thomas Rietter will serve as interim while Lamont finds a replacement.

Krueger thanked the board, Lamont, incoming president Thomas Katsouleas and the former governor who appointed him, Dannel Malloy, for their support during his time.

“It is clear to me that Governor Lamont sees this flagship research institution under our new president as a vital contributor to the State and as a key to Connecticut’s successful future, Krueger said. “I look forward to President-designate, Tom Katsouleas, having the full support of the Governor and this board during his tenure as President. Tom has much to offer, and I am sure his vision for UConn will do much to ensure that the University will be the right partner in driving the state forward.”

Krueger reflected on his time as chairman, having served one year after former chairman Lawrence McHugh stepped down in 2018. He said he has high hopes for the university moving forward.

“We face many challenges this year and in the years ahead, but my fondest hope is that the University will meet those challenges with the same élan and success it has to date,” Krueger said. “If everyone on this board continues to put UConn first, first above personal ambition and first above personal agenda, I know the university will remain in safe hands, continuing to grow in impact and expand in reputation.”

Though he is stepping down from the board, Krueger still expressed strong sentiments about the ongoing effort from the Undergraduate Student Government to add two new student trustees to the board, which he said is for the next chairman to determine.

“I think the interest of the the students is adequately represented by two students on the board,” Krueger said. “What increment of representation would another two add? We have 21 members on the board. It’s complicated enough.”


Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.