Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Please Don’t Defend the Indefensible

As a UConn alumna whose graduate research concerns mass trauma, I was stunned and disappointed to read a Daily Campus Opinion article defending Rep. Ihlan Omar’s inexcusable rhetoric around 9/11. Cameron Cantelmo’s recent article was extraordinarily dismissive of the collective pain of victims, survivors, and witnesses of 9/11. 

Letter to the Editor: Addressing Sexual Violence with Compassion and Knowledge

Navigating being a victim of a crime, especially sexual assault, can be difficult and confusing. It’s not always clear to people what their rights are as victims, how to access services, or if they have any guarantee that they’ll be treated with respect during the criminal justice process. As a result, many survivors of crimes don’t get access to the rights and supports they are entitled to, and may be unable to continue with criminal justice proceedings at all.

Letter to the Editor: Censorship at UConn (AsACC)

Our seven-minute performance included monologues about the three provinces of Tibet. Each monologue was followed by dance from that province. The final dance was a popular Tibetan gorshey (circle dance), meant to symbolize unity. You can watch the entire performance recorded by UCTV for free. Several students, primarily international Chinese students, were disturbed by our performance and began booing.

Letter to the Editor: "Somebody Call 911 - Seriously"

TW: Rape 

To say I have been disappointed is an understatement. Sean Kingston, an artist announced for the UCONNIC Music Festival, hosted by Tier III organization, SUBOG, received much excitement from the student body online. From what it appeared, it received more positive praise than from the announcement of headliner Lil Baby. I will admit, I was stoked as well because as a fellow early-2000’s teen, “Fire Burning” was a bop. Once the excitement settled and reality came in, I felt the uncomfortable memory of an old news story of this singer and his past with sexual assault. You see, Sean Kingston was accused of getting a 19-year-old woman drunk, and then sexually assaulting her with his bodyguard and a member of his band. Like too many of these situations, this was settled out of court to avoid bringing too much on the perpetrator's career. It seems to have worked as SUBOG selected him as an opener without addressing this concern. SUBOG is complicit in the erasure of sexual assault victims. 

Yet, it seems that there is a complete failure upon a myriad of UConn Student Organizations. Following the announcement, The Daily Campus published a Life article titled, “Tonight we raise a glass to Sean Kingston,” featuring drinks one could make to celebrate his coming to campus. It is deplorable that a student news organization would celebrate a man who is accused of getting a 19-year-old drunk, and sexually assaulting her, with drink recipes. As a fellow rape survivor, one whose perpetrator was not charged, this is beyond “y’all got a fucking problem with everything.”

On April 10, the UConn Women’s Center, Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and the UConn Asian American Cultural Center will host Tarana Burke, creator of the “Me Too” movement. The next day, SUBOG will host Sean Kingston. Last week, we’ve asked the University to have more representation in videos and at the table who makes decisions on such content. What we need is to have representation and research done to protect other voices. As a black woman, I often wonder what happened in these rooms where decisions were made. Were any women or sexual assault survivors in the room when Sean Kingston was selected? 

Tier III Organizations, do better.

All the best,

Kailey Townsend

Communication, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Class of 2019

Former Tier III Leader, WHUS Radio

Letter to the Editor: Professors - The Good, The Bad, and the Senile

Introduction

I, like many Americans, have experienced in some form or another university like education or what is referred to as, ”higher education”. My current three years in undergrad have taught me that higher education is in many ways not all that different from other forms of education. One of the many traits that it shares with other forms of education, is that the instructor literally makes or breaks a class in terms of how much a student can get out of it. In this paper I intend to break down what are the traits in professors, that I personally find make a Professor good, bad, or, just straight senile.

1 Lectures

Lectures function in a course as the time when a professional in the field is giving you their personal understanding of the subject, to you directly. For that reason lectures are one of the single most important parts of a course that if done poorly, can ruin the entire course. There are two ways in which a professor can take away from their lecture. The first is in how one lectures and the second is how much time they waste. Since lectures are so important, any time an instructor wastes in a lecture is a waste of your time and money.

1.1 Word Vomit

Word vomit and filler words are a problem most people have, not just academia. Although I have a preference to never hear their use in any conversation, it is especially crucial for professors to avoid the use of such terms, or phrases, during a lecture. The words of a professor is literal information for students to absorb in order to have a better understanding of the course material. Depending on the rate of the use of word vomit, students will stop listening. In a perfect world, students would not change how active a listener they are depending on how often the word ”um” comes from their professors mouth. The truth is that the less substance you have in your sentence, the less likely someone will place an effort in decoding filler from the real meaning of your sentence.

The most common term professors use to clutter their sentences is undoubtedly the word, ”right.” Take a day to make a tally of every time your professor places a well timed ”right” at the end of their sentence in a lecture, my personal high score as of now is ninety seven. For all the professors out there who do not know how to use the word ”right”, allow me to educate you. When you state what you believe to be a piece of information that the rest of your audience would know, but become unsure if that is the case midway in stating it, you utilize ”right” at the end of your sentence. Students that would like to discriminate between when an instructor is using the word to take up space, and when they truly mean it, take a look at where they are looking when they utter it. If your professor is not looking at the audience, for instance a book, PowerPoint, or white board, they are not looking for a reaction to their question. Therefore, confirming their reliance on the word to just take up time or to sound professor like.The bottom line is, when anyone lectures, the more time you waste with words that do not explain what you mean, the more time someone is wasting by listening to you.

1.2 Audience Involvement

Unlike word vomit, audience involvement is something that I cannot even begin to guess where it originated from. Audience involvement also changes depending on the field we are talking about; STEM, Humanities, Social Sciences, and so on. When I refer to audience involvement, I am looking at when a teacher looks to the audience and expects a response. It is important to note that this tool in teaching, like many things I will discuss in this paper, can be a great addition to a class or a hindrance. In this case I will be pointing out when it is used poorly.

The worst situation is at the STEM based classes. In most cases in STEM courses, this is done when a professor demonstrating a problem or testing students. Professors showcasing how solving example problems related to a topic is as important, as it is frequent. It is only an issue when the instructor calls to the audience to help them through the solution. In addition, the use of spur of the moment questions to see if the audience is paying attention, is an absolute waste of time. Normally students do not feel comfortable calling attention to themselves, so in many circumstances no one responds. Students can quiz themselves on memory and practice problems in their own time. This is an example of wasting precious lecture time with something a student can do by themselves. Do not underestimate how much time it takes away from a class. Every question a professor asks that is met with silence, will add up and take the overall attention of students away from what is happening in the lecture.

As for the Social Sciences, the use of audience involvement has a higher chance of positive contributions to the class, but the same issue with STEM can happen in these courses. If the instructor just wants a student to give info to the class, as opposed to doing it themselves, there will always be a problem. On the on other hand, the Social Sciences can benefit in proving points by using classes as a sample for statistics. For example, if a sociology professor in a mandatory freshmen course wants to showcase the differences found in employment between gender. It may be a great idea to use the class by asking students in the course to raise their hands based on desired employment, then dividing the room by gender identity, and then looking for patterns. This helps show a concept with audience involvement that does not take away from a lecture and, in fact, adds to it.

Unlike the STEM courses Social Sciences can fall into the trap of trying to make conversations and discussions with students. It is really important to note that discussion is one of the best parts of academia and should not be thrown away, but that is not the same as using up lecture time for discussion. Courses that benefit from discussion should have distinct discussion times with TA’s. The real meat of what makes discussion useful is between peers, not with professors. If a course is missing one, and arguably could use one, then the solution is to have a discussion session instead of taking up valuable lecture time with a teacher. Professors that spend their lecture time listening to the opinion of students, is a waste of time. Every individual in that class did not spend multiple thousands of dollars to hear themselves speak, this can be done in our own time, we came to listen to someone who knows what they are doing.

1.3 The use of Visual Aid

Almost every lecture uses some form of visual aid whether it is a Power Point, picture set, video, model, or an old fashioned chalkboard. It is important to note that visual aids are immensely helpful in getting complicated and intricate subjects across. But, like most things, there exists a poor way to use it. The first way to use a visual aid incorrectly, is to use it as a replacement for an actual lecture. This sounds obvious and seems rare, but only one of those assumptions is correct. Even in university education, the amount of courses that will use an entire lecture period to play a video is alarmingly large. Playing a video is an example of an activity that can be done on your own, that is being used to replace actual lecture time with an instructor. That is not to say videos are not useful in any setting of learning, they are just best used in lecture when they are short, and should be assigned as work outside of class when they consume a lengthy stretch of time. The subject of the video can then be discussed, or analyzed, in class if a professor chooses to do so.

In the hierarchy of horrible visual aid uses, videos replacing a lecture is most certainly at the top. Second to that, would be the use of power points as scripts for a lecture. That issue exists in both the corporate world and academia, and it stems from an individual not knowing what they are talking about? If an individual is knowledgeable and comfortable in the topic of a conversation, or in this case a lecture, they could discuss the topic without a script, and they would prefer in most cases to not have one. So when a professor reads off a power point, it does not just look like they are unfamiliar with the topic at hand, it most likely is the case.

A professor who is knowledgeable and experienced can lecture on a subject with nothing, but a blank chalkboard and a piece of chalk. Ideal professors already know which important key terms, or visuals, are significant to the related topic. They are familiar with the subject material either because they spent years tackling it themselves or, form recent training to familiarize old material. They can produce visuals with their chalkboard in real-time during the lecture, instead of relying on a pre-made visual aid ahead of time. There is nothing wrong with preparing a PowerPoint for a lecture(in fact, it is almost always a good idea) the important part is that the professor is using it to better their ability, not to replace it.

2 Questions

How an instructor answers questions, is a really good method of finding out the quality of a professor. A good question typically facilitates an answer that displays a professor’s knowledge of the topic being discussed, rather than an answer they have practiced giving. That is because the student is seeking more information from the professor, data that has yet to be, or wont be, presented. Now they are not repeating info that can be memorized instead they are listening to something new and thinking with years of knowledge that a student does not have to formulate a response. Therefore, to give a good answer to a question the most important prerequisite is to have a strong level of understanding of the discipline the question is based in.

2.1 It is okay, to say, ”I don’t know”

There are three possible routes an instructor can precede with when they can not answer a question. Route one is, give a response that does not answer the question. The second, give a blatantly false answer to the question. Lastly, admit to the reality that you do not know the answer. I have found the overwhelmingly more common choice professors make is to not answer the question, that being as appalling as it is, the most heinous of the options is to knowingly give false information. The only remaining choice out of the three is to admit to not knowing the answer.

The few times that a professor responded to a question from either myself or a classmate with “I don’t know,” I have felt nothing but admiration and respect. I personally hold honesty to be the most important trait in individuals, especially one with authority, like a professor or teacher. I am not the only student that has such high admiration for those words. A professor who does not hold a certain standard of knowledge for their subject is one of the worst instructors to be stuck with but, professors are not built with update-able hard drives. No matter how knowledgeable a teacher is, there will eventually be a question they will not have an answer for. When this happens, there is a choice to be made, be honest or be something worse.

I have only encountered one professor who was truly astonishing. When she found herself with a question she could not answer, she said, “I don’t know” followed by, “but I will find out and let you know next time.” She proceeded to make a note, and delivered on her promise for the next lecture. I was bewildered to a degree I had yet to experience in university life. This answer is an example of how a spectacular professor interacts with her students. She remains honest throughout her time with us, and when she came to a spot where she could not give an answer she, on her own accord, obtained the information she was lacking and informed us right away. In contrast, with a professor that does not even answer the question, it makes me want to get up and leave every time I hear an instructor chose to avoid answering a question.

2.2 Lack of Active listening

It is sad to admit, but most of my peers are not successful at wording their questions to say what they mean. However, it is still very doable to listen to a student, and quickly determine where a student is misunderstandings the material. Students often become puzzled or adopt the wrong understanding of material for similar reasons. I can normally deduce what those common hurdles are, either from knowing the material itself, or from listening to the questions asked by my peers. We can view both understanding the material and active listening as prerequisites to being able to answer a question properly. Both are very much possible to obtain by professors(and should), but many fail to procure the last one. The difference in professors who actively listen to their students, and those who do not, is monumental.

Here is an example of a personal experience with a professor that did not actively listen. The course was a CS course that was looking at data structures. Do not panic if you are unfamiliar with this topic, it is the interaction that is important, not the subject matter. For the entire course until this point we had been looking at one type of data structure, referred to as a linear data structure. Binary trees were the first topic that was fundamentally different from the pattern the class had took until that point. The professor had just explained what binary trees(the new data structure) were, and was now displaying code that actually implemented the theory he was just discussing. A student raised their hand and asked, “How do know which child node, left or right, to use first?” Again, the content of this question is not really important, what is important, is how the professor responded. In response to this question, the instructor pointed to the board, and restated what each line was doing in the exact same words that he used before. There are two major problems here. First, is he did not actually answer the students question. The student asked how the professor knew something, which should be answered with a thought process of why that choice was made. Instead, the professor responded by explaining what the code on the board does. Just from listening to the question, you can assume the student thinks they know what the code is doing, they do not understand why it was done. Second, the professor did not find the clear origin of the problem the student had. Which was, they were still thinking in terms of the category of data structures that the class was no longer discussing. The student was still thinking from the perspective of the previous topic, instead of the one currently being taught. As an instructor in this course, it should have been relatively simple to find this if they were actively listening. After Considering the change of topic and what the student had asked, the instructor should have deduced why the student was having trouble, and then confront the issue. Instead the teacher repeated the previous two minutes of lecture. Either the instructor is unfamiliar with the topic and cannot actually understand what the student was saying(and that student was quite clear), or they simply did not actively listen to what their student said. I would bet on the latter, and not the former.

2.3 Not Answering the Question

The most common thing I see in academia when a professor is asked a question that does not go along the lines of, ”how do I do this” or, ”why was this wrong”, is an intentional decision to avoid the question. This avoidance is usually done by repeating the last few explanations, or words, given in the lecture. In fact, professors love doing this trick so much, they will even add it on to their actual answer of a question. At one point in my undergrad career, a course I took was mentioning climate change. In that lecture, I started realizing that the professor was using numerous graphs to represent phenomena, but had no idea where they came form. I started questioning how much she really knew about the facts she was talking about, and I took a blind swing on something I was genuinely curious about that I saw on her PowerPoint. The bullet on the PowerPoint was, ”It has been estimated that black carbon is responsible for a quarter of observed global warming.” There are many questions that can be asked about this fact. What is the difference between observed and actual global warming? Who made the estimation? how does percent work in this case? But, I went with the basic question, ”How do we estimate such a piece of information?” The answer I was given started out decently with an, “I don’t know,” and then continued with another five minutes of explaining what black carbon was. This information was already explained to us on the previous slide. In short, the professor reiterated information that was stated not even two minutes ago, in answering a question that should have only consisted of, I don’t know” My guess is the professor was not comfortable saying she did not know how it worked, and, therefore, inserted unnecessary and redundant information in order to give her response more substance.

Repeating information is not the only fun thing that teachers use to not answer questions; they also answer a different question. Similar to the use of a straw man in an argument, instructors will responded to questions they cannot answer by answering a similar question. It sounds like a ludicrous idea because, one would imagine the person who asked the question would bring up the fact that their question was not answered. Unfortunately, not the case but, this is the issue at the fault of those who are straw maned. When this happens, it should be very easy to mention that your question was not answered. It might be wrong for professors to respond to question like this, but students are equally responsible for not standing up when they have been metaphorically slapped in the face.

3 What to do about it

I think the answer to this problem is a simple one. Students need to talk about it. That is the reason why this paper even exists. My goal is to have a real and coherent, explanation for what I think is right, and wrong in teaching, so that others have something to point to. With this base established, people can agree or disagree, but now we will actually have a conversation going on the subject, from the perspective of students. Hopefully this will make for a change in the future of academia, for the better.


Daniel Belousov is a University of Connecticut student who submitted this piece. He can be reached at daniel.belousov@uconn.edu.

Letter to the Editor: Stand Against Islamophobia and the Far-Right Statement

We are united in our opposition to the program of elitism, white supremacy, and misogyny represented by Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, and the UConn TPUSA chapter’s decision to invite them. As Muslims, Jews, undocumented students, members of the LGBTQ+ community, working people, and students of color, we stand resolutely opposed to the ideas and principles espoused by Kirk and Owens. We find it especially inappropriate to invite the two in the wake of the Christchurch massacre of our Muslim siblings in New Zealand. The murderer was inspired by Owens specifically and the general ideology of Kirk and his organization.

At the same time, we understand that the university administration is incapable of providing a positive solution to these problems. Giving them more authority to regulate student groups has only made it more difficult to organize for social justice. We take seriously the threat that increased policing of student organizations has to bringing in speakers who are undocumented, formerly incarcerated, Palestinian, and other people whose circumstances of life make them political targets. Many of us have experienced these difficulties first-hand.

Together, we are holding rally to voice our opposition to the ideas of Owens and Kirk. It will also be an affirmation of our commitment to protecting our own rights to free speech, expression, and organization. We are standing united for a program of full rights for immigrants, undocumented and documented; LGBTQIA+ communities; students of color; and all working and oppressed people. Concretely, we support increasing funding and expanding the activities of all cultural centers, cultural studies programs, and affirmative action on campus.

Please join us on April 9th, 6:00 P.M. at Castleman Room 212 for a rally and consider becoming a co-signer.

Signed:

UConn Muslim Students Association, 
UConn Students for Justice in Palestine,
UConn Bangladeshi Student Association,
UConn Revolution Against Rape,
UConn Young Democratic Socialists,
UConn Youth for Socialist Action,
UConn Stamford Young Democratic Socialists,
UConn Campus Antifascist Network


Letter to the Editor: Will CTE be the end of football?

Football has been known as a brutal sport since its creation. Nicknamed the gridiron, football is a game of strength, speed, and durability. As an avid Ravens fan and sports fan in general, I’ve seen my fair share of nasty hits. One example was Bernard Pollard’s hit on Stevan Ridley’s in the 2013 AFC Championship Game. I remember it clearly; Ridley looked like he has asleep on the field.  As a Ravens fan I couldn’t contain my excitement, but as a person I was shocked by the viciousness of the hit. While I love football and watching it, I decided then my kid would never play. While it’s obvious all sports have a hint to danger and injury to them, football escalates those odds; especially permanently sustained injuries. CTE and Concussions are one such example of a prolonging injury. CTE, or Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy, is caused by multiple concussions or repeated head traumas. CTE is caused by the onset of repetitive concussions, especially those that arise from violent hits seen every game in football. CTE has been becoming more and more prevalent in football, along with research explaining how deadly they really can be. This raises an important question -- what exactly are concussions, and how can we make football safer? Is it time for the end of the gridiron?

Concussions are caused by a hard hit, bump, or blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. When this sensation occurs, the brain hits the walls of the cranium, causing brain cells to become outstretched and damaged. As someone who has had multiple concussions, I can tell you they aren’t fun. Anything that strains your eyes causes a pain in your head, dizziness, nausea, etc. But, these are only short term problems experienced with concussions. One or two concussions aren’t life-threatening, but multiple concussions can lead to CTE which causes long-term effects (which thankfully I haven’t experienced) that are much more severe. A study done by researchers at the University of New Hampshire tested two groups of 18-24 year olds; one group having sustained 2 or more concussions (with the most recent being at least a month before the test), and a group with no concussions. After monitoring memory speed and brainwave activity, they concluded that those who experienced multiple concussions had lower brain processing and activity than those who had experienced none. More specifically, activities that caused the participant to switch tasks (find a color then a shape) were especially poor. This led to the conclusion that with concussions, the brain's ability to communicate information becomes diminished. So with our knowledge of how dangerous concussions can be in the long run, we now turn our attention to the prevalence in football.
Concussions and CTE have been becoming more and more popular in the media over the years. It began with Junior Seau, a former NFL player who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He wanted to keep his brain intact so scientists would be able to analyze the effects that such vicious contact can do to your body. Ever since then, more and more evidence has been piled against CTE, specifically in football. One study, led by researchers at Boston University, analyzed the brains of 202 former football players. Within these brains, they found that 87% had shown signs of CTE from repetitive head trauma. To test CTE, they look for the marker in the brain -- a bunch of neuronal clumps of a protein called tau. What the also found out, astonishingly, is that whether brain changes in these player were mild or severe, all men experienced mood, behavioral, and/or cognitive problems associated with CTE. This study showcases the severity of concussions; once you go past a certain point, the brain is unable to repair itself and progressively becomes worse.

With all the evidence about the dangers of football, the questions arises if should end football in the future? A sport this dangerous should not be condoned going forward right? In a perfect world I would agree, but we live in something far from it. Football is a revenue goldmine in America. Wherever you look you see an NFL team, the NFL logo, or even a sponsor that gives money to the league. Also, there is so much comradery and passion surrounding both professional and college football (especially in the South), that if football was to be ended America would go on a complete riot. It’s just not possible to just rip out football root and stem because football is a huge part of American Culture.


Another two big reason footballs will continue to go on are the advancements in safety, as well as risk compared to other sports. Like I mentioned earlier, all sports have a hint of danger to them. A study done by researchers in the United Kingdom examined the brains of soccer player for CTE from repeated concussions. what they found was that all 14 players tested showed signs of the disease. While the research itself doesn’t suggest a higher risk from playing soccer, it highlights the possibility for more research into contact sports, and that CTE doesn’t just evolve from the true contact sports (football, hockey). But, what they did find form the study that all these players were known for heading the ball, which could directly impact CTE diagnosis. Football isn’t the only sport where CTE is prevalent, so it would be farfetched to end the sport because of the disease. What we can do, instead, is modify equipment to ensure the safety of all players.


The NFL and football community has been implementing new and safer equipment to try and minimize all injuries, especially head ones. These advancements focus on helmets and mouthguards. Why the NFL is focusing on helmets is obvious: when a helmet absorbs more impact it will reduce the jolt of the player’s head inside. Researchers at UCLA are looking to use a material called “Architected Lattice”, which is a substance used to absorb most of the hit sustained by a tackle. It was shown to reduce impact force by 26% compared to normal helmets. Another advancement is the implementation and encouragement of mouth guards. Mouth guards, when worn properly, absorb a lot of impact that would normally be felt by your teeth colliding together. With this phenomena, it only enhances the trauma caused by head injuries. While studies show that mouth guards decrease concussion symptoms, it is unclear by how effective it really is. There have been concurrent research studies that show custom-made mouthguards are better while some say all generic guards have the same effect. One thing is for certain, however, advancement in technology only means safer equipment for our players (“5 ways to..”)


Overall, football is a vicious game of passions and controversy. I feel like people I know either love football, or hate it, there’s really no in-between. While football is something I would never immerse myself into, it is slowly becoming more safer to pass down to the younger generation. In a recent study done in January of 2019, the NFL found a remarkable 26% decrease in concussions from last year. With a total of 190 concussions, it is the lowest number in 13 years. Researchers are crediting both safer equipment and rule changes as the cause. With more touchbacks on kickoffs (when the kicker kicks the ball out of bounds behind the end zone), there is less high-speed collisions with players. The NFLPA (players association) also found that, on the last week of the season in 2018, 71% of players were wearing improved helmets, compared to only 46% from the previous season. As we strive towards the future, we have nowhere to go but up. While our scientific advancements are making the field a better place to be, we can still be better. Whether it comes from completely new equipments, new rules, or even a new game, America and the rest of the world will need to learn how to tackle CTE.


Letter to the Editor: Foreign aid is good aid

Foreign aid is one of the most contentious topics in American politics and budgeting, and it has been for quite a while. Before World War I, we did not engage in any foreign intervention efforts, and the prospect of doing so scared many Americans. President Wilson was the one to make the stance that we must eventually intervene, and on the prospect of helping not only others, and ourselves and our own self-interests. Over the next several decades, the United States began to become a dominating force in the world, and now is seemingly involved in every world problem today.

Despite all this, the United States actually gives very little foreign aid in comparison to other world superpowers, and even non superpowers. On average, Americans believe 25% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid and believe that it should be cut down to 10%. We give about $30 billion to programs that assist the world’s impoverished. This seems like a lot, doesn’t it? That is 1% of our overall budget. Yet, every single year, the budget gets smaller and smaller for this incredibly important part of our budget. For the political pressure to rise on this important issue, the public must be made aware.

Foreign aid does not only help those directly receiving the aid but causes a domino effect that helps Americans. It has been proven that impoverished countries have weaker state institutions in place that are highly prone to militant groups and cartels toppling the government. Terrorism is one of the greatest threats in our world today, with over one third of Americans being very afraid of being the victim of a terrorist attack. Increasing the aid budget is pivotal to increasing our national security, and also saving millions of lives. The programs that are being funded through this budget are pivotal in helping impoverished people be alleviated from their suffering and deserve much more than just 1% of our annual budget.


Letter to the Editor: Inaccuracies in Thursday's editorial

To the Editor: 

Thursday’s Daily Campus editorial regarding UConn administrators’ vacation time (“UConn Faces Lack of Administrative Oversight”) contained multiple inaccuracies that warrant clarification beyond what might be captured in a short news correction.

Therefore, we ask that you publish this response in its entirety to correct the record and to do right by those who have been wrongly and unfairly accused of misconduct.

UConn administrators receive 22 days of vacation annually, as do UConn staff whose jobs are covered by union contracts. The editorial’s statement that UConn employees can “accrue 60 days of vacation time per year that they can roll over to the next” is not accurate.

Under UConn policy, they can roll over unused vacation days from one year to the next until the number reaches 60 days. When they leave UConn or if they are faculty members who return to teaching, they are paid for unused vacation time up to 60 days – all of which they had earned under terms of their employment and none of which are extra or “bonus” days, as has been suggested.

UConn’s policy is twice as stringent as the rest of state government. Elsewhere in state government, administrators can accrue up to 120 days and receive payment for all of those days upon leaving their jobs – plus a portion of the value of their unused sick days, for which UConn gives no compensation.

Your editorial incorrectly says UConn administrators have “racked up” what you call “bonus pay for bonus days … on their way out,” all of which is not accurate. All of the individuals are actively employed and not “on their way out,” nor is it true that they “might be getting” paid for days above 60.

They won’t. We have said that before and will continue to repeat it as often as necessary to make the point clear. Those statements, along with charges of “flagrant disregard for the system” and “repeatedly disobey(ing) the rules” are inaccurate and a disservice to readers and to the employees they reference.

Here are the facts: UConn’s policy limits the vacation day accrual tally to 60. However, it also gives the Board of Trustees and its designees the authority to make exceptions in limited cases, which is what occurred with these employees.

No one has “skirted around the rule,” as your editorial says; they received permission under the narrow circumstances envisioned in, and consistent with, UConn policy and procedures.

This occurs in limited cases when an employee’s obligations have made it impossible for them to use the vacation time they earned in one or more particular years – in those unusual handful of cases, they have been allowed under terms of the policy to keep days above 60 to use them later.

In fact, taking away those days would in essence punish them for having put in the extra work necessary to complete the obligations that arose and which the University needed them to handle. I can’t imagine any circumstance in which anyone would think that’s fair.

For example: UConn has opened new residence halls in Storrs and Stamford in recent years, extensively renovated some dining halls, and made other upgrades in student housing and food services. A few directors in those areas had such critical roles that it wasn’t possible for them to take vacation time without the deadline-driven projects being affected. Leaving for long periods in the summer wasn’t feasible because much of the work on those projects was taking place then; likewise, taking extended vacations during the school year can be difficult because they are so integral to daily operations.

Is it fair to erase their vacation days, effectively punishing them for stepping up to the plate to get these projects done -- and meaning they essentially would have worked for free for the number of days they’d lose?

Allowing them to carry over the unused vacation days above 60 in those years does not give them or any other employees the ability to get paid for any of those days. It only gives the individual the opportunity to be able to use the time later that they couldn’t take because of circumstances beyond their control, such as in the example above.

It’s been written that President Herbst and others have “racked up” about $214,000 collectively in vacation days in excess of the 60-day limit. Given that those are days that will be erased when they leave, the calculations are moot.

Here’s another way of looking at it: The University has received thousands of hours of time from people who were completing critical tasks, staying on the job when they might otherwise have been with their families on the vacation days they’d earned and were unable to take.

We could be militant and wipe away those days or, as the University policy allows, recognize the unusual circumstances and offer a fair solution that lets that very small number of people use the days they rightfully earned.

I would add that in regard to the trope about “administrative bloat,” UConn’s management structure one of the leanest among similar universities, with a faculty to administrator ratio of 14.1 – the second highest in the peer group – and the highest student to administrator ratio, with almost 242 students per administrator.

In fact, administrative jobs have consistently remained between only about 2.2 and 2.5 percent of the UConn workforce for the past 25 years, despite a significant growth in the University’s enrollment and academic scope.

UConn works very hard to be efficient in its operations and equitable in its employment practices. As with any large operation, there are times when we concede that we can do better – but when the University is the subject of inaccurate and unfair criticisms lacking research and context, it’s detrimental to everyone.

 Sincerely,

Stephanie Reitz

UConn spokesperson

Letter to the Editor: UConnPIRG's Affordable Textbooks campaign

A fresh semester can seem great to students until they see what textbooks they need, especially if the course is required.

On the first day of my required Organic Chemistry class, my professor presented the syllabus and told the class that we were required to purchase a course package priced at $400. This is a problem countless students face without a choice in the matter. Students can either excel in class and burden themselves financially or risk poor performance.

Another common problem students face is bundled class materials. The only way to get the workbook or access code included in bundled class materials is by buying a brand new textbook. This eliminates student options of used or rented books and was created by publishing companies to harm those markets. Enter open textbooks.

Open textbooks are published under an open license, and are accessible online for free and in print at a lower cost than traditionally published textbooks. Open textbooks can be remixed by professors or combined with other open textbooks to create a custom book.

The result of adopting open textbooks is students can learn with high quality peer-reviewed materials without the barriers of cost and professors can create the perfect book for their class. Additionally, students will not be placed in the uncomfortable position of choosing between their grades and their finances.

The cost of textbooks is increasing at over three times the rate of inflation, contributing to the rising cost of attending college. We need to take course materials costs seriously to keep college affordable.


Response to Editorial: Integration magnet schools, yet another desegregation failure

Dear Editorial Board,

Over the last three years, I have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from community members pursuing educational justice in Hartford and their partners from across the country. The issues involved in school segregation, integration, and equity are complex, and those who dedicate themselves to addressing them face many obstacles and frustrations caused by past and current racism and white supremacy embedded in our educational system. It is far easier to stand on the sidelines and criticize such efforts, as you did in your 12/4 editorial on the topic of school integration in Hartford, than to critically and productively engage in the process of seeking solutions. I was startled to read the headline of the piece, declaring the efforts a failure, and further dismayed to read the incomplete and misleading content.

The Connecticut Supreme Court decision of 22 years ago referred to in your editorial is the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case filed by families in and around Hartford to raise up the rights of Hartford public school students who were denied an education equal to their peers in suburban school districts due to segregation and economic disparities. The Regional School Choice Office lottery that was mentioned in the editorial is undoubtedly flawed, and the plaintiffs in the Sheff case continue to litigate with the state on this and other deficiencies in delivering on their responsibility to all Hartford students. One point that should be made here is that the “empty seats" issue is not caused by the 75% integration goal, but rather the failure of the state to fund and expand the capacity of magnet schools to meet the demand for them.

With the current lawsuit, Robinson v. Wentzell, challenging the lottery admissions system and potentially threatening the progress that has been made for quality, integrated education for Hartford students, it’s imperative that there be factual and unbiased information shared among your readers, including that Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative non-profit organization that stands for among other things opposing affirmative action, is representing the plaintiffs in this case.

My hope is that going forward the resources and platforms that we as members of the UConn community have access to will be used in a more responsible way with regard to issues of such great human importance.

Additional sources of information include: the NAACP LDF, the Sheff Movement Coalition, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sincerely,

Patricia O’Rourke
PhD Program, Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut
patricia.orourke@uconn.edu


Letter to the Editor: Towers is treasure 4

To whom it may concern,

My name is Sean Rose (CLAS ‘09), and I must say, I read the previous letter written by Stephen Winchell (CLAS ‘08) with a sense of confusion. For a moment, it seemed as if Mr. Winchell had accidentally mailed in a rough draft of one of his many bizarre, poorly written fiction novels. I mean, when you get rejected by every reputable publisher out there, I guess mailing it into the Daily Campus would be your next best option! Why not!

But upon close examination, an even darker truth emerged: this was, in fact, Mr. Winchell’s sincere response to my previous letter. The man was apparently so badly eviscerated he couldn’t reply with anything but a bunch of whiny lies. I was hoping my last letter would force him to at least take a stab at something coherent, but of course I was expecting too much from a former West resident. My bad!

I will not respond to Mr. Winchell’s ludicrous, mean-spirited lies about chauffeurs and caviar and buying grades. I guess when you never wash your clothes, eat nothing but Flamin Hot Cheetos, and sleep through almost all of your classes, you’ll assume pretty much anyone with a modicum of hygiene as being “rich enough to buy anything [they] want.”

No, Mr. Winchell, its simply called taking care of yourself. Its called taking showers, eating well, and studying. You had the money and resources to do all of these things, and you didn’t take it. Instead you holed up in filthy West all day and all night, dedicating yourself to becoming one of the most repulsive creeps Storrs Mansfield has ever witnessed. And you take pride, in this! Good lord.

As for your claim about Towers residents “weeping and wailing” that night in 2008 - what kind of nonsense is this? Perhaps those voices you heard were inside of you, Mr. Winchell. Perhaps it was your soul, crying out, begging for a more desirable vessel. A vessel that had the good sense to brush its teeth once in a while, or ingest something besides Dubra and Monster Energy Drinks.

Or, how about this - one that could admit, once and for all, that Towers beats West.

Take a hike, Winchell. Towers Rules.

Sean Rose

CLAS, 09

Letter to the Editor: Don't want higher taxes? Don't be mislead by 'tax talk'

Stefanowski says he’d ‘cut taxes’ and Lamont would ‘raise taxes.’ That’s earned him some voters’ support and has pushed others from Lamont to Oz. But Stefanowski’s narrative grossly oversimplifies how public finance works, and it can easily lead us to vote against our own interests. If we understand a few basics about public finance, we can see that even if Stefanowski ‘cut state taxes,’ it would not necessarily save us any money in the end.

Here’s the reality. States get their revenue from a few sources: about one half comes from state taxes on income, sales, and property and one third comes from federal grants. Recently, there have been dramatic reductions in federal grants to states for both education and transportation.[i] States have to make up those funds in some way, regardless of who’s in office. When states get less federal funding, they generally consider two options. The first option is to increase the state’s total tax revenue in some way. There are various ways to do this, only some of which reduce the state tax burden on working- and middle-class residents. The other option that states usually consider—and which Stefanowski seems to favor—is to cut state spending so that we ‘need’ less money. This could mean spending less state funds on education, infrastructure, and other social services. It could also mean sending less state money to municipalities. Both options put more pressure on municipalities who are often left with little choice but to raise local property tax rates in order to keep their communities afloat.

So, even if Stefanowski gives the average resident a state ‘tax cut,’ we might just face higher municipal property taxes or the indirect costs of decreased services, like car expenses (for damages caused by our poorly maintained roads) and much more. In either case, CT’s working- and middle-class residents would pay the price. In that sense, saying he’ll ‘cut taxes’ is like a salesperson saying “Here’s a great deal: you pay nothing and I’ll give you nothing!”

The average CT resident doesn’t need just any ‘tax cut.’ We need specific kinds of reforms that shift the total tax burden off working- and middle-class residents without sacrificing things like education, transportation, health, and other social services. The phrases ‘tax cut’ and ‘tax increase’ say nothing of substance. They don’t tell us anything about who will or won’t be paying or how they’ll be doing so. They conceal more than they reveal and they rely on our fear to fill in the details. We can’t let them mislead us.

Rachael D. Stephens

Ph.D. Student, University of Pennsylvania, Anthropology & Education

M.A., Teachers College, Columbia University, Anthropology & Education

Email: rstep@upenn.edu

[i] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2017/12/federal-spending-priorities-shifted-toward-health-over-past-decade, https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/federal-aid-to-state-and-local-governments

[ii] https://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0053_defense-comparison