Several students took advantage of office hours with University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst Wednesday afternoon during her two-hour allotment from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Usually held once every couple of months, Herbst’s open office hours are available to students to come as a group or by themselves. Two undergraduate students that were shadowing her, as well as deputy chief of staff Michael Kirk, accompanied her.
“Most students come in with ideas that cost money, but for the most part, I’d like to see it done here,” Herbst said, in regards to what kinds of questions students had for her. “A lot of people [look] for funding because they don’t have enough from USG or other sources.”
Kirk said ideas that came from students also included more infrastructural changes, such as rescheduling exams. Herbst also mentioned organizing the creation of a “peace labyrinth,” which was brought up to her by human rights students.
Herbst said that students also have influence on changes to UConn’s policy.
Kirk brought up an example of how a graduate student employee made minor changes to the payroll system at UConn.
When asked about how she perceived her public image and how open office hours can affect that, Herbst smiled.
“I think it can help, but I’m around all the time,” Herbst said, in reference to spending time at places like Geno’s, Price Chopper, and 7-Eleven in addition to teaching a class on campus. “A lot of students come up to me on campus and are usually friendly and fun.”
“I don’t feel any deficit of students talking to me,” Herbst continued, mentioning a time when a group of students approached her at a basketball game to complain about the university not calling a snow day. “I like to see students – people don’t become presidents or deans unless they really like students.”
Fifth-semester environmental engineering major and UConnPIRG member Jordyn Styczynski said she wanted to inform Herbst about her organization’s plans for the semester and also wanted Herbst’s opinions on the issues.
However, in contrast to Herbst’s statements about how easy she is to find and now access through her office hours, Styczynski said it was sometimes difficult to contact her because one has to go through administrative processes.
Styczynski also said a lot of students didn’t know exactly what they wanted to bring up to Herbst or how to approach her.
“If more students took advantage of her time, it’d be beneficial to have even more office hours,” Styczynski said. “I think her listening to students would benefit a lot.”
Styczynski also said she thought Herbst was engaged in what students were saying to her and that her meeting with Herbst was successful.
“I feel more comfortable that she is actually interested in the student’s well-being,” Styczynski said.
Herbst said that regardless of her image, she is focused on doing her job as UConn’s president.
“We don’t sit around here doing public relations,” Herbst said. “We sit around here running the university and that’s a big job.”
For anyone who wants to contact Herbst, she can be reached at email@example.com.