University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst outlined a new mandated event review process for speakers and events sponsored by UConn student groups in an email yesterday morning.
The review process consists of a meeting of student organizers, Student Affairs UConn Police and other relevant university offices, specific access planning and controls, required security planning, a response plan for disruption and pre-planning outreach to coordinate counter-protest interest.
The new outline was written by the Division of Student Affairs and will be implemented before the start of the spring semester, the email said. It will need to be completed before a space can be reserved for an event or a speaker.
Herbst said UConn Police already conduct background checks on certain speakers and implement operational plans for potentially problematic events, but after Lucian Wintrich’s speech and arrest last week, the university re-evaluated some of its policies.
“Following last week’s events, the university believes it is necessary to have additional information about student-sponsored programs in advance, and our existing policies for student groups need to be enhanced to make that possible,” Herbst said.
Herbst said the review process will be completed for any speaker or event sponsored by a UConn student group that may “present a risk to the campus community.”
“One key change is the degree of responsibility for event planning that UConn will require student organizers to demonstrate in order to receive approval,” Herbst said. “This includes responsibility for identifying both speakers and their affiliates- meaning guests or others who will accompany the speaker to campus.”
Though Lucian Wintrich had no criminal history or record of disruption, Herbst said in the email, UConn “was disturbed to learn” an individual traveling with him, whose identity was not known in advance by the university, had at least one arrest for a violent offense.
“Expanding the pre-event review process to affiliates of a potential speaker will allow additional facts such as this to be known beforehand and acted on accordingly,” Herbst said.
Herbst said UConn will not allow events or other programming to take place at the university if it determines an individual involved represents a danger to the community and the safety of its campuses.
“Speech and safety do not conflict with each other and we do not have to choose between them,” Herbst said. “Instead, we must do all we can to ensure both are able to exist simultaneously on our campuses at all times.”
UConn students expressed their opinions on the recent email and the situation.
“I was honestly surprised to see the email,” Omar Taweh, fifth-semester psychology and physiology and neurobiology major, said. “It seems like it was in response to the march we organized last Friday. It was great to see the university actually listening to us.”
However, Taweh said he doesn’t see the email as the “end-all, be-all of anything.”
“We need to make sure the university makes good on their promise to enforce the rules (Herbst) detailed in her email, because it means nothing if she says it and doesn’t push to get it done,” Taweh said.
Juliana Battistoni, first-semester sociology major, said she felt the email was “too little too late.”
“I just think it didn’t do much,” Battistoni said. “It addressed the speaker coming to campus but not the racism that brought him here.”
Gabriella Debenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.