Late 2017 and 2018 proved tumultuous for the University of Connecticut, Connecticut and the state as a whole, with budget cuts, controversy and protest. Protest and student gatherings in particular were a hallmark of the year, much like 2016.
Conservative speaker Lucian Wintrich drew ire and protest from the student body in November, as students swarmed the lecture hall where Wintrich was invited to speak by the UConn College Republicans. Soon after the speech began, Wintrich was arrested after grabbing a community college professor who stole his speech from the podium.
The incident caused UConn’s administration to reevaluate safety policies and the approval process for speakers on campus, as well as a March for Action, which was organized because of UConn’s late response to the event.
March organizer and sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology student Omar Taweh told The Daily Campus in November that Wintrich was a poor choice to invite to campus.
“A simple search of his name on Google brings up a plethora of white nationalistic and hate-inciting content,” Taweh said. “Had the university properly reviewed the speaker and made sure he adhered to their community standards, which all students are held to, I don’t think they would have let him speak.”
The March for Action wasn’t the only student protest of the year. Late in September, budget cuts proposed by the Connecticut State Legislature threatened to cut $300 million from UConn’s state endowment, a threat that drew students, alumni and professors to rally in both Hartford and on campus, requesting that state representatives and senators did not allow the cuts to go through.
Graduate Employee Union leader Steven Manicastri helped organize the rally on behalf of both graduate and undergraduate students.
“By making such cuts, this state’s legislature does not serve the people of this state. We need a budget that serves the people of Connecticut,” Manicastri said at the rally in late September. “Public education is, and always will be, an investment any rational government should make.”
Gun control was also a hot topic. The year started off with the Las Vegas shooting that left 59 dead, and led to vigils around the country, including at UConn, bringing up the conversation of gun violence once again.
On Feb. 14, an active shooter killed 17 and wounded 17 more at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, sparking an uproar from the high school students affected, and from their peers around the country. Walkouts at E. O. Smith High School in Storrs as well as a rally in Hartford organized by a University of Bridgeport freshman drew thousands seeking a solution to gun violence.
As the academic year draws to a close, additional budget cuts loom and the gubernatorial race ramps up students graduating will leave behind a university steeped in activism, struggle and protest, and into a world uncertain.
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.