UConn professor slammed by Connecticut Senate Republican president for partisan bias

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FILE – This pair of Sept. 26, 2018 file photos shows Democrat Party gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont, left, and Republican Party gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski after a debate at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. The two men will face off in the November general election. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Comments made by University of Connecticut professor of finance and economics and Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis Director Fred Carstensen were the subject of a three-page letter from Connecticut Senate Republican President Len Fasano Thursday.

The letter, written in response to articles published in the CTPost and The Daily Campus that Carstensen was quoted in, said that Carstensen “overstepped his role in political commentary.”

“You are being asked by the press for your opinion as a direct result of your position as the Director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis which should define the limit of your opinion; however you continue to act as a political commentator above and beyond both your expertise and your defined role,” Fasano’s letter said.

Carstensen said his title should not be a restriction on what he can say to the press.

“He [Fasano] rejects the idea of people in general exercising free speech if they are in some type of position,” Carstensen said. “Is Sen. Fasano arguing then that a professor of English should not be permitted to speak on any topic other than her/his field of literature? It would seem so.”

Fasano’s letter argued the opposite.

“Let us be clear…they (your comments) are the opinion of you, an individual, made from your own political affiliation and bias. Your political affiliation appears to be very evident based on your one-sided statements as well as what you choose not to comment on.”

Carstensen said that he does not make comments with political bias.

“He acts as if I’m partisan…I’m not partisan,” Carstensen said.

The letter also calls on Carstensen to retract statements he made regarding Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, namely when Carstensen referred to Stefanowski as a “business bureaucrat.”

“Given your undeniable pattern of making outlandish commentary against Republican candidates for office, I am asking you to retract your statements about gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski,” the letter said.

Carstensen said he has no plans of taking back his comments.

“No of course not. He didn’t offer any basis on which I should retract them. He didn’t say I was wrong, he said you’re not qualified to make those comments,” Carstensen said. “Well, I am. He hasn’t offered any basis on which I should retract them or modify them. And, it’s clear he was not interested in actually having the dialogue.”

Carstensen was also concerned with the appropriateness of Fasano writing the letter on his official stationary.

“That strikes me as inappropriate,” Carstensen said. “He is conducting partisan politics using state resources, which is inappropriate.”

Fasano’s letter reinforces the alleged partisanship of Carstensen to the left, which Carstensen rejects.

“Sen. Fasano manages in his litany of criticisms to overlook, for example, the highly critical CCEA study, of which I am co-author, on the state hospital tax the Malloy administration imposed, arguing that it was very damaging, costing the state thousands of jobs annually, or of my praise for Gov. Rell’s stem cell initiative,” Carstensen said. “The truth is I have been both critical of and supportive of policies and initiatives on both sides of the aisle, based on my judgment as to their merits or shortcomings.”

This is not the first time Carstensen has been under fire for comments he has made to the press.

According to the New Haven Register, in 2014 UConn President Susan Herbst received a letter from then Senate minority leader John McKinney (R) alleging that Carstensen crossed the line with comments he made about 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

“While Professor Carstensen is free to express his personal opinions and political views, he is not entitled to promote those personal opinions under the official authority of the University of Connecticut or use his title and position at UConn to promote a political candidate or agenda,” McKinney wrote to Herbst.

In Thursday’s letter, Fasano brought up the 2014 controversy as evidence that Carstensen “once again, makes blanket political statements for political purposes.”

UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said UConn professors are free to say what they want.

“UConn is nonpartisan and does not take a stand as an institution on political matters,” Reitz said. “It respects the academic freedom of its faculty and the free speech rights of all of its employees.”


Luke Hajdasz is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at luke.hajdasz@uconn.edu.

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