University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas has announced that UConn will not move forward with development of the Supplemental Utility Building and accompanying plans after meeting with the Student Life Committee after the last Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
The decision came after Katsouleas recently formed the President’s Working Group on Sustainability and the Environment, which Katsouleas announced to all of UConn via an email last week that searched for members for the committee.
“President Katsouleas said the University will not move forward at this point on the Supplemental Utility Building with any actions that would be ‘irreversible’ until that working group has had its chance to weigh in and assess the alternatives,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.
After a national walk-out against climate change was held last month, a UConn chapter of Fridays for Future has held weekly sit-ins at the President’s office in Gulley Hall.
“President Katsouleas has also been mindful of the students’ concerns and shares their belief that the climate crisis and its consequences are, as he put it in a recent letter, ‘one of the defining issues of our time,’ Reitz said.
UConn has been looking at “many of the issues” brought up by Fridays for Future and other climate-activist groups and has an expert who reviews plans to ensure they are environmentally friendly, Reitz said.
Fifth-semester political science major and Daily Campus Opinion Editor Harry Zehner said the administration’s decision to delay plans for the supplemental utility building “was the result of hard work by many members of the UConn community, including the pressure exerted by Fridays for Future through the strike and sit-ins.”
“I don’t believe students will be satisfied until the university commits to never building fossil fuel infrastructure again, full stop,” Zehner said. “But it’s a good start.”
The utility building is part of UConn’s commitment to STEM and the Next Generation Connecticut capital plan.
According to Reitz, the supplemental utility plan would “produce, treat and/or distribute additional chilled water, steam and electrical power to support the science complex and related development,” especially STEM Research Center 1, which is in the design phase of construction.
According to a map in a Board of Trustees memo, the utility plant would be located where Lots L and X are currently located.
Luke Hajdasz is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.