#TomKat should use some of the time he spends skateboarding on accessibility 


President Thomas C. Katsouleas holds office hours at the Benton on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Students were able to chat and talk with the president.  Photo by Charlotte Lao / The Daily Campus

President Thomas C. Katsouleas holds office hours at the Benton on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Students were able to chat and talk with the president. Photo by Charlotte Lao / The Daily Campus

I may be the only person on campus who does not care that President Thomas Katsouleas can skateboard. In between ollies, TomKat focuses his on the most important aspect of his job description: convincing college students that he is, in fact, one of us.

When perusing his “Norms and Values” page, his first value is “praise in public, criticism in private” and his third value is to support a culture of reporting at all levels: “If you know something wrong and didn’t report it through our channels then the University knew and did nothing. And that’s not acceptable to any of us.”  

I struggle to see these “Norms and Values” as anything other than meaningless platitudes, insofar as our president refuses to address the problem of the lack of academic freedom. By showing his inaccessibility and lack of responsiveness on this issue, one has no reason to believe Katsouleas will address concerns through the university-approved channels he claims are worthwhile. If Katsouleas is unresponsive on this major issue, he cannot be depended on for other issues of similar magnitudes.  

I’ll now explain how I became convinced that Katsouleas does not really care about academic freedom, and how my interactions with his office brought me to that conclusion. 

It started on a windy day in September when I obtained 145 signatures to encourage UConn to adopt the Chicago Statement on campus. That evening, I emailed his office to ask when he’d be willing to discuss academic freedom on campus and his willingness on signing the Chicago Statement. I did not receive a response to this email. After a week, I sent a follow-up email to the original because it seems plausible that having a job in administration may result in putting some issues on the backburner to fix other, more pressing issues. However, this second email was not responded to either, and our efforts received nothing but radio silence. 

Maybe it was the case that university presidents do not check their emails, nor do they read op-eds, like my one about academic freedom which was published toward the end of September. I decided to change up my approach at this point, and showed up at his office, asking when I could ask him about freedom of expression. A semi-militant secretary ushered me out, claiming he had regular office hours that were posted on his website. This did not end up being true, and I felt frustrated that I tried to follow the rules. After regaining my resolve, I called his office and asked for the next available appointment I could make with him about the importance of free expression. This secretary was also adept at avoiding the subject at hand. When I insisted my club would like to make an appointment with him, she claimed appointments are inefficient, not feasible, time-consuming, etc. When I asked if I could still schedule an appointment, she capitulated that the next available appointment was six months away. 

The issue of having concerns ignored is not unique to free speech, and the fact of the matter is that my cause is not the only one being largely ignored until we start to protest. The climate strike is another example of how Katsouleas avoids addressing an issue early on and waits until they’re protesting outside his door before making a few minor concessions, most of them not planned or principled. The same can be said for the Charter Oak Apartments incident and how it took a riot for an acknowledgement of racism on campus. It appears again and again that Katsouleas is more interested in answering “easy” questions to look good, as opposed to taking principled stances on issues. He is no leader. 

President Thomas Katsouleas, I challenge you to live up to your norms. Not having academic freedom is an injustice I’m not comfortable remaining silent about. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @preztomkat from Instagram

Isadore Johnson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at isadore.johnson@uconn.edu.

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