In 2010, Storrs Center did not exist, and the last true University of Connecticut Spring Weekend occurred. These two facts may not seem related, but both showcase how UConn has worked to reform its image this past decade.
As a land grant university, UConn Storrs is in the middle of nowhere. It’s half an hour from the nearest proper shopping center, and there is little to do on the weekends. In Storrs, the nearly 20,000 undergraduates need to make their own fun. And thus, the beginning of Spring Weekend in the ‘90s.
Over time, Spring Weekend at UConn became an out-of-control, weekend-long party. Non-students from across New England would come to UConn for that weekend to live it up. The parties were out of control, and UConn gained a reputation as a huge party school as a result.
Of course, for a university wanting to grow its prestige, this doesn’t work well. And then, horrifically, one of these visiting non-students killed a UConn student in a fight in 2010. The administration knew something needed to change.
Crackdowns on all campus partying, but especially Spring Weekend, happened immediately. The next year, campus was locked down. Even now, wristbands are needed to ensure the participants in Spring Weekend are indeed UConn students.
Around the same time, plans were already made for Storrs Center, a shopping and community center right next to UConn, but construction was repeatedly stalled for permits and financing. After 2010, though, work ramped up. In these ways, UConn has transformed its identity, both constructively and destructively.
If there is anything UConn has cared about this semester, it has been increasing reputation. Every year, officials stand in waiting for the “U.S. News & World Report” rankings, in which UConn has risen to become (and since fallen from) one of the top 20 public universities. This fact is proudly displayed, a sign of the administration’s efforts.
And this all is great news for UConn students, past and present. The university is achieving new heights. Also in the 2010s, we have managed to strengthen ties with Connecticut and its businesses through projects like Next Generation and the Innovation Partnership Building. We have constructed a new gym to show off to prospective students. This increases the quality of life for students, and it also increases the value of the degree for alumni. When UConn succeeds, its graduates look better in the eyes of others.
Of course, there is a more cynical look at all this change. UConn has lost some of its authenticity this decade. Yes, the partying and all that wasn’t clean, but it was real. It has seemed at times during this decade the university and town haven’t taken into account student opinions on all of these changes. Look again at the gym and some of its odd design decisions. Look at Storrs Center and its middling success as a center for students and the community. Look at the state of Spring Weekend. In the 2010s, UConn has wielded its power, many times without concern for the wants of the people.
The 2010s can be described as the decade of construction and destruction. It was the decade UConn took charge and made real changes. This has resulted in great strides for the university as an institution of higher education. In taking charge, though, they have lost sight of the interests of students. Recently, students have worked hard to make sure the university is held accountable. Protests in the past few years against the administration’s complicity to injustice have resulted in real change. Looking forward, sustained and concentrated action is necessary to ensure the university keeps growing and improving in the right ways. The future looks bright for UConn, so let’s keep it that way.
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