Students at the University of Connecticut started a petition against Governor Ned Lamont’s recent proposal to decrease UConn’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The petition is led by Zoe Jensen, an eighth-semester psychological sciences major and the external affairs chair for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at UConn.
Gov. Lamont’s newest proposal decreases UConn’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021 by $2.6 million from its anticipated value.
In an email to the student body, USG President Priyanka Thakkar explained that this latest cut is part of a larger trend of budget decreases from the state.
“Last week, the Office of Governor Lamont decided to decrease the University of Connecticut’s proposed budget of $211 million dollars, down to $208 million,” Thakkar wrote. “After cuts of $40 million since FY16, it’s vital to our university that we urge our representatives to not decrease our budget.”
Jensen explained why the decrease was such a cause for concern.
“The university is trying to increase wages,” Jensen said. “We have underfunding of our mental health services. Our library is actually one of the lowest funded libraries compared to all the surrounding public universities. There are tons of areas that we need to desperately fund, and that extra $3 million will help us move forward.”
Along with the petition, Jensen also started a Twitter page called @InvestInUConn which features testimonials from students about why their representatives should oppose Lamont’s proposal.
“We want to show the representatives, here are your constituents asking for this,” Jensen said. “Ultimately, these representatives want to hear their constituents.”
The students on the page list reasons for opposing the budget cuts from sustaining assistance to Student Support Services to wanting more funding for student internships and fellowships. One video on the page that advocates for more backing for the Cultural Centers has over a thousand views.
Max Reiss, the director of communications for Lamont, refuted the idea that Lamont was reducing UConn’s budget excessively.
“Framing Governor Lamont’s support for UConn as anything less than significant is flat wrong,” Reiss wrote in a statement from the Governor’s Office. “The state’s enacted budget has increased the state’s operating support to the school by almost $23 million in the current year and the block grant was due to increase by another $10.9 million next fiscal year. Under the Governor’s proposed budget for FY21, that $10.9 million increase is scaled back to $8.3 million — which would bring the total increase to UConn to more than $30 million over two years — and does not include the hundreds of millions the state provides for capital projects and fringe benefit assistance.”
Reiss explained that UConn wasn’t the only place where the budget had to be rearranged.
“The Governor had to make adjustments to the budget that required a full scale examination of all spending, while also ensuring institutions like UConn have the support they need to be successful,” Reiss wrote. “That’s exactly what Gov. Lamont’s proposed budget adjustments accomplish.”
Jensen encouraged students who resonated with the videos on the Twitter page to go to the appropriations committee hearing for the budget. The hearing is on Feb. 18. USG will be providing transportation to the hearing and refreshments after.
“Contact your legislators. Try to show up,” Jensen said. “All of those efforts are going to represent our university because although this is in totality an increase, it’s not the full proposed budget. If the committee continues getting comfortable decreasing our budget, we’re not going to be able to fund the initiatives that we desperately need on campus. If you want things to be better at UConn, you have to better fund our university.”
Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.