To the UConn Community,
Most op-eds from members of the Student Government or other major groups on campus begin with the words “I am not writing on behalf of my organization.” Today, that is not true. Instead, I write to you as the President of the Student Body of the University of Connecticut.
Recently, I was informed of the creation of a new committee established by President Katsouleas. This committee, labeled the “President’s Advisory Council on Policing,” is the UConn Administration’s attempt to handle the calls to defund, divest and reform policing at UConn. Personally, I have questions about how effective this council will be. However, that is not what I am writing about today. Instead, I want to talk about how members of this committee were chosen. Out of the 11 proposed members of this committee, only one — Damani Douglas (‘22) — is an undergraduate student. This is despite the fact that the vast, vast majority of complaints against UCPD are not coming from faculty or staff, but undergraduate students. Additionally, while Mr. Douglas is an excellent advocate for students and an incredibly competent leader, there are students who have been fighting for police reform and defunding since the day they arrived at UConn. UConn, as it too often does, is ignoring voices of opposition in the student body. Instead the administrators are installing voices they consider to be more manageable.
I have known that this committee was going to be created for some time. I was under the impression that the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) would be involved in selecting representatives for this committee. Once this committee was created, USG was planning to contact the multiple advocacy groups that have been tackling this issue — groups like Defund UCPD, UCCO and the NAACP — and work with them to find good representatives.
However, the University did not solicit input when they selected the sole undergraduate student member. This deliberate action not only shows how out of touch the UConn administration is with the student body but demonstrates how little they are concerned with the value of student leaders, especially student leaders who speak out against the University.
This issue of setting student voices aside is not isolated to this instance. There have been several situations in my short tenure as President where the administration seeks an easy and painless approach to addressing student concerns rather than accepting difficult truths.
Including student voices in decision-making processes does not mean simply informing them of an already made decision. It does mean including student voices in deliberations before decisions are made. It does mean knowing who the student leaders are on campus beyond the walls of student government. It does mean being in touch with what students want instead of making assumptions about what they need. It does mean talking to students about an “Advisory Council on Policing” and who they believe should be on it instead of taking wild guesses.
To the administration, you may not always agree with what students want, but we put a lot of faith in your decision making and it is time that faith is returned. Give students the voice they deserve.
Will Schad is the President of the Student Body at the University of Connecticut. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.