On Wednesday, the Undergraduate Student Government at the University of Connecticut held their bi-weekly senate meeting where they discussed the university’s budget, confirmed senator positions and approved legislation for the spring 2021 fee plan, Mental Care Act and international student wellness.
The meeting opened with a presentation from Scott Jordan, the Executive Vice President for Administration & Chief Financial Officer, to discuss the university’s budget for this year and 2021.
In the 2020 fiscal year, UConn was able to cover its $33.6M deficit in refunds with federal CARES Act funding and department spending savings attributed to the spending freeze.
As of right now, UConn has a $28 million unresolved deficit, which is up from the $19 million deficit last year. But under the current projection, continued departmental tightening and the use of some fund balances from previous years will be relied upon. Jordan admitted that there could be some limited layoffs in some departments, but there is no plan for a mass layoff.
UConn projected many students would sit out this year in some capacity, yet enrollment is as high as it has ever been: 6.2% in freshman at Storrs, 16.3% at regional campuses.
The current case scenario depends on the school staying open the rest of this semester. If there is a closure, the deficit could go from $28 million to $49 million, which is $2 million per week of closure.
Students brought up concerns about the Connecticut Commitment, a financial aid program for low-income students that the university has paused. Jordan disclosed President Thomas Katsouleas and the university want to meet the needs of students, but feel that UConn is not at a place in their budget or philanthropy where they can make a commitment for next year’s class that covers the entire four years.
Fabio Saccomanno presented the USG spring 2021 fee bill. His recommendation was against reducing student fees.
“When looking at the grand scheme of things and the best decision for students, I think the worst outcome is having to cut services. If we reduce the fee and happen to roll too far into our rollover, we probably won’t feel it next spring. But they would be felt next fall,” said Saccomanno.
With a vote of 19-1, the 0% deduction in the fee plan passed in the Senate.
Brittany Díaz proposed the Mental Care Act, which advocates for areas such as academic reform, relations between mental health and academics, allocating funds and investment towards services such as CMHS and creating rigorous mental health training for CSD and SHaW staff, along with standard mental health training for professors.
The Mental Care Act was referred to the Diversity and Outreach Commission at the end of the meeting and will be discussed in the senate’s next meeting.
International student legislation which would prioritize mental health of this population was proposed by Yibing Zhou. The bill includes ideas of conducting a peer mentor program and providing creative and relaxing workshops for international students.
There was also emphasis on reconvening the student support group for international students, forming group therapy centered around international students, hiring additional bilingual therapists and having ISSS provide more panels to update travel policy and assistance to resolve the academic difficulty undergraduate international students face during COVID-19.
At the time of publication, there was not a vote on this bill.