Nearly 40 students gathered on the second floor of the Student Union Wednesday night to voice worries about recent treatment of UConn’s cultural centers and cultural programs.
The meeting was facilitated by Mason Holland, the current student body president and seventh-semester political science student. Holland, among other students, raised concerns about funding and availability of student staff positions at the cultural centers.
“Why does this year look different from last year? Because we can’t deny the fact that it does,” Holland said to the group.
Representatives from multiple cultural centers, the Undergraduate Student Government, The Daily Campus and the student activist group UConn UNCHAIN were in attendance.
Students discussed unease with recent visits from Interim President Radenka Maric. Maric has come under fire in the past from student activist groups for her position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Late Wednesday night, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion released a statement on the rumored budget cuts.
“First, the cultural centers are NOT being ‘defunded’ and their budgets have NOT been reduced,” reads the statement.
The statement, which is signed by UConn Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Frank Tuitt, said some of the excess funding from ODI’s operating budget had gone to support the cultural centers and programs.
“In past years, ODI was able to support the programming and staffing for PRLACC, NACP and MECP by utilizing unspent funds from our operating budget,” reads the statement.
“This year, to sustain our commitment to support the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP) and Middle Eastern Cultural Programs (MECP), ODI made the decision to redistribute some of the funding earmarked for the cultural centers to support this priority.”
ODI did not dispute that this resulted in budget changes for some organizations.
“As a result of this decision each of the cultural centers will have a slightly smaller operating budget for this academic year than they did last year,” reads the statement.
When asked for comment the university responded with the statement from ODI.
Holland said regardless of the circumstances of the budget changes, students should continue to speak out about the cultural centers.
“You have the right to ask for more,” Holland said.
As an employee of a UCONN Cultural Center, my center was not notified nor asked to be present at the meeting. None of my student staff were even aware that this conversation was taking place. We were not represented. Please do not push the false narrative that make it sound like a majority of student employees of cultural centers were there — at the very least, one center was not represented. There are probably many other centers that wasn’t present.