Over the month of June, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a political science program at Duke and enroll in graduate courses intended to expose my cohort and I to an early graduate school experience. As a part of this program, various scholars in the field of political science came to present their research. One of those professors, Candis Watts-Smith, presented her research on deservingness, and how that concept shapes the way in which citizens hold policy preferences. Furthermore, she asserted that the primary consideration for deservingness comes down to whom the policy is intended for.
Deservingness, in short, is the extent to which we are considered “worthy” of receiving. When I returned home, that concept stuck with me as I considered what it means in various different areas of my life. As I reflected, I couldn’t help but think about our student body here at the University of Connecticut. In my role as President of the Undergraduate Student Government I consider deservingness often. As I interpret it, deservingness in terms of the work that we do in USG pertains to the groups that are the most underrepresented and underserved at the university. Our responsibility is to elevate their concerns, experiences and requests, because in truth we are not all served in the same way. We all deserve to be afforded both equal and equitable opportunities manifested in tangible actions in order to support the communities that have been historically unsupported.
In the last week, the concerns surrounding cultural centers and program funding reminded me of deservingness and what it means. The cultural centers and programs are an integral part of university life and the legacy of UConn. Each center and program has fought to be recognized in order to assist in the support and success of minoritized populations. Beyond offering personal and academic support, the centers provide a community for the students they serve. Many of those students would not still be at the university had it not been for the work of the cultural centers and programs.
I am one of those students.
Had it not been for the African American Cultural Center, I would not have stayed at the UConn. Had it not been for the African American Cultural Center, I would not be President of USG. Had it not been for the African American Cultural Center, I would not have been on track to graduate in the Spring of 2023 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.
That is what the cultural centers and programs mean to the UConn community. We say that they deserve to be financially supported because these are the places that provide a tremendous amount of support to our students. The cultural centers and programs deserve more because we deserve more.
When I spoke at convocation in August, I asked the freshman class to consider what they deserve. The entire freshman class and all of the undergraduates at UConn are here because we deserve to be here, because we earned the right to be. However, being here is only half of the full picture.
What is the use of being accepted but not fully supported? What is the point of citing the diversity of incoming freshman classes if there is not an intentional effort made to retain those same students? Who are we as a university if we are told that we deserve to be here, but see no efforts to ensure that we stay?
In the coming weeks UConn is slated to decide upon the individual who will serve as the next President. I mention this because the next person who serves as President, whether it is Radenka Maric or not, will ultimately become a part of this conversation.
We deserve a President who welcomes this dialogue. We deserve a President who understands how much the cultural centers and programs mean to students. We deserve a President who is committed to furthering the financial support that cultural centers receive.
We deserve more.