UConn Board of Trustees’ September meeting: The presidency, cultural centers, sustainability and more

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The sign above reads, “Break Free From Fossil Fuels.” One of the issues brought up at the last Board of Trustees meeting was the need to decarbonize the university. Photo by Eelco Böhtlingk/Pexels

Yesterday, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees gathered in the North Reading Room of the Wilbur Cross Building. Headlining the meeting, Radenka Maric was officially appointed as the 17th president of the university by a unanimous vote from the board. 

Still, Maric’s appointment was not the sole point of interest from the meeting. Other points of interest included cultural centers, UConn’s stance on sustainability, capital expenditures and food insecurity at regional campuses. 

During public commentary, students spoke before the board on sustainability issues on campus, as well as about the recent controversy regarding the funding of cultural centers. Respective commentary was limited to three minutes.  

Several students brought forward the issues regarding cultural center funding. Undergraduate Student Government President Mason Holland was one of these speakers, rereading the organization’s September 19th statement and reiterating cultural centers’ vital role in the UConn community. 

“As I said before [the Office for Diversity and Inclusion] has come out and said that there has been no substantive cuts made to the cultural centers, there’s been no defunding, there has been no increases in funding, and that’s very evident for the students,” Holland said. “It’s unsettling when we talk to freshmen… and they say that they see problems in their cultural centers already.” 

Holland and other speakers’ comments on cultural centers prompted a response from the newly appointed president. 

Maric stated “I [had] the opportunity to speak with Mason last week. I assured him then, and I want to assure all of you now, that this university is fully committed to our cultural centers as well as broader support for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.” 

Additionally, seven students came forward urging the Board of Trustees to decarbonize the University. UConn has placed their deadline for a carbon-neutral campus at 2050, while student activists have tried to convince the university to expedite this process to 2040. Students at the meeting again pushed for this 2040 deadline, arguing that the university has done little in regards to sustainability. 

Though the university has yet to change the deadline, the President’s Working Group on Sustainability and the Environment, created by President Thomas Katsouleas in 2019, has published reports detailing the necessary implementations for a carbon-neutral UConn by 2040. 

Noah Liguori-Bills, a seventh-semester chemistry major, stated, “I would like to say this is the first time I am asking the Board of Trustees to follow the advice outlined in the President’s Working Group, but the truth is I have spent all three years I have attended this institution advocating for decarbonization and there has been almost no response.” 

“Climate change is a global issue that we are going to address together,” Maric responded to the activists in attendance. “Thank you for being here today and thank you for bringing your voice that everyone can hear.” 

At the meeting, the board approved a number of consent agenda items, including the Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Expenditure Report. Of the $248 million of annual capital expenditures, $93 million was associated with Academic and Research Facilities; $105.8 million on infrastructure, renovation, administration and other facilities; $26.7 million on intramural, recreational and intercollegiate facilities and $6.3 million on residential life facilities. 

During the President’s Report, Provost Anne D’Alleva discussed food insecurity at regional campuses.  

“The percentage of students that indicate low to very low food [security] at Waterbury and Stamford is about 32% of our students, and at Hartford and Avery Point it’s about 25% of students,” D’Alleva said. 

The Provost’s slide proceeded to show results highlighting that students with food insecurity have lower GPAs. To solve this problem, D’Alleva explained, “The Provost’s office led in the creation of Husky Harvests, which are food pantries that will be located on each of our regional campuses.” 

UConn’s Board of Trustees will convene again in the Wilbur Cross North Reading Room on Wednesday, October 26th, at a time to be determined.

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