Why is UConn growing? 

On Aug. 3, the Board of Trustees voted to approve the construction of a new residence hall to be built on the Storrs campus for the Fall semester of 2024. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

On Aug. 3, the Board of Trustees voted to approve the construction of a new residence hall to be built on the Storrs campus for the Fall semester of 2024. The new building will house over 650 students while adding an additional dining hall to the campus. This decision coincides with the soon opening of the Northwest Science Quad, a 198,000 square foot research facility that will expand the university’s advances in STEM and related fields set to open in the spring of 2023.  

The university’s constant expansion does not come without damage. Early-morning construction noises and unappealing fences scattered throughout campus aside, The Editorial Board finds it worrying that the university has both established and seen through a plan of exponential growth despite numerous looming issues on campus such as sustainability, rising costs and the overall welfare of students.   

To begin, this constant growth puts a significant level of pressure onto the university budget, which historically has led to increases in student fees and even recent issues such as the reallocation of funds from vital campus resources such as cultural centers. Further, financial stresses such as the South Campus project will cost upwards of $215 million and cause the university to rely more heavily on their current investments, many of which are directly tied to the military industrial complex, apartheid states and lax sustainability measures. Offloading costs of campus construction to student fees and amoral investment decisions is a backwards approach to growth. 

Expansion largely relies on stability. The decision to grow is indicative of a belief that the university is steady enough to support such growth. Yet, recent issues regarding the funding of cultural centers, lackluster mental health support services and sustainability practices bring into question the legitimacy of the university’s stability. The support and wellbeing of present students must be prioritized ahead of the prospects of future prospective students, as expanding the capacity of the university will only inhibit the resources available to current students and staff.

The environmental costs of expansion must not be ignored either. As mentioned earlier, the university’s financial reliance on companies such as Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky and Raytheon only deepen UConn’s commitment and dependency on war and colonialism. Given that the U.S. Military is one of the most prolific contributors to carbon emissions, claims that the new science campus will rely on sustainable energy sources such as hydrogen power — which remains based on fossil fuels — are quickly overtaken by the university’s deep-seeded ties to war. UConn and its newest initiatives tailored towards sustainability cannot be championed as progressive, when these concerns apply to its newest construction projects.  

Lastly, in thinking about the expansion of a land grant university, there exists a profound irony in the university’s spiritless attempts to recognize the damages U.S. colonialism has done to Indigenous American nations. Land acknowledgements remain a key part of any ceremony held on campus, yet the words spoken during such acknowledgments are often drowned out by the noise of excavation. Such “recognitions” of ongoing colonialism amidst the expansion of the university physically, financially and through resource consumption, prove UConn is still a fundamentally settler colonial entity.  

This, thankfully, presents an opportunity for reflection. As the university, board of trustees and third-party investors remain concentrated on growth, we must consider how the university can work towards healing outstanding issues before it introduces a larger student body. Community initiatives to decarbonize UConn, improve mental health resources, divest from Israel and other entities contributing to human rights violations and defund UCPD are all examples of strong policy changes that can be made to regain stability in the relationship between the student body and administration. Otherwise, UConn follows the logic of profit, pursuing growth for growth’s sake at the expense of collective wellbeing.

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