On Feb. 15 at 10:45 a.m., UConn students across campus staged a walkout in protest to Gov. Lamont’s proposed budget that would functionally cut $160 million from the university’s budget request for fiscal year 2024 and $200 million for fiscal year 2025. This claim has been disputed by the governor who released a statement after the demonstration claiming in a press release that not only was UConn’s budget not being cut as university President Radenka Maric claimed, but it also incorporated a slight increase in state funding. Lamont claimed that the sudden drop in funding that is appearing on university balance sheets is due to one-time federal American Rescue Plan Act funding initiated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The demonstration was organized by the Undergraduate Student Government and an email about it was sent by Maric and USG President Mason Holland one week prior to the demonstration and hearing, as well as on the day that the governor’s budget was announced. Some thought that the initial claims made in these emails sent to all undergraduate students were misleading. Groups such as UConn UNCHAIN and PowerUp UConn described many of the claims, such as an unavoidable $3,000 tuition increase, and framing of the budget cuts to be dishonest. PowerUp UConn said that the university’s claim that it has no choice but to raise tuition if the proposed budget is passed is misinformation.
“This is university propaganda,” PowerUp UConn wrote in an Instagram post. “UConn has the means to offset a $3,000 tuition increase if it wished to.”
At a press conference, Lamont explained that he believes that students have been misinformed by the university in regards to the proposed budget.
“I think they got some misinformation. They were told that we’re cutting funding for the University of Connecticut and that implied a lack of commitment to the kids and all the amazing things they’re doing at UConn,” said Lamont. “I’ve just got to remind them that we’re up … over the last four years. We’re up quite a bit in this current cycle, and that’s going to continue because UConn is our future.”
Lamont elaborated in a press release offered after the Education Committee meeting, writing that much of the confusion is due to the sun setting of funds provided by the APRA that was never funded by the state of Connecticut.
“The COVID-19 federal relief funds were intended to be one-time in nature, providing support during the public health emergency. Those federal dollars were never intended to pay for ongoing expenses. The UConn administration’s insistence that the state continue covering this federal aid now that it is no longer available is not a fiscally sustainable solution,” Lamont said.
At the actual rally held at the capitol, there were various speakers including USG officials and Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, history professor and president of UConn AAUP, the union representing UConn professors and concerned students, with Ogbar emphasizing how the university has been told to reign in its budget, but with inflation this plan has led the university astray.
Students then walked around the capitol building once with a variety of signs saying “Save UConn,” “Fund our Future” and “Defund UConn PD.” Students then entered into the legislative assembly building and walked underground to the legislative office building. UConn students wearing red “#SAVE UCONN” T-shirts then entered the Education Committee’s hearing at 1 p.m. This included Maric and Jeffrey Geoghegan, the chief financial officer of UConn and UConn Health. They answered various questions posed by the committee including State Representative Greg Haddad, who represents Mansfield and Chaplin, Connecticut. During the committee hearing, Maric reiterated the claim that the university will have to raise tuition by $3,000.
“Just for Storrs alone $3,000 more. Second point, the ratio of the in-state and out-of-state. Again, access to students of Connecticut, 70% of students and University of Connecticut are Connecticut citizens. I want another number to stay with us 77% of them when they graduate stay in Connecticut. If I look at the numbers for out of state 18% look for the jobs in Connecticut. So this is now a question for all of us to answer is the University of Connecticut economic and social engine of this state. And I will leave it there,” Maric said at the hearing.
Maric expanded and explained the value of UConn’s funding to the state.
“I truly believe that education should be accessible and affordable. So the last thing that I want to do is increase tuition for our students. I want our students to be successful. We are now number one in the country when it comes to time to degree, 4.1 years. And I’m so proud of our hard working students, because that’s success. I want to increase success from 86% to 90%. 90% of the students that enter University of Connecticut should graduate. They will not be able to do that, those two things if we have larger classes, less advisors, less support, less cultural centers,” Maric said.
At about 3 p.m. students left the capitol back to UConn after which USG held a “#SAVE UCONN” afterparty. This event was held from 4 to 6 p.m. on the Student Union green. According to a slack message from a former IFC President to individual fraternities presidents leaked to the Daily Campus, the former president coordinated with both USG and the university to hold a #SAVEUCONN after party. This information has not been independently corroborated.
“Reaching out because im helping USG spread the word about the walkout this wednesday. Buses leave gampel at 10:45AM for the capital and will return around 3PM. Lunch will be provided. Afterwards, on the SU Lawns theres going to be a DJ and basically a tailgate theme darty. People can drink as long as they dont get stupid and aren’t openly taking nips or have open containers. Should be a cool pregame into the women game or the bar etcs. As you know this was something I worked on last semester, and the admin offered this as a reward for students demonstrating. It opens the door towards admin allowing on campus events,” said the former IFC president.
This article has been edited to more accurately reflect information. Information in a previous version was inaccurate.