I’ve spent four relatively eventful years at the University of Connecticut, and as I sit at the end of it, I think I’ve finally stumbled upon a sentence that sums up many of the problems I have with this school: Many people in this community — administrators, faculty, staff, students and whomever doesn’t fit into one of those categories — lack a level of basic common sense. At times, I have certainly been one of those people, but I think if everyone committed to using a little more brain power before making decisions, we’d all be better off. In my final column, I’d like to go through some examples of this lack of logical decision making.
Let’s start off with a recent example with little systemic implications. When UConn men’s basketball won the 2023 Division I National Championship, what came immediately after on the Storrs campus should not have surprised anyone. I’m not here to talk about the riots — this article will focus on a lack of logic, not straight-up stupidity like that. However, what I will talk about is the email, much to my dismay, that I received from the UConn Vice President for Student Affairs and the Associate Vice President for University Safety. The fact that the UConn administration, with full knowledge of the events of the 2014 Championship aftermath, believed that an email politely asking students to “be safe, responsible, and respectful of our community” would do anything baffles me. In fact, some might even argue that that kind of email from authority figures may even be perceived as a challenge. If they really wanted to reach the rabid fans, perhaps asking Dan Hurley or some other well-known UConn figure to say something may have been more effective, but even then, who knows? Lampposts could have been greased and windows could have been boarded up, but no, we got an email.
I had the privilege of living near campus throughout Summer 2022, so I was here when part of Hillside Road was blocked off in an attempt to make it pedestrian-only. Since then, it seems really hard to justify that as a good decision. For starters, with the amount of UConn vehicles (buses, HuskyGo vans, etc) that are allowed to completely bypass the rules, it’s not really an effective pedestrian walkway anyway. If UConn’s long-term goal is to make the campus less overridden by cars, simply making it insufferable to drive on campus isn’t the way to do it. As was beautifully articulated in The Daily Campus’ editorial three months ago: “Storrs is not bicycle-friendly.” If UConn doesn’t work to make the bicycle infrastructure better on campus alongside keeping cars from going anywhere, all they are doing is making parts of campus less accessible to everyone. Obviously, it’s not just a bike problem, as walking on campus isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Some streets lack sidewalks that continue consistently, and certain construction projects that I’ve witnessed in my time at UConn have made it hard to find a straight path through some areas. So yes, obviously it is a good idea to lower the amount of car traffic on campus, both for pedestrian safety and for emissions reduction, but if UConn waits to do the second half of the reform until the first one is over, generations of students will continue to have to deal with an inaccessible campus.
One quick offshoot of the above paragraph — pedestrian safety is something certainly worth discussing. For starters, and this is one of the scenarios where I am very guilty, UConn’s community is home to some of the most serial jaywalkers of all time. Please, to all my fellow Huskies (and to myself) — use a goddamn crosswalk once in a while. While jaywalking is certainly an issue, I do feel like infrastructure is more at fault for the lack of pedestrian safety on campus and nearby. While Storrs’ abundant lampposts keep the campus well-lit most of the time, there are many roads just off-campus that get very dark at night. I don’t know whose particular jurisdiction these areas fall under, but it’s not hard to find news articles about people getting hit in these locations. One particular spot that I pass each night coming home from work stuns me each time when I notice how unlit it is: the area of North Eagleville Road near the bars. Whoever controls that area needs to get some light there as soon as possible — if they can constantly do construction projects a block away for the past year, they can add a few lampposts to the side of the street so that possibly impaired people can be a bit safer walking home.
Shifting gears from a safety issue to a procedural one — putting lipstick on the pig that is the PeopleSoft Student Administration system did not make the system any better. At the end of 2020, Student Admin went from looking like a program from the 90s to having a vastly more aesthetically pleasing interface. While this new interface did make things look nicer, it bunched a lot of functionality into harder-to-find groups. Having a graphical user interface that works with mobile devices better makes sense, but the fact that the school forced everyone to use the new system instead of at least providing an option makes no sense. Applications like CORE-CT, the payroll system, still use the old GUI, and this may just be my opinion, but having everything written out and there for me is just so much more comprehensive than sifting through pretty icons.
To this point, most of the gripes listed here have been with non-students, but I assure you, UConn students are not some miraculous group of logical beings with no fault. A perfect example of this, similar to the first case mentioned here, landed in my email inbox. In a message titled “Important: Make Your Voice Heard Regarding Honors Housing!” written on behalf of the UConn Honors Council Executive Board demonstrated, the entitlement that some of my peers have was put on full display. Essentially, the council was upset that UConn was reducing the capacity of the Honors to Opportunities Learning Community in Werth Tower. Using language such as “this is unacceptable, but it is only the most recent slight directed at students in the Honors Program” and “campus organizations that have silenced and ignored us for so long,” the email painted Honors students as an oppressed group of people at UConn. In short, and I’m astounded to have to even say this, they’re not. Honors students get two whole buildings to live in during their first year, and the only thing that connects them is that they’re in Honors. Learning Communities at UConn, such as Engineering House, WiMSE House, BSOUL House, ScHOLA2RS House and all the others, all have a more substantive reason to warrant people living near each other. Honors is not a major. Honors is not an identity. It’s a supplemental program that includes myriad kinds of students at UConn (believe me, I’m in Honors, I should know). Arguing that Honors students deserve space in a building over other Learning Communities, and that if that space is fully or even partially denied, that the university is oppressing Honors students, is elitist, entitled and whiny. Hopefully, just a little bit more foresight and logical thinking prior to hitting send on that email would have helped.
Last but certainly not least, I want to talk about something I’ve been incredibly wrapped up in during my tenure at this university — Tier-III student organizations. If you’re reading this, you obviously know that I’m affiliated with The Daily Campus, but I was also once a USG senator, and as a leader at the DC, I’ve gotten to hear plenty of the goings-on of the other four Tier-IIIs.
I’ve talked about it plenty in articles before, but let’s start with USG. As I see it, the main problem with our student government is that it tries way too hard to look similar to the U.S. government. By having a senate, USG legislation needs to go through an extra step before it’s passed on to actual decision-makers at this university. USG’s committees, which are open to the public and have their own leadership, are where legislation is born. Now, in Congress, where every Representative and Senator serves at least a two-year term, it makes sense sometimes to take time crafting and revising legislation before it gets through to being passed into law. However, at UConn, students have a much more limited time to get things done. Legislation from USG is rarely passed into law verbatim — it usually is meant to start a conversation with UConn leadership that sometimes leads to change. These conversations should not take weeks upon weeks to get to. The many middle men of USG, serving in the name of ‘doing things because that’s how it should be done,’ only serve to keep student voices from ever reaching the ears of the powers that be. If we wanted a student government organization that was designed to put as many students in important meetings as possible, giving their voices the space to be heard, we’d drop the charade, stop cosplaying as public officials, and build a student advocacy system that works for everyone.
The Daily Campus has essentially the same baseline problem as USG — it’s stuck eternally pretending to be something it’s not. Yes, in the past much of the UConn community may have gotten its news from the campus’ only daily newspaper, but nowadays, with internet news sites, social media (shoutout to the @uconnmemery page on Instagram) and more, it’s very rare that the DC is actually the outlet that breaks stories. This isn’t a problem as long as the paper could adapt to fit the times, but the model of a daily print newspaper makes it hard to make those adjustments. Instead of exerting hours of time, energy and money into printing daily, time could be taken to craft more thoroughly investigative stories, to cover more of the events happening on campus (both with writing and photography) and to essentially just polish the product more so that it can really shine while effectively serving the community. Obviously, there are upsides to some kind of print product, as the campus learned when all issues of April 4’s edition, the day after the men’s basketball team won the title, flew off the shelf. In the end, a middle ground would be awesome — a slightly less frequent, but more thoughtful paper.
When it comes to Tier-III organizations more generally, there is one issue with how they work that simply makes no sense. When an organization wants to increase how much each student pays for their organization each semester, a vote is held within the student body on whether or not the fee increase should be approved. What isn’t told to the students is that regardless of the outcome of the student vote, the board of trustees may still choose to rule the other way. Not only is it illogical to hold a vote that doesn’t really matter, it’s unethical to make it seem like students get to decide what they’re paying for. If the Tier-III organizations were created to serve the student body, and are paid for largely by their tuition, pulling the wool over their eyes is a really bad look.
In the end, UConn’s community members, regardless of the role they’re in, need to do more thinking. Everything deserves to be questioned, especially because many of the issues around here are solvable, and many of the systems described can be improved. Not thinking logically about why things are the way they are leads to more of the status quo, and the status quo does not cut it.
This is absolutely not an exhaustive list, and even the items listed here deserved to be questioned. I am simply one concerned (soon to be graduated) student, but I am also an authority figure when it comes to my role at The Daily Campus, so I not only have blindspots in my thought process, but I also likely have biases based on my UConn experience. Everyone’s experience here is different, and that’s the beauty of college, but one thing that can make everyone’s time here better is more logic. The next time something seems a bit off to you, question it. Call it out, try to figure out if you can do something to improve it. Nobody prospers when people make decisions without thinking or continue going through the motions without asking why, so let’s all be more active members of society and stop doing those things.