New Jonathan, same old UConn 


A new mascot won’t chance UConn’s institutional problems 

This fall, incoming freshmen at the University of Connecticut will be met with twice the school spirit as Jonathan XV springs into action as the school’s next mascot. On June 28, the UConn community was introduced to the newest Jonathan by an Instagram post showcasing the young Siberian husky before a stark white backdrop, gluing all eyes on the pup’s icy gaze and contagious playfulness. This semester marks the first of many in which students will get to watch Jonathan grow into the striking face of our university and, in particular, its pricey athletics program. But will this mascot usher in a meaningful era of change for the UConn community — or will its authorities use this new face to soften the blow of rising tuition and fees, frozen services and non-existent democratic input for students? 

A new Jonathan won’t be the only recent change UConn will see as students, university staff and faculty rush back onto campus. In January, the university inaugurated the $70 million Toscano Family Ice Forum, named for the chairman of the board of trustees Dan Toscano, as UConn’s second major ice rink. In the spring, students were met with the inescapable view of construction vehicles and scaffolding that will turn into the new South Campus dormitories by the fall of 2024. The same day as the announcement of Jonathan XV, the board of trustees opted to rename Oak Hall for former UConn president and political science professor Susan Herbst. Herbst would become the center of controversy less than two months later, when state auditors alleged that UConn overpaid Herbst more than $350,000 during a yearlong sabbatical.  

This news suggests that a cosmetic overhaul — a new mascot, new buildings and new names — will not translate into tangible benefits for the UConn community; rather, the neoliberal financial order that privileges revenue and high administrator salaries over student well-being is as prominent as ever. The Daily Campus Editorial Board is responsible for preserving institutional knowledge that would otherwise be lost to the revolving door of graduation and matriculation; thus, we’re obligated to ensure that the arriving class is fully aware of the numerous institutional problems they may encounter during their tenure at UConn that are not so easily solved by superficial rebrandings. 

Among the most heavily mobilizing issues at UConn has been the epidemic of sexual violence. In February of 2022, protests erupted in response to a demonstration by a single student detailing systematic administrative mishandling of their sexual assault case. The Editorial Board has detailed how a task force created by President Radenka Maric, then serving as interim president, failed to produce meaningful results in support of survivors beyond a mobile app connected to the UConn Police Department. All the while, data published by the university since then indicates overall increases in sexual violence. 

While progress on supporting survivors remains stagnant, UConn’s drive to increase revenue through tuition and fees is constant. Last spring, the Editorial Board dissected how the administration manufactured fears of a $3,000 tuition increase in response to the state of Connecticut reducing COVID-19 funding to the university; additionally, it observed how the administration enlisted the Undergraduate Student Government to rally the student body on its behalf in Hartford, in part using the threat of this drastic tuition increase. The spectacle overshadowed the administration and board of trustees’ knowledge of the expiring COVID-19 funds as far back as September of 2021 and authorization of funds totalling in the hundreds of millions to produce both the Toscano Family Ice Forum and new South Campus dorms.  

More forward-thinking freshmen may be considering UConn’s climate impact, about which there is very little positive news either. Although Maric made a tentative commitment to transition UConn to carbon neutrality — or producing an equal quantity of carbon offsets to its emissions — by 2030, no such commitment has been adopted by the board of trustees, which has the final say on all decisions that may require the authorization of funds. Additionally, the sustainability action plan promised by Maric to be presented by spring of 2023 has yet to be delivered, constituting further inaction by UConn’s leadership in the face of the existential threat of climate change.  

The Daily Campus Editorial Board does not wish for UConn students to shy away from showing pride in their community. Not only is UConn currently represented by dozens of talented athletes and hundreds of scholars; it also enables innumerable priceless friendships and academic connections. Pride in one’s community is best embodied by the willingness to improve it, and only by acknowledging the structural failures of the university to provide the best possible academic, living and working environment to its students, staff and faculty is that improvement attainable. Although many obstacles lie before the class of 2027 and those who come after in advancing equity at UConn, perhaps the stern visage of Jonathan XV will be a unifying force for the next generation of students to collectively make the most of higher education institutions. 

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