The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees met yesterday to discuss the future of the university, review the school’s recent achievements and hear the concerns of students from Fossil Fuel Free UConn.
The meeting opened with public participation, at which time seven students representing Fossil Fuel Free UConn spoke to the board about their concerns on the university’s policies and transparency.
Adam Opin, a senior majoring in political science, spoke to the board about UConn’s obligation to the environment.
“Until UConn commits to any of these practices and becoming a fossil fuel-free university, we will remain complicit in the climate crisis,” Opin said.
Colin Rosadino, a second-year law student, also spoke in front of the board on behalf of Fossil Fuel Free UConn. He asked that UConn request complete transparency from the UConn Foundation about their direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels.
“How could this university possibly commit to any specific institutional mission, purpose or values if it does not even know where it’s spending its own money or with whom?” Rosadino asked the board.
Rosadino also pointed out that his inquiries to the UConn Foundation about their links to fossil fuels were answered with publicly-available statements that lacked specifics about the issues that Fossil Fuel Free UConn was concerned about.
Fossil Fuel Free UConn also outlined their demands to the board. These demands included decarbonization, divestment in fossil fuel industries and disclosure of plans for decarbonization and financial interactions with companies based in fossil fuel.
The meeting also included UConn President Radenka Maric’s report of the university’s progress and goals. She mentioned UConn’s rise in multiple college rankings, including the U.S. News National University ranking and the Wall Street Journal’s rankings. The goals she discussed included the university’s plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050.
President Maric also handed the floor to Professor Xiao-Dong Zhou, the director of the Center for Clean Energy Engineering. Zhou expressed his appreciation for the students who were advocating for a more environmentally friendly campus. He also pointed out the importance of a “two-way street” between the students and administration in which each can express and understand the concerns of the other.
Margaret Feeney, the executive director of strategic planning and initiatives, took the floor to explain UConn’s planning process and timeline for the coming years. According to Feeney, the university is “focused on continuous feedback and input from the community” as it develops a plan for its students.
Feeney stated the surveys that were recently sent to students are heavily considered in the university’s strategic planning process. Roughly 36% of undergraduate students responded to the survey this year, as opposed to a 5-12% response rate in previous years, according to President Maric.
“The goal is to get a pulse on the community of what’s important and what are the priorities for our stakeholders,” Feeney said.
Feeney also said that the school considers issues like the ones brought up by Fossil Fuel Free UConn in its planning.
“Everything that we’ve heard today is not falling on deaf ears,” Feeney said. “It is being considered.”