Student activists at the University of Connecticut marched to the president’s office Monday, chanting “chop from the top” as they paraded a short distance to Gulley Hall and delivered their “list of demands.”
“Should we ring the doorbell first?” joked one student as they entered.
The man they sought to confront was not there. UConn President Michael Hogan was in San Antonio for the Women’s Final Four basketball game. So the president’s staff treated the students to a tour of his recently renovated office, a sore spot for students who will pay almost 6 percent more for their education when they return from summer break.
The march to the president’s office was planned as the big finish to the Student Coalition on Reprioritizing Education’s protest that focused on more than just the climbing cost of college.
Clive Richards, Student Affairs Chairman for UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government, said that he was in support of the tuition increase at the time but “I won’t be for it next time around.” He said seeing reductions in the number of classes and the size of professor’s salaries made him rethink the increase. “I have a major problem with that.”
Among SCORE’s demands are: tying tuition hikes to the rate of inflation for five years; adding three students to UConn’s Tenure Review Board to reward dedicated professors; and creating a tracking system for “every penny” spent by the university, which could be modeled after the federal government’s stimulus tracking site.
The students also talked about the need to reform the university’s spring weekend. Richards said that while he enjoys some of the festivities at the annual event, it needs to be safer.
Katlin Tyrol, a junior, said “the University of Connecticut is negligent for not allowing 27 student leaders to use student fees to save spring weekend.” She was referring to a plan signed by student leaders in the hopes that the event could be made safer by adding a “focal point” like off-campus concerts, reinstating wristbands, increasing security and lighting and providing food and water among other things.
The university rejected that plan in March because administrators believed that funding any events would increase its liability. UConn does not currently sponsor spring weekend and only takes precautionary steps to ensure safety.
Jason Ortiz, who helped found SCORE, called for greater transparency on the part of the university administration. He said that students are willing to pay their fair share but they want to know where their money is going. “The fact that we have to file Freedom of Information requests at a public university is a little disturbing.”
Accompanying the group’s demands was a letter to Hogan which stated: “It has become apparent that students are not given any voice in the decision making process and certainly are not treated as an equal stakeholder on campus as we rightfully should be. Because of these issues we are being forced to bring our grievances to a more public venue, and call on the help of all members of the UConn community to find a new way forward in addressing our fiscal short fall.”
In response, UConn spokesman Michael Kirk said in a statement that “Student engagement in the university and the way it works is a healthy thing. We’re always happy to answer questions, explain policies and have open and thoughtful discussions with the UConn community.”
A bill that would require UConn’s board of trustees to notify the General Assembly when proposing a change in tuition is currently on the Senate calendar.