Yesterday morning, my friends and I (seen in the video) joined our classmates, professors, and faculty members in protest against the Board of Regents. Our main issues were the tuition hikes that all the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities would experience, while the Governor wants to gift 2.1 billion dollars to the already flourishing UCONN. Sadly, they passed the tuition increase and I can expect to pay an additional $800 next semester. Another big issue involved the devaluing of our diplomas, because the Board of Regents wants to generalize our missions statements and exclude research from our programs so that UCONN would be the only research institution.
For more on this, I’m sharing this letter some students wrote and sent around campus and to local newspapers.
We are American citizens, we are permanent residents of Connecticut, we are Warriors at Eastern Connecticut State University and we are outraged! A major divide is being created between the University of Connecticut and the newly created Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (ConnSCU). UConn is slated for billions of dollars in funds in the coming years, while ConnSCU has no such promise. However it is not just about the money; it goes beyond simple dollars and cents. The mission statements for those who fall into the ConnSCU system reveal gross inequalities. There is no mention of research. There is no mention of scholarship. Why? These concerns are mutually felt amongst the authors of this letter and of others who we learn and grow with on a daily basis. The credibility of the ConnSCU system is being undermined not only by the budget, but also by the stigmatization that is being created about any public university in the state of Connecticut that is not UCONN.
How important is one word such as research? A single word may seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of things but one word can make all the difference. Our founding fathers preached “freedom”, Martin Luther King had a “dream” and President Obama declared “change”. The value of one word can certainly never be challenged and that is why research cannot be excluded from the ConnSCU’s. Research is a vital part of any university as it allows faculty not only to test and develop their ideas in their area’s of expertise, but fuels their teaching as well. Notice how UCONN students (according to their mission statement) have the ability to, “become a contributing member of the state, national, and world communities” where ConnSCU students are able to, “contribute to the economic growth of the state of Connecticut”. Why limit us solely to Connecticut? And for that matter, why limit us solely to “contributing to economic growth?” It is hardly a comfort to know that the 100,000 students like us in the ConnSCU system are viewed as state revenue where our UCONN brothers and sisters are cherished as they are destined for much greater things.
Under the Leadership of President Elsa Núñez, Eastern has worked tirelessly to become Connecticut’s Public Liberal Arts University. Our faculty teach four courses per semester, are required to be available on campus three days per week, and they still find the time to do high quality research as well as publish. If anything we feel that more money should be channeled into the ConnSCU system to promote their research and support their commitment, but there is no such plan. In fact, there is currently a two billion dollar plan to boost the resources of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for UCONN where there is no plan at all in sight for the ConnSCU system. Additionally, there is a hiring freeze on many of the state campuses, yet UCONN is hiring a lot of new staff regularly.
Eastern has earned the title of Connecticut’s only Public Liberal Arts University and by bundling Eastern with the other CSU’s our unique identity has been razed from our Warrior community. With no clear path set by the Board of Regents, Eastern’s future funding and that of the entire ConnSCU, is in jeopardy.
The bottom line is that by making a mission statement that is generalized to our 17 different institutions, it degrades our university and the scholarship of its students is in question. It is unsettling to know that Eastern has the potential to be looked at as just some school in Connecticut down the street from Connecticut’s “flagship” which will negatively reflect how others view us and our accomplishments. Our degrees are hard earned and they only come through dedication to a rigorous course load lead by a dedicated faculty and that is not in the least bit represented in any recent move made by the Board of Regents. We are American citizens, we are permanent residents of Connecticut, we are Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State University and we will not let this go unchallenged!
Justin Mazzucco and Teresa Falbo