by Ruth Bruno
Student and faculty of Central Connecticut rallied yet again to protest the new contracts proposed by the Board of Regents (BOR). This time however, CCSU took the conversation to the BOR.
Two buses, one packed with students and the other filled with faculty members left from the circle by the Student Center parking lot to attend a BOR meeting last Tuesday.
The meeting, which took place in the system office of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) in Hartford, attracted approximately 50 members of CCSU to come protest outside as members of the BOR entered the building.
“The BOR knew we were there and not happy. You made the day a success,” wrote sociology professor John O’Connor in an email to several students who attended the rally.
As the BOR began their regularly scheduled meeting, protesters gathered in a nearby room repeating, “fair contract now,” and other chants showing their disproval toward the proposals which would allow professors to be moved between universities without notice and cut grant money for research.
As the meeting came to a close, CCSU professors and students were allowed to speak before the BOR. President Ojakian got up and left when open forum was announced and missed a majority of the students speaking. Ojakian returned to the meeting at 1:04 p.m. after an approximate 15-minute break. Because the discussion is an open forum setting, BOR members are not required or expected to comment.
“I brought you all a Christmas present,” said Gretchen Marino, one of the first students to speak. She proceeded to hand the BOR a box containing petitions signed by members of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) who oppose the contracts.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of students that support the AAUP. I’m here to tell you guys that students aren’t going to back down. Students really love their education. They really love their professors,“ said Marino.
Brian Becker, a junior at CCSU said to the BOR, “If professors have their rights and privileges trampled students like myself will be hurt by extension.” Becker went on to discuss the details of the proposed contract.
“Why is it that these budget cuts are carried on the backs of faculty and students? How can a group that is looking to go into negotiation expect to have a serious discussion when the opening point is to cripple who they are negotiating with?” asked Becker who went on to question the job security of professors.
“Will the ability to fire any faculty member when a controversial statement is made encourage students to think critically or encourage thoughtful discussion? What seems to underlie these proposals is an attempt to make public universities into job certification programs,” concluded Becker.
“I’m here as a future professor,” said Crow Sheehan another student who shared his love of history and passion to bring it into the classrooms of future students. “This makes me concerned that my dreams in this regard cannot be reconciled with a financially secure future. Most importantly though, I come here as student, we are in a fragile place. Quality education is so important.”
Sheehan went on to voice his concern that the BOR has been running public universities without taking into account that students are capable of more than simply contributing to the economy. “College should not be an assembly line to make uniform workers, it should be a place for young people to find what drives them to grow, to create, to become well-rounded noble citizens.”
Stephen Cohen, President of Faculty Senate and Chair of the English department, also spoke to the BOR. Cohen has been a vocal opponent of the proposals in Faculty Senate meetings. “While you are aware of the discontent on our campuses, you don’t truly understand what it’s about.”
Ojakian is scheduled to visit CCSU today. An open forum with students is scheduled from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. in Alumni Hall in the Student Center.
“I want my university to be great,” said Becker near the end of his speech during Tuesday’s meeting. “And I don’t think the Board of Regents and its proposals seem to be in agreement with that goal.”
Contributed reporting by Christopher Marinelli and Devin Leith-Yessian