At the end of last month, UConn Daily Campus reporter Kyle Constable sat down with UConn President Susan Herbst for an interview. Among the topics covered was the controversy surrounding the fate of the UConn Co-op, the institution that has been serving students, faculty and the greater UConn community for the past 41 years.
While President Herbst’s answers to the student reporter’s questions were telling, the session was notable, not so much for what UConn’s President said, but how she conducted herself when dealing with a member of the media.
Upon reading the recorded transcript of the interview, one possible conclusion is that when no one was looking, Donald Trump snuck into the President’s office and possessed Herbst’s mind. Alternatively, Herbst has been studying Trump’s meteoric rise and decided to take a page out of The Donald’s abusive and insulting approach to reporters and the media.
In any case, the public servant who collected a salary and benefits in excess of $768,558 during the last fiscal year – a $50,000 raise from the year before – managed to turn a routine “end-of-the-year” interview into a situation that should be cause for concern for UConn’s students, faculty and alumni, as well as, the state’s taxpayers and policymakers.
As background, the corporatization of the University of Connecticut took another strong step forward last month with UConn’s announcement that Barnes & Noble had been selected to replace the historic UConn Co-op bookstores. The UConn Co-op is closing and the national bookstore chain will step in with a promise to improve services and upgrade facilities.
Prices may (or may not) go up, depending on who is assessing the situation, but one of the benefits – according to reports produced by the University of Connecticut – is that UConn will receive “millions of dollars” in revenues from the sale of books and other items sold at the new Barnes & Noble stores.
The move to turn UConn’s non-profit bookstore over to a for-profit company has generated significant controversy. See: UConn Co-op Bookstore Could Be Replaced By National Corporation (Hartford Courant 12/8/15), UConn Co-op to be replaced by national corporation (Daily Campus 3/11/16), Barnes & Noble to Lead UConn’s Bookstore Operation (UConn Today 4/27/16)
However, as noted, the news of the moment is not about the bookstore but about the UConn President’s demeanor when sitting down with a reporter who was asking legitimate and important policy questions.
In a case like this, it is best to simply let the content speak for itself.
The Daily Campus headline read – One-on-one: Herbst talks UConn’s path forward in face of uncertainty
Then leaping to the subsection entitled: The Co-op, Barnes & Noble
Constable [The UConn Daily Campus reporter]: The Co-op has been an institution at the university for a very, very long time. There were questions about its ability fiscally sustainable in the long term for some time. Looking at the Storrs Center bookstore location – folks over at the Co-op would say they were forced into it despite the fact that they knew it would put them in a position to make the fiscally unsustainable. Did the university make a decision that ultimately resulted in the Co-op not being able to remain its bookstore?
President Herbst: No, and we have communicated a lot on this subject, yeah, we’re done. (Looking at deputy chief of staff Michael Kirk) You have anything to add?
President Herbst’s Deputy chief of Staff Kirk: About the Co-op?
President Herbst: Yeah.
Kirk: No, I mean, it’s important to keep in mind this change wasn’t just about whether or not the Co-op was profitable. Whether it’s profitable or not, the concern on their part was they didn’t they could make it for the long term. They didn’t have a way out, other than a university bailout. At the same time, there was mounting complaints from students, and faculty and fans and others saying this is not the bookstore that we want, not the bookstore we need. So those things combined led the university to say, “We should look at what our alternatives are.” It’s wasn’t just, “Oh, the Co-op’s not profitable, therefore—” It was, “We’re not getting the kind of service out of this that we need as big university in the 21st century.”
Constable: So talk a little bit about what Barnes & Noble brings to the table for the future of the university.
President Herbst: Yeah, we had— have you read all our material about this?
Constable: Of course.
President Herbst: Yeah, so, have you been to Barnes & Noble recently? Like the Yale Co-op?
Constable: Yes, earlier this week.
President Herbst: That’s what you’re going to get, getting great programming. We’ll have guarantees on how many community programs and authors, but we’ll have our own events there, too. You will have a guarantee about textbook prices and a matching program, which we don’t have right now. There will be more and diverse gear. I mean, I think you see the difference between the Yale bookstore and what we’ve had. So, there it was, right in front of you.
So there you are – it is right in front of you!
Or as Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Edition put it –“JANE, YOU IGNORANT SLUT.”
Yale bookstore good
UConn Co-op bad
Yale bookstore is for winners
UConn Co-op is for losers
Barnes & Nobile is the kind of store UConn needs to be, “a big university in the 21st century.”
And PS, anyone who doesn’t get it is just stupid
Or as Trump put it,
“We’re not going to lose. We’re going to start winning again and we’re going to win big-ly.” – Donald Trump 5/3/16
To fully appreciate President Herbst’s entire approach, check out the full Daily Campus article at: http://dailycampus.com/stories/2016/5/6/one-on-one-herbst-talks-uconns-path-forward-in-face-of-uncertainty