Was UConn President channeling Donald Trump in interview with student reporter?  (Part I)

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

ALERT:  Malloy’s Budget Cuts lead to another 23% Tuition Increase at UConn plus 7%

As a result of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s unrelenting attack on Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education, the University of Connecticut Board Of Trustees will be voting at their next meeting to raise tuition by as much as 23 percent for Connecticut students on top of an additional 7 percent increase.

Despite what will be another massive “tax” increase on Connecticut middle class families who are trying to ensure that their children get a college education, the additional tuition funds will not be enough to prevent equally appalling program cuts at UConn.

The new tuition increase comes in addition to the 25 percent jump in tuition and fees that UConn adopted four years ago.  The earlier tuition increase was required to balance UConn’s budget  in response to the record cuts Malloy proposed during his first year in office.

Connecticut’s failure to properly fund its public colleges and universities means that the cost of tuition at the University of Connecticut will have increased by more than $6,000 during Malloy’s tenure, an increase of nearly 50 percent.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting, faced with a $40 million deficit due to the decline in state support, UConn officials are submitting a proposal that would implement a series of tuition increases beginning with a 6.6 percent increase in 2016, and averaging about 7 percent for each of the next three years.

As the Courant explains;

“A key issue for the university has been the state’s shrinking share of the university’s costs. The state’s block grants have grown in recent years, but those increases have not kept pace with the university’s rising costs…

During the past eight years, the state has cut UConn’s funding by approximately $82 million, including $40 million in rescissions.”

When Malloy was sworn in, the State of Connecticut’s appropriation (Block Grant and Fridge Benefits) covered about 18% of UConn’s overall budget.  This year, the level of state support dropped to 16% of UConn’s budget and that reduction does not count the more than $40 million in budget rescissions that Malloy has implemented over the past five years.

It’s the Season of Giving as political appointees rake in raises

Last week it was Governor Malloy’s top aides who were doing the money dance with their raises of up 12 percent.

This week, it is UConn President Susan Herbst who is doing the celebrating.

When Governor Rell and Governor-Elect Malloy announced Susan Herbst’s appointment as UConn’s President on December 20, 2010, she was provided with an initial compensation package of $575, 000.

That salary was 50 percent higher than UConn’s president made ten years earlier (2000).  With her new raise, Herbst’s annual compensation will reach at least $831,000 by 2019, an increase of nearly 45 percent over where she started.

As the CT Mirror and other outlets reported this week, Herbst’s, new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.

In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment that she can invest in a tax-deferred account for her retirement, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit”.

The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year, should she keep the Board of Trustees in her good graces.

The contract also guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

As part of the contract, Herbst agrees to live in the Storrs presidential mansion, but will also take up residence at the 7,000 square-foot “Hartford Property,” which is located just down from the Governor’s Mansion on Scarborough Street in Hartford

The contract also provides that the University will continue to provide staff to maintain the two homes and “assist with university related entertaining.”

Of course, the University will continue to provide the President with a state car and driver.

In addition, the University of Connecticut’s Foundation will continue to provide what has been a long-standing practice of providing the President with a leased car, of which the University is responsible for all necessary repairs, insurance and maintenance.  If President Herbst does not want the extra car, the Foundation will provide her with an annual check for $15,000.

As one would expect, in full political spin mode, at the same time that Governor Malloy’s political appointees announced Herbst’s new contract, the university released “a comparison of Herbst’s compensation with that of similar institutions.”

The University also stressed that fact that while the UConn Foundation has been providing UConn with $175,000-a-year to help pay for Herbst’s salary, that amount will increase to $300,000 a year starting in 2015.

According to the CT Mirror,

“This is Herbst’s second pay increase since she became UConn’s leader. UConn’s spokesman said that in 2012, “Chairman McHugh, after consulting other board members,” signed an amended contract giving her a $30,000 salary increase and a $100,000 increase in the retention/deferred compensation bonus she will receive in 2016.

State law reads, “the board of trustees shall fix the compensation” of the president and similar officials. But, the UConn spokesman said, “There was no formal vote taken, because it was a single amendment to an existing contract.”

As the Hartford Courant noted, “Earlier this year, UConn officials said that cuts in state funding for the university system would require them to increase student tuition by 6.5 percent to help close a potential $42.6 million deficit.”

In fact, since 2000, the State of Connecticut has been consistently reducing public support

Over the past fifteen years, the cuts in state funding have had a significant impact on UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges.

As the state entered the 21st Century, Connecticut State Government provided UConn with an operating subsidy that accounted for about 48 percent of the University’s total costs.

Following Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education, state support for UConn has dropped to the point that the State accounts for only 28 percent of UConn’s total cost.

The reduction in support has transferred the burden onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families.  The total cost of attending UConn has risen 112% since 2000, and that was before the decision to raise tuition another 6.5% this year.

Hide your children – Arne Duncan is coming to Connecticut Tuesday

According to the Hartford Courant, “The governor’s office confirms that Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, will visit Hartford’s University High School on Tuesday afternoon at 1:30. Duncan will speak on college accessibility and affordability. According to Duncan’s office the event will include U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others.”

Considering Duncan et. al. are coming to speak about college affordability, choosing Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering, rather than one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities is an interesting choice.

Considering Governor Malloy has instituted the deepest budget cuts in Connecticut history to the state’s public institutions of higher education, cuts that have led to significant tuition increases, it could be that the Governor’s handlers are worried that they won’t receive a warm welcome.

[Back in the fall of 2010 I attended a University of Connecticut Young Democrats meeting with candidate Dan Malloy in which he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and promised to put an end to Governor Rell’s approach of shifting costs from the state to students and their families.  What a sad commentary that Malloy has done far more to increase college costs for Connecticut’s families than Rell ever did].

In any case, Malloy and Duncan are not appearing at one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities, they are speaking at a Hartford public school.

As so-called education reformers perhaps Malloy and Duncan are more comfortable sticking to the corporate education reform environment that has become Hartford’s School System.

Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering is a prime example of a place where the hard work and real achievement of teachers and students have been overshadowed by the political spin that is the centerpiece of the corporate education reform industry.

According to University High School’s most recent STRATEGIC SCHOOL PROFILE filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education the school gets 51 percent of students from 35 towns surrounding Hartford and 49 percent of its students from Hartford.

Of the student population, 30 percent is White, 34 percent African American, 23 percent Hispanic and 13 percent from “other ethnicities.”

Although it is interesting to note that the school claims that only 2.8 percent of its students are English Language Learners (meaning that they are not proficient in the English Language).  The number is unbelievably low considering the significant number of students from Hispanic and other ethnic backgrounds.

Furthermore, the school reports that only 7.5 percent of its students need special education services, far fewer than the percentages in Hartford or the 34 sending towns.

And then the numbers become even more suspect.

According to the Strategic School Profile, University High School of Science and Engineering graduated its fourth class with a “100% graduation rate.”

The school adds that “100% of graduating seniors applied to and were accepted into a 2 or 4 year college. 90% of graduates are attending a four-year college or university; 8% are attending two-year colleges; and 2% post graduate year.”

However, the school also states that 185 students qualified as truant meaning that 48% of the entire student body was absent for an extremely extended period of time.  Not that truancy necessarily prevents a 100% graduation rate and 100% college attendance rate but the statistic is rather odd.

In addition, another troubling statistic is that only 10.6 percent of the juniors and seniors at Hartford’s University High School were enrolled in college credit courses of any type.  Compare that number to Buckley High where 14.6 percent of the juniors and seniors were taking college credit courses.

Of course, both schools do significantly better than Capital Prep where absolutely no students were enrolled in college credit courses.

Over the last few years it has become painfully clear that Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy and the Obama and Malloy administrations are addicted to policies that are “data driven.”

And playing with the numbers to ensure they match the policy goals is not unheard of.

So, with tuition skyrocketing at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, increases that are a direct result of Governor Malloy’s budget cuts, it will be very interesting (and entertaining) to hear the spin that will be coming from Duncan and Malloy on Tuesday afternoon.