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Gubernatorial candidates face complex CSU system

Submitted by admin on Wed, 09/08/2010 – 13:10

Makayla Silva

Managing Editor

This chart does not even begin to touch the complexities of the current state of the Connecticut University System. A looming budget crisis of biblical proportions, increased streamlining at each of the university campuses and an overstaffed and overpaid central office doing, well, who actually knows what, have created an opaque picture for faculty, students, staff and Connecticut tax payers.

With tuition up 6.3 percent this year, destined to continue digging deeper into students’ pockets, the universities are scrambling to plan some sort of strategy for the financial armageddon coming to a university near you in 2012.

Does this mean forced furlough days? Does this mean charging students money to print? Does this mean a newly formed administration that is running a very tight ship and canceling all low-enrollment classes? Well, apparently, it does.

Due to a few CSU public acts established 20 years ago, the requirement for the tuition to be approved by a board of non-partisan governors was removed. The Board of Trustees now has that power.

Furthermore, in 1991, an act concerning operational responsibility and accountability for public institutions of higher education, provides for an operational budget rather than an academic budget. What does this mean?

It means during a time of legislative flexibility, the CSU Administration was looking to be a tad more restrictive. In this case, the murky operational budget, in which roughly 60 percent of students’ tuition goes into, was established. This budget can pay for all sorts of things. Maybe this is what pays for ProCon’s weekly free lunch. No wait, that is the infamous student activity fee—but that’s another story.

Each university funds a portion of the System Office. This operational budget allows for the funding without actually showcasing the exact amount of money going from a student’s tuition to the Hartford office. Hence the chart.

Luckily, the well-intentioned Faculty Senate and other members of the Southern community have repeatedly requested some sort of investigation of the office running our ever-expanding school system into the ground.

The Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee, comprised of 12 bi-partisan members of the Senate, will be conducting a review of the CSU System office that will look for any redundancies in the system and verify its efficiency.

While no meetings or deadlines have been established thus far, Governor Rell has requested a December 2010 deadline for the committee’s final review. Just in time for the new governor to take his seat in Hartford.

Which brings me to the contenders. Republican Tom Foley told the New Haven Register in an article last week that he would ask for a “pay freeze on top-level administrators and an evaluation of compensation,” claiming that the “complete disconnect between life for some people in state government bothers me.”

Democrat Dan Malloy, while in agreement with Foley, said the review of compensation wouldn’t be enough. Well Dan, what will?

I think it is fair game to question the candidates’ take on possibly streamlining the administration in efforts to redistribute the roughly $30 million budget for the 70 plus employees back to the schools. Is that not what the Connecticut State University System is all about? The university?

Not that the questions haven’t been asked and the notion of a public institution versus a private business have not caused those in favor of campus autonomy to be slightly skeptical. But they need to be asked again to the people that will actually have the power to do something.

It is so crucial for the gubernatorial candidates to answer some of these questions for not only the tax payers dumping their hard-earned dollars into the wallets of higher public education’s elite, but more importantly for the students.

Roughly 85 percent of the students who attend state schools stay in the state. It might be in the interest of these candidates to address these issues of mismanagement of personnel and money to ensure the future generation of Connecticut workers, as Malloy said he would do if elected.

Wouldn’t it also be interesting if we replaced the director of Prudential Financial, president of political consulting firm Doyle, D’Amore & Balducci and president of the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce with some actual educators on the BOT? There have to be some professors laying around in the state of Connecticut who could incorporate some value back into the system.

These and many other questions and concerns need to be addressed by those running in the mid-term election of 2010.

I’m Makayla Silva and I approve this message.

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