UConn President forms task force to ‘explore all matters of civil behavior and speech’

Still recovering from a letter critical of the president of the University of Connecticut that went viral, officials at the state’s flagship university have decided to form a task force to “explore all matters related to civil behavior and speech at the university.”

In a letter sent to students Wednesday, UConn President Susan Herbst wrote that the panel will finish its work by December and referred students to the school’s “community standards” and “sexual violence awareness” website.

“Thank you for a wonderful year of discussion and debate; let us join together and continue to ensure this university is a model of civility, openness and peace,” Herbst wrote.

Among other things, the critical letter —  written by a student and posted on The Feminist Wire — calls on the university to address four incidents where student athletes misbehaved and faced limited repercussions on campus.

“These are serious marks against both our athletic program and our university as a whole — marks that… have gone unaddressed, unmentioned, and unacknowledged by UConn authorities,” student Carolyn Luby wrote, noting one exception where a student was suspended from playing basketball. “I know what it feels like to have a real life Husky look straight through you and feel powerless, and to wonder if even the administration cannot ‘mess with them.'”

Attached to Herbst’s letter to students and staff is an explanation of the charge of the task force.

“The task force will examine and recommend new or expanded programming and avenues of educating and communicating with students regarding the following; effective and courteous ways of exploring and discussing differing opinions in person and electronically, means of supporting civil and respectful discourse, ways to deter and address sexual violence of any kind, harassment, intimidation, bullying, incivility and the stigmatization of individuals or groups of students for any reason,” the charge reads.

The student letter highlighted different instances where women were threatened by athletes.

“The new Husky logo may not be capable of frightening small children, but the face of real life UConn athletics is certainly capable of frightening college women,” Luby wrote, who suggests the school adopt a zero-tolerance policy.

The Associated Press last year wrote a series of articles about the legal minefield in responding to sexual misconduct on campus.