The great W.E.B. DuBois wrote, “Education must keep broad ideals before it, and never forget it is dealing with souls and not with dollars.”
This is the problem facing Connecticut State University (CSU). The ill-conceived reorganization resulting in the initially named ConnSCU, was born from vendettas waged by two powerful people in the state. That they avenged perceived slights by combining CSU with the community colleges will result in a lack of options for current high school students who wish to earn a degree from a legitimate four-year university.
Recently, the ConnSCU Board of Regents announced it was working with a hired gun called the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Its purpose is to lead the way in an unnecessary reorganization of the reorganization desired by BOR President Gregory Gray. The BCG was apparently hired to make “recommendations” that Gray has already decided on, and use these “recommendations” to make changes to CSU and the community colleges. By doing this, Gray can deflect criticism by hiding behind the BCG.
The legislature’s Appropriations Committee already turned down President Gray’s request to control all the block grants to the colleges, but this still remains a goal. Knowing Gray’s biases, few doubt that CSU will receive a modicum of money, forcing severe cuts among faculty, staff, programs and departments while giving most of the block grants to the community colleges. Unlike the University of Connecticut, which has a state license to spend, CSU has stayed within its small budget. Still, it is believed that the BOR will further gut CSU.
It is no secret that President Gray considers the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) a thorn in his side. Their attempts to force the BOR to uphold contractual agreements is anathema to Gray’s desire to gain absolute control of all money as well as ConnSCU’s direction. Since the reorganization, something that nearly all CSU and community college faculty and administrators still oppose, the BOR has never advocated for CSU. Instead, its appearances before the legislature concerned attempts to gain more control while opposing initiatives giving students and faculty larger voices regarding the system’s direction.
Meanwhile, the BCG’s past is full of union busting, downsizing and changing public school districts (the Philadelphia school system is in a shambles thanks to the BCG), and advocating the firing of educators and replacing them with less qualified teachers while lowering the quality of education. The BCG and other similar firms are finding that colleges represent a brave, and lucrative, new world.
President Gray’s plans will destroy the quality of education at CSU. Connecticut State’s excellent faculty spend long hours teaching, advising, tutoring and mentoring students while simultaneously researching and writing to keep up in their fields and passing the benefits of their research on to their students. The unnecessary slashing of programs and entire departments and the subsequent loss of staff and faculty means the end of these and other provided services that benefit students. Obviously, student education will suffer.
Under the BCG’s guidance, curriculum, always the domain of faculty in nearly every college in the world, will be at the mercy of people who have never taught and have no idea what goes on in the classroom. Classes will be taught the same way with the same material by part-time faculty who fear for their jobs. Allowing the BOR to dictate the curriculum will stultify students’ intellectual growth.
Controlling the curriculum will allow the BOR to replace experts in their fields with mostly part-time teachers who do not have doctorates while turning CSU into a glorified upper-level community college. If high school students from Hartford, New Haven, Branford, Madison, Manchester, Danbury, Willimantic, New Britain and other cities and towns around the state, wish to go to a legitimate in-state four-year public collegiate institution and cannot get into the University of Connecticut, where can they go? The simple answer is no place.
The future of the state is at stake. Students must have the option of attending a four-year college and should be accommodated when they have neither the money nor the confidence to apply to places like Yale or are not accepted by UConn. Since most UConn students leave the state upon graduation, future leadership has to come from other places, notably CSU. But without CSU as a legitimate option for a four-year degree, the state will suffer from a larger uneducated workforce and poor leadership for years to come.
Rocky Hill resident Julian Madison is a council member of the SCSU-AAUP and CSU-AAUP. He is an associate professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University.