CSCU President Mark Ojakian Kyle Constable /
CSCU President Mark Ojakian addresses a large crowd gathered at Eastern Connecticut State University for the April board of regents meeting Thursday. Board Chair Matt Fleury, left, looks on. Kyle Constable /

It’s not that faculty leaders disagree with the cost-saving framework the president of the state’s largest college system won approval for from his governing board last week.

But they do feel they were left out of the decision-making process and that the plan is so vague they can’t tell what the governing board, the Board of Regents, gave President Mark Ojakian permission to do.

“In the biggest decision that has ever come before the Board of Regents, the [Faculty Advisory Committee] is shocked at the lack of specificity in President Ojakian’s ‘Students First’ proposal, and the lack of transparent deliberation that went into passing it,” says a resolution adopted by the system’s Faculty Advisory Committee.

The CSCU system includes the four regional state universities, 12 community colleges and online Charter Oak College. The University of Connecticut is separate and has its own governing board. The system is facing a $35 million deficit for the 1917-18 fiscal year and a larger one the year after.

Over the weekend, 15 Faculty Senate presidents and union leaders also released a group statement in reaction to the plan.

“We acknowledge that the CSCU system is facing the severe consequences of many years of shrinking state appropriations,” they wrote. “We are greatly dismayed, however, that deliberations creating the plan were not public and were essentially clandestine… We are deeply concerned — as professors and professionals in higher education — that the likelihood of sweeping changes to our system is based on a 15-page PowerPoint Presentation, completely lacking in details regarding how such savings would be achieved.”

The group also took issue with the “implausible” July 1 deadline for teams to carry out the plan.

On Monday, Ojakian responded to the faculty criticism.

“This plan was developed to preserve and ultimately enhance teaching, learning and the high-quality academic programs we provide our students. I was especially grateful to hear from CSU Leadership that we share in the common goal of putting our students first,” he wrote the president of the universities’ faculty union, pointing out a two-hour meeting he had with union leaders to discuss his proposal to reduce administrative staff. “I want to reiterate what I said then and have been saying all along: Our biggest assets are students and faculty and I believe this plan prioritizes both.

“As we move forward, we hope to able to direct more resources to teaching, learning, and critical student services that your colleagues provide…,” Ojakian said. “The goal is to begin implementation on July 1. While not all will be ready by this date, it’s important to act expediently.”

Ojakian has scheduled a “listening tour” of  all 17 campuses over the next month to hear from students and faculty. For those who want to weigh in, the schedule is:

  • Tuesday, April 11, at 11 a.m. – Tunxis Community College (tomorrow)
  • Thursday, April 13, 9 a.m. – Manchester Community College
  • Monday, April 17, at 9 a.m. – Norwalk Community College
  • Tuesday, April 18 at 1 p.m. – Asnuntuck Community College
  • Wednesday, April 19 at 9 a.m. – Southern Connecticut State University
  • Wednesday, April 19 at 1 p.m. – Gateway Community College
  • Thursday, April 20 at 9 a.m. – Western Connecticut State University
  • Monday, April 24 at 9 a.m. – Northwestern Community College
  • Monday, April 24, at 1 p.m. – Naugatuck Valley Community College
  • Tuesday, April 25 at 9 a.m. – Middlesex Community College
  • Tuesday, April 25 at 1 p.m. – Central Connecticut State University
  • Wednesday, April 26 at 9 a.m. – Quinebaug Valley Community College
  • Wednesday, April 26 at 1 p.m. – Three Rivers Community College
  • Thursday, April 27 at 9 a.m. – Capital Community College
  • Thursday April 27 at 1 p.m. – Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Monday, May 1, at 9 a.m. – Charter Oak Community College
  • Thursday, May 4 at 1 p.m. – Housatonic Community College
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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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