NEW BRITAIN - A group opposed to Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian’s “Students First” plan is hoping the president rescinds his plan and looks for other options to increase revenue for the CSCU system.
“We’re an investment organ of the state of Connecticut,” Louise Williams, professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, said of the importance of universities in the state at a newspaper editorial board meeting Monday afternoon.
Ojakian’s plan calls for the consolidation of “back office” services in the CSCU system - such as purchasing, human resources, information technology and facilities management. This consolidation would essentially have colleges and universities share these services, rather than having different departments and faculty at each institution providing similar services.
Ojakian’s unveiled his plan in April and has held town hall-like meetings at different community colleges and universities since the reveal. Not all places have been welcoming for Ojakian on his tour, as many CCSU students, staff and faculty protested his plan at his appearance at CCSU last month.
Williams, who was joined at the editorial board meeting by John O’Connor, a professor of sociology at CCSU, Sue Holt, a lecturer at CCSU and Liz Newberg, communications associate for the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors, said there are two major reasons they oppose Ojakian’s plan - the plan is based on centralization and the plan is based on cuts.
“What we’d rather have is a plan that is more local, regional and invests in higher education rather than cut from it,” Williams said.
Williams said that if centralization happens, the centralized system’s department won’t know what’s best for each institution in different parts of the state.
“We would like to see a more regional structure,” Williams said. “Central Connecticut is very different from eastern Connecticut.”
Williams and her peers argue that there really isn’t a difference between back office and “student facing” services at these institutions.
“All offices interact with students,” Williams said.
O’Connor said another issue they have with the consolidation plan is that Ojakian give very little details and specifics laid out in his plan so far. He didn’t consult with the presidents or faculty at these institutions, O’Connor argued.
“That’s very troubling on a whole bunch of different levels,” O’Connor said of the lack of specifics. “Let’s have a discussion instead of this just being imposed.”
O’Connor suggested that the state should increase the corporate tax rate if it needs to increase revenue.
“Think about investing, think about the future,” Williams asked of Connecticut legislators. “Education is a competitive advantage for the state.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email art firstname.lastname@example.org.