University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst appeared on “Face the State” in an interview with Dennis House of Channel 3 Eyewitness News Sunday morning.
The televised session began with conversation regarding UConn’s division sports playing at the XL Center, as plans surface to either renovate the space or rebuild it completely. While it will be an expensive project either way, the facility is looking to compensate, and has requested that UConn play more home games in downtown Hartford, according to The Hartford Courant.
“We would like to play, of course, on our home campus (Gampel) – these are college sports – but we also love being downtown,” Herbst said.
The university is “all in” in terms of a partnership in this deal, though the details will be complicated to work through, Herbst said.
House also asked Herbst about UConn 2000, a building project initiated in the 1990s. The goal of the program was to put UConn on the same pedestal as other state universities across the country that are viewed as more prestigious.
Herbst said she doesn’t think UConn is on that level just yet, but “we’re on the right path.” The program was a turning point for the university, but more faculty and “brain power” are necessary.
“We’ve come a long way moving in a good direction, but the reasons why those are powerhouse universities are because of the number of outstanding faculty, the amount of research they do and also their huge endowments,” Herbst said.
The conversation then moved to the increasing competitiveness of UConn in terms of accepting new students.
The steady increase of applications is not surprising. More and more applications come in every year, and with more diversity. UConn has reached a higher quality than years past, and its impressive value amidst a rough economy seems to attract more prospective students and families, Herbst said.
“It’s very hard to get in…we have outstanding faculty, so you want the students’ academic prowess to match the good faculty we have,” Herbst said.
In light of the recent MDMA drug overdose situation at Wesleyan University, which hospitalized several students, Herbst responded with her own views about drugs on campus and spoke about UConn’s preventative measures.
“(Drugs are) very prevalent. College students do get into trouble, there’s no question about it. They’re experimenting, they’re taking a lot of risks, and so I think that every university faces not only problems with drugs, but also underage drinking,” Herbst said.
Drug problems arise at every college, but education is the best way to reduce the issue. The UConn Police Department gets involved with students through community policing, trying to get to know students on more personal levels and educating them about the effects of harmful substances, Herbst said.
“(Education is the best way) to show the students that if you go down a bad path, you could really ruin your life for a while,” Herbst said.
Herbst emphasized the importance of increasing fundraising in o
House then questioned Herbst surrounding Connecticut’s recent budget cut proposals and how it will affect UConn.
If the budget cuts pass, UConn will be in an extremely tight situation. The Connecticut General Assembly doesn’t want to cut anything from institutions, and would rather add funds before taking them away, so it’s a difficult situation. The university is looking at everything in the budget, Herbst said.
“No matter how tough the budget looks by the end of the session, it’s our duty and our promise to protect that coursework and the educational core,” Herbst said.
House and Herbst spoke briefly about co-ed dorms on campus, after reviewing a video that asked students about sexual activity at UConn in 1973 – a time when dorms were more split by gender.
In response, Herbst said current students request and enjoy co-ed dorm floors, as it gives more chances for friendships and sisterly/brotherly attachment between males and females.
The interview continued with a discussion about UConn’s new Hartford campus, which will allow for several living opportunities, as well as commuter options.
“It’s one of the projects that generates the most excitement in audiences – that UConn is going to be an urban presence, and again helps with our capital city’s growth,” Herbst said.
In conclusion, Herbst said UConn’s goal is to hire more faculty and support current members in order to increase research. She also wants to boost fundraising, specifically in order to provide scholarships to needy and meritorious students.
“Our mission is to create new knowledge. It’s to invent, it’s to cure disease at our health center in Farmington and try to make the world a better place; and that happens through research,” Herbst said.
To view the full interview, visit wfsb.com.