President pledges swift response
to weekend of unruly behavior
May 4, 1998
President Philip E. Austin has issued the following statement to the University community about the events of University Weekend:
The events surrounding this year's University Weekend are a source of deep concern to the University of Connecticut and to me personally. Violence, lawlessness, abuse of alcohol and generally destructive behavior have no place in this or any university town. It is certainly true that only a minority of students participating in the weekend's activities committed serious offenses, and we should not let the actions of some tarnish the image of a wonderful institution or lead to an unfair characterization of the thousands of responsible men and women who study here. At the same time, we must - and will - deal with the misbehavior that occurred here swiftly and appropriately..
Students who engaged in such activities will be subjected to the full force of the University's disciplinary process, as it is outlined in our Student Code of Conduct. The Code guarantees the rights of every student accused of a violation. But it also enables the University to impose appropriate penalties, up to and including expulsion of those found guilty of serious offenses. We will not hesitate to impose that penalty.
My regret at the situation that developed over University Weekend is particularly intense because of the long months of planning that we devoted to promoting a safe and enjoyable event. The University administration was helped by student leaders and organizations, Mansfield officials, and private property owners. The State Police cooperated throughout our planning process. To them and to our own University police we owe a deep debt of gratitude for their professionalism and service.
The task for all of us now is to evaluate not only the future of University Weekends, but the full range of issues that are adversely affecting student behavior at UConn and at campuses across the country. Alcohol abuse is one such issue, but there are other things to examine as well.
The University of Connecticut must be a place where the quality of student life equals the excellence of the academic program. We need to maintain a campus that recognizes every student as an individual, that nurtures creativity outside as well as inside the classroom, and that offers young men and women a wide range of recreational and social activities. Moreover, we want to foster a student culture that operates as a powerful force against substance abuse of any kind. We are already doing many of those things, and we have both the capacity and the will to do them more effectively and more extensively.
As our new Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Vicky Triponey will play the key leadership role in helping us reach our objective. This is, however, a community undertaking, and it calls for input from students, faculty, staff, and external advisers. I have asked Chancellor Emmert to appoint a task force that will be charged with looking closely at a set of issues that relate to student life at UConn. The task force will begin meeting early in the fall semester and will be of invaluable assistance as we develop policy and program initiatives.
I am convinced that long after this year's University Weekend has faded from memory, the University of Connecticut will be recognized increasingly as an institution that provides a positive, productive and secure environment for students. I speak often of the profound transformation we are undergoing on many fronts; our successes are by now so frequent that we are starting to take them for granted, but it is important to remember that we are rapidly emerging as a model for the nation's public universities in a number of critical spheres. We can be no less than that in the area of student life. The University of Connecticut deserves to be known as a place that is working vigorously to create a positive environment for young people to live, study, and prepare for a productive future.