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Task force makes recommendations to
strengthen sense of community on campus
February 15, 1999

The Chancellor's Special Task Force on Community and Civility has made recommendations for enhancing community at the University and will seek more ways to encourage faculty, students, and administrators to contribute to an active learning community.

The task force, which delivered its report to Chancellor Mark Emmert on Monday and to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, said that it would like to continue its work, both to monitor progress on its initial set of recommendations and to continue "to explore ways to build a cohesive campus community in which all members can contribute in a positive way toward creation of an environment conducive to learning with clear expectations for civility, respect and responsible citizenship."

Formed in the wake of disturbances on campus last year during April's University Weekend, the 15-page task force report provides preliminary recommendations that should serve as a source for further campus discussion, said Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs. "The recommendations should be seen in their totality, as a comprehensive set of cohesive and interdependent suggestions to improve the campus community," she said.

Triponey said the task force, comprised of four students, four faculty, and six administrators or staff, is taking a comprehensive approach to making students, faculty and staff feel they are valued members of the community and to engaging them in the life of the campus.

The report notes that some students feel "disconnected" and that the community needs to create forums for controversial viewpoints, work to engage students in university decisions, and recruit more women and minorities as faculty and staff.

Some specific recommendations of the task force include:

  • teaching and modeling the skills necessary for effective civil discourse and debate;

  • working more effectively to engage students who may feel ignored;

  • involving students more fully in enforcing the student code of conduct;

  • sending swift and clear messages about the consequences of inappropriate behavior;

  • finding ways to show appreciation to all staff;

  • enhancing and increasing student-to-student mentor programs;

  • encouraging more campus-wide celebrations of achievement;

  • creating a more welcoming environment inside university buildings; and

  • establishing a student event hospitality fund.

Members of the task force sought and obtained input from a broad array of campus groups and from hundreds of people both on and off campus, Triponey said.

"It is important to note that the problems encountered at UConn last year were not unique to Storrs. The media chronicled a rising tide of student unrest at institutions across the country, including Ohio University, Michigan State, University of Colorado, Iowa State and Washington State University. University officials across the country recognize that there is no 'Band Aid' that will have a magic effect in solving what is clearly a larger societal issue, " she said.

A UConn-sponsored conference in Washington, D.C., was held last fall to discuss the issue and share approaches to avoiding future problems.

In addition to the task force recommendations, the University is taking further actions, Triponey said, including:

  • Changes to the Student Code of Conduct. Outside experts began reviewing the code in December and will have a report in early March. When the report is completed, a process for involving the community in revising the code and the student disciplinary process will be put into place. "We want students to buy in to the new code, and we want to have substantial student involvement," she said.

  • During the month of April, the University will conduct a campus-wide "metanoia" or period of reflection, called "Husky Renaissance". The program will include lectures, classroom discussions and projects, and other activities on the theme of community, all designed to involve a broad cross-section of the university community.

In addition, Triponey said, student leaders asked Emmert to allow them to host a major concert on April 24. The request is supported by the recommendations of the Chancellor's Task Force and the Undergraduate Student Government, said Emmert in granting permission, and is part of UConn's ongoing effort to offer students an array of options for enhancing community, including concerts by Dave Matthews, Jewel, George Clinton, and a midnight breakfast, Husky Weeks of Welcome, opening convocation, South Campus semi-formal gala, and other events.

Student leaders believe that the concert will channel energy into a positive activity and serve as an appropriate celebration of the end of classes, Triponey said.

"We have to make it very clear that this is it. We have to make sure no one gets hurt and nothing gets damaged," she told the trustees. "This is our last chance."

Negotiations with the artists for the concert have not yet been completed.

The task force report is available on the Advance website. To request a printed copy, call (860) 486-2265.

Karen Grava