This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

  February 18, 2002

President's Column
21st Century Proposal
a Source of Pride, Excitement

As you read this issue of the Advance, the news about Gov. Rowland's proposal for 21st Century UConn will be nearly two weeks old. The excitement continues, as it should: the Governor's proposal not only promises to finish the great work initiated with UConn 2000, but to meet compelling needs at the Health Center and, in a larger sense, to provide one more great push as the University moves to the top ranks of public higher education.

Image: President Philip E. Austin

That said, this may be a good time to offer a few thoughts that may be important for all of us in the weeks and months to come.

First, let none of us be so presumptuous as to assume that 21st Century UConn is a fait accompli. The final decision on that belongs to the General Assembly. While I have yet to hear a discouraging word, any proposal of this magnitude will generate serious discussion and a number of questions. We are ready to provide whatever information is requested, and all of us at the University know that we have a compelling story to tell.

We are working with key constituent groups - faculty, students, alumni, friends - to make sure that every legislator understands what we have accomplished under UConn 2000, what that means for the people of Connecticut, and why it's so important that the transformation continues through 21st Century UConn.

Second, enthusiastic as we are about the prospect of continuing improvements at the Storrs-based programs and infrastructure advances at the Health Center, we must never stop emphasizing the fact that outstanding buildings and beautiful campuses are important to academic quality, not for their own sake but because they help us recruit exceptional faculty and ambitious students and provide the surroundings where they can do their best work. That is a key message not just for legislators, but for prospective students and their parents, for current and prospective faculty, and for all those who care about the University of Connecticut.

It is important for all to understand that our facilities program is guided by a commitment to teaching, research, and the quality of student life. A wonderful campus is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

This brings me to a third point. By 2014, the University will have engaged in nearly 20 years of massive infrastructure improvement that will, when completed, have a direct impact on every department and program. No one at UConn will be housed or educated in anything less than a facility appropriate to a great state's flagship public university. The sequencing of these improvements is a complex undertaking, and it is important that our guiding principles be clearly understood.

These include:

  • protection of health and safety;

  • implementing a construction program that assures that we continue to offer housing, classroom space, and research facilities simultaneous with the building process;

  • enhancing the University'sability to implement its teaching and research program;

  • enabling us to fulfill our mission of service to the state of Connecticut;

  • maintaining and strengthening our ability to recruit outstanding faculty and students.

While it is certainly possible that modifications will be made to meet new exigencies, the preliminary project list developed with the deans' guidance meets these criteria. No project list will make every member of a university community equally happy, but I am confident that in the next few months we can keep our own focus - as well as the focus of legislative discussion - on the overall objective, about which there is a powerful and positive consensus.

These three points are offered not as cautions, but as context. The basic news about 21st Century UConn is so positive that it is hard not to feel intense excitement. As was the case with UConn 2000, if the General Assembly sees fit to give its approval, in time the mood will transform from euphoria into an ongoing but no less profound sense of achievement as the work progresses.

Let us remember that what this proposal is really about is the continuing creation of a university worthy of our students, faculty, and state, and this is an endeavor in which all of us can take justifiable pride.

Issue Index