The University of Connecticut was rightly quick to herald its top twenty ranking of public universities by US News and World Report last week just as it does with other rankings. However, at the same time, it hasn’t answered questions of misspending millions of taxpayers’ money or why their sports department’s marketing relationship resulted in the school’s “menacing husky” logo being on billboards advertising beer.
“Our success is owed to the visionary support UConn receives from the state and its leaders, so every citizen in Connecticut can be very proud of their flagship public university,” UConn President Susan Herbst said on the school’s UConn Today website. “It is vital that we all work hard to maintain and build on this success in the years to come.”
What Herbst doesn’t mention is the lack of oversight of how the school spends its money. The Connecticut General Assembly—a big chunk of which is made up of sports star-struck alums—has voted to spend millions and millions of taxpayers money without any ability or desire to police the spending.
It was just this past February 24th that Herbst told the legislature’s budget-writing committee, “We are pretty much down to the bone…We’ve made about as many cuts on the non-academic side as we can. We are going to have to start in the academic side, and it’s very, very worrisome. It’s dangerous.” This plea for financial help came despite the $15 million infusion from the state the school will receive for fiscal 2014-15 to fund the “Next Generation” initiative.
Recently, we found out that UConn spent nearly $1 million in licensing fees for software it didn’t even use. Further, state auditors criticized school official for not establishing a maximum pay level for professors or have any salary range at all for some professional positions. That’s what happens when no one is watching the store.
Also recently, eagle-eyed former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy questioned why there were billboards advertising beer had the UConn logo on them with the slogan, “Huskies Love the Cold” on it. The signs were promptly scrubbed.
One can’t help but wonder whether UConn’s athletic department wouldn’t be so hard up for the marketing cash if it watched where it was spending its money. As The Shad wrote back in March, UConn paid former basketball coach Jim Calhoun $1.5 million in the 2012-2013 year when he wasn’t even coaching the team!
Also in question is whether any husky loyalist will question the 5-year, $8 million contract bestowed on new head football coach Bob Diacco last December. If there is grumbling, it will be because the team has started 1-2 and the 1 was a squeaker over that football powerhouse Stony Brook, not about spending the millions.
None of this includes the spending by the UConn Foundation which paid $250,000 to potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for a 30-minute speech. The truth is UConn operating fund money is shifted to the Foundation on an annual basis. See The Shad’s previous story on this situation.
The (Manchester) Journal Inquirer newspaper gets it exactly right. More oversight is needed and it’s needed immediately.