Let’s not gut Connecticut’s public universities

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Like many college professors, I chose this profession because of a passionate belief in the idea of the university, and not (obviously) for the money. Being a college professor is a really challenging profession, and not least because it requires learning to live without a lot of the economic benefits of almost any other profession.

But I have never regretted my career decision because I completely believe in what I do for a living.

Recently, though, I moved to Connecticut, from New York to be closer to my work and as a new citizen of Connecticut, I am appalled by the current “debates” over whether or not to maintain a public university system.

The idea of a public university is primarily to keep the creation of new knowledge in the hands of the public. Without this, the creation of new knowledge (in the arts, the humanities, the sciences and in the professions) must be funded privately, and increasingly this means corporate sponsorship. Secondarily, the public university serves as a local cultural center, providing events and resources to the local community. Finally, the public university provides an opportunity for local students to get a quality educational experience at an affordable price so that our local community has more college-educated citizens.

These are the hallmarks of a civilized place to live. Almost all of the recent Board of Regents for Higher Education’s negotiating points aim at gutting the idea of a public university. The university is not the buildings; it is the people.

I completely understand the need to balance a budget, and I know what it means to have to cut budget items that used to be affordable (TV, vacations, eating out). Times are extremely tight and most people are really struggling financially. But let’s not destroy Connecticut’s public university system in the process.

Robin Gustafson is an associate professor of psychology at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

What do you think?

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