Does the University of Connecticut surreptitiously give favors to people who donate to the UConn Foundation? Is that why the university wants to keep concealing the identities of most donors?
Increasingly there is reason to think so. A few years ago a big donor to the foundation, resentful that UConn's athletic director did not take his orders about the football team, got him fired. This month the Journal Inquirer reported on business connections between the university and another big donor, former United Technologies Corp. President Karl J. Krapek.
Krapek is a partner in a company that eight years ago proposed building housing near the university in Storrs, before the UConn Foundation's exemption from state freedom-of-information law became controversial. The university approved the Krapek project's request to use UConn's overburdened water and sewer systems. The state auditors criticized UConn for not putting the rights out to bid.
Back then the university was also lauding Krapek for having given $500,000 to the foundation. Last year UConn President Susan Herbst proposed naming a room in the new basketball training center for Krapek, his donations having reached $1 million.
Neighbors oppose the housing project, it seems to be fading away, and Krapek's partner denies any connection between the water and sewer rights and Krapek's donations. But even if UConn's gratitude for Krapek's donations did not facilitate the water and sewer rights, this case establishes that there are business dealings between the university and donors to its foundation.
So do such donors gain influence over contracts with the university, university hiring, and student admissions? Do donors influence university policy in other ways?
These are fair and serious concerns and cannot be addressed unless donations to the foundation become public record as a matter of law. Secrecy breeds corruption. Transparency discourages it. UConn says it is protecting donors to the foundation by concealing their identities. But people who want to support the university for the right reasons will not fear being identified and accountable. Concealing donations to its foundation, UConn is protecting only its ability to do in secret what it would not do in public.
In any case being a university administrator amid Connecticut's oppressive political correctness isn't easy. It seems to require suffering fools all the time.
The other day, according to The Hartford Courant, a couple of dozen students attended a meeting of UConn's Board of Trustees, some wearing duct tape over their mouths, illustrating their claim that they had been silenced, though others among them carried signs and spoke to the board and the only ones who had been silenced had silenced themselves.
The students' grievances:
- A photography exhibit about sexual orientation had been vandalized, as is half the public property in Connecticut isn't as well.
- A "spirit rock" on which the slogan "Black Lives Matter" had been painted was painted over to read only "Lives Matter," as if that might not have been a counter-protest with a legitimate thought.
- Students who look "stereotypically gay" are stared at, as if purple hair and piercings aren't meant to be noticed and as if even cats can't look at kings.
- Anonymous people make racist comments on social media, as if many disgraceful things aren't said anonymously and as if anyone can do anything about it in a free country.
UConn's vice president of student affairs, Michael Gilbert, coddled the students, telling them: "We do want to hear you and we are seeking engagement to understand your perspective." And yet within living memory people in authority in Connecticut would tell pouty, self-absorbed children: "Oh, grow up."
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.