Aicha Ly | Opinion Editor
“You don’t cut your way to greatness, you don’t slash your way to excellence; you got to invest in it.” These are the words of President Terrance Cheng, the president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. He visited Eastern on December 2, 2021 in the school library’s Johnson room. I was one of the students invited to attend this visit of his, and I went prepared with a question that had been weighing my mind and the minds of many others–both students and faculty members: was Cheng planning on replicating the merger he started with CT community colleges, consolidating Eastern, Southern, Western, Central and UCONN?
When my raised hand was noticed and President Cheng called on me to share my question, I was filled with anticipation regarding his answer on this controversial topic. He was noticeably quick to give me a response, giving a very strong“no” to my question. President Cheng was quite clear in telling us students in the room that he does not plan on merging the four year CT universities at all. Continuing his response to my question, he then went on to explain that the community colleges differ from the four year state universities, such as Eastern, in many ways. One of these significant ways is that while the state of CT as a whole is struggling with dropping enrollment in state colleges and universities, especially with COVID, the community colleges are already quite “deficit in their [financial] reserves.”
I really do hope President Cheng sticks to his word and ongoing negotiations between faculty and the Board of Regents end well, not in a university merger. In my sincere opinion, consolidating CT colleges and universities into one system is more detrimental than helpful to the student body, faculty, and staff. I chose to attend Eastern over other universities because of the small campus and small classes. I appreciate how quickly I create bonds with my professors and classmates rather than just appearing to be a random face in a crowded lecture hall, lost in a sea of students. Surely, larger universities do have their advantages such as presumably more resources for students to take advantage of like more options regarding class selections to meet a higher demand. However, based on my personality, values, and goals at this time in my life Eastern is a better fit for me than bigger universities like Southern. Many students on campus chose this school in particular over others in the state because of Eastern’s great education program. Every university in the state has unique characteristics that would essentially be minimized if not completely erased if all universities were collapsed into one system. While presumably this could cut back on costs for the state, the cut on university expenses does not seem worth it.
A merger between all CT state colleges and universities could backfire and lead to an increased drop in enrollment due to lack of distinction between the schools attracting students. Also, it may lead to some redundancy in job positions which could make employment more difficult for faculty and staff. Our faculty, whether full time and tenured, new, or adjuncts, and staff are essential parts of our colleges. They are not only our highly qualified educators, they are also our mentors. The treatment and benefits they receive do impact our quality of education and our college experience as students, so it is in our best interest to stay updated on the topic of negotiations between faculty, President Cheng, and the Board of Regents regarding the future of CT state colleges and universities. Though the amount of information that can be shared by faculty is limited due to legal reasons, we students must continue to demonstrate support and advocacy for our professors in this long term process because it truly impacts all of us.