Can UConn Really Economize? And Social Promotion Wins

Chris Powell


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Congratulations may be in order for the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees for discovering, upon the abrupt resignation of Thomas C. Katsouleas after less than two years on the job, that the university doesn’t really need its own president. For last week the board announced that Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive of the UConn Health Center in Farmington, will serve simultaneously as president of the whole university for the time being, continuing to receive his $709,000 annual salary at the health center while the board negotiates his pay for doing both jobs.

Agwunobi’s appointment suggests two things.

First, that Agwunobi may be a pretty good guy for his willingness to take on so much more responsibility while UConn hustles to return to normal operations as the virus epidemic fades.

And second, that the university has much surplus administrative capacity at its many campuses and the health center, since even the most talented executive can’t be in a dozen places at once.

Could an administrator already at UConn or the health center be qualified to become permanent chief of either institution? At least appointing someone from within to lead the university this time might spare the trustees the embarrassment they inflicted on themselves by making such a show of importing Katsouleas from Virginia.

The Katsouleas catastrophe — crowned by his golden parachute, his gentle descent into a tenured professorship with a salary of $339,000, the same disgraceful sinecure enjoyed by his predecessor — suggests that UConn may need a new president less than it needs new trustees.

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Social promotion’s triumph over Connecticut’s community college system seems to be complete.

The Board of Regents for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system announced last week that it will stop requiring “academically unprepared” students to pass remedial high school math and English courses before taking college-credit courses.

The board said more than three-quarters of community college students are failing to pass college-level math and English courses. So the students now will go straight to credit courses and be given “support services” for the subjects in which they are so deficient. Such practice in Georgia, the board said, has greatly increased community college student success in math and English. But even then most students don’t pass the tougher courses.

Additionally, the board said, the community colleges will stop using college placement examination scores when evaluating students for admission and instead will rely on high school grade-point averages.

“High school GPA is a far more accurate measure of academic preparedness for course placement than high-stakes standardized tests,” the board says. But that’s not what standardized tests themselves long have found, and such tests are far more objective measures than grades awarded under the social promotion that rules Connecticut’s high schools, where half the students graduate ignorant.

Community college applicants who can read may construe the new policy as another declaration that no public school students in Connecticut need to take their classes seriously and indeed needn’t learn much of anything by the time they finish high school in order to qualify for a public college education. The new policy of the Board of Regents is a gross devaluation of both college and high school and another proof that the state’s big educational problem is not higher but lower education.

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INVESTIGATION STALLED: Almost a year and a half ago, on January 15, 2020, Mubarak Soulemane, a mentally ill New Haven resident, was shot to death by a state trooper in West Haven after threatening people in Norwalk with a knife, hijacking a car, and leading police on a chase along Interstate 95. Eventually his car was stopped and blocked by police cruisers and, as he sat in the driver’s seat, he was killed by a barrage of gunshots from a trooper. Police video raises serious doubt that Soulemane was a threat at the moment he was killed.

The state’s attorney in Middletown, Michael Gailor, has been investigating the case and has taken too long to complete and publish his report. Public confidence in the police requires much quicker accountability. Governor Lamont should see to it.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.