This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage.
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page

February 14, 1997 - Issue Index

Austin addresses article
Says he is concerned about 'unacceptable' practices cited by paper
(February 14, 1997)

President Philip E. Austin issued the following response to the Hartford Courant story that appeared on Sunday:

The story questioned athletic spending and the use of University of Connecticut Foundation funds to pay for travel and entertainment related to men's and women's basketball games. The story pointed out that a combination of funds -- from the NCAA, the Foundation and the University -- paid for travel by family members of UConn officials and coaches and challenged the role of the Foundation, a private non-profit organization.

The reason for this institution's existence is the provision of high-quality academic programs. I believe that our athletic programs, while ancillary, complement the academic programs and are well-managed and of high quality. Nevertheless, I am concerned by some of the practices described in The Hartford Courant story and consider them unacceptable. Clearly, there were errors in judgment. I can assure you that the University will be more aggressive in defining and enforcing appropriate expenditures in support of UConn's participation in athletic events. We will determine the appropriate balance between costs and our obvious need to provide secure, safe and efficient accommodations for student athletes. Furthermore, while there are sound reasons to selectively include spouses in University fund-raising events, until there is further clarification from the state Ethics Commission, or until state law is modified, spousal travel will not be reimbursed with University or Foundation funds.

The article challenged the role of the Foundation. By design, the Foundation is the University's partner in developing private resources to support the University's academic programming priorities. This is the model at successful institutions across the nation -- universities such as Wisconsin, Ohio State, UCLA and numerous others. Simply put, The UConn Foundation's role is to raise and manage private funds donated by individuals, corporations and philanthropic foundations for the benefit of the University, while honoring the intention of the donors.

A concern I have encountered repeatedly is that academics have become secondary to athletics at UConn and that Foundation support is skewed toward athletics. Clearly the numbers suggest otherwise. For example, less than 12 percent of the Foundation's endowment is dedicated to the athletic program and 94 percent of that amount is for athletic scholarships.

Since the Foundation assumed responsibility for the University's fundraising two years ago, its practices have yielded unprecedented success as evidenced by its year-end results. Contributions have increased and UConn's academic programs have benefited the most; gifts to endowment have risen dramatically, thanks in no small part to the UConn 2000 legislation; and the largest single gifts in the University's history -- both of which benefit academic programs were secured during the past four months.

The problems pointed out by the Courant are being addressed. Despite these issues, I am more encouraged than ever, as a result of numerous meetings with editorial boards, legislators, business leaders and others, that this state shares our collective aspiration to make UConn a premier public research university. The leadership of this state has shown great confidence in this University with the passage of UConn 2000. To meet their expectations and achieve our aspirations will require our continued partnership with the UConn Foundation and a renewed focus on our academic programs. While we will attack our problems aggressively and unequivocally, we must not let them impede our progress toward enhanced academic quality.

Issue Index Advance Homepage