Every year, the University of Delaware asks the state’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) for funding towards various projects and initiatives on campus. This year, President Dennis Assanis requested $18.3 million to graduate more healthcare professionals, specifically in the fields of epidemiology, nursing, speech pathology and medical or molecular science; to increase financial aid, especially for Pell Grant recipients; to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on students’ education and to graduate more teachers and to increase base funding for the Associate in the Arts Program (AAP) .
While these are all very important issues, we at The Review wonder why funds for other, under-funded and failing university programs and services weren’t also requested.
In the JFC meeting, Assanis was asked about what the university was doing about the safety of students, specifically women, on campus after several recent incidents of gender-based violence.
In his response, Assanis referred to “an incident” on Oct. 14 — the day after a large student-led protest against the university administration’s slow response to Brandon Freyre’s charges of assault against a female student. What Assanis did not mention was the near week that passed before students received any clear support from him. Additionally, twice Assanis butchered the name of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence, which his administration put in place.
If President Assanis is so removed from these issues that he cannot accurately remember basic facts regarding them, then how are we to expect him to properly advocate for the university community?
We can clearly see Assanis’ priorities. While some, like his recent Pell Grant financial aid initiative (though he did not specify when it would commence), are a relief to students, others should be put on the back burner. Assanis is funneling money into STEM job-training programs while our student population is struggling with under-funded counseling services, un-supported sustainability initiatives, food insecurity, crippling debt and distress about the possibility of being kidnapped or assaulted while on campus.
Assanis, himself, at the JFC meeting in 2020 said that the university needed “better-qualified students who come out of [Delaware’s] K-12. Because we don’t want to put them into a first-class environment and then lead them to having mental health problems.” If he was so concerned about students’ mental health then why is the Center for Counseling and Student Development so terribly underfunded and understaffed?
Similarly, Assanis mentioned that the university’s faculty are working to solve “many challenges facing Delaware from protecting the environment by providing sustainable sources of energy to helping communities and businesses thrive and grow.”
Yet again, we can see Assanis not putting his money where his mouth is. The university’s own Sustainability Council in 2022 reported that the “University of Delaware is in the lower 25th percentile of [Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education]-rated institutions, receiving only 70 out of 215 possible points. All of our comparator peer institutions (with the exception of Stony Brook University who was not ranked) have scored higher than UD, putting us in last place. Furthermore, 80% of public universities in the Association of American Universities (AAU) had a ranking of gold or higher, putting UD even further behind exemplary institutions.”
The Sustainability Council has neither a physical office nor a permanent budget and, thus far, has had the vast majority of its demands ignored by the university administration.
To quote President Assanis from his meeting with the JFC , “we need to be investing in our future to make our society healthier, more educated and competitive. And that’s more sustainable.”
We wonder how ignoring these vital issues is creating a society that is healthier, better educated, more competitive and sustainable. It seems that the university administration needs to re-evaluate its moral responsibilities to its community, re-think where it is putting its money and re-examine its choice in leadership.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Simon Stewart. He may be reached at email@example.com.