As a 1956 graduate of the University of Connecticut, I’m thrilled that the school is in the NCAA championship basketball game tonight.

A win tonight will relieve some of the pain from the loss last night by the women’s team.

I’m depressed, however, about the soaring cost of attending this land-grant institution, which was a stepping stone for many a poor student decades ago.

Four-year cost when I went there was about $4,000. It’s now at least $100,000 ($24K yearly just for tuition/room/board).

The “U.S. Inflation Calculator,” based on the Consumer Price Index, says the inflation rate since 1956 is 713% and that an item that cost $1,000 in 1956 should cost $8,136 now (eight times the cost instead of 24 times).

College costs have far exceeded the inflation rate.

According to many critics, just one of which is the new book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," students are paying more and learning less.

Like many fellow students in the 1950s, I was the first generation in a family able to attend college. I worked a year in a Bridgeport factory to save the needed money since no help could come from my family. Neither parent finished grade school. Odd jobs during college and factory jobs in the three summers paid close to 100% of the cost.

High UCONN Pay Under Investigation

I’m disgusted to read about the high pay of UCONN officials.
Police chief Robert Hudd made $246,961 last year which is more than any big city police chief makes, including New York’s Raymond Kelly, whose pay is $189,700. Kelly supervises the biggest police dept. in the U.S. — 37,838 cops.

No. 2 UCONN cop Ronald Blicher got $193,616.

All 12 state employees paid more than $500,000 last year were either UCONN coaches or doctors, according to the Yankee Institute. There are 286 top-level administrators at UCONN.

Lawrence McHugh, chair of the board of trustees and chair of the Middlesex County CofC, said the trustees will investigate this but will not attempt any clawbacks of money paid.

Future pay levels will be examined although the board admitted it has no power over them. The UCONN president has this authority.
McHugh says the board should not be kept “in the dark.”

He just described the usual know-nothing, do-nothing board.

UCONN Police Quiet on Sex Case

UCONN police, confronted in 2005 with the explosive issue of the son of the head of PR being involved on Sept. 25, 2005 in a sexual practice called “bukakke,” put a lid on it. The dept. decided that no sex crime was involved since the victim was not actually touched by the three UCONN men who took part in this. A new state law made this practice a sex crime.

No report at all hinting of what went on surfaced until about four months later when the Hartford Courant got a tip and published a story Feb. 3, 2006.

Worst example is the silence of police and others that was a factor in 30 deaths at Virginia Tech in 2007 (link, sub req'd).

VP police chief Wendell Filcher as well as legal counsel and various administrators met shortly after two murders were discovered at 7:15 on April 16, 2007. They decided to sit on the news for at least two hours while looking for a suspect (the boyfriend of one of the victims). Not present at the meeting was Elizabeth Flanagan, VP of “development and university relations” (the development part being first).

Scott Brohinsky, a lawyer who headed UCONN’s PR for decades and who is the father of Zak Brohinsky, former UCONN student who served 75 days in jail on charges related to the incident, retired early in 2009. Retiring at the same time was his No. 2 person, Karen Grava.

Brohinsky, 59 at the time, who made $200,000, is eligible for an annual pension of about $120,000, according to the Courant.
Grava, who was paid $133,000, was eligible for a pension of “more than $80,000,” it said. Grava is now teaching in UCONN’s Communication Sciences dept.

A controversial issue is that many state employees taking retirement went right back on the payroll as “120-day wonders” at their previous pay. Grava told the Courant that neither she nor Brohinky would do that.

We can’t prove it but we suspect the simultaneous retirement of what the Courant called UCONN’s “top PR voices” was related to the sex scandal.

New PR Head Is Marketing-Oriented

Replacing Brohinsky is Jim Walter, associate VP for communications heading “marketing and PR.

That “marketing” comes first is a tip-off. He will no doubt personify the school’s “go-go” mentality. He is to “further enhance our messaging and strengthen our overall reputation,” said UCONN in appointing him.

The promise of PR is “relations” and not browbeating audiences with “messages.”

Walter, whose bio includes working at Johnson & Johnson, one of the tightest-lipped companies in the U.S., said upon his appointment that “A strong reputation is essential to the strength of an organization.”

I wonder if there was a search for this important position. New blood is what is needed.

Besides the skyrocketing cost of an education at UCONN, Walter must deal with other PR issues including the three-game suspension next year of UCONN coach Jim Calhoun on charges of improper recruiting tactics.

The New York Times, raining on the school’s parade April 2, had a feature about UCONN’s dealings with prized-recruit Nate Miles that practically wrecked his life.

The “recruiting scandal let to an assortment of punishments” for the school, said the NYT.

Walter’s Background Not Impressive

I’m not impressed with Walter’s background and especially after the school’s PR being headed for nearly three decades by a lawyer.

Legal keeps PR on a tight leash. Legal training and communications mix like oil and water. Faced with a reporter’s questions, lawyers take their own “Miranda rights”—claiming their right not to say anything that may be used against them. Silence ensues.

Walter has spent the past 13 years at UCONN’s Health Center in Farmington, 30 miles distant from the main campus, as head of “communications and marketing.” The June 8, 2009 release announcing his appointment leaves out the location of the Health Center.

He will now be “based” at the main campus in Storrs but will “divide his time” between Storrs and Farmington. He continues as an instructor at the Health Center.

Walter has a B.S. in communication management from Ithaca College and then worked for Osteotech, MED Communications, and J&J.