I’m always amazed by the lack of awareness displayed by officials and executives when speaking with the press. Case in point: this recent interview in UConn’s newspaper The Daily Campus with UConn president Susan Herbst, who displays all the charisma of a Gila monster when asked about closing the satellite campus in Torrington:
Constable: There are those who argue the university set up the Torrington campus for failure, in terms of drawing down its faculty, in terms of drawing down its student enrollment and—
Herbst: Did you go the board meeting?
Constable: I didn’t have the chance to, because—
Herbst: Yeah, I think you need to talk to Sally Reis. Yeah. She’s been managing it, and she explained all that. And we have made tremendous efforts there in marketing all different kinds of apertures and venues. The demand is not there, and we did not set up the place for failure. And it is unfortunate that people use that kind of rhetoric, but I ask you to study the issues before you come here. You know, so, did you talk to Sally?
Constable: I’m merely asking the question.
Constable reiterates this conversation is for the graduation issue and is meant to be a transcribed conversation with Herbst.
Herbst: Yeah, so I would talk to Sally. Stephanie Reitz, did you talk to her about the issue at all?
Constable: Just looking for perspective, is all. So you don’t believe the university set up the Torrington campus for failure?
Herbst: Absolutely not. But I would not— yes.
Constable: That’s all I was asking.
Herbst: Yeah— probably better— yeah— I hope that in the future, you can look at all the university says and does and talk to the right people before you ask that kind of question.
Look at all the university says and does and talk to the right people before you ask that kind of question — I cannot count the number of times I’ve interviewed someone who has said something almost identical to me. Translation: Don’t challenge me, just parrot the official doctrine in our press releases. Rather than use the interview as a chance to confront the opposing narrative and articulate UConn’s argument for closure, Herbst swings for the reporter. I love how Constable throws Herbst a life preserver by stopping the interview to explain it will appear as a word-for-word transcription but Herbst ignores him in favor of tying more cinder blocks around her ankles. I can only imagine what her deputy chief of staff was thinking as he overheard this exchange, no doubt while trying to climb out a nearby window unnoticed:
Constable: The Co-op has been an institution at the university for a very, very long time. There were questions about its ability fiscally sustainable in the long term for some time. Looking at the Storrs Center bookstore location – folks over at the Co-op would say they were forced into it despite the fact that they knew it would put them in a position to make the fiscally unsustainable. Did the university make a decision that ultimately resulted in the Co-op not being able to remain its bookstore?
Herbst: No, and we have communicated a lot on this subject, yeah, we’re done. (Looking at deputy chief of staff Michael Kirk) You have anything to add?
Constable certainly asked loaded questions but, again, Herbst was completely oblivious to the opportunity to counter criticism. The real punchline is that Herbst coauthored a book on how mass media shapes public opinion. I guess if you can’t do, teach; but if you can’t do that either, then go into administration.