McKinney Calls on UConn to Examine Professor’s Partisan Remarks

September 19, 2014

Hartford – Today Senator John McKinney, Senate Minority Leader, called on the University of Connecticut to reassess the school’s commitment to political neutrality.

In a letter to UConn President Susan Herbst, Senator McKinney expressed his concerns regarding recent partisan comments made by UConn economics professor Fred Carstensen and questioned the timing of a press conference coordinated with the governor’s office earlier this week.

“Both of these recent incidents have the potential to influence an ongoing election and could and should have been avoided,” wrote McKinney.

According to a Yale Daily News article, published on September 11, 2014, Professor Carstensen, when asked for economic analysis, “argued that if [Tom] Foley was elected in 2010 rather than Malloy, the economy would have been much worse off.” He went on to say that, “Foley would have given us the worst recession since World War II.”

Senator McKinney feels these statements violate the spirit, if not the letter, of state law and UConn’s code of conduct, which prohibit employees from engaging in partisan politics while on state time or using University resources to influence an election.

“In my opinion, these remarks reveal an inappropriate political bias that crosses the line into partisan advocacy,” McKinney wrote. “Professor Carstensen was commenting as a UConn economics professor. He was by definition on state time and using University resources, i.e. his title and affiliation.”

McKinney continued, “Obviously biased comments by a distinguished professor of economics only undermine the public trust and confidence in UConn and its ability to deliver a quality education without political influence.”

Senator McKinney also expressed concerns about UConn’s press conference, held in coordination with the governor’s office on Wednesday, announcing the findings of a study examining the university’s economic value to the state. He said there was no need to promote the report prior to the election if the real intent was to provide objective information to legislators in advance of the 2015 legislative session.

“The fact that UConn chose to promote the report’s findings less than two months before the election, and in coordination with Governor and candidate Malloy, fuels the impression of partisanship and political influence,” he wrote.

“We all, Republicans and Democrats, take pride in the University and its accomplishments. Thus, it is disheartening to see University representatives engage in partisan pandering.”