In protests across campus last Thursday, dissatisfied students decried SUNY budget cuts and the ways they say money is spent unjustly at Binghamton University.
A new group, Concerned Binghamton Students, held the protests as a part of the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.
The National Day of Action to Defend Public Education was first proposed last year by California activists, resulting in the first Day of Action on March 4, 2010.
At the top of CBS’s list of concerns is the $70,000 difference between current Interim President C. Peter Magrath’s $355,000 salary and former President Lois DeFleur’s salary of about $285,000.
CBS wrote, ‘How do you think the $70,000 raise given to Interim President Magrath could have been spent to meet our needs?’ on a whiteboard and allowed students to write their answers to the question on sticky notes.
‘You have to wait in line for 20 minutes to print two pages. The new blue buses are smaller ‘ they’re prettier, but they’re smaller. There’s only one stapler in the PODS,’ said Ashley Reid, a senior majoring in sociology and a member of CBS. ‘[Magrath] is the president, he’s our president, wouldn’t you think he would want to give his students new printers with that money?’
This first protest outside of the Library Tower was followed by a second later that night by the Anderson Center, where Snooki from the popular MTV series ‘Jersey Shore’ was entertaining that night.
These protests were in response to what CBS believes is a ‘budget crisis at Binghamton University,’ Reid said.
The crisis is the result of troubling economic times in the state of New York with an increasing budget deficit, a $210 million cut to the SUNY budget this year and a 30 percent reduction of the SUNY operating budget over the past three years.
Reid cited the most important burdens as increased student fees, increasing tuition, cuts to club and student organization budgets, low teaching assistant salaries, a reduction in the number of courses, the decreasing teacher-to-student ratio and a lack of resources such as computers, printers, staplers, blue buses, parking and library books.
Other students were able to respond to this, and other questions as well, by writing what changes they wanted to see at BU on sticky notes that were posted on the whiteboard outside of the Bartle Library.
‘We want the administration to see that it’s not just a small group of students complaining,’ Reid said.
The University responded to CBS in a statement from Cornelia Mead, assistant to Vice President Brian Rose, by stating that many of the group’s concerns, such as student group budgets and student fees, are already being handled with the supervision of students.
Mead added that some of the issues presented by CBS ‘ such as availability of blue buses and overcrowding in the Pods ‘ will be investigated by the University further to improve student resources.
The same letter from Mead outlined improvements that would be made to OCCT, including future replacement of older blue buses, the installation of ID scanners on the buses to gain better information on the ridership of various routes and plans to improve the Pods.
‘We are taking the students’ concerns very seriously,’ Mead said.
However, according to Mead, there are many issues that are out of the control of the Binghamton University administration, such as the compensation of Interim President Magrath and tuition.
‘Interim President Magrath’s salary was determined by the Chancellor and the SUNY Board of Trustees and is reflective of his past experiences and previous compensation packages,’ said Mead. ‘It is also well within the median salary for presidents at public universities, which data collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education indicates was $436,111 in 2008-09.’
CBS is not an official BU student group in that it is not registered with, nor does it receive funding from, the SA. It is a collaboration of BU students, both graduate and undergraduate, who see similar problems with the way money is being allocated at the school and in the SUNY system, and advocate change.
They formed in late September and almost immediately attempted to arrange a meeting with Interim President Magrath.
‘We wanted to sit down with him, just as students talking to the president,’ Reid said. ‘We thought he’d want to hear what we have to say.’
But the group was deferred to Mead, to whom they sent a document titled ‘Crisis at Binghamton University,’ containing a description of their concerns and a list of suggested changes.
Within nine days, Mead gave the response to the document outlining different student groups and student government officials who would be more apt to address the concerns stated by CBS.
Members of CBS attended the SA meeting on Monday, Oct. 4, and have since been working closely with the SA E-Board to work out their concerns.