Sen. locks $3 million for law school

State politicians have guaranteed $3 million to fund initial design and planning stages of a proposed Binghamton University law school, Sen. Tom Libous announced Wednesday.

Libous and Donna Lupardo, assemblywoman for the 126th district, secured the money from the 2008-2009 state budget because they say the proposal would benefit BU’s reputation and offer economic development.

“The senator and President [Lois] DeFleur worked very well and very hard with each other,” said Matt Moyse, public affairs assistant for Libous. “This looks like such an economic benefit to this area.”

Mike Kennerknecht, Lupardo’s chief of staff, said Lupardo and Libous assured the funding even though it was not included in the original budget, which the governor proposes each January.

“Both [Lupardo] and the senator worked together to see that the proposition ended up in the final version [of the budget],” Kennerknecht said.

Moyse said that Libous has worked before to secure money for BU proposals, like the Events Center, the Information Technology Center and the University Downtown Center.

“I’m very excited about the prospects of a law school right here in our region,” Libous said. “It will provide a very significant long-term economic benefit to the Southern Tier.”

In addition to Libous’s and Lupardo’s support of the law school, other local politicians are also backing the project. According to Andrew Block, director of community relations for the City of Binghamton, the City Council passed a resolution in support of a law school earlier this year.

“The city is very much in support and looking forward to the prospect of a BU law school,” Block said.

The law school is forecasted to bring in more than $17 million annually, Moyse said.

According to Provost Mary Ann Swain, completion is still far off. Different committees across campus are discussing the proposal, including the Graduate Council, who endorsed it early this week.

Next, the initiative will move to the Educational Planning and Policy Committee of the Faculty Senate, followed by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and eventually the floor of the Faculty Senate, assuming it’s passed in each.

The proposal would then be sent to the SUNY system, where it would go through a number of additional departments, including the SUNY Board of Trustees and the governor’s office.

Swain said the specific uses of the money are yet to be determined and could be dedicated to anything from paying for surveys and consultants to a variety of other purposes.

“We’re enormously grateful to our representatives for helping us to move this project forward,” she said. “We’re moving on with this initiative because we think it’s a good fit with strengths we already have.”

The project is still in the approvals phase and Swain said it’s too early to establish a time line.

Both Moyse and Swain said that no location options, whether Downtown, on the Vestal campus or other alternatives, were being ruled out.

“A Downtown location would add to the already growing presence of Binghamton University in Downtown Binghamton,” Lupardo said in a press release.