The Student Association hosted a large panel discussion, headlined by University President Harvey Stenger, Provost Donald Nieman, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose and SA representatives.
The paneled answered inquiries into campus topics ranging from construction to Sodexo food.
Although they addressed wide ranging topics, Daniel Adeyanju, a senior majoring in biology, was one of several students thought that the panel could have been organized more effectively.
“I think some of the parts went by a bit quickly, whether it was due to a lack of interest or a lack of time, I wish we were able to space it out a little better,” he said. “I also think there was a lack of balance between the students and the administration, I wish there had been more students. I think in general, questions could have been answered more directly, like those about student space.”
CONSTRUCTION, PARKING AND PERFORMANCE SPACE
James Van Voorst, vice president for administration, was asked when construction would be completed, but he said he hopes it never will be.
“You never want to see construction be completed at an institution of higher education,” he said. “Once you stop building, once you stop changing, you’re dying.”
But student concerns at the forum centered on campus parking and insufficient performance and storage space for student groups.
Students worried that the growing student body will increase the competition for too few parking spaces.
“Over next summer and into the fall, we are going to bring in consultants, people who do this for a living, to look at our situation and where we’re going and give us some advice for what’s the best way to have people come to campus, do what they have to do, and leave campus,” Van Voorst said. “That’s the full spectrum: buses, park and ride, additional parking spaces perhaps. We will be looking at this issue very closely.”
Multiple students complained about insufficient performance space for student groups, and Khasim Lockhart, a panelist and president of the Men of Color Scholastic Society, said his organization is hosting Reverend Run in the Mandela Room later this month, but he is worried space constraints will force him to turn people away.
Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, said that a larger theater is “likely to be funded within the next couple years,” after data is collected to determine the number of student events affected by space constraints.
He added that the University had considered building a larger theater, but its priority level was downgraded before construction began.
Rose also mentioned the food court renovations, saying that they will add more than additional dining options to the New University Union.
“We also hope to use the space in a variety of ways, which we may have to do in a couple of phases,” Rose said. “But we want to add a lot of media as well, in terms adding the ability to play audio and video, so we want to try to activate the space in a number of different ways.”
In April, the University will implement an Office of Diversity Inclusiveness to look into hiring and admissions practices at BU, according to the panelists. The office was part of a proposal adopted from Stenger’s Road Map.
Samson Widerman, a representative of the Student Association’s Student Assembly, suggested expanding the Multicultural Resource Center.
“I think as it is, the Multicultural Resource Center is pretty small, and considering their size I think that they really do a lot on campus to create diversity and inclusiveness, and I’m really excited that that sort of area in our university is going to be expanding, but I do think it’s about time that Binghamton University had an LGBT resource center,” he said.
Mark Ochweri, a sophomore majoring in economics, attended the discussion, but felt that the University still struggles with increasing diversity.
“I think diversity on campus is an issue,” Ochweri said. “Just look at this panel, there was only one person of color and he isn’t even a part of the Student Association.”
Greek Life, considered by SA President Mark Soriano and Donald Nieman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, to be among the most controversial issues on campus, elicited only one question all night.
“I guess that’s mine,” Rose said. “President Stenger gets questions like ‘What are your dreams?’ and I have to answer about Greek Life.”
Despite some recent high-profile scandals, Rose said Greek students in general have a higher GPA, retention rate and participation in outside organizations than the general student body.
“What we’re going to do is to establish some standards that organizations must meet to be recognized by the University, we brought in a national consultant team earlier this year, that met with a group of our students, faculty and staff, and we’re about to receive a report from them containing a number of recommendations,” Rose said.
Food choices and prices in the dining halls also raised questions Wednesday night.
“Our board plan is a relatively simple one,” Van Voorst said. “When you pay your board rate, which most typically is $2,200, immediately $1,300 is taken off the top and put into a pool that pays the people who make the food, deliver the food, store the food, and to pay for the utilities and equipment etcetera, that is needed.”
For meal plan C, that leaves $882 available to spend every day on solely the cost of the food. According to Van Voorst, contracting with Sodexo provides the University with numerous benefits.
“One of the best parts about using Sodexo, is that they’re worldwide,” Van Voorst said. “If anyone’s going to get the best price on a chicken wing, it’s Sodexo.”
Ryan LaDuc, a senior double-majoring in political science and environmental studies, stood up to comment on the limited availability of organic and locally grown produce in the dining halls, receiving the only applause of the night.
“It has very limited organic and local options, I do feel like it’s detracting from the food we’re eating that could be organic, and could be local,” LaDuc said. “I think if you polled most students, the one thing they would be willing to pay more for, is better food.”
According to Van Voorst, 20 percent of Sodexo’s products are locally grown, and noted that organic options are available for students who seek them out.
Other topics covered in the panel included academics, campus safety and sports.