Coming off days of fundraising and spirit events during homecoming, President Harvey Stenger was ready to brag about Binghamton.
“In the past few months we’ve had President Obama, Governor Cuomo, Cake Boss. It really puts us on the map,” he said in an address to the Binghamton University Student Congress Monday evening. “Cake Boss came, I don’t really know why. But President Obama came here to talk about improvements in higher education. It says a lot that he chose our university.”
Stenger was invited by the congress to give an overview of University developments and address questions that representatives had for Stenger Monday night at the University Union.
“I’m showing you guys the presentation I gave the alumni this weekend, a sort of state of the University,” he said.
The president spoke about new faculty hires, changes to administrative offices like the Affirmative Action Office, construction plans and plans to expand research into fields like a new school of pharmacy.
While representatives did have opportunities to address the president, a majority of questions were filtered through the speaker of Student Congress, James Grippe, and sent to Stenger before the meeting.
“The SA committees each prepared five questions and we picked a few from each,” said Grippe, a senior majoring in computer science. “It was great to see the students get a chance to be engaged, we actually had more hands than we had time for.”
Seven of the 10 questions presented to Stenger, though, were ones that Grippe asked from a predetermined list.
“What happens in your day-to-day activities? Who do you interact most with?” asked Grippe. “How does the tenure process work? How often are professors audited?”
Of the questions asked by other representatives, most were more focused on student issues.
“Is there any way for undecided students to take classes in different schools even if they’re not technically in that school? If I want to try something in Watson or SOM, is there a way someone not in that school can do that?” asked one student.
In contrast to the pre-chosen questions, Stenger was not given the opportunity to prepare a response ahead of time.
“I honestly have to leave a number of decisions to faculty; I don’t always agree with them, but I don’t always have the capital to do what I want,” he said. “I would like to see minors classes offered specifically to non-major students. Frankly, I can’t solve all your problems but I do understand them.”
The presentation by Stenger was part of a weekly scheduled Student Congress meeting, attended by nearly 80 members.
Student Association President Eric Larson, a senior majoring in financial economics, and SA committee members also presented weekly affairs and clarified procedure for new members of congress.
“I’ve been to a lot of congress and Student Assembly meetings and this has been one of the most efficient,” he said. “So far we’ve got a full congress and full attendance, which is great.”
The congress also voted to reorganize class councils back into four separate councils after they had been consolidated into one at the end of last year.
“Ostensibly the council’s only goal is to fundraise for the class gift, but through that process they should be fostering a greater spirit on campus,” Larson said. “The president did a great job last year, but this consolidation was really rammed in at the end of a long meeting last year.”
While many members of congress were encouraged by the president’s appearance, some were skeptical at the end of the meeting.
“It was really long,” said Thomas Sheehan, financial committee representative of the Off Campus College Council and a junior majoring in political science. “He’s really approachable and informative but he’s also got that new-president style. He’s out here also trying to make friends.”