The state and the professors’ union finally came to a tentative agreement in mid-February, but we’re not sure we agree with it.
If the deal is accepted, professors will face increases in health care contribution costs, which are hardly offset by pay raises that barely keep up with national inflation.
We understand the state needs to cut spending, but if we want to fashion ourselves the “Public Ivy,” we need Ivy League-caliber professors.
For professors shopping for universities, Binghamton’s lower salaries will make it hard for us to compete with larger, private universities. And for professors already here, let’s hope they don’t get a wandering eye, checking out more lucrative options.
The disincentive inherent to the budget cut for prospective professors to come and current professors to stay at Binghamton is somewhat self evident to undergrads; just as crucial to one’s major are the professors the major is populated by.
The brain-drain would hit graduate students even harder; often, graduate students choose schools for one specific professor’s research. How many professors of that enviable stature will remain at Binghamton — or in the SUNY system at all — if there are other schools offering better facilities and wages?
The immediate concern of losing professors isn’t the only worry caused by the budget cuts. Prestige is an exponential thing; better prestige brings better professors, better professors brings more prestige and so on. So too the other way: if Binghamton starts bleeding out quality educators, how will that look to the broader academic market? Not great, probably — so the bleed will continue.
At the root of the problem lies, we believe, the conflation of public school professors with public service employees. If the budget cuts are to affect other state employees, the across-the-board cuts argue, they should affect professors no differently. While perhaps from a removed perspective this makes sense, to students the argument surely rings hollow. Professors are not the same as other state employees. The experience, the personality — the little quirks that endear professors to students for their college years and beyond — are not things that can simply be replaced at a lower rate.
The budget cuts, then, may put a Band-Aid over one area in which the state is bleeding, but hurt it in another and arguably more important area. To the state, this means a decrease in education quality and academic prestige. To the students — to us, directly — it means the potential loss of some of our favorite professors, of the people who inspired us to aspire to lofty goals, who piqued our interest in diverse subjects. That loss may not be as tangible, but it will certainly be felt.
So please, Mr. Cuomo, give us the chance to be the Public Ivy we so badly want to be.