As a holder of opinions, as everyone is, I am going to get called out every once in a while. After my article about the deficiencies in the East Gym ran on Friday, I received an email from a self-proclaimed “crusty old guy who doesn’t give a fuck” asking to speak to me about the East Gym and shed some light on why it is the way it is. While sitting in his office listening to him tell me the hoops that are jumped through and paperwork filled out just to take a piss, I realized what it truly means to go to a state school.
The process of doing anything not paid for by tuition and fees is a mess of red tape, bureaucracy and conflicting interests. There are levels of government and agencies I never even knew could exist, all making and enforcing rule after rule that define and restrict appropriation of resources. The East Gym deficiencies aren’t the product of lack of care from Binghamton employees, but are typical of governmental bureaucracy.
Since the East Gym building is so old, it is a designated historic building. This means it literally cannot be altered to look different on the outside in any way, which is why it is still there. There also isn’t enough money in the SUNY “strategic initiatives” fund, which provides funding for the construction of brand new buildings.
There was, however, plenty of money in their “critical maintenance” fund, which is for renovations. This means that, even if they had enough money (which they didn’t), they wouldn’t have been able to expand the East Gym because that would have been a new building. However, our new dorm buildings are funded by a completely separate pool of money, which is generated by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York’s selling of bonds and can be used however they want. Are you following?
As a rule, tuition is used only for academics, which is fair. So every penny that the school of Binghamton could spend on a new gym has to come from our fees. In the early 2000s, students shot down a proposal to increase recreation fees for a new fitness facility. Since then, SUNY has adopted a policy that restricts fee increases to 2.5 percent per year, all of which ends up being used to keep up with the rising costs of employee fringe benefits and inflation.
However, my crusty old friend has reassured me that they are working through the red tape. They have submitted a plan for expansion of the East Gym to meet the recommended number of basketball courts for a university of our size among other goodies, like a new turf field. These recommendations are argued in a supplemental report done by a consulting agency that says that our facilities are inadequate for the amount of people that use them. The predictions, which are based on past experiences with the appropriation board and are by no means definite, are that we could have these facilities by 2017.
I hope I have quelled any fires without selling my soul. There are two sides to every story, and both deserve to be heard. If you read my other article, you know how I feel about the facilities. My opinion of the floors hasn’t changed. Neither has my opinion of the mini-courts. My opinion of the crustiness of the old guys hasn’t changed either.
But I wanted to clarify and confirm my position on these crusty old guys. The crusty old guy is the system. It’s in the very fundamentals of government. Yeah, restricting fee increases sounds nice … until you want a new gym. It’s the same debate that’s raging at the national level, and people with opinions still opine about the inadequacies of governmental programs. I guess all we can hope for is a big enough scissor to cut through the red tape.