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Opinion

Guest Column: Love the University, fear the administration

Advocacy Day debacle and illogical grade adjustments expose admininstration's power over student change

It’s scary to see an administration so out of touch with its students. In my past year as a Student Congress representative, I have witnessed deception and opposition from the administration to common-sense measures that would benefit students. The administration says they want student input, but my experience leads me to believe otherwise.

To start off the academic year, a student attempting to improve his academic standing after a series of low grades contacted Derrick Conyers, the Student Association vice president for academic affairs, and me. We looked into the policy for repeating courses and realized that it was more beneficial to have previously failed a course than to have received a poor grade such as a C or D. This is because in most schools within the University, if you repeat a failed course the new grade will be averaged into your GPA. However, if you previously passed, your new grade will not be averaged into your GPA. So the student with the F and A receives a C average, while the student with the D and A stays with the D average. Exceptions to this within Binghamton University are the Decker School of Nursing, which averages all course grades, and the School of Management, which averages the grades if the first grade was a D or F. We researched what our peer schools do and realized that virtually all SUNYs average the new grade in or replace it, and some Ivy League schools do so as well. We then spoke to all of the deans within our University and the provost about the issue. The Student Congress even passed legislation in support of this change in November by a vote of 34-2. We were continually told to be patient and were reassured by many administrative officials that the policy would likely be changed.

Well, on Feb. 24, the School of Management did the exact opposite of what the Student Congress proposed and changed its policy, effective fall 2014, to count the second grade only if the first grade was an F. It was a rude awakening, especially after being reassured by the Harpur College associate dean and the vice provost just weeks ago about a likely University-wide policy change to averaging all grades. Apparently, change does not take a long time when the administration wants it. It’s disappointing to see students voice concerns about an issue, only to have the administration do the exact opposite. Conyers and I were continually excluded from meetings where the issue was being discussed, only to blatantly mislead us.

Throughout this time, we received a complaint about an entirely ineffective professor. The disappointing part is that after contacting the department chair, the administration knew about the matter, and the professor is still employed. This leaves the 100 introductory-level students in the course unprepared. With professors like that, of course students are going to need to retake a course or two.

The administration’s callousness was apparent in its organization of Advocacy Day as well. The event, this March 5, typically consists of University representatives going to the State Capitol to advocate for Binghamton University. Getting selected for one of the roughly dozen student spots requires nominations and recommendation letters. I was fortunate enough to be selected and notified on Feb. 3 in an email that was sent to my recommenders as well. I then received an email on Feb. 12 from President Harvey Stenger’s chief of staff, Terrence Kane, stating that only a small number of faculty and staff would be going this year. No students. That seems like such an obvious choice. Who needs students to represent a university? The chief of staff’s reasoning was to save $15,000. However, if a change was to be made, a little more transparency and advanced notice would have been appreciated.

Ultimately, it is the administration’s culture that is questionable. We need an administration that listens to and values its students. In speaking to an official in the administration recently, I speculated that another official is doing quite well and could rise to the position of vice president of student affairs one day. The official responded that the individual would be a great candidate; however, he is “not slimy enough to make it to the top.” I was disappointed to hear that.

I am a senior, so my days at BU are numbered. However, just as I fear the damage the administration can do, if you are an underclassman, you too should be afraid. The current administration is not going away or being replaced, so you, as the student, have to make your voice heard. If you see something wrong, let the administration know. Make sure that your interests are being served. Persistence is one way to overcome an administration that seeks to leave students in the dark. There are many great features of BU. I am proud to attend BU. However, do not let the administration’s politics get ahead of the concerns of the students. Too many times, I have encountered members of the administration who care more about their political capital than the students, more about their professional futures than the future of BU. If you care about the education you receive and about the trajectory of BU, don’t sit still.

Bryan Delacruz is a senior, majoring in philosophy, politics, and law

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.