Binghamton University students can get involved in campus life through student groups, events, student government and activism, but their parents face less-defined paths to forming connections with the campus.
That’s where the Parents Leadership Council (PLC) comes in. PLC is a group that allows parents to play a role in influencing campus life. According to Linda Salomons, parent, family and events coordinator for the Parent and Family Programs, parents who meet a minimum donation requirement of $1,000 can join PLC, providing opportunities for parental involvement in student affairs.
“Parents are often interested in playing an active role in their student’s college education, and Binghamton tried to provide several avenues for parents to partner with us in support of student success,” Salomons wrote. “We’ve had an organized Parent and Family Programs component in the Dean of Students Office for approximately nine years, though parent events existed for many years before that.”
According to Salomons, the PLC largely exists to organize contributions made to the University and assist in year-round events meant to expand engagement to parents. Harry Sharlach, ‘84 and current chair of the PLC, said the PLC has two primary responsibilities: acting as an advisory committee to the Office of Student Affairs and steering its own fundraising to various groups on campus.
“It’s basically an advisory committee to the Office of Student Affairs,” Sharlach said. “We convey parents’ concerns of the community to Brian Rose. Parents can go directly into the parents office, but knowing that parents provide support outside the University can help them when parents are going through crises or encounter issues.”
Sharlach said members of the PLC also work to steer and direct the PLC’s funding from donations across campus programs and organizations.
“The other thing we do is allocate various funds from the Binghamton Fund for student life into various programs,” Sharlach said. “We take funds that we raise and allocate them to different on-campus organizations who reach out to us. We might give to a student crisis hotline, for example.”
Sharlach, who is also a father of two BU students and a University alumnus, said he joined the group after his twin daughters began classes. Twenty-two parents are currently members of the PLC, of which roughly half are alumni.
“Me and my wife are both alumni, and we wanted to give back to the school,” Sharlach said. “We also wanted to make sure our daughters’ experiences on campus were really great.”
However, according to Sharlach, there are also other ways for parents to get involved in campus life, including volunteering for Parent and Family Programs. Parents involved in the organization can voice concerns to the PLC, giving them influence over the decisions made by the council and ultimately the University’s administration.
“There is a similar level of involvement for parents outside the Parent Leadership Council,” Sharlach said. “It includes parents that would like to be involved but don’t have the time or resources to be part of the PLC. There’s basically one level below the PLC. In effect, it acts as junior membership to the PLC.”
Parents can also sign up for newsletters and receive communications from the University through the Parent and Family Programs. According to Sharlach, the donation minimum does not have to stop parents from getting involved.
“While there is a donation minimum of $1,000, I don’t think involvement should be entirely dictated by monetary contribution,” Sharlach said. “I suspect that if a parent said, ‘Listen, I really want to get involved,’ I would find it hard to believe that a committee would stop them. I do think there should be a way for parents without those resources to get involved in the PLC.”