Nearly 17 months after the retirement of former Binghamton University President Lois DeFleur, the SUNY Board of Trustees has named the next permanent president of BU.
Harvey G. Stenger Jr., the interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at another SUNY Center, the University at Buffalo, will become the seventh president of BU on Jan. 1, 2012. He has held these positions at UB since April of this year, prior to which he was the dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from 2006 to 2011.
“The entire [Presidential] Search Committee and the chancellor are delighted that the SUNY Board of Trustees voted in favor of Dr. Stenger as the new president,” said Kathryn Grant Madigan, chair of the BU Council and the Council’s Presidential Search Committee.
Stenger will take over as president next year from current BU President C. Peter Magrath.
STENGER TO BE PAID MORE THAN PREDECESSORS
Stenger will be receiving a pay package of $510,000, which includes a salary of $385,000, a $60,000 housing allowance and $50,000 for his “leadership of research efforts,” according to a report in the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
Stenger’s salary will be $30,000 more than Magrath is currently paid and $100,000 more than DeFleur was paid at the time of her retirement.
Magrath also receives, in addition to his salary, a furnished one-bedroom apartment leased by BU, an entertainment allowance and use of a car and driver service. DeFleur, on the other hand, was given a $42,000 housing allowance — $18,000 less than Stenger — as well as use of a car and driver service.
STENGER MAKES FIRST CAMPUS APPEARANCE YESTERDAY
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Carl McCall, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, formally introduced Stenger at a press conference in the Anderson Center yesterday afternoon.
“I believe Harvey is an engaging and inclusive visionary,” Zimpher said.
After Zimpher and McCall’s remarks welcoming Stenger and thanking Magrath for his leadership of the University, Stenger stepped to the podium to discuss his plans for BU’s future.
“Binghamton is all about the success of their students … but that also means that [BU students] have to have a great faculty … great staff … and great community to support them,” Stenger said. “[BU] must have that, because in order to have such great and successful students, they had to have those great support casts around them.”
Stenger outlined specific aspects of the University he plans to promote as president.
“One, an academic culture with rigorous programs,” Stenger said. “… Two, research and scholarship that investigate and answer important and difficult questions. Number three, a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and international student experience that leads to exceptional retention and graduation rates and career opportunities for students. Number four, a level of community engagements that enhances the local, the regional and the state-wide accounting.”
The press conference was attended by SUNY and BU administrators, local officials and members of the press. About 14 undergraduate and graduate students demonstrated outside the Anderson Center to raise issues they had about Stenger’s compensation and what they view as skewed economic priorities at SUNY.
The protesters held signs that read things like “the only thing going up faster than tuition is the president’s $” and “pay GSEU [Graduate Student Employees Union] fairly.”
Magrath said after the press conference that he “couldn’t be happier” with the pick of his successor.
“I wanted a strong leader with great credentials, and Harvey’s got it,” Magrath said. “My job is now basically done. We will have the handoff in January, and I am looking forward to the things I’ll be doing in my life next.”
Shehryar Dazi, a graduate student in the sociology department who was among those protesting outside, said he did not think the pay for BU’s president should go up at a time of tuition increases and several years of state budget cuts to SUNY.
“We want shared governance at BU,” Dazi said. “The students were kept outside. The faculty I’ve spoke to said they did not like how the presidential search was conducted. It was opaque, and handled by the Board of Trustees and the business interest they represent. This is a public school, and the selection of president should be more transparent and involving everyone.”
BOARD OF TRUSTEES VOTE
The Board of Trustees voted nine to three in favor of Stenger’s appointment.
Joseph Belluck, who is a member of the Board of Trustees and an alumnus of BU, said he voted against Stenger’s appointment because of issues with Stenger’s compensation, how the search process was conducted and because of one particular substantive problem related to Stenger’s qualifications.
“Given Harpur College’s history and role at Binghamton [University], I would have preferred to see someone with a background in the humanities selected,” Belluck said. “It would have sent a message about how SUNY values liberal arts.”
THE SEARCH PROCESS
Magrath, who had briefly served as BU president once before from 1972-74, became interim president on July 1, 2010 following DeFleur’s retirement. He originally planned to step down at the end of last semester, but when the presidential search process stalled this spring, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher asked Magrath in April to stay on through the end of fall 2011. The interim tag in his title was dropped at that time.
The search for DeFleur’s permanent replacement began in April 2010. The BU Council’s Presidential Search Committee — aided by executive search firm Isaacson, Miller Inc., which was retained for $171,000 — reviewed hundreds of candidates during the next eight months, narrowing the pool down to five candidates, who all came to campus in December 2010 to make speeches about what they would do as president and answer questions from community members.
In February this year, the BU Council recommended two of these candidates to Zimpher, who was responsible for making the final choice of which candidate to recommend to the SUNY Board of Trustees to hire.
Instead, Zimpher rejected both candidates in March. She issued a release about her decision to the press before notifying the Presidential Search Committee or the candidates.
Madigan — who was then sole chair of the Search Committee — said at the time that she was disappointed with how Zimpher had handled the decision.
In April, SUNY announced that Zimpher had asked Magrath to remain president of BU through the end of 2011, and that Magrath had agreed.
In May, James Orband, another member of the Search Committee, was elevated to co-chair of the Search Committee alongside Madigan. Several other committee members resigned and were replaced by new members.
THE SEARCH BEGINS AGAIN
Once the search process restarted in July, it was conducted much more secretively than the initial eight-month search. There was no public announcement of the identity of the five finalists or public campus visits. Prior to today’s announcement of the selection of Stenger, no concrete information has emerged publicly about the candidates that the Search Committee was considering during its second search.
“We signed confidentiality agreements during the search process, so I cannot say more about the specific candidates,” Madigan said. “I’ll just say that in this closed, more representational search, we got a pool of very highly qualified candidates.”
Madigan said that the Search Committee identified Stenger as a possible candidate “a number of months ago.” She also said that Zimpher did not herself recommend that the Search Committee look at Stenger or any other candidates.
“We did not receive any instructions from the chancellor, other than that we continue to search for candidates who are either currently a dean, vice president or provost at an AAU-level university or similar university,” Madigan said.
NEXT PRESIDENT IS AN ENGINEER, DEAN AND PROVOST
Madigan said she thought Stenger was a great fit for Binghamton University.
“He was a wunderkind dean of engineering when he was in his 30s,” Madigan said. “He has amazing energy, great charisma [and] inspiring leadership.”
Student Association President Katie Howard, who is also the undergraduate representative on the Search Committee, said she too was “happy” with the outcome of the search process.
“I believe Harvey Stenger has a great reputation and background, a wonderful personality and the ability to do wonders for the University,” Howard stated in an email. “He was one of the candidates who really stood out as a strong voice for BU and an advocate for all campus needs, including those of students. I am very excited to see what he does in the coming years.”
Stenger was a professor and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at Lehigh University for six years before he moved to UB.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and earned his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in chemical engineering.