Last Friday’s Binghamton University Council meeting was scheduled to focus on admissions and athletics. A considerable portion of the meeting, though, centered on the concerns of Student Representative Adam Wilkes: faculty diversity and the penalties for students caught using and selling marijuana, among others.
The council, a group of nine local professionals appointed by a former or current New York state governor, is tasked with overseeing certain University operations and hearing progress reports in different areas of campus. The council meets seven times each academic year.
Wilkes, a senior double-majoring in economics and sociology, said he was concerned that there had been little change in the level of faculty diversity since fall 2011, when 72 percent of faculty members were white. That number is now 68 percent, according to Wilkes, but the rates of black and Hispanic professors has remained constant at 4 percent each.
“A diverse faculty is important because it helps students connect with relevancy of material,” Wilkes said.
Acting council chair Linda Biemer, PhD, replied to Wilkes that diversity was the slated topic of next month’s meeting.
Dennis McCabe, a member of the Council and a retired New York state assistant attorney general, suggested the board give Chief Diversity Officer Valerie Hampton, who was present at the meeting, a chance to present at next month’s meeting before further discussing the issue.
Next, Wilkes called for the Council to consider reducing the consequences for students caught using and distributing marijuana on campus.
“The penalization of marijuana has a history of racism and white supremacism,” Wilkes said. “On this campus, perhaps something that could be most progressive is rolling back the fact that our code of conduct penalizes using, possessing and selling marijuana.
Wilkes directs the Student Association Advocates, a program that informs students on the University’s conduct process and advocates on their behalf. He said he’d seen students forced out of campus housing with no proof that they had sold marijuana.
Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, was quick to disagree with Wilkes’ claim, saying students aren’t removed from housing without proof of distribution.
“Overall several years, penalties students get have been reduced, except for distribution,” Rose said. “We don’t get to determine what the law of the state of New York is.”
According to the sanctioning guidelines of BU’s Office of Student Conduct, the sale of marijuana can result in a suspension between one semester and two years, or in some cases, expulsion. Upon return from suspension, a student can no longer live in campus housing and cannot visit residential areas.
Following Wilkes’ student statement, Donald Loewen, BU’s vice provost for undergraduate education and enrollment addressed the council, detailing this year’s freshman class.
According to Loewen, a record 33,406 applicants applied for fall 2017, of which 13,445 were admitted and 2,676 enrolled.
Loewen said he thinks the implementation of the Excelsior Scholarship will be twofold.
“First, we think it will increase the number of applicants,” he said. “And then, we really hope the four-year graduation rate will rise due to some of the requirements.”
Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott provided the final presentation, highlighting the athletic teams’ achievements over the past year.
He noted the men’s lacrosse team’s national ranking last spring, and the average GPA of 3.19 on the team.
Elliott also said the support of the Binghamton-area community is important to the athletic department.
“I’ll be the first to say our [basketball] product hasn’t been great over the last couple of years,” Elliott said. “But this is a really special community. I don’t think they have ever booed, and they probably had some reason to.”
The next BU Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15 at 9:15 a.m.