Binghamton University has closed the chapter on its first fully in-person year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we compile some of Pipe Dream’s biggest stories from the 2021-22 academic year.

Students, faculty face parking frustrations

missingAs students and faculty returned to campus this year, many expressed frustration with available parking space. In Pipe Dream’s coverage, we explore how an increase in parking permit sales, in conjunction with a decrease in the usage of Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) buses, may have led to difficulty for students and faculty in finding parking spots. Toward the end of the spring semester, the University also announced the approval of new parking fees, including a $10 fee for those attempting to appeal parking tickets — refunded if the appeal is won.

In an appearance at a March Student Association congress meeting, BU President Stenger acknowledged the parking difficulties, but stated that the University did not have space for additional parking facilities, and that constructing new facilities would lead to an increase in ticket prices. Administrators encouraged students and faculty to plan ahead and utilize OCCT buses when available.

Graduate student teaching assistant’s (TA’s) protest against broad-based fees

missingFor years, BU’s Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) has protested against their payment of broad-based fees, which cover non-tuition costs such as technology and transportation. The fees, GSEU argued, constituted wage theft, as many graduate students reported finding themselves paying for services that did not apply to them, and the fees were not included in the wages the employees were being paid. This year, members of the GSEU marched to Stenger’s office, rolling a petition across the floor with 700 signatures calling for the abolition of the fees.

In January, Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, announced the fees would be lifted for full-time, fully tuition funded Ph.D. students. While GSEU described the announcement as a step forward, some had expressed hope to see removal of the fees for masters students.

OCCT suspends Late Nite service amid mistreatment of drivers.

missingAs students came back to campus for a fully in-person year, OCCT employees reported witnessing repeated mask noncompliance and mistreatment from riders. Drivers reported particular issues during OCCT’s Late Nite service, which runs past 12:05 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, frequently used by students to travel to and from Downtown Binghamton bars. After having warned students of a potential suspension of the service, Late Nite runs were eventually paused in October as the situation was reportedly not improving.

Weeks later, the runs resumed as a “probationary” service for the remainder of the fall semester, after OCCT observed improvements in student behavior. While not all agreed with the resumption of the service within a two-week timespan, others felt it was needed to provide students with a safe way home.

Popular Downtown restaurants close amid sexual assault allegations

missingThe Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and the Stone Fox — neighboring restaurants owned by the same ownership group — had been frequented by students for years. In early December, anonymous allegations against owners began spreading on Facebook, with claims that owners had been taking part in the drugging and sexual assault of women. The allegations would begin to rapidly spread, with a Facebook group created online to share stories gaining thousands of followers within days, and employees quitting en masse. Shortly afterward, the restaurants closed, and the Binghamton Police Department (BPD) announced an investigation into the allegations. By the end of the fall semester, hundreds of students and community members gathered outside the establishments, protesting an attempt by the restaurants to reopen.

Though the restaurants had reopened over the winter, it was short-lived. Two owners, Jordan Rindgen, 33, and Yaron “Ron” Kweller, 41, were charged by the BPD in late February — Rindgen with a charge of criminal sale of a substance in the third and fifth degree and Kweller with a charge of rape in the third degree. By the end of April, two of the restaurants, The Colonial and Dos Rios Cantina, voted to close permanently. Pipe Dream’s coverage of the events spanned five stories, which included interviews with the many BU students that had worked for the establishments.

U Club Binghamton begins charging for utilities.

missingU Club Binghamton is one of the most well-known off-campus student housing complexes in the area, within walking distance of the University. By the end of the fall semester, the housing complex began charging students for utilities, a bill residents had not had to pay for prior. In Pipe Dream’s coverage, a reporter found inconsistencies in how the fees were allocated, with multiple residents from different buildings receiving the same utility charges in one month, and differing utility charges in another. Students had also reported being told conflicting information from U Club Binghamton employees earlier in the year, who had stated that residents would not see utility charges unless their usage passed a certain limit.

BU professor amends syllabus policy amid complaint, national media attention.

missingFor years, Ana Maria Candela, an assistant professor of sociology, had included a “progressive stacking” policy in the syllabus for her Sociology 100: Intro to Social Change class. The policy, which Candela said aimed to support marginalized groups, stated that Candela would give priority to students of color, women and students who are “shy and quiet” when calling on students during class discussions. National media attention was brought to the policy after a student filed a Title IX claim against the syllabus clause, claiming gender discrimination. Since the claim, Candela decided to amend the syllabus policy, which University administrators claimed was in violation of the Faculty-Staff handbook.

Weeks later, in March, the Latin American Student Union organized a rally for the professor, criticizing what protestors described as a lack of University support for the professor. People who attended the rally also complained of how quickly they felt the Title IX complaint was addressed, compared to complaints of sexual violence also handled by the Title IX office. Amid the situation, the University had also released a letter from Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, responding to commonly asked questions and misconceptions.

Non-traditional junior protests false Student Accounts claim

On March 21, two protestors stood by an entrance to the University’s campus, holding a sign reading “Binghamton University abuses disabled students.” Pictures of the protestors were quickly shared across social media, with many wondering of their motives.

Pipe Dream’s coverage told the story of the two protestors. One of the protestors, Michelle Hami, previously a junior majoring in political science, found herself unable to afford tuition after being incorrectly labeled as an out-of-state student by Student Accounts. Hami, who has bipolar disorder, had previously been able to pay for tuition through ACCES-VR, a state program that aims to assist those with disabilities in pursuing education and employment. Despite having proof of New York state residency dating back to 1996, Hami had lost ACCES-VR funding due to her out-of-state labeling, causing her to be unable to register for classes in spring 2022.

BU lifts indoor mask mandate

missingSince online classes began in fall 2020, BU students have been mandated to wear masks in all indoor buildings on campus. In late March, that policy was lifted as COVID-19 case rates declined nationwide. The decision came shortly following the end of spring break, and marked one of the many milestones in the University’s push toward a fully “normal” semester. Later that month, BU President Harvey Stenger announced that the 2022 Commencement would have no mask, vaccination or testing requirement.

Both decisions saw varying responses from students and faculty, with some warning that the decisions would be difficult to reverse should the pandemic take a turn. Others, including some seniors, were eager to turn the page on a pandemic that has for years limited their experiences on campus.

Death of former SOM Dean Upinder Dhillon and IGMAP co-director Nadia Rubaii

The BU campus community lost several important figures this year, including the pioneers of some of its renowned programs.

Nadia Rubaii, 57, the co-director of the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP), died on March 12 after entering cardiac arrest a week prior. Rubaii had assisted in the founding of I-GMAP in 2015, and had received various accolades for her work at the University, including the 2014 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service. Rubaii was remembered by various community members for her impact on the department, as well as her kindness toward students and colleagues.

Upinder Dhillon, 71, the retired dean of the School of Management (SOM), died on April 23, after retiring weeks earlier following a diagnosis with advanced stage cancer. As dean, Dhillon had led SOM through a rise in national rankings, and oversaw the creation of some of the program’s widely used facilities, including the Zurack Trading Room. Faculty and students alike mourned the loss, describing Dhillon as a trailblazer for the school.