At the end of last semester, we gave Binghamton University’s administration an incomplete, pending the implementation of new safety and security measures in the wake of two student murders. The University has fulfilled what it promised last semester, adding more security cameras on campus, creating a new safety initiative and implementing Alertus, a new campus notification system. Although the Editorial Board maintains that these measures should have been implemented before two lives were lost, it acknowledges the steps made to make the University safer.
Nevertheless, there are still issues that the new safety initiative doesn’t address, such as adequate funding for campus counseling resources. Mental health is just as much of a public safety issue as lacking security cameras, and can help prevent tragedies before they happen. Additionally, communication could be better. This semester, BU saw several student deaths, and it took more than 10 hours in some cases for the University to release alerts to the campus community about the tragedies. Although these were not immediately threatening situations, there is still room for improvement when it comes to campus communication.
BU also currently finds itself in a difficult budgetary situation. Although the University didn’t get itself into this position, its response to it has been lackluster. First, administrators cut University Libraries’ budget by 4 percent, a move that hurts the most important component of the University as an academic institution. Although the financial challenges posed to BU are serious, the administration seems to be trying to downplay their potential impacts. The University only released the news of the fiscal challenges when it couldn’t keep it under wraps any longer, and didn’t discuss it at all during President Harvey Stenger’s State of the University address in September. Additionally, at a recent Faculty Senate meeting, Provost Donald Nieman told faculty members that he didn’t consider the budgetary situation a crisis, instead calling it “a shock to the system.” Students and faculty have concerns that need to be addressed, and although administrators did release an FAQ about BU’s financial situation, the University needs to do more to show the campus community it is taking their concerns, and the budgetary situation, seriously.
Following up a spring season in which men’s lacrosse and baseball both failed to make their respective conference playoffs, it did not appear that it could get much worse for the athletics program. Quickly disproving that assumption, the fall sports managed to turn in their worst collective season in Binghamton Division I history. The only exceptions were the strong seasons swimming and diving and golf turned in.
Men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball all failed to reach the America East (AE) postseason since BU joined the conference in 2001.
On the team level, men’s soccer registered a lackluster 2-5-0 conference record and a 3-12-2 overall record. BU finished the season on a seven-game losing streak and failed to log even one goal in nine different matches.
Women’s soccer was unable to reach the high expectations that were set based on last year’s solid performance. The Bearcats captured three fewer conference matches and completed the campaign on a five-game skid.
It was not much of a surprise that in a season where the volleyball team opened 2018 with only two sets in the first 29 frames that it did not qualify for AE playoffs. The Bearcats scraped up five victories in their 25-game season.
At the end of last semester, we were hopeful that this year’s Student Association (SA) Executive Board would be more active than last year’s. Although we’ve seen some particularly good work from Vice President for Finance Kevin Darrell, Executive Vice President Michelle Dao and Vice President for Multicultural Affairs Andy Jean-Baptiste, we didn’t see as many initiatives from Vice President for Academic Affairs Doug Wehbe and SA President Jerry Toussaint. However, we do acknowledge that a large part of Toussaint’s platform included reclaiming the University Union as a place for students, which seems to be coming to fruition as the University Union renovations get underway. Even so, the Editorial Board is not sure whether or not these renovations are completely necessary, as we question whether there are more beneficial initiatives to allocate money toward. Next semester, we’d like to see more from Toussaint and Wehbe, but overall, the SA did a solid job on the back end this semester.
This semester, the Student Association Programming Board (SAPB) delivered a less than impressive performance, as seen with the substandard handling of the fall concert. We understand that the poor weather is something it could not control, though the planning before the event could have definitely been handled better. We feel that the SAPB should have had a snow-date set earlier in advance in case a cancellation was needed, especially since the concerts have recently been held later in the semester. In the cancellation announcement that was sent the day of the concert, the SAPB did not clarify when the new potential date would be or if students would be refunded their money. Students should know where their money is going, and the SAPB still has not sent an update on the rescheduled date.
Although the SAPB did not handle the fall concert well, the Binghamton Underground Music Presents (BUMP) and comedy shows’ headliners were impressive. The JPEGMAFIA concert turnout was one of the best in years, and students were excited to see him perform. Tig Notaro’s comedy show was also a highlight of the SAPB, as she still performed for a crowded Lecture Hall during the November snowstorm.
Residential Life: B-
Residential Life has seen some improvements this semester. It upgraded the sign-up process for housing to give students more time to find roommates and suitemates and form their groups. This reflects student feedback — students have frequently said that a few months into the fall semester is far too early to begin thinking about housing for the following year, let alone making set-in-stone decisions. Though this doesn’t fix every issue, this is a step in the right direction, and we hope that it will continue to listen to student feedback and further improve and simplify the process.
There are also going to be renovations to Hinman College. The improvements to residence halls are badly needed, but it is unclear why the Hinman College Dining Hall is being altered. The Starbucks and Subway restaurants are only a few years old, but the dining hall will be razed. Residence halls will only see renovations (not a full rebuild) despite the necessity for more on-campus housing. Additionally, this will only displace students living in Hinman College, forcing them to trek to further dining halls and exacerbating crowds during prime mealtimes in existing dining halls.
This semester, we were happy to see Decker Student Health Services Center expand its services to offer daily STI and HIV testing, since more students will now have access to these important services. We were also pleased with Decker’s new psychiatry residency program, in which residents working with United Health Services can spend time learning from Decker, and students have increased options for psychiatric services. However, in a more general sense, Decker still offers limited walk-in hours and does not offer weekend appointments, which would be a beneficial means to extend services. Moreover, it’s still difficult for students to get appointments with Decker psychiatry, as services are still limited and not sufficient to cover the number of students who require them. The Editorial Board worries that students are not always getting the medical care they need, in terms of both physical health and mental health.
Though the University Counseling Center (UCC) took some steps toward improvement this semester, other factors led the Editorial Board to keep its grade consistent with that of last semester. We laud the UCC for hiring three more counselors, especially those with experience in LGBTQ and multicultural communities, but the ratio of the number of counselors to students is still extremely discouraging. As a result, the UCC is consistently booked to capacity, forcing students seeking mental health services to either join a waitlist, use emergency appointments or find an off-campus provider, which is not feasible for many students. It is clear that this is an issue of funding, but the fact that the problem persists shows that the University continues to ignore the importance of the mental well-being of students. BU’s safety initiative following last semester’s student murders included improving access to mental health care, but the University is still not adequately fulfilling its promise. The Editorial Board wonders when the UCC will finally become a top priority for the University.
Correction: Dec. 17, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Binghamton softball failed to reach the conference postseason. The team was eliminated in the first round of the America East playoffs in 2018. Pipe Dream regrets the error.