On Feb. 11, Binghamton University received a $60 million donation to build a state-of-the-art baseball stadium, the largest donation in BU’s history.
The new sports complex, which is expected to be complete in time for the 2021 baseball season, will make BU’s field one of the premier facilities among colleges in the nation. Plans for the upgrade includes tripling the field’s current seating capacity and constructing a brand new indoor training facility. No official, detailed budgetary breakdown has been made public as of the publication of this editorial, which may indicate that the budget is not yet ready to be released or that the University does not plan on releasing one at all.
What is clear is that the construction of the new complex will use the entirety of the donation. John Hartrick, associate athletics director of communications, wrote to the Editorial Board in an email that the donation will not include money to go toward sports scholarships or supplies for BU’s baseball team. Instead, the gift will be used solely for the complex, as the anonymous donor requested.
This leads to some concerns, primarily pertaining to long-term plans for the maintenance and upkeep of the facility that will be built as a result of this generous donation. Hartrick indicated that the donor family would financially support the maintenance of the facility after its completion, but the details of that assistance were not disclosed. Although there isn’t any reason to doubt that this assistance will come, nothing is guaranteed. The donor may be able and willing to support the cost of upkeep and repairs now, but what happens 10 or 20 years down the line? In the same respect, while administrators have rightfully been hopeful that the new sports complex will attract greater support for BU and other schools in the SUNY system, that goal might not come to fruition. Looking into the future, if donor money drops and the stadium cannot support itself, there may not be a contingency plan to save it from inevitable decay.
The University has already experienced the painful reality of what happens when outside entities don’t pick up their end of the bargain. In fall 2018, New York state refused to pay for faculty raises stipulated during negotiations between United University Professions (UUP) and the SUNY system, and since then, BU has faced financial challenges. These issues culminated in a monthslong hiring freeze, which just ended last semester. In his State of the University speech in October, even BU President Harvey Stenger admitted that “we are not out of the woods” with the monetary shortage. While the current situation BU finds itself in is not the fault of its administration, it is worrying that the school may not have learned any lessons from the experience. It also casts another layer of worry onto the plans for the new facility, as the University really does not have the funds to pick up the slack where donors leave off.
All of this also does not address the vital services on campus that have yet to be fully funded. As soon as the news of the new stadium broke, many students expressed frustration with the donor’s decision to donate exclusively to a sports complex in place of underfunded institutions like the University Counseling Center. It’s important to note that any donation made to the University, if not donated to its general funds, must be spent on the donor’s specific request. The only other option BU had in this situation was to decline the donation entirely, which would have been just as unprecedented as receiving such a large donation in the first place.
The Editorial Board is thankful for any donor looking to assist in the betterment of our University, but it’s difficult to see donors continually overlook the parts of University life that would benefit most from a substantial boost in funding. The BU Foundation office, the organ in charge of the University’s donation collection, should listen to the criticism offered by the student body, even if they are unable to implement reforms to their procedures with this most recent donation. Instead, the BU Foundation office should develop better ways to inform potential donors of what parts of the University are in the greatest need of financial support.
Donations to BU should be met with pride, but that becomes challenging when they skate over the facilities that students and faculty use every day. Although the new sports complex will undoubtedly be a boon to BU’s premier public Ivy claim to fame, future donors should look to bolster the rest of the University too.