Binghamton University’s administration took a large step back this semester. One of the most significant issues — one Pipe Dream reported on — was a massive sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by Karen Barzman, a former professor of art history. The case exposed a shocking abdication of responsibility on the part of administrators, many of whom reportedly heard about the abuse but did nothing, in a potential violation of Title IX and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). A motion to dismiss the case, filed by attorneys representing SUNY and the University, was denied, and the discovery process will begin shortly.
Additionally, the recent conclusion of a second lawsuit against BU resulted in a $1.5 million judgment. Filed by Seshubabu Desu, a former dean of the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, the lawsuit alleged that the University fired him in “retaliation” for reporting financial irregularities and misconduct within his department. The University’s pattern of behavior and potential legal liability represented by these two legal actions are concerning. We urge the administration to be more transparent about these issues.
There were some bright spots this semester, including the increase in stipends for doctoral students. These changes came after relentless advocacy from the Graduate Students Employees Union (GSEU) and certainly do not go far enough in providing a livable wage for these students. Additionally, these stipend increases exclude non-doctoral graduate students. Though we recognize that the University financed these pay increases internally due to statewide funding issues, we also believe BU must be more proactive on such issues. More communication between the higher administration and its student employees will be critical moving forward.
Another positive development was the introduction of Narcan in AED stations campuswide, which was the result of a statewide mandate. While this was not a University-led initiative, we hope that BU continues on this path of increasing the accessibility of resources. In addition, the recent introduction of the LGBTQ+ living community in Newing College for the fall 2023 semester is another way BU is attempting to make the college experience safer for students. Having private bathrooms and other facilities for queer-identifying students is an incredibly important step for inclusion efforts.
The administration constantly touts the increase in freshman applications, and official figures corroborate this. However, one statistic that often goes unnoticed is the 10-year low in transfer applications, which has consistently decreased each year. Even BU President Harvey Stenger acknowledged the problem in his annual State of the University address when announcing the expansion of the Binghamton Advantage Program (BAP), which will allow students with guaranteed transfers to attend SUNY Broome Community College (BCC) while living at BCC or at home. While this is a good start, the University certainly has a long way to go to encourage transfer students, an essential part of the student body.
Overall, the administration has a long way to go to rebuild trust with many groups on campus. There is always more to be done, but this semester, especially with legal developments, administration figures should be more proactive and forthcoming with both students and faculty.
This semester, the Student Association (SA) has made strides in improving the chartering process and increasing on-campus accessibility — and has continued to organize great student events. But the SA has also suffered from a lack of transparency and a rocky election.
As the voice of the student body, SA Congress meetings should be accessible to the BU’s general body, as mandated by the SA constitution. However, this year, the SA stopped listing their meeting location on their website, even after a location switch halfway through the fall semester. After Pipe Dream reported on the SA’s lack of transparency, we were glad to see the SA update their website within days to include meeting locations. While we are thankful to see such a quick turnaround and recognize that SA representatives are students like ourselves, this does not excuse the fact that BU’s student body was not able to access information regarding Congress meetings for the majority of this year — hindering the SA from properly representing the student body.
In addition to a lack of transparency, there were also delays surrounding this year’s SA elections. We had the pleasure of interviewing and endorsing the SA candidates, as per Pipe Dream’s annual tradition, but were left awaiting confirmation of official election results while the SA struggled with administrative and technical roadblocks. There were multiple grievances filed concerning the election — not an unusual occurrence — which led to unofficial results being announced on March 14, with official results released the following week.
On one hand, we recognize that the factors that contributed to the late confirmation of election results were mostly out of the control of SA members, and we commend them for maintaining transparent communication with us at Pipe Dream about the issues they were facing throughout the election. However, we hope that in future elections, the SA will be finally be more efficiently able to handle incoming grievances — with an adequately staffed J-Board — as the delay in the confirmation of SA election results left students and representatives feeling uncertain.
Aside from these setbacks, this year’s SA made great progress by finally clearing their student club charter backlog, which consisted of 42 organizations, after three years. Being chartered provides a host of benefits to student organizations, including a budget and official University recognition. Given that the backlog included clubs that had applied to be chartered three years ago, it is likely that some club members never got a chance to see their organization chartered before graduating, which might have greatly hindered the ability of those organizations to operate successfully. We applaud Chance Fiorisi, this year’s SA IA chair and next year’s executive vice president (EVP), for developing a timeline for the IA committee to more efficiently charter organizations. This is a great step forward for the SA, and hopefully it will allow more students with great ideas to start and maintain thriving organizations. We hope to see the SA continue to refine their chartering process, and we are happy to see Fiorisi move up in the SA next semester.
In addition to supporting students by improving the club chartering process, we were extremely glad to see the SA launch a new bill to improve campus accessibility for BU students with disabilities this spring. After passing the “Resolution to Address Electronic Disability Accessibility” this past fall, this semester we are glad to see the SA continue to pass legislation aimed at improving accessibility for students with disabilities. On March 14, SA Congress passed the On-Campus Accessibility Reporting System Bill, drafted in collaboration with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) and the newly formed Disabled Students Union (DSU), which will allow students to suggest improvements to physical facilities via an online form that can be accessed by scanning QR codes that have been placed on doors in the University Union.
This system will be helpful to all students, but especially students with disabilities, who can now more easily report a broken elevator, ramp or door button. We are glad that the SA consulted with student organizations representing the disabled student body to craft this legislation, and we hope that the SA will continue to meet with different student groups and communities to hear about their needs and brainstorm solutions to make BU a more accessible and enjoyable campus for all.
While the SA had their ups and downs this semester, it is important to remember that they are students who work hard to represent a large and diverse student body at BU. We hope to see more transparency from the SA next year so that the student body has an accessible outlet to voice their concerns and ideas, and we look forward to seeing new clubs continue to be efficiently chartered by the IA committee.
Student Association Programming Board: A-
Once again, the Student Association Programming Board (SAPB) delivered exciting and engaging events throughout this semester. With a strong lineup of guests and the debut of the Student Flea Market, the SAPB maintained the consistency of its programming while building upon existing events.
While Saturday Night Live (SNL)’s Michael Longfellow and Devon Walker entertained audiences with a show full of laughter and deadpan comedy, internet streamer and LGTBQ+ activist Tyler Oakley shared his career and activism experiences. The wonderful lineup of Longfellow, Walker and Oakley lives up to the SAPB’s past guests, which include rapper Yung Gravy and comedian Chris Distefano. In terms of comedy and special guest programming, SAPB continues to deliver with compelling and noteworthy guest appearances.
The Editorial Board commends the SAPB for the addition of the new Student Flea Market, which provides a space for student-run businesses to advertise and sell their products. The effort to support students’ entrepreneurial ventures helps create a supportive environment from one student to the next. With two flea markets already under SAPB’s belt, we look forward to the next one.
As SAPB’s biggest event of the year, Spring Fling saw a good turnout despite the weather. With a selection of food trucks, carnival rides and many student organizations tabling around the Spine and the Peace Quad, Spring Fling once again brought students together for one big event before the end of the semester. At the Spring Fling concert, BU band From the Bronx and dance music producer Imanbek opened with an electric entrance for surf band Surfaces.
The student body’s reaction to this year’s Spring Fling preparations, however, was not without objections. After SAPB announced Surfaces as the headliner on Instagram, students took to the comments section to express their disappointment with the choice. One of the main arguments that emerged was the fact that Surfaces was not even on the spring semester survey.
Despite these concerns, the Editorial Board recognizes that SAPB, as a student-run organization, is trying its best to provide students with an engaging campus experience. The E-Board also acknowledges that Surfaces was listed on the fall semester survey and that students expressed interest in a non-rap artist on the spring survey. We may not have gotten Ice Spice this year, but we still had a great time at Spring Fling 2023.
With the spring semester coming to a close, the Editorial Board looks forward to the engaging programming in store for fall 2023.
Residential Life: C-
Last semester was a whirlwind for Residential Life, as it was announced that residential assistants (RAs) would no longer be a position for students. Those responsibilities would be replaced by student staff. This decision, along with their lack of transparency and communication, sparked outrage among the student body, as RAs were not included in the decision. While this semester has been, thankfully, calmer as more information about these new positions has become available and nothing more egregious has occurred, we still feel there have been problems in Residential Life that keep us in line with our previous grade.
One big change announced with these new Residential Life positions is that community assistants, a subsection of student staff, may have roommates. This was slightly shocking, as one of the big appeals of being in an RA position is the guaranteed single room. However, with the increase in students in these positions, it does make sense that they cannot accommodate singles for everybody. While Pipe Dream has hope that these new positions will take away some of the burden that RA jobs had, we still wish Residential Life was more transparent and forthcoming with its information about this new situation.
Another change to note is that the University is planning to increase housing rates for the 2023-24 academic year, at the largest leap seen in past years. While this does have more to do with the administration, we decided to factor this into the Residential Life grade because this strongly affects the students who will be housed on campus. On-campus housing is efficient and easy, and Pipe Dream feels that students should not be limited by this option due to monetary restrictions. This increase in prices does nothing to improve our outlook on Residential Life this year.
Finally, fire inspections have come under their own heat, as students have complained about marshals visiting rooms early in the morning, an issue that an SA resolution asserts did not occur previously. The SA’s resolution aims to make this process less invasive, switching to a timeframe in which students would be less-impacted. Pipe Dream applauds the SA on this initiative and yet recognizes that this alone will not make the change. We encourage Residential Life to listen to the SA’s ideas and make fire inspections more respectful moving forward.
After an unexpectedly successful fall season for BU athletics, the momentum carried into the spring. This spring, the Binghamton baseball team will have the opportunity to use its brand-new Bearcats baseball complex for a full season, as completion of the complex was finished toward the end of America East (AE) play last year. In regards to the baseball team’s performance this season, things have been solid across the board. The season began with a challenging 16-game road trip, and the Bearcats managed to win eight of those matchups. The Bearcats are currently in fourth place in the AE, are above .500 in conference play and are projected to make the AE tournament. They are looking to repeat as AE tournament champions.
Softball has had a complete turnaround in comparison to its rough 2022 campaign, during which the team finished 22-23 overall with a 7-8 record in AE play. The Bearcats have already clinched a top-two seed in the AE tournament and will also have a first-round bye. In addition, the team is currently 13-4 in AE play, in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, and has won four straight AE series matchups. The program has taken great leaps, and fans should be excited for what’s to come.
Both lacrosse teams have seen great success this season and have clinched postseason spots. On the women’s side, the duo of sophomore attackers Abigail Carroll and Olivia Muscolino combined for 70 goals in the regular season and have led the Bearacts to a 5-1 record in AE play. The team clinched the No. 2 seed in the AE tournament and finished the regular season with 10 regular-season wins, the most in program history. On the men’s side, the duo of sophomore attackers Gage Adams and Matthew Keegan have combined for 88 goals, leading the Bearcats to a 5-2 record in AE play. Overall, both teams have outperformed rather low expectations, and the future looks promising with key underclassmen leading both teams.
The men’s basketball team’s season ended in similar fashion as last year, being defeated by Vermont in the AE semifinals. Despite showing signs of greatness at times during the season and finishing 8-8 in AE play, the team often struggled to play as one unit, which showed on the court. The team will also be losing senior guard Falko and will rely on the transfer portal to find the pieces it needs for the 2023–24 season. The women’s basketball team had a rather disappointing season as they finished four games under .500 and showed minimal improvement from their previous season, despite higher expectations. The Bearcats were defeated in their quarterfinal matchup against Maine by a double-digit score, and are losing key seniors Denai Bowman and Clare Traeger. The 2023–24 season will rely on younger players to step up and take charge.
BU’s track and field team had a solid showing at the AE indoor conference championships, as nine Bearcats earned third-place finishes and both the men’s and women’s teams earned third-place finishes. Both the men’s and women’s teams have overachieved this season and will look to replicate their success at the AE outdoor conference championships. The wrestling team had a mediocre season once again, finishing the season 5-13 and tied for 50th out of 61 teams at the NCAA championships. Despite their subpar record, the Bearcats faced several highly ranked teams and fared quite well against them.
On a final note, athletics at BU have taken great leaps this spring as many teams have overperformed, exceeding expectations, making a B+ a rather fitting grade at this point. Ultimately, several programs still have a couple of weeks before the end of their respective seasons. Although there is still work to be done with many programs, such as golf and basketball, the future of BU athletics looks bright.
In previous semesters, the Editorial Board has given Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) a D or D- on the basis of a lack of parking and the addition of an appeal fine. With the recent announcement of increased parking permit prices this upcoming fall, little has been done to improve this grade.
Since 2011, parking prices have remained at $140.55, a price significantly higher than other SUNY schools such as Buffalo and Albany, which charge a roughly $50 to $70 fee for on-campus parking. The proposed permit increase would raise prices at a rate of 1.25 percent per year, with the idea that the money would be used to repair and maintain the existing lots. However, many students, including us, feel that parking lot maintenance is something that should have already been covered by the existing parking and tuition fees.
In addition to rising prices, the University’s plans for a new lecture hall will inevitably result in the need for more parking spaces around the hall. Students already struggle to find parking in a timely manner as even the larger lots fill up fast at common class times, and an added lecture hall would only compound this issue.
Since the Editorial Board’s last review of TAPS, the issue of parking past midnight has remained for commuter students. Although Bartle Library remains open until 2 a.m., commuter students cannot utilize these extra few hours as they must leave by midnight. This also poses a problem for students involved in extracurriculars that often require late-night work on campus.
The recent increase in the already-high permit prices and the likely overcrowding of lots from a new lecture hall have left students frustrated and wondering why their current exorbitant parking payments are not enough. There will never be a perfect answer to the University’s parking issues, but excessive fees do not seem like a great start.
While diversity-related issues are typically an administrative responsibility, we feel that diversity extends to every aspect of campus life. There is always more to do everywhere with diversity-related issues, and BU is no exception.
One clear problem is the lack of a replacement for Lea Webb, ‘04, who coordinated the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts for both staff and students. After Webb was elected to the New York State Senate and resigned from BU, there was no replacement for the coordinator. Furthermore, the lack of both communication and updated information is concerning, as the descriptions for DEI workshops still appear on the BU website despite being discontinued, and the form for DEI workshop sign ups had not been closed during the beginning of the spring semester. Pipe Dream, as an example, was unable to receive organizational diversity training this semester due to a lack of training staff. With the added emphasis on DEI in recent years, this lack of proactive organization is concerning.
BU’s Road Map, a strategic plan with multiple fronts, also reveals shortcomings with diversity at BU. With several goals related to underrepresented minority (URM) students, which include Black, Indigenous American, and Latinx groups, the University is falling short of its own goals — which include a target of 15 percent URM graduate students and 25 percent URM undergraduate students by 2026. Furthermore, BU is falling short on diversity in its faculty. We urge the University to rededicate itself to diversifying the student body at BU, both in order to meet its goals and to provide the campus community with a wide variety of perspectives and lived experiences.
There were some positive developments in terms of diversity this semester. BU earned 4.5 out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index, a scale run by Campus Pride that measures commitment to LGBTQ+-friendly initiatives and environments. In addition, we encourage the BU administration to follow the lead of the SA, which has recently pushed for the inclusion of multicultural days onto the academic calendar, including Black Solidarity Day and Lunar New Year.
Overall, the University has a long way to go before meeting its own standards for diversity. The effort can begin with hiring staff to administer critical educational programs before leaning more heavily on the recruitment of both a diverse student body and faculty.