A premier university is defined by the quality of its learning, teaching and research. Binghamton University has built its reputation for excellence on the commitment of its faculty and students to learn from each other, to teach each other and to work together to form communities of scholars.
The protests and marches that have heightened debates on campuses across the country are reactions by students, faculty and staff to frequent incidents that communicate the message that underrepresented groups don’t belong among a community of scholars. A community is defined by who belongs to it, and its boundaries are reinforced by daily encounters and interactions. When students of color hear a slur on a bus or in a classroom, the message is “you don’t belong here.” When faculty members are excluded from decision-making, they receive a message that their contributions lack value; they don’t belong. Such messages are wrong because they harm the individuals to whom they are directed, and they rob the University of the energy and attention of people who must defend their right to be here before focusing their talents on their growth and development.
As faculty members, our day-to-day interactions with colleagues and students help shape the environment of our campus community. We recruit and mentor new faculty. We contribute to the University’s policy making. Perhaps most importantly, we talk to students every day, provide them with guidance and advice and set expectations for appropriate discourse in our classrooms. These influential roles come with a particularly acute responsibility to support our students, faculty and staff in their efforts to achieve their maximum potential. It is an obligation, but it is also a particular privilege to embrace those responsibilities.
Institutionally, the University has been active. The Faculty Senate revised the pluralism general education requirements last year. Departmental faculty have supported initiatives to recruit and retain faculty from underrepresented groups. On Tuesday, November 17, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution to form a Committee on Diversity that will create an institutional voice for faculty and will be designed to ensure that policy decisions incorporate criteria of equity and inclusion.
We also applaud the actions of other University leaders. In recent weeks, President Stenger and Chief Diversity Officer Valerie Hampton, the Executive Board of the Student Association and Provost Nieman have all written to Pipe Dream to address the importance of inclusion of all of our students.
It is a professor’s habit to lecture. But this is a time when it is much more important for us to listen and learn from those who are exercising their own voices and need to be heard. As leaders in campus governance, we will be meeting with student organizations in the coming weeks and months. By listening, being attentive and working collaboratively to lower barriers to communication, and then taking action based on what we learn, we correct our errors. As faculty governance leaders, we see this as an essential direction for Binghamton University and a path for a vibrant and robust intellectual community where everyone belongs. We urge everyone — faculty, students and staff — to join us in this effort.
Thomas Sinclair, Department of Public Administration and Chair, Faculty Senate Executive Committee
Fernando Guzman, Department of Mathematics and Chair, Faculty Senate
Pamela Smart, Department of Art History and University Faculty Senator
Sara Reiter, School of Management and Chair, Educational Policy and Priorities Committee
Wayne Jones, Department of Chemistry and Chair, Budget Review Committee