As Binghamton University primes itself for the selection of just the sixth president in its history, we want to put on paper what we would like to see in our next administration.
The committee responsible for choosing the candidates has finally arrived at five finalists for the position. It’s safe to assume that during the vetting process, these candidates will say more or less the same things — buzz words and catchphrases without much of any real hint at how they will actually run the school, where they will take it in the coming years.
But we have a few ideas.
This school is in the midst of an identity crisis. We want to emerge from this — a period in which half our top administrators have “interim” in front of their title — with a president that will work to create a compelling narrative that students at this school can actually buy into. Are we going to continue to move away from our liberal arts roots, and cut back on unprofitable small-time programs in favor of monied professional schools and research? Whatever the decision, we need a president who will take a strong stance on issues, and let students know why we should rally around them.
The new administration will undoubtedly make significant changes to this school, and we’re not unhappy about that. But at a school that’s not much older than our parents, we have a complete lack of tradition. Relatively young dorm buildings that defined the college experience for hundreds of college students, like the buildings of Newing College and Dickinson Community, are already being torn down in favor of newer, bigger buildings. Our school name has ranged from Triple Cities College to Harpur College to State University of New York at Binghamton. What this campus needs is continuity, something that we can come back 50 years from now and recognize.
It seems inevitable that this will come from the student body at Binghamton, which is why we feel BU’s next president should do less Carnival-killing, and more Spring Fling-promoting. If that means that the administration is more hands-off when it comes to student affairs, we’ll take it. If it means showing a genuine interest in supporting student programs, then that would be a welcome change as well.
For all the hype surrounding the mystery of what next great era the new president will usher in, we should pay equal attention to the role students have, can and should continue to play in the formation of this campus’ cultural identity.
In that same vein, the next president should work to make this school more of a “college experience” and less of a degree factory. There is no real student body at BU to speak of, few of us have any connection to each other or to this University itself. This is of course an abstract element in the equation.
And on a more concrete note, we would like a president (for the first time in 20 years) that isn’t a frigid, distant, bureaucratic monolith.
The Editorial Board