For as long as we can remember, the Couper Administration building was a veritable ivory tower. Spotting Lois DeFleur on campus was about as easy as finding Where’s Waldo in a barbershop pole factory. But now, two months into President Harvey Stenger’s campaign, we feel like we might be seeing Harvey in double, or triple. The man’s everywhere.
Now, we understand Stenger is trying to make a good first impression, and this sample could be rendered useless in the long run. But he has made his presence felt so far.
Stenger hasn’t just showed up at the mammoth events like TEDx. He can be spotted at sports games — and not just basketball. He and alumni Billy Baldwin were seen cheering at a wrestling match. He even attended Monday’s Student Association Assembly meeting.
Stenger, in an interview with Pipe Dream at the beginning of his term, said he would reach out.
“It would be sad if in six months somebody said, ‘Well I haven’t met the president yet.’ I would feel bad about that. I may not remember everybody’s name, but I am going to go out of my way to meet everybody here: all the faculty and all the staff, and as many students as possible,” Stenger said.
He’s also followed up on his promise to hold lunches with students. He’s shared several meals with students at dining halls — and apparently one at the Food Co-op in the Old University Union.
Again, we know it’s early. But the idea of the University’s highest administrator taking an active role on campus and actually listening to students was fantasy during DeFleur’s tenure — or at least the part of it we were here for.
A president with genuine interest in the student voice is foreign to us. In many ways, Stenger is simply doing what he should do, but it’s satisfying to even imagine that there exists a possibility that a University president would consider himself accountable to campus constituents, and not just SUNY big-wigs or Albany power brokers.
Of course, we can’t expect Stenger to keep this pace up. We expect that his presence on campus will fizzle somewhat once he’s made a firm, positive imprint on the student body, and once he’s gathered sufficient intel on its needs.
But we encourage him to keep an ear to the ground — and to not only listen to what students say, but act on it. It’s one thing to be a passive listener, it’s another thing to be a sympathetic administrator who makes changes that students want.
A strong gesture from Stenger, considering that he attended the SA Assembly meeting last night, would be to sit down and have a conversation with SA leaders charged with organizing Spring Fling. The location of the annual carnival is still up in the air, the headlining concert is in an unfamiliar and expensive location at the Events Center, and things could get worse quickly. And the situation is almost entirely out of students’ hands.
This is the perfect opportunity for Stenger to go to bat for this campus, to protect one of the few student-body-wide traditions we have, even if it’s a simple one. Stenger has made good use of the start of his first semester, but he shouldn’t let it end on a bad note.