Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger’s State of the University Address discussed topics like the University’s impact on the larger Binghamton community and its goal to increase the school’s population to 20,000 students in the next couple of years.
In his address, Stenger introduced the new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, which opened at the beginning of the semester in Johnson City, as an example of BU’s impact extending into the community. Though the surrounding towns are growing with the University, particularly with the recent loss of many manufacturing jobs, it can be dangerous for their economies to be so closely tied to it.
Despite his discussion of BU’s impact on the local community, Stenger failed to mention the Town-Gown Advisory Board. Created almost a year ago partially as a result of student protests that opposed the University’s blue-light initiative on Binghamton’s West Side, it was meant to be a link between the University and the community. It is unclear what progress the board has made, even with increased instances of student contact with the community. Events like the recent instances of police brutality in the area and the student protests that have come as a result demonstrate a clear need for the board.
The address also mentioned the University’s goal of reaching 20,000 students by the year 2020. Stenger made it apparent that the University is no longer on track to reach that target. A large portion of the increase was meant to come from graduate student enrollment, and though the undergraduate student population is where it was anticipated to be, the graduate student population is lower than anticipated.
To increase graduate admissions, the University intends to unroll several new graduate programs, which include some certificate programs, and it has already implemented nine such tracks. The Editorial Board is concerned that with the creation of more programs, the quality of all programs, and thus the University as a whole, will suffer. It is unclear how the University will ensure that these programs are up to BU’s high academic standards. It seems as though the University is trying to create as many programs as possible, instead of focusing on making its existing programs the best programs they can possibly be.
Another strategy to increase enrollment was to give many faculty members pay raises, which makes sense, as they will likely be working harder to implement these new programs. But the funding for these pay raises will not come from the SUNY system. As such, the University will have to come up with other ways to refill its coffers. One method proposed in the address was the aforementioned increases in graduate student enrollment. More students attending BU means more tuition being paid. However, these increases — and thus, this money — will not be seen for at least another year. Another strategy mentioned is a new partnership with New York state, but there is very little information about what this partnership is or how it might benefit BU.
Unfortunately, students will also likely bear some of the burden of these pay raises. Though tuition is controlled by the SUNY system, the student fees are controlled by the University, so that is where students will see the increase. There have also been several budget cuts recently, including funding cuts to Glenn G. Bartle Library, where some student-employees’ hours have already been cut. Though the Editorial Board supports pay raises and advancement of the University as a whole, we do not believe that this should come at the cost of other departments or students’ own wallets.
It is clear that BU is moving up in the world, as its recent rise in national rankings has shown. The advancement of the University is beneficial to all students. It is important, however, that Stenger and his team remain cognizant of its ever-increasing impact on the community as well as the quality of its academic programs and financial costs of its decisions.