Administration – D
During one of the most stressful and eventful semesters in recent memory, Binghamton University’s administration largely failed to meet the moment.
After an outbreak of violence in the Middle East in early October, the Editorial Board feels that University President Harvey Stenger’s multiple statements to our campus community fell short of the comprehensive response required. While Stenger’s expressions of support for BU’s Jewish and Israeli populations was commendable, it is the responsibility of the highest levels of University leadership to ensure all students on campus are heard and represented. As of today, Stenger has yet to issue a statement in support of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students — abdicating his duty to the student body. Multiple student groups making up much of BU’s multicultural community released statements calling on Stenger to this end.
In late October, after a tragic student death on campus, the University was slow to cancel classes that same day, resulting in some witnessing a traumatic scene outside the Bartle Library Tower. The next day, the decision to attend and hold classes was left up to individual students and faculty. While we feel that Stenger’s decision to empower the individual was understandable given the weight of the moment, University leadership should have been more decisive in prioritizing the well-being of students, instead of imposing on professors the responsibility to care for their grieving classes.
While there are some bright spots, including the reintroduction of BU’s bike-share program, the hosting of the Haudenosaunee Festival on campus for the first time, the relaunching of the UDiversity Educational Institute and a five-year plan to upgrade recreational infrastructure, the Editorial Board feels leadership during turbulent times was largely left to students. The Thurgood Marshall Pre-law Society organized a candlelit vigil on the Peace Quad the night after the student death, and Student Association leaders spearheaded proposals to bring affordable emergency contraception to campus.
Though administration is relevant to nearly everything that happens at BU, and we acknowledge that these crises were unprecedented and difficult to navigate, it needs to provide moral leadership and comprehensive support to our campus community. We hope that in the future, University leadership will be better prepared.
SA – A
Over the course of this semester, the Student Association (SA) has taken many leaps forward in fostering an active and fruitful campus. By passing unifying resolutions, improving the chartering process for student organizations and clubs and increasing wages for Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) drivers, the SA has created more avenues to meet the needs and wants of the student body.
The Student Association is tasked with the difficult role of supporting an entire student body and anticipating and responding to crises. In October, the SA passed resolutions to prevent and protect students against both anti-Semitism and islamophobia, a need iterated by pressure from the student body as political tensions escalated in the Middle East and on campus. These resolutions work in tandem with the SA’s adoption of the Chicago Statement, which upholds students’ rights to free speech and expression. Together, these unifying resolutions are integral to encouraging both dialogue on our campuses and a cooperative campus for years to come. However, the anti-Islamophobia legislation was passed a full 14 days after the antisemitism legislation. This is frustrating, given that both Jewish and Muslim students are seriously impacted by the war in the Middle East, and the SA is tasked with the important responsibility of protecting and responding to the needs of all students.
In response to the tragic death of a BU sophomore student this November, the SA also sent a heartfelt email to the student body that emphasized the importance of students prioritizing their mental health and provided a list of resources. We recognize the difficulty of responding to unforeseen and tragic situations, and commend the SA, who are also fellow students, for the support they have given the rest of the student body.
Two other examples of refreshing SA projects that have significant potential to improve student life are the minimum wage increase for OCCT drivers and the proposed Plan B machine. While competitive wages for student drivers is a prerequisite to a vital service and the well-being of students, a Plan B vending machine could increase accessibility outside the Decker Student Health Services Center and lower stigma surrounding use.
The SA also spearheaded efforts to host various student organizations at Club Carnival in the spring semester with Campus Activities. Unlike the annual University Fest (UFest), Club Carnival will be held indoors, although the SA has been dedicated to speeding up the club chartering process and the potential debut of previously un-chartered clubs and organizations entertain a productive sequel to UFest. The initiative could be instrumental in helping spring-admit transfer students acclimate to a new environment as the SA set a good impression and demonstrate their commitment to transfer students early in their Binghamton careers.
This semester, the SA has had to respond to multiple unforeseen tragedies. They have handled extremely difficult situations largely tactfully and promptly while continuing to build upon other positive student programs and initiatives.
SAPB – A
SAPB excelled this semester with its noteworthy programming. From the continuation of events such as BUMP shows and the Student Flea Market, to events featuring new special guests, SAPB continued its streak of high-quality events. Most notably, SAPB brought legendary rapper Swae Lee to campus as the Fall Concert headliner, which received overwhelming support from the student body.
We commend SAPB for the selection of guest speakers and musicians this semester. In late September, BU students had the opportunity to hear from “Breaking Bad” actor Giancarlo Esposito. At the end of October, comedy fans were able to see Chris Redd, Emmy-Award winner and cast member of SNL. Finally, the professor spotlight series featuring Ryan Vaughan, adjunct professor of English, is a great way to support faculty and bring the BU community together.
Students filled the Events Center for the highlight of the semester — Swae Lee, known for the iconic song “Sunflower” from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Following student objections to Surfaces as the 2023 Spring Fling headliner, SAPB has clearly knocked it out of the park this semester with Swae Lee.
We appreciate the continuation of the SAPB Student Flea Market, as it provides a welcoming space for student businesses to promote their products. The student-oriented aspect of the Flea Markets strengthens the community at BU, allowing students to support other students’ endeavors. We look forward to the continuation of regular Flea Markets next semester as well.
However, it is important to acknowledge that this semester has been challenging for the BU community. The Editorial Board appreciates SAPB’s efforts to support the community with the Day of Caring, in remembrance of Natalia Malcevic and others who have been lost to tragedy. Organized in collaboration with the SA, Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, the Consultation, Advocacy, Referral and Education (CARE) Team and the Dean of Students office, the event demonstrates thought, care and an important step for improving mental health resources and support at BU.
This fall, SAPB has shown its strength as a student-run organization with its attention, care and commitment to enhancing student life at BU. SAPB has certainly pulled out all the stops this fall, and we look forward to their work in the spring.
Res Life – B-
BU has implemented major changes to ResLife this semester, with the decision to remove RA positions announced last fall. This fall, the RA position has been replaced by student support assistant (SSA), community assistant (CA) and apartments assistant positions. The new model was also projected to create 300 new paid positions in Sept. 2022, including student operations assistants and student marketing assistants.
However, Residential Life faced a rocky start to the semester with 153 students placed in super-occupied housing (SOH) at the beginning of the school year — an arrangement where three or more students were placed in a room designed for less than three students. At the time of Pipe Dream’s Sept. 18 coverage, 60 students remained in SOH. With a 19 percent increase in student applications from 2022 to fall 2023, BU should work to accommodate its growing population, as placing students in SOH places strain upon students.
While the new Residential Life positions have taken off with a smooth move-in process, there is always more to improve in terms of accommodating the increasing student population. We hope that Residential Life implements both long and short-term goals to address our growing population on a finite campus.
Mental Health – C
Mental Health has been a big discussion on BU’s campus this semester. There has always been a push for more mental health resources and conversations in the past, with Pipe Dream constantly asking for more in editorials and report cards. However, this semester, our Editorial Board feels the increase in conversation and de-stigmatization surrounding mental health, which has been largely catalyzed by students, has been an improvement, and we hope to see this trend continue.
After the recent tragic student death, sparking grief and anger, students and faculty decided to take more actions. The vigil held by Thurgood Marshall Pre-law Society was a beautiful showing of student unity and support. The fact that this event was organized by students highlights the care and importance taken in this issue. The SA also sent a heartfelt message to all students, encouraging students to take time for their mental health and providing a list of resources to use. In addition, SAPB held a Day of Caring and The Coalition for Student Mental Health wrote an Open Letter to the administration. These actions were great steps toward improved mental health resources.
Student action for mental health did not just start this semester, as many student groups have been working to provide great resources to the campus population. Support Empathy Empowerment Kindness (SEEK) is a student-run, non-emergency helpline that students can call from 7 p.m. -10 p.m. during school days. In addition, Harpur’s Ferry, the student-run ambulance service, gives medical attention to students for free. It is great to see students engaging in mental health support, and we appreciate all the students who work in these organizations.
The University Counseling Center (UCC) also has grown their resources and made improvements to their care. UCC has added new telehealth options to the care services, as well as increased staffing, made more availability for care after-hours and created more urgent appointment availability. We are happy to see these changes made, as this creates better care and resources for students to access mental health.
However, this does not mean mental health deserves an A by any means. We still have a long way to go to better our mental health resources on campus, and this conversation needs to keep going, even when things on campus are “calm.” In addition, the negligent response from BU’s administration during the tragedy shows we are not where we need to be. The delayed decision to cancel classes, resulting in students being subjected to the scene, was unacceptable. The fact that there was no plan in place, forcing President Harvey Stenger to make a last-minute decision during his grief, shows a lack of care and focus on such an important topic.
We are happy to see the student body, organizations and the UCC working toward bettering our services, and we want to acknowledge all the improvements made so far. We hope to see this conversation continue and more improvements along the way.
Athletics – B
Although Binghamton Athletics may not have matched the success it had across the board last fall, many programs still had spectacular seasons. The most notable achievement this fall stems from women’s cross country, as the team won its first America East (AE) title in program history. Notably, this was done with just one coach, head coach Annette Acuff, who has provided great leadership for the cross country teams with 24 seasons under her belt.
The volleyball team has been brought to new heights under head coach Allie Yaeger. Back-to-back AE player of the year senior outside hitter Tesvetelina Ilieva led the Bearcats to a 6-4 record in the regular season, as they earned the No. 3 seed in the AE tournament. After losing to UNH in the 2022 AE semifinals, this year, BU defeated the Wildcats in a five set reverse sweep, to advance to the AE championship game. However, Binghamton was unable to get over the hump, suffering a 3-0 sweep against UMBC. The future is bright as the program has made great leaps in its past two seasons.
Both soccer teams’ seasons ended in the AE semi-finals this year. Despite making it all the way to the AE title game just a year ago, the women’s soccer team had a disappointing season. After going unbeaten in conference play with a 5-0-3 record which earned them a first round bye in the AE tournament, the Bearcats were upset by UMass Lowell 2-1 in the semifinals, ending their season in heartbreaking fashion. The men’s soccer team season came to an end in the AE semifinals for the second consecutive year. After capturing the final spot in the AE playoff picture, BU defeated UMBC 1-0 in the quarter finals but was overpowered by Bryant 3-1 in its semifinal matchup. Both programs will look to regroup in preparation for next year.
The men’s cross country team capped off its season with a tie for 3rd place finish at the AE championships, finishing one placement worse than the previous year. Overall, it is nice to see that both cross country teams are staying competitive in the AE conference. Capping off fall sports, the golf team had a subpar year once again. The highlight of the season was the team’s performance at the Matthews Auto Collegiate Golf Invitational, the Bearcats’ home tournament, where they finished tied for second.
Looking ahead to winter sports, the wrestling team has started strong, recently placing second at the Mat-Town Open I. As always, the team should be fun to watch under head coach Kyle Borshoff. The swimming and diving teams have had great starts to the season, breaking several school and conference records in the first half of their seasons. They will be strong contenders at the 2023-24 AE championships in February. Furthermore, the men’s basketball team has gotten off to a promising start to the season, as it is one win over .500 with a 5-4 record. The additions of several transfers from the portal along with talented freshmen have greatly improved the team’s depth. On the other hand, the women’s basketball team has had a frustrating season thus far, holding a 2-7 record. The team has struggled to close out games, blowing leads late and losing several matchups by single digit margins. Head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord will look to get her team back on track as it finishes up its nonconference slate.
As a whole, Binghamton Athletics is having continued success which is why we believe that a grade of B is more than fitting. Ultimately, it is refreshing to see that many programs are continuing to thrive under second year athletics director Eugene Marshall Jr. We hope that BU Athletics will keep their foot on the gas and continue to make strides in the winter and spring seasons in search of another AE Commissioner’s Cup victory.
Diversity – B-
The Editorial Board first graded campus diversity after a year without a UDiversity team following Lea Webb’s resignation from BU and election to New York state Senate. As a predominantly white institution, fostering spaces for minority students is of utmost importance and our grade seeks to reflect the support given to those communities. With tensions high on campus this semester, changes in this area have been spearheaded by both administration and students.
This semester, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) relaunched the UDiversity Educational Institute (UDiversity). UDiversity provides targeted workshops for groups intending to build their knowledge on diversity related issues, an important resource for students and organizations. Pipe Dream utilized these resources ourselves to reinstate our own diversity and sensitivity training, a vital program for writers and editors. The rebranded UDiversity team has offered students and faculty a welcoming space to discuss matters of diversity with educated staff to facilitate such conversations. We only hope to see their reach grow on campus as they settle into the new role.
Although UDiversity brought positive change to campus, this semester witnessed a large divide among students in response to the ongoing violence in the Middle East. Protests, counter protests and administrative response have been large contributors to the campus divide. Students were angered by administrative responses that they felt favored one side of the conflict and student body, while others were comforted by the support for Jewish students. Many similarly criticized the SA Congress for passing legislation solely against anti-Semitism, later amended to prevent islamophobia as well.
Where administrative responses have fallen short, student organizations have stepped up. Most notably, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the BU Zionist Organization (BUZO) have provided outlets and communities to support the range of backgrounds and perspectives of students on campus. Other campus groups have spawned in response to the issue such as Dissenters, an anti-militarist organization, and The New Yiddish Bund of Binghamton either to protest the war or to provide a space for those that have felt neglected in other groups. Tensions will likely remain high as the war continues, but students have made strong efforts to stand for what they believe in and to provide a space for others to do so.
On a positive note, new multicultural groups were founded this semester, such as Ukrainian Cultural Association and Arab Student Association, hoping to provide new spaces for their communities. Additionally, the Q Center and MRC hosted a vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, showing campus support for the lives lost to anti-trans violence.
Overarchingly, this semester saw waves of student support and activism for both their own communities and others despite a lack of administrative support. The Editorial Board hopes to see resources like UDiversity continue to grow and help the community, and we commend students for standing up for their communities and creating new spaces to fill in the gaps.