At Binghamton University, there have been a lot of exciting initiatives taken recently to bolster student rights and University life. Most of these improvements have been initiated by, or advocated for, by students. While we applaud student action, and encourage students to continue to identify issues and advocate for change, the University needs to create a more streamlined and efficient mechanism to field student grievances and ideas, and should be more proactive in addressing these issues in the first place.

Just this semester, last week, Daniel Croce, the Student Association’s vice president for finance, announced a minimum wage raise for student OCCT bus drivers, from $15.20 to $18 an hour. Furthermore, community and student organizations recently organized the third annual Housing Action Summit on campus, where organizations discussed the housing crisis in the Broome County area, in large part fueled by the University and students.

Although the Student Association and other organizations have done a fantastic job in advocating for our student body, the University has a responsibility to respond to student needs and ideas, as well as pressing community issues, in a timely and effective manner. If we consider the Housing Action Summit — despite the University’s complicity and role in fueling this crisis, it was left up to outside organizations to organize and create space to address this crucial issue. While it is amazing that student and community organizations are doing the work to bring attention to these local problems, the University, as an educational institution, has a duty to create space for these conversations.

Furthermore, even when the University does respond to pressing issues, it often comes after years of student advocacy, or fails to effectively address the issues at hand. For example, the vice president for student affairs revealed a plan for investment in student services at a recent BU Council meeting, which comes after the University received new state funding. This investment will include increasing staffing at the University Counseling Center (UCC) and comes after years of BU students expressing frustration at the dire lack of mental health resources at the University, demonstrating how student suggestions are often ignored or not responded to in a timely or effective way. It was only once the University received more state funds that they increased personnel at the UCC, rather than diverting resources prior to alleviating what is an extremely serious problem.

The University neglecting to respond efficiently or properly to student grievances is not a new issue. Graduate students at BU had been asking for a living wage and the abolishment of broad-based fees for years, before the University finally raised minimum stipends, although they only affected doctoral students and failed to fully meet the demands of BU’s Graduate Student Employee Union (GSEU). Additionally, the University attributed the increase to inflation and keeping the school competitive in recruiting and cost-of-living standards, rather than the current graduate students increasingly expressing their difficulties with meeting basic living costs. Furthermore, The Violence, Abuse, Rape and Crisis Center (VARCC), a resource for students dealing with sexual violence that opened in 2021, was created, by a student initiative, after years of complaints about a lack of access to sexual assault reporting services on campus. Issues like increasing living wages and responding to sexual assault require timely responses, which the University has failed to do.

Lastly, even when the University has tried to respond to student complaints, they sometimes do so in a way that is messy, or does not fully take the needs of students into consideration. For example, last year, Binghamton Residential Life abolished the resident assistant, citing the move as a response to complaints from residential assistants (RAs) about the unmanageable and stressful nature of the position. This change came suddenly and seemingly without concern for the ideas of current or past RAs — students, especially current RAs, were left confused and concerned that they would lose their positions and all of the financial benefits that come with it.

Moving forward, we hope to see the University make an active effort to collaborate with student groups to address issues effectively. A recent example of the administration and student groups coming together to pursue a long-needed project is the installation of a Plan B vending machine. The project idea originated at a Latin American Student Union (LASU) meeting last year, and has been actualized by the effort of student Road Map Interns, as well as the University’s Health Promotion and Prevention services and other organizations.

As a University, BU has a responsibility to create a safe and enjoyable learning and living environment for students. While student advocacy and protest is healthy to a well-functioning university, the University must meet students on the other end by being receptive and active in responding to grievances. We applaud students for their initiative taking, but call on the University to be more active listeners.