From Residential Life eliminating the residential assistant (RA) position to the arrest of 15 people at a protest against police brutality, the News Desk has reported on major developments, both at Binghamton University and the surrounding community. With a clean slate and new opportunities on the horizon, we take a look back on Pipe Dream’s coverage over the past academic year.

JUST wins class action lawsuit against Broome County Sheriff

While many students and administrators were eager to put COVID-19 in the rearview last fall, inmates at the Broome County Jail were still unable to see in-person visitors following a COVID-19-era policy. Inmates were also charged 25 cents for every minute over an allotted five-minute phone call — six times the state prison rate. In response, Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (JUST), an activist group working toward “dismantling mass incarceration and mass policing,” filed a class action lawsuit against then-Sheriff David Harder.Justice Oliver N. Blaise III of the Broome County Courthouse sided with JUST, issuing a decree that mandated the return of in-person visitation at the Broome County Jail.

Residential Life to replace RA position in 2023

In September, Casey Wall, BU’s director of residential life and housing, announced in an email to all student staff that the staffing model would be overhauled for the fall 2023 semester, eliminating the RA position. Taking its place would be several new roles, responsible for different aspects of the original job. BU administration said the change came after exit interviews with former RAs indicated burnout, which caused them to not return to the position, and that the responsibilities had grown too large for one individual.After the announcement, multiple RAs expressed concern about the lack of guidance and communication from Residential Life, including their concern about financial benefits — like free housing — that help many first-generation students afford college.

Former College Republicans president arrested for Capitol Riot involvement

On Sept. 20, 2022, the United States Attorney for Washington D.C. charged Jon Lizak, a former president of BU’s College Republicans, for breaching the U.S. Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riots. Lizak was accused of entering the office of then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with four other men. One of his associates was charged with a felony for assaulting a police officer.A statement from the College Republicans denounced the Jan. 6 riots, adding that Lizak had disaffiliated from the organization in spring 2022. Logan Blakeslee, interim club president at the time and a senior double-majoring in history and political science, wrote that he was “not surprised” by Lizak’s actions, attributing them to “an unfounded theory about voter fraud.”

Late Nite suspended on Halloween weekend

During the fall 2022 semester, Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) — BU’s free student-driven, managed and operated bus service — experienced multiple shutdowns because of “antagonistic behavior” from student riders. OCCT’s Late Nite route is the only public transportation available for students going into Downtown Binghamton on Friday and Saturday nights, and many students rely on the service to return to campus.Students waiting in long lines gave accounts of the disorderly conduct that led to the shutdown, including “pushing and aggression.” After a period of planning and reevaluation by OCCT administrators, Late Nite service reopened with new guidelines, including barricades and a heavier police presence at stops.

Broome County sees red and blue flips from midterms

The 2022 midterm elections resulted in Marcus Molinaro, a Republican, winning New York’s 19th congressional district — which holds BU and the rest of Broome County. The seat was previously held by Lieutenant Gov. Antonio Delgado and became an open seat after Pat Ryan (D), who won the special election, was relocated during the redistricting process. Defeating Josh Riley by 6,244 votes in a district where Democrats held a 36 percent to 32 percent registration advantage over Republicans, Molinaro’s success mirrored statewide voting patterns — where Republicans made substantial gains, primarily upstate and on Long Island.Locally, Lea Webb, a former two-term Democratic Binghamton city councilor and BU’s diversity education coordinator, narrowly defeated former Binghamton Mayor Rich David in the New York State Senate election. The seat was left vacant after Fred Akshar (R) decided to run for Broome County Sheriff, an election he won by 26 percent.

I can’t breathe’: Activists criticize BPD after arrest video circulates

During the early hours of New Year’s Day, while most students were home for winter break, Binghamton Police Department (BPD) Officer Brad Kaczynski knelt on the neck of Hamail Waddell, a Black-Asian man. Video of the incident quickly started circulating on Facebook, in which Waddell told witnesses to record that he couldn’t breathe.Shortly after, a joint statement was released by nine activist groups, including JUST, Zero Hour Binghamton and the Binghamton Tenants Union, saying that Waddell sustained injuries to his “face, neck, head and back” and required stitches. They also argued that Kaczynski, assigned desk duty after the incident, violated the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act and the BPD’s Use of Force policy. As of May, charges against Waddell, including resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, remain pending, as does the internal investigation into Kaczynski.

Fifteen arrested in Johnson City protest against police brutality

In response to the Waddell incident and the killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers, students, community members and activists organized a protest against police brutality. Flyers, featuring the hashtags #JusticeForTyre and #JusticeForHamail, were handed out on BU’s Spine, instructing participants to wear black clothing and a face mask. The protest was held at the Wegmans in Johnson City.Local police were called by Wegmans staff, accusing protesters of blocking a store entrance and refusing to move onto a public sidewalk. At the night’s end, 15 people were arrested, including former Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan — currently a Democratic candidate for Broome County District Attorney. Officers were also accused of pepper spraying indiscriminately, including members of the press covering the event.

Legal cannabis dispensary opens in Binghamton

In February, Just Breathe — the first upstate legal cannabis dispensary — opened for business in Downtown Binghamton. The store, which sold cannabidiol (CBD) products before marijuana legalization in New York, collaborates with the Broome County Urban League — an organization that provides mutual aid and workforce programs to the community. Damien Cornwell, one of the owners, described the growing legal marijuana industry as a “shot in the arm” to local economies.The efforts of Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham, who pushed local agencies and the City Council to update zoning laws, are credited with placing Binghamton at the forefront of legal marijuana in New York state.

Student Association confirms 2023-24 election results

Every year during the spring semester, undergraduate students at BU vote for the upcoming year’s Student Association (SA) Executive Board. The SA, BU’s student government, is responsible for advocacy, chartering student organizations, managing a multi-million dollar budget and hosting events — like Spring Fling and concerts.Spring 2023’s elections utilized ranked-choice voting and saw uncontested races for executive vice president, vice president for finance, vice president for student success and vice president for programming. In the contested races, 2,039 total voting undergraduates chose Elisheva Ezor — a then-junior double-majoring in mathematics and business administration — for president and Khalimah Choi Owens — a then-junior double-majoring in integrative neuroscience and economics — for VPMA. Pipe Dream’s coverage spanned numerous delays, amid grievances from candidates and an administrative error by the Graduate Student Organization (GSO), which resulted in a do-over election for BU Council representative.

Doctoral students to see raise in stipends

After relentless advocacy from the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU), BU committed to raising minimum stipends for full-time, 10-month doctoral students for the fall 2023 semester. Despite the increase — which mirrors the plans of other SUNY institutions, like the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University — the GSEU’s “living wage” demand will not be met.Because of a statewide SUNY budget deficit, the University financed the increases internally. Provost Donald Hall said that approximately 830 students will be impacted at a cost of $1.54 million per year.

‘They’ve swept it under the rug’

Karen Barzman, a former professor of art history at BU, filed a lawsuit against SUNY and several high-level BU administrators, alleging sex-based discrimination violations prohibited under Title IX and the New York State Human Rights Law. In March, a federal judge dismissed the defendants’ motion to dismiss.The lawsuit centers on claims that University officials did not fulfill their legal obligations to protect Barzman from John Tagg, a SUNY distinguished professor of art history and an allegedly abusive former romantic partner. Pipe Dream spoke to Barzman, who recounted how her complaints of workplace retaliation went unanswered until she eventually signed a retirement agreement in 2021. Barzman, who was once fully tenured, is now an adjunct lecturer at DePaul University.