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President, VPs take part in town hall meeting
March 26, 2012Tweet
A lot of ground was covered at the town hall meeting held Thursday, March 22, when President Harvey Stenger, four vice presidents and the director of athletics answered questions from students for nearly two hours in Lecture Hall 2. About 20 people attended the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the Student Association and moderated by Student Association President Kathryn Howard.
Stenger and the others responded to questions about enrollment, NYSUNY 2020, funding for graduate students and financial aid for all students, how the University will maintain high-quality academics and the provost search, among other questions.
When asked about what he would do about NYSUNY 2020 legislation and it’s rational tuition plan, Stenger said he supports tuition increases that will allow Binghamton University to hire more faculty and lower the faculty-student ratio, but wants to make sure that every student who has demonstrated need does not have to pay the gap faced by the increase.
“We’re committed to every student who is TAP-eligible to meet that need by providing $700,000 in scholarships,” he said. “That will be guaranteed as long as they are registered, but we need more so we’ve started reaching out to alumni who want to make sure students like them have the resources to attend. We will continue to monitor the need of every student every year and will try to make access one of our key goals.”
James Van Voorst, vice president for administration, addressed the NYSUNY 2020 legislation as well, stating that the Student Assembly two years ago voiced support for maintaining SUNY funding. “What the legislation [NYSUNY 2020] did is guarantee that SUNY will stay at the 2011-2012 funding level going forward for the next five years,” said Van Voorst. “I celebrated that because we won’t have to deal with cuts year after year.”
When asked about enrollment growth, Stenger said he believes that with our size and facilities, class size and the camaraderie among undergraduate students shouldn’t get much different.
“I also know that one of the biggest concerns students have is ‘What am I going to do after graduation?’ That should be part of our responsibility. One of the things that will be important for students is a master’s degree,” he said. “So I can see benefits to both our undergraduate and graduate programs and I want to make sure we don’t admit more students than we need and sacrifice the quality of undergraduate education. It’s a conversation we need and I’m meeting with departments and deans and we’re having this conversation in each department with faculty.”
Vice President for External Affairs Marcia Craner responded to a question about land the Binghamton University Foundation leased for gas drilling rights. “The Binghamton University Foundation is a separate entity from the University – a 501C,” she said. “When we entered into the contract in 2008, gas drilling was not the issue it is today, but our lease has very stringent environmental protections and is very tightly written. The contract expires in 2013. There’s been no drilling and we’re waiting for the governor and Department of Environmental Conservation recommendations. We’re on hold at this point.”
Other topics covered in the meeting:
•Graduate student stipends – Stenger said it is a priority to maintain outstanding teaching and research, and to do that, graduate student stipends need to be competitive. “We have agreed on a plan with Graduate School Dean Nancy Stamp and we’re going to reinvest that net revenues into our graduate student stipends and draw a circle around them,” he said. “We’re going to move those resources from those students who have come to further their career into increasing the value of stipends, especially in the humanities and life sciences.”
• Maintaining a high-quality education as enrollment increases – Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jean-Pierre Mileur said the University’s enrollment growth is linked to a plan to hire 150 new faculty – about at 20 percent increase – which equates to one faculty member for every 12 students. “They’ll be more than adequate to teach additional students, but will also add capacity to diversify our curriculum and increase research activities,” he said. “So quality doesn’t fall, we’re making efforts to improve the percentage of students we make offers to and spending additionally on student aid for merit which is something haven’t traditionally done.”
The University is managing the applicant pool and distribution of offers as well, Stenger said. “We’re working hard on a group of high-performing students that are admitted but decide not to come here,” he said. “This year we’re doing a better job campaigning and reaching out to them.”
• Hiring of new faculty – The University will hire 150 by 2016, and we’re on pace to hire 58 faculty this year – 36 of them new and the others replacements, Mileur said. “The approach we’re taking is to distribute those hires pretty much across the curriculum. We’re a university and have an obligation and desire to deliver instruction in a full range.”
• Dining services during the University Union renovation – Van Voorst said the campus is working closely with the food committee, both about what the renovations are going to achieve and how we’re going to address them. Next fall, the Chenango Room and Einstein’s will be open. Because the space for the Food Court will be down, the John Arthur Café will have extended hours and students will also be able to use the dining halls off their regular cards, and we’ll get carts to supplement if we need more, and vans and trucks on call that we’ll use if needed. One thing in our favor is that Sodexo isn’t new to this game and has brought national advisors in.”
• Why students are being charged to attend the Spring Fling concert – Though the outdoor activities will be held on the Peace Quad, the concert will be inside the Events Center while the central campus quad area is under construction. Van Voorst explained that students are not being charged for the use of the Events Center building. “The cost is to cover police, cleaners and those kinds of things,” he said. “You don’t get charged for the utilities.”
• Status of the search for a provost – Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, is co-chairing the committee and he said the search consultant is looking to find people and develop a pool of candidates. “Our intent is be at the point where finalists are brought to campus prior to end of the academic term, with the opportunity for faculty, staff and students to meet them,” he said.