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Ties to Albany, Washington vital to University’s future.

By : Cait Anastis

Reading the political landscape and maintaining the connections at the local, state and federal levels necessary to generate positive support for Binghamton is a year-round job for the University’s president and her senior staff.

“An important part of what I do is keep on top of issues that could impact Bing-hamton and develop a plan with staff to address those issues,” said President Lois B. DeFleur. “I work to build and maintain the necessary relationships year round. It’s not just with legislators; it’s also with key government agencies.”

It is not a one-person job, she said. Developing a strategy to address pending concerns requires input from each division of the University to determine the focus of Binghamton’s messages and create a plan for delivering those messages, DeFleur said.

Congressional and state legislative cycles mean that attention shifts from Washington to Albany and back again as state and federal activity levels peak at different times of the year. During the first half of the year, with state budget talks underway, the University’s focus turns to Albany. One of the key issues for this year is the need for appropriate and stable levels of funding for the SUNY system, which needs an estimated $85 million — in state aid, a tuition increase or a combination of both — to maintain the existing quality of education.

Also of concern during this budget cycle is the need for restoration of $7.8 million in proposed cuts to SUNY’s Equal Opportunity Program and proposed cuts in funding for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program. University officials would also like to have $5-7 million in the state’s capital budget approved for the planning and design of a new science and engin-eering research building. While these points are the immediate focus, in the long-term the University also supports Chancellor Robert L. King’s “tuition guarantee” proposal, as a way of providing predictable educational costs for students in the SUNY system, while giving SUNY campuses the ability to do long-term planning. There also are a number of other pro-posed state issues being discussed with the potential of affecting life on the Binghamton campus.

“When you are at a public university you spend much more time on your state and local advocacy efforts,” DeFleur said. However, this does not mean that the University focuses completely on state issues. DeFleur also pays attention to the federal level, where Congressional decision makers have the power to positively or negatively affect Binghamton University. One issue with potential ramifications for the campus is the proposal to create a national student database, raising concerns about how it would be implemented and the impact it could have on student privacy.

Since starting her tenure as Bingham-ton’s president in 1990, DeFleur has seen her role as an advocate for the University increase.

“It’s much more intense, there are many more issues and many affect the University more dramatically,” she said. However, one of Binghamton’s strengths in this arena may be the long tenure of its president. Nationally, the average length of service of a public university president is about five to seven years. Now in her 14th year at Binghamton, DeFleur has a well-established track record in dealing with the elected officials representing the region.

“I think it benefits the University because the relationships I’ve developed with key people are long standing,” she said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08