INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
President urges advocacy during state budget talks
By : Eric Coker
President Lois B. DeFleur stressed to faculty and staff at the University Forum that “your voice will make a difference” in the state budget process.
“We need to communicate to leaders and policymakers that they must support Binghamton,” DeFleur said. “Binghamton is a great university. We must not be cut so severely that it impedes our forward progress. We will emerge from these challenges stronger than before because of you.”
DeFleur outlined the challenges the University faces during the forum, held Jan. 20 in the Lecture Hall. The theme of the forum, which also featured presentations from the University’s five vice presidents, was “Looking Forward.”
“We believe this (theme) is relevant because as we face budget reductions, we must also focus on what’s ahead of us two, three, five years out,” DeFleur said. “We must ensure that the University is in a position to take advantage of opportunities as economic conditions improve.”
Gov. David Paterson’s 2009-10 budget proposal calls for:
• A $40 million reduction from the SUNY campuses’ non-tuition revenue.
• A $22 million reduction from SUNY university-wide funds.
• A $620 yearly tuition increase for in-state students. (The state would keep 90 percent of the additional tuition funds in the spring semester and 80 percent in the fall.)
DeFleur called the tuition increase, which has already gone into effect for the spring semester, “an unfair tax on students and parents” that affects the individuals who are the future of the state.
“If all of the reductions are passed, it would be extraordinarily difficult for Binghamton,” she said.
DeFleur emphasized the importance of advocacy by highlighting the University’s Think Binghamton website. At http://think.binghamton.edu, members of the campus community can send messages to the governor and state lawmakers that protest the SUNY funding cuts. DeFleur also has a new video message on the site discussing the budget crisis. Suggestions from the campus community about how the University can meet its fiscal challenges can be sent to email@example.com. All suggestions will be kept confidential.
A pilot, DeFleur compared the budget situation to flying through turbulence. Instead of always thinking “let’s land” when turbulence hits, it is best to reduce speed, make adjustments and move forward, she said.
The University is able to move forward with programs that promote global awareness, such as plans for a Chinese major, and by enhancing facilities through construction projects already funded by bonded dollars, such as East Campus housing and the Engineering and Science Building.
Binghamton can also assist the state as it looks to make investments for the future.
“I thought it was apropo that one of the specific programs (Gov. Paterson) talked about is the development of the next-generation battery and renewable energy resources,” she said. “Binghamton can play a good role in that.”
Honors such as the Princeton Review naming Binghamton the fourth-best public college value in the nation help the University connect with alumni and the community, DeFleur said.
“Now more than ever, we need this support,” she said. “We need constituents willing to say to state leaders, ‘This university represents our future’ and ‘This university is crucial to the region.’
“We educate much of the local and state workforce. We help develop the technology and we are helping different companies and organizations as they generate additional economic growth. … This is no doubt a challenging environment, but the Binghamton University I know is one that rises to challenges.”
Also at the forum:
• Michael McGoff, acting vice president for administration, discussed how the University could save money in the face of proposed spending cuts. Ideas included greater use of electric vehicles and state-of-the-art custodial equipment, investing in “rich media” and reducing energy usage.
• Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president for academic affairs, stressed support for faculty and discussed creating new ways to foster faculty scholarship and research. She also emphasized the importance of new forms of technology, such as RefWorks for the library.
• Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, presented plans for a dean of students office in the Union. The position would move away from the traditional model of organization, he said, by offering support to students in an area they frequent on a daily basis.
• Marcia Craner, vice president for external affairs, discussed programs her division has developed that build loyalty and foster pride. Connecting with students, alumni and the community through efforts such as think.binghamton.edu and Facebook, for example, can help solidify fundraising and advocacy.
• Gerald Sonnenfeld, vice president for research, saluted researchers who are responsible for the University seeing a 24 percent increase in awards last year. He also focused on the division’s advocacy in Washington, Albany and in the area, and encouraged forum audience members to join the Think Binghamton effort.