INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
President emphasizes working as community
By : Eric Coker
Teamwork will be the key as the University tries to meet the challenges of the upcoming year, President Lois B. DeFleur said Jan. 19 at the annual University Forum.
“I know that this has been a challenging year for all of us,” she said. “We’re working to adapt to a changing environment, and as we do this it is crucial that we continue to help and support each other and work together as a community.”
It was the final University Forum for DeFleur, who announced earlier in the month that she will retire at the end of July. Faculty and staff jammed Lecture Hall 1 to hear DeFleur and the five vice presidents discuss the University’s agenda for 2010.
The University’s challenges start with the continued decline in higher-education funding, DeFleur said, as Binghamton has seen a $10.4 million reduction in state support since June 2008. Other challenges include new priorities for SUNY, such as the development of a new strategic plan; increased demands for academic programs; and a SUNY review of intercollegiate athletics at the University.
“Compared to most other universities that I’ve been affiliated with, Binghamton works across divisional, departmental and disciplinary lines,” she said. “This is important for us, given our tradition and size. We continue to be proud of our nationally and internationally recognized quality and value.”
One priority that will take the combined efforts of the University team is advocating for the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.
Announced Jan. 15 by Gov. David Paterson, the legislation calls for spending and contracting flexibility; access to capital to build infrastructure; the ability to lease or purchase land and facilities; and additional flexibility to set tuition and retain revenue generated by tuition.
Based on the act, the University’s “Think Green. Think Global. Think Binghamton” plan would build on the growth and efficiency over the next decade by:
• Hiring an additional 1,800 faculty and staff.
• Expanding enrollment by 5,000 students, generating more than 2,200 jobs in Greater Binghamton.
• Investing an estimated $889 million in construction of new buildings, leading to the hiring of more than 5,200 construction workers.
• Fueling entrepreneurialism and small-business development.
Advocates can go online to think.binghamton.edu to send letters of support to state policy-makers.
“Let us be more innovative and creative,” DeFleur said. “Give us the tools to produce an even better education for New York. This will allow the four university centers to grow and develop. And there is no cost to the taxpayers.”
Other items on the 2010 agenda highlighted by DeFleur included the development of the Task Force on Undergraduate Education for the Digital Generation; preparation for the Middle States Accreditation; co-curricular transcripts for students; new master’s and doctoral programs; progress on a law school proposal; construction of the East Campus Housing Project, Science and Engineering Building and Science 5; and the continued pursuit of sustainability and reduction of carbon emissions.
DeFleur cited an October trip to Korea as an example of interdisciplinary cooperation and innovation. The vice presidents also stressed cooperative work during their presentations.
External Affairs Vice President Marcia Craner discussed initiatives to enhance the University’s reputation further and to launch a fundraising campaign. External Affairs will focus more on engaging parents as advocates through the Think Binghamton website.
Gerald Sonnenfeld, vice president for research, said the Forum audience is responsible for the division’s 15 percent increase in awards and 140 percent increase in patent license revenues.
“It’s the faculty, staff and students who move the (division’s) goals forward,” he said. “You are doing work that has really been successful.”
Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the recent Winter Session is a model of all five divisions working together to ensure a program’s success. For example, Student Affairs managed housing issues; Administration dealt with clearing snow; Academic Affairs coordinated new courses and financial aid; and External Affairs provided communications and marketing support.
Swain also emphasized that the University has had previous success in challenging times. Out of the budget crisis of the 1990s came more faculty and staff, and new programs, buildings and technology.
“We acknowledged that if we dreamt some dreams and worked together that we would be a stronger institution when the money started flowing again,” she said. “That’s exactly what happened. ... Now is the time for new dreams, new designs and new revenues.”
DeFleur agreed, saying she is optimistic about Binghamton’s future and that “now is the time to move forward.”
“I am so proud of all of us,” she said. “We just have to keep coming together with new ideas and new ways to support each other. That will be the key to our success.”