President's Quarterly Report

December 31, 2018

Holiday/End of semester/De-stress

As we approached the end of the semester, students were buckling down – writing papers, conducting research and studying for upcoming finals. One could feel the intensity when walking through the MarketPlace and libraries. Throughout this time, the Dean of Students Office again coordinated with other campus offices to help students “de-stress” so that they could be more effective at studying and completing their exams. Healthy snacks and meals were available for longer hours and there was lots of free food available as well. Our libraries extended hours, with Bartle and the Fine Arts Library open around the clock during finals week.

Residential Life changes

Also helping reduce stress this time of year is the recent decision by our Residential Life program to extend the signup deadline for housing for next year. For the last several years, students were required to sign housing licenses in October. The early signup dates were initially implemented in 2014, to provide more options and make on-campus housing more competitive with the off-campus market. However, many students, especially first-year students who are still in the process of meeting potential roommates, expressed concerns that October was too early to require a commitment. In response, the new signup deadline has been moved from October to February 2019.

Registering for on-campus housing is now a two-step process where students signed housing licenses in October and could begin applying for learning communities and forming groups on Oct. 18. This first step obligates students to live in an on-campus residence hall for the entire academic year. However, in return, they are now able to put off finalizing their room assignments until next semester, providing more flexibility regarding roommates and residential community choices.

In addition, students who commit early in the process and finalize assignments before February are being given priority points that are added to the number of academic credit hours they have. We use the credit hours to determine time slots for room selection, with those having more hours (typically juniors) having precedence, so there remains some advantage to deciding early.

So far, the response to this change has been generally positive, as it increases options for students.

Student deaths

Sadly, the semester was also marked by the loss of two students in November. On Nov. 2, sophomore Luke Stempa was found dead in his off-campus apartment, and then, less than two weeks later, senior Albert Cruz collapsed in his residence hall and was rushed to the hospital where he died after being admitted. No foul play was suspected in either case.

The campus has been working with Luke’s and Albert’s parents, and has provided counseling support for any students or staff who might be struggling with their deaths. All of us extend our sincerest condolences to the parents, families and friends of these young men.

Circumstances like these tend to bring out the best in our students. For example, after Albert’s death, more than 100 students gathered at a vigil to memorialize him, reminiscing about their time with him and supporting one another in their grief. It was a strong statement about the strength of the bonds that develop between Binghamton students.

Alumni events

These bonds continue well beyond graduation, as I discovered recently at several alumni events I’ve attended in California and Washington, where I updated alumni about some of the projects and initiatives we are undertaking on campus. I was pleased that Binghamton alumnus Christopher Ullman hosted an alumni event at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. Ullman currently serves as senior communications director for The Carlyle Group and previously served similar roles with the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Some of you may recognize him as our four-time national whistling champion. Kornheiser also gave Binghamton some great name recognition when he hosted his TV show Pardon the Interruption from Evanston, Ill., when our men’s basketball team played the Northwestern Wildcats.

These national alumni events highlight the way that our University is becoming better recognized, with our graduates taking leadership roles in national and international firms. The result is that our alumni base is increasingly a national – even international – body. Nonetheless, we are working hard to ensure that our alumni remain a part of the Binghamton University community – we want them to be engaged as advocates for the University, and even better, to serve as mentors, internship leaders and even as guest lecturers in classes, either in person or through technology such as Skype.

This engagement is especially important as we are now in the quiet phase of our third comprehensive gifts campaign. At all of these events I emphasized the need for significant leadership gifts that will help us reach our goal — but more importantly, that alumni support will help us meet important educational and institutional needs including:

  • developing more high-impact learning experiences for students,
  • supporting faculty excellence,
  • encouraging multidisciplinary collaborations,
  • developing new academic programs
  • and providing flexible funding to address the University’s greatest needs.

Wrestling 50th/Athletics APR

We also held a special gathering for a select group of alumni in November, when we celebrated the Binghamton wrestling team’s 50th anniversary. Around 100 wrestling alumni returned to campus to help us celebrate this milestone, including Sal Desantis, who serves on our alumni board; Jose Moreira, who is now a local businessman and entrepreneur; and Tim Borshoff, whose sons Kyle and Jason are currently the head and assistant coaches for our program. Unfortunately, our most visible wrestling alumnus, Billy Baldwin, had a family commitment and was unable to attend.

Our wrestling team is one of the strongest of our athletics teams. It consistently produces wrestlers who compete in the annual NCAA Wrestling Championships – in fact, in just the time since I’ve been on campus, about a dozen of our student-athletes have competed at the championships. Earlier this year, freshman Lou Deprez represented Binghamton at the World Junior Wrestling Championships and was ranked ninth in the world at 85 kg. Similarly, senior Tyler Deuel won four straight matches to be named the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Champion as a heavyweight.

Our wrestling alumni continue to be very active supporters of the campus and our athletic programs, and our former wrestlers won this year’s Athletics Alumni Giving Challenge – a competition among athletics alumni in giving back to campus. It was a great evening for everyone, followed by the very competitive Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open, named for former wrestler Jonathan Kaloust, who left the program to join the military and died in an accident in 2013, while in training to become a Navy SEAL. This event attracted collegiate wrestlers from across the nation, with Binghamton sophomore Audie Ashkar placing first at 125 lb. and four other Bearcats finishing in the top five for their weight class.

As a campus, we are rightfully proud of the achievements of our student-athletes. But more important, from my perspective, are the academic successes they achieve. The reality is that very few of our athletics team members will go pro. Some of our baseball players have been recruited to play, and some of our basketball players – both men and women – have had the opportunity to play professionally here in the states and overseas. But most move on from their experiences at Binghamton and find careers in business and government, as teachers and healthcare providers. So it’s important that they do well in their academic work.

And they do. Last year, student athletes had a combined 3.32 GPA — higher than the overall GPA for our entire student enrollment. About half of all students in our athletics program – 213 of them – had a GPA over 3.3. And, I appreciate that for the past two years the men’s basketball team has had a perfect 1000 APR – meaning that all students are on track to graduate. This success was recognized by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which awarded Binghamton its Team Academic Excellence Award for 2017-18 – one of only 45 Division I programs to be so recognized.

AVANGRID Scholarships

Of course, academic excellence is something we encourage in all our students, so it was rewarding to learn of the Binghamton students who were recently awarded the highly competitive – and coveted – AVANGRID Scholarship for Master’s Studies in the United States. The scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors who wish to do advanced research in:

  • renewable energy
  • smart distribution networks
  • engineering
  • data science
  • cybersecurity
  • legal/compliance/regulation
  • business: international studies, human resources, communications, finance, treasury
  • or Information technology

This is a very prestigious award granted to only 10 students drawn from eight selective Universities, including Yale, MIT, Cornell and the Rochester Institute of Technology. In only the third year of eligibility for Binghamton students, I’m pleased to say that we are outperforming our illustrious peers. This year, Binghamton students won four of the 10 available scholarships:

  • Kasey Hill, who recently received a BS in industrial science, will continue study at Binghamton in SOM’s 4+1 accelerated program
  • Elijah Swift received his BS in computer science in May and will also continue at Binghamton as part of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 4+1 MA program.
  • David Bremer earned his BS in mechanical engineering (ME) and will complete his masters as part of the ME 4+1 program
  • Electrical engineering (EE) graduate Jason Ephriam will also complete his MA here as part of the EE 4+1 program.

The fact that all will finish as part of our 4+1 programs highlights the success we’ve had developing programs that attract outstanding students.

Chancellor’s visit

The education students at Binghamton and throughout SUNY receive was the focus of a talk given by SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson in October. She was here to address the plenary meeting of the SUNY University Faculty Senate – the faculty governance body for the entire University. This body is composed of representatives from each of SUNY’s 64 campuses. During her talk, she emphasized the need to increase retention rates, lower student costs and increase sustainability within SUNY. She also discussed the challenges SUNY and other systems face in increasing faculty and staff diversity, and highlighted Binghamton’s Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship program that provides support to postdocs in academic departments and programs where diversity is needed, with the goal of encouraging them to stay as full-time faculty.

Budget/hiring and initiative hold

Early in September, SUNY’s faculty and professional staff voted to ratify a new salary agreement negotiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on behalf of the State University of New York system. Under the new agreement, faculty and professional staff will receive two percent raises per year for each of the six years the contract is in effect, with the first two years being retroactive to the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years, when these employees were without a contract. Significantly, the state did not appropriate any funds to address these increased costs.

I want to emphasize that these raises are well-deserved and long overdue. We have great people here, and we value their work. Indeed, from the campus’s perspective, these raises will help us recruit and retain better faculty and staff by making us more competitive in the labor market. We anticipated that these increases would be coming, and had made plans to address their impact on the University’s fiscal situation. In preparation, over the past three years, we have been building reserves and generating additional, recurring revenue through modest tuition increases and increased enrollment, particularly among out-of-state and graduate students. Specifically, we had projected an enrollment increase this year of 530 students, including 380 graduate students.

For a number of reasons, including changes in the international education market and demographic changes in New York and the Northeast, we were unable to meet this target.

This has resulted in a shortfall of around $5 million this year, and, if enrollment does not grow in fall 2019, this $5 million shortfall will grow to $9 million in 2019-20 and by $4 million each year after that. We view this challenge as manageable, given the University’s recent growth in resources, which have increased by about $99 million per year since 2012.

While we are still determining the complete impact of these raises, we have estimated that we need approximately $4 million in new revenue each year for each of the six years of the new contract, from 2016-17 to 2021-22. This means that for the current 2018-19 year, we need approximately $8 million in one-time funding to cover the retroactive raises for 2016-17 and 2017-18, and $12 million to bring all salaries to the contract requirements of 2018-19.

At the end of last month, I sent out a message to faculty and staff outlining how we will address these challenges:

  • We will create a task force, led by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Nieman, to evaluate long-term enrollment projections.
  • In addition, we will establish three new taskforces to explore alternative revenue sources, including expanded online offerings, public-private partnerships and developing funds from our intellectual property portfolio. These will be led by Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Development James Pittaresi; Executive Director of the Binghamton University Foundation Sheila Doyle; and Vice President for Research Bahgat Sammakia, respectively.
  • We will place a hold on our University initiatives, with the exception of our Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowing program, which has contractual requirements with SUNY.
  • We will pause for 12 months the development of our college of nursing and health sciences (although on-going construction will continue), expansion of the Health Sciences Core Facilities and the Data Science Initiative.
  • Current open administrative positions will be filled on an interim basis with internal candidates, with a few exceptions for positions vital to the health and safety of the campus community or where hires will significantly enhance our ability to increase resources.
  • We will revisit these searches next year if we have met our enrollment and financial targets.
  • With the exception of RPAs, GAs, TAs, undergraduate SAs and adjuncts, we will place a hold on faculty and staff hiring until we have 2019 enrollment and revenue, as well as 2020 state operations commitments – with exceptions for revenue-producing positions, health and safety concerns or where contractual obligations apply.

These are very difficult decisions that will impact departments and operating divisions, but we must act quickly and with commitment, otherwise I fear we will jeopardize the gains we’ve made over the past several years.

This situation obviously caught much of the campus by surprise, and there have been lots of questions about how this will impact our academic programs and plans for growth. Hoping to address some of these issues, I, along with other senior administration officers, held three open sessions shortly before the Thanksgiving break to answer any questions faculty or staff might have. We also put together an online FAQ page that clarifies our planning, provides information about exemptions to the hold on hiring, outlines a process for department chairs and administrators to apply for exemptions for critical hires, and discusses the impact on construction and renovation projects.

These actions will help us meet our immediate requirements, but are not a long-term solution. Ultimately, this is a problem that we will need to work with SUNY and our legislators to solve.

Admissions and international recruiting

As we work to address these challenges, our enrollment mix, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, becomes more important. However, this is a challenging time for college admissions, particularly in the Northeast. Our admissions office has redoubled its efforts to put Binghamton on the radar for promising students, using data to identify and target specific markets and high schools, utilizing a territory management approach with staff who are “boots on the ground,” and continuing to engage high-school counselors and alumni.

As a result of these measures, applications continue to increase – we’re up about 30 percent compared to where we were last year at this time, although I think almost every school is seeing increased interest, largely because it is so much easier to apply online than it used to be.

Of course, graduate enrollment is especially important, and we are working hard to increase our international enrollment.

Toward this end, I traveled in November with Dean Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari (who also serves as the University’s executive vice provost for international initiatives and chief global affairs officer) to six cities in India, where we met with groups of undergraduates who might be interested in attending Binghamton for graduate studies, as well as faculty and administrators who advise these students. I also had the opportunity to meet with several groups of Binghamton’s international alumni, some of whom work at these campuses and others who are leaders in industry and other organizations in India.

Dean Srihari ensured that I had a very packed schedule, with visits to eight different campuses, along with several technology firms. We were warmly received at each of these, with students and alumni showing genuine interest in our programs. I was particularly pleased to have been asked to provide the commencement address at the Mangalore Institute of Technology and Engineering; our Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science has a very strong relationship with this campus and it was an honor for me to speak to students there.

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to Christ University in India, where I gave a keynote address at the inaugural BCS International Conference (Binghamton, Christ [University], Stepping Stones) addressing interdisciplinary research, treatment and education for children with developmental disabilities, particularly autism.

This conference was organized by a Binghamton alumna, Sylvana Iyer, a graduate of the University’s psychology program and her spouse, Balki Iyer. Balki is a graduate of the Watson School, who recently established a company called Utopus that provides software for data analytics for alternative energy providers. Together, they established the Stepping Stones Center in Mumbai, which works closely with our Institute for Childhood Development (ICD) and uses the institute as a model for its work helping children with autism.

During my talk, I outlined the ways in which our College of Community and Public Affairs, especially our education and social work programs, uses a holistic approach to education and treatment, working closely with the ICD and local schools to provide services for children with disabilities and their families. This is important in India, because there is no real infrastructure to address the needs of Indian families with children who have autism, whose numbers reach into the tens of millions on the sub-continent.

The Iyer’s goal is to develop a network of professionally trained providers to address these needs. As a first step toward this goal, during these meetings we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Christ University and Stepping Stones Center to develop a collaborative relationship and academic partnership to advance research and scholarly activities pertaining to children with special needs. In addition, we signed a separate memorandum with Christ University that commits us to broader educational and research relationships, including visiting faculty and administrators, research collaborations, conferences and workshops, and discussions regarding distance-learning and joint-degree programs. This presents an opportunity for the University to enhance its international impact by establishing research and education partnerships that address a pressing social need.

All in all, it was a very productive trip that should pay dividends in terms of increased international enrollment and valuable research and educational partnerships.

Progress in Johnson City

One issue that comes up during discussions regarding the University’s fiscal concerns is the status of ongoing construction and expansion projects, particularly regarding the Health Sciences campus in Johnson City. As we make clear in our FAQ statement, construction projects come from separate funding sources and cannot be applied to campus operations costs. Therefore, current projects will continue, including renovations to 48 Corliss St., which will be the new home of our Decker School of Nursing (DSON). Design work on this facility is completed and the project has gone to bid.

Meanwhile, we are considering our options regarding the facility at 27 Jennison St., where we will be housing our Ford Family Wellness Center in partnership with Lourdes Hospital. This property has some unique characteristics – namely that the building that will house the clinic wraps around an existing house. We are currently deciding whether to renovate as is, to remove the house and renovate or to entirely demolish the existing property and rebuild with a modular facility. Decker School of Nursing Dean Mario Ortiz and members of the Health Sciences Campus Committee are working with Lourdes Hospital and with community members to identify the best solution.

Also regarding the Decker School of Nursing, it hosted the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in November as part of its national accreditation process. The visit went extremely well. Per the CCNE exit report, the DSON bachelor’s, master’s, DNP and post-graduate certificates met the four standards (1. Mission and Governance, 2. Institutional Commitment and Resources, 3. Curriculum and Teaching-Learning Practices and 4. Assessment and Achievement of Program Outcomes) for accreditation without any compliance concerns. We were commended for having excellent programs and faculty! Based on this very good exit report, we should receive full accreditation from the CCNE. Congratulations to our Decker School! We are in a good position for future growth.

We also have submitted a proposal for the 2019 Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) program that seeks funding to help renovate and remediate properties in Johnson City. This project also will establish shovel-ready space for industry partners and support the completion of the Health Sciences Campus. In particular, funds will be applied to renovating the upper floors of the facility at 48 Corliss St., providing space for planned expanded offerings from the Decker School. We expect to learn whether this proposal has been accepted in early 2019.

Police chief named

Lastly, I want to congratulate our new Chief of Police John Pelletier, who most recently served as a lieutenant on the New York State University Police at Binghamton force. He’s served at Binghamton for 13 years, and served in the U.S. Army for 21 years prior to joining the campus force. He officially became chief at a Change of Command ceremony held Dec. 12. Former Chief Timothy Faughnan was also honored for his work that strengthened the department, particularly with regard to community policing and drug and alcohol awareness. During this ceremony, the University also took time to recognize over two dozen members of the University Police Department for their actions in the wake of the murder of Joao Souza last April.

As always, it’s been a very busy quarter at Binghamton. While we were presented with some new challenges, I’m confident that our campus is in a good position to weather any difficulties and emerge stronger in the coming years.

Sincerely,

President Stenger signature

Harvey G. Stenger

Academics

Program has been part of Harpur College since early 1980s.

Advancement

Homecoming 2018, held Oct. 5-7, had the highest attendance in the event’s history.

Athletics

Athletics special events and announcements for the third quarter of 2018.

Diversity

Fourth-quarter initiatives undertaken by Binghamton University’s Diversity Fellow

Foundation

Donors who support Binghamton University received a special delivery in the mail in December: the Binghamton University Foundation Annual Report 2017-18.

Research

Division of Research employees gathered in October for a retreat focused on continuous improvement.

Student Affairs

Binghamton University’s third annual Healthy Campus Summit was held Wednesday, Nov. 7, focusing on grit and resiliency.