SUNY Chancellor James Malatras visits Binghamton

University is to be held up as a model

SUNY Chancellor James Malatras, left, speaks with Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Johann Fiore-Conte, associate vice president for student affairs, at the University's COVID-19 surveillance testing center. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
SUNY Chancellor James Malatras, left, speaks with Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Johann Fiore-Conte, associate vice president for student affairs, at the University's COVID-19 surveillance testing center.
SUNY Chancellor James Malatras, left, speaks with Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Johann Fiore-Conte, associate vice president for student affairs, at the University's COVID-19 surveillance testing center. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

SUNY Chancellor James Malatras met with Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and student and campus leaders Wednesday before touring the University’s COVID-19 testing center and stepping into classes in the Lecture Hall.

“This is a great day,” Malatras said. “Binghamton is an example of a great plan, executed well and monitored well so we can reach the goal of educating students. You have great cooperation here and I see something pretty extraordinary that should be held up as a model.”

“We were thrilled to welcome Chancellor Malatras to campus today to show him how successful Binghamton has been in restarting and keeping students on track to help achieve their academic goals,” said Stenger. “It’s taken the brain power and hard work of countless staff, faculty, students and volunteers, and we are beyond pleased that our efforts are paying off. We look forward to completing this semester and we appreciate his support.”

Commending the Student Association and Graduate Student Association leaders for their assistance in managing the campus response to the pandemic, Malatras said he hoped they would also be able to focus on social justice and other issues during their tenure. “You’re happy to be back and you are some of the most engaged students I’ve ever met,” he said. “It’s good to come to a campus where everyone is working together and doing it right.”

Malatras accompanied Stenger, the vice presidents and senior staff as well as Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate leaders to the COVID-19 testing center in Old Union Hall, where the first pooled testing of employees began this week.

“This is a campus where testing is going well and everyone is united in moving forward,” Malatras said. “You’re showing that a public institution can do this well and I hope it will ripple across the entire system and elevate all of the good things that are happening. We have to be unified and change as we need to change, remaining flexible, but you’re doing it well here.”

Asked about his priorities for managing the pandemic, Malatras said there are three: testing, transparency and common implementation of disciplinary actions for noncompliance with health and safety guidelines. “We have required reporting now on the SUNY website and we have demonstrated that we can do this,” he said.

Binghamton has processed about 8,000 COVID-19 tests since students returned to campus in August, and the surveillance testing center is set up to conduct about 1,000 tests a week for the rest of the semester. In addition, wastewater testing of 13 sites on campus is underway. Results of the first tests indicate that all 13 sites are under any detectable limits for COVID-19.

“I never thought I’d be happy about checking wastewater,” Malatras joked, “but high results can be a precursor to problems.”

Malatras and Stenger touched on a number of topics as they left the testing center, ranging from off-campus student life to progress on the Decker College building in Johnson City, before stopping into a chemistry class with about 40 students socially distanced, and a smaller Russian class. All non-usable seats were roped off with yellow polypropylene rope.

“It’s a different way to teach and learn, wearing masks and spreading out,” said Stenger, after leaving the classrooms. “But these students would rather be here than trying to learn from home.”

Malatras had visited SUNY Broome Community College earlier in the day, and said he saw students doing all the right things there as well as at Binghamton. “I’ve seen high compliance both here at Binghamton University and at SUNY Broome Community College. You are shining examples of getting this right, with the help of dedicated staff and faculty. Students are to be applauded, too.”

Malatras also noted that the campus-community cooperation was impressive. “It’s phenomenal to have this relationship between our colleges and our community leaders,” he told the media at a press conference, which was attended by NYS Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Binghamton University Council Chair Kathryn Grant Madigan, Binghamton Mayor Rich David, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar and SUNY Broome President Kevin Drumm.

“The success of any plan is an all-hands-on approach,” Malatras said. “You feel it here.”