President's Report Masthead
September 30, 2018
Report photo of President Stenger

Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger's Road Map Quarterly Report - September 30, 2018

The world of academia has its own rhythms. Winter is characterized by serious studies and the hard work of research and scholarship. Spring brings the tension of finals and the celebration of studies completed. Summer on campus is quieter, with fewer students and faculty – a good time to get work done. And fall is a time of excitement, of new classes and new expectations.

I was thinking about this as I walked across campus, noticing the changing colors on the maples in the Peace Quad. The emerging reds and yellows tell me that summer is over. But I could already feel that in the atmosphere of our campus. The eagerness and energy of the first days of classes have been replaced by a palpable sense of seriousness and commitment. Not that students don’t know how to have fun; it’s just that there is a routine that establishes itself in the first few weeks of the semester. Fortunately, Family Weekend takes place at the end of September, so homesick students can relax and recover with their parents and siblings. With Homecoming just around the corner, the campus rhythm is one that brings out the best in our students, faculty and staff.

Finally, in addition to the many student-, parent- and alumni-related events we’ve already hosted this semester, I also gave my State of the University address in the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater Sept. 24. You can read the coverage of my talk at BingUNews, watch the actual talk on video or check out the printed version of the talk in pdf format online.

The Class of 2022 and enrollment

The energy and enthusiasm of the start of the academic year were evident as we welcomed the Class of 2022 to campus. Approximately 2,913 new freshmen and 1,099 new transfer students arrived in August, bringing our total enrollment to over 17,700 students. Of these, nearly 14,000 are undergraduates and more than 3,700 are graduate students – an increase of nearly 480 students compared to our 2017-18 enrollment.

Our first-year students are perhaps the most talented group we’ve ever had, with a record-breaking 1370 average SAT score and a 95 average high-school GPA. These students were drawn from more than 43,350 applications, and of these only about 40 percent were accepted, making Binghamton one of the most selective public universities in the nation. In fact, Binghamton’s first-year student average SAT scores are fifth-best among public universities in the nation.

Helping us attract such great students is the University’s rising status in public rankings. Perhaps the most visible of these is the annual ranking by U.S. News & World Report that comes out every September. This year, Binghamton has once again made its list of Top 100 Universities. We continue to rise, having reached number 80 overall, and number 32 among public Universities — up six positions from last year.

One thing that’s noteworthy about this year’s rankings and may help to explain our current position is that U.S. News changed its methodology, now giving weight to the “social impact” a campus has in terms of producing social mobility, and in this regard Binghamton does very well. Other publications, including The New York Times, have previously cited Binghamton for our ability to help students get ahead.

Still, as I’ve noted before, these rankings are a mixed bag for campuses — on one hand we appreciate the recognition they bring — but they also tend to look at the campus with a very broad brush that misses many of the things that I think make Binghamton unique. But getting noticed helps, especially when it comes to recruiting top-flight students.

School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Health Sciences Campus

Just as students returned to campus, the University opened the new home in Johnson City for our School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SOPPS). The school achieved a milestone earlier this summer when it received Candidate status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), assuring that students are properly credentialed when they graduate. Full accreditation will occur once the first students graduate from the program, scheduled for May 2021. In the meantime, Candidate status will make it easier to recruit top students and faculty to the school.

But the pharmacy school’s focus includes more than simply educating the best pharmacists – it also is aimed at producing cutting-edge research in drug development and delivery systems. Toward this end, we will soon begin construction on a new $15.9 million research and development facility that will be located adjacent the school. And faculty at the school are already busy with research – in the first two years of active research, the school garnered $3.3 million in expenditures, showing that this is going to be a very active and innovative research program. The school is already a leader in muscular dystrophy research and we have added two new research centers – one looking at Lyme disease and the other addressing opioid use, both significant medical and social challenges for New York state and our region.

Progress continues on our plans for a college of nursing and health sciences. Renovations to 48 Corliss Ave., which will be the new home to an expanded Decker School, are moving forward, with the project going to bid in the next few weeks. We’ve also tendered a proposal to the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative to support funding to complete renovations to upper floors of the facility. On the pedagogical side, we’ve submitted proposals to SUNY for new programs in occupational, physical, speech and audiology therapy programs, and have received authority to hire directors for these initiatives. We also are preparing an enrollment plan for these programs that will nearly double the size of the Decker School’s enrollment.

We are already seeing significant private investment in the neighborhood surrounding the new campus, with more than $130 million invested in new, mixed-development projects. By the time the facility is completed in 2020, we expect an additional $120 million in private funding. I think Johnson City will be a very exciting place in a couple of years, when both schools are fully enrolled at the Health Sciences Campus.

Binghamton University is also at the center of another project that will have an impact on the region’s economic redevelopment efforts. NextFlex, a consortium of companies, academic institutions, non-profits and state, local and federal governments involved in flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing, has designated Binghamton University to be the New York “Node” for its flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) initiative. As the NextFlex New York Node, Binghamton will design, develop and manufacture tools; process materials and products for flexible hybrid electronics; and attract, train and employ an advanced manufacturing workforce, building on the region’s existing electronics manufacturing base.

As a node, Binghamton will work with partners to foster collaboration and provide access to facilities, equipment and infrastructure to fast-track FHE design, development and manufacturing. The University was part of the NextFlex nationwide team that competed in 2015 and won a Department of Defense $75-million, five-year award to advance flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing. New York State’s Empire State Development committed $20 million in matching funds for projects originated by the New York Node as part of its Upstate Revitalization Southern Tier Soaring Initiative.

New TAE in Data Science

Another forward-looking research initiative is our new Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence (TAE) in Data Science that is bringing together research faculty from fields as varied as mathematics, computer science, the humanities and the social sciences. This brings the number of TAEs to six; all of them focused on large, complex challenges that cross disciplinary lines. Faculty working in the Data Science TAE will be integral to the success of our Data Science Initiative that developed out of last year’s Road Map Renewal.

Faculty collaboration in research and scholarship also drives the University’s new approach to hiring faculty and supporting research. In 2013, the campus created it five original TAEs: Citizenship, Rights and Cultural Belonging; Health Sciences; Material and Visual Worlds; Smart Energy; and Sustainable Communities. All are areas of inquiry that raise complex questions across multiple disciplines. Currently, more than 180 faculty are participating in TAE collaborations, and together, they are responsible for over $17 million in external funding for the University in 2017-18. In addition, approximately $950,000 in University-funded seed grants have been distributed to TAE-affiliated faculty, resulting in approximately $4 million in external grant support – a four-to-one ratio on our investment – which also happens to be the same ratio for all University external grant proposals.

Construction and critical maintenance projects

In addition to large, new-construction projects, the campus is also upgrading existing buildings and strengthening our safety infrastructure. This past year, our Science 4 facilities received much needed maintenance, with new elevators and changes to improve energy efficiency. Next year, similar work will be done on our Science 2 building, with improvements including new laboratories, classrooms and electrical, plumbing and cooling systems, with a makeover for Science 1 now in the design phase. Beginning next spring, we will be conducting similar maintenance in the Engineering Building.

Some of the oldest buildings on campus in what was formerly the Dickinson residential community have also been renovated and repurposed, while Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga halls in College-in-the-Woods have also been spruced up.

And we’ve been working to make it easier to park on campus, with the addition of a new, 297-space parking lot located behind the information booth on Glenn G. Bartle Drive. This, in combination with the opening of the new pharmacy building in Johnson City, has significantly eased the parking crunch the campus faces on busy days.

We also have made significant improvements to campus safety and our emergency communications. Following last semester’s review of safety policies and procedures, we’ve increased training for staff and student advisors in our residential communities and, most importantly, have enhanced the B-Alert emergency notification system to speed messaging to the campus. Now, students, faculty and staff must specifically opt-OUT from the system, instead of opt-IN. As a result, student, faculty and staff participation in the system has increased from 30 to over 60 percent. We’ve also installed additional security cameras and panic buttons in residence halls and added three counselors to our University Counseling Center staff.

Our review of communications policies has also led to changes in our postering policy, with the goal of providing more avenues for students to exercise freedom of speech. Previously, student posters had to refer to academics, housing, special events or items for sale; we’ve now introduced “general purpose” boards, with the caveat that all postings must adhere to the Code of Student Conduct.


Faculty and professional staff received some good news in September when it was announced that United University Professions (UUP), which serves as the primary union for our faculty and professional employees, had agreed to a new contract negotiated with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. The new contract provides for 2 percent increases each year over the next four years, as well as retroactive increases for the last two years. This contract is similar to those ratified by the CSEA and PEF bargaining units last year. All of these raises are well-deserved and long overdue, and will help make our campus more competitive in terms of recruiting and retaining the best faculty and staff.

At the same time, these raises will have an impact on the University’s budget, as Albany has not appropriated funds to cover the costs of the negotiated increases. SUNY has indicated that the individual colleges and universities will have to cover these costs out of their own budgets and reserves. Because the contract will increase salaries retroactively, this means that Binghamton University will have to absorb approximately $10 million next year, with an ongoing cost of over $4 million in following years.

Fortunately, Binghamton has been preparing for fiscal challenges ever since the recession of 2008, holding in reserve a portion of our operational funds. This gives us some flexibility in meeting these initial costs. We also will grow enrollment (particularly among master’s and doctoral students) and seek moderate increases in tuition and student fees. 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 in partnership with SUNY and our legislators to solve.

CCPA Gala and comprehensive gifts campaign

In the meantime, the campus is working to develop relationships with those who are engaged supporters of the University’s mission. We saw an outstanding example of what these partnerships can do at the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) Fundraising Gala, held at the University Downtown Center Sept. 14. Approximately 175 people were on hand to learn about the school’s programs and plans and to provide financial support to meet the school’s goals. A paddle auction raised more than $46,000 to support:

o CCPA-community partnerships – including internships – that directly benefit our community.
o Faculty research, scholarship and program development so faculty can implement cutting-edge teaching approaches and work to address society’s most pressing challenges.
o Scholarships for students, to help reduce student debt-load for graduates in fields that don’t typically command high salaries.
o The Dean’s Excellence Fund that provides flexible funds to address the school’s greatest needs.

In addition to school-directed fundraising, the University is also making progress on another major initiative – our third comprehensive gifts campaign, with a working goal of $150 million. We are currently in the second year of the campaign’s silent phase (Shhh!), and have raised over $32 million so far. We expect consistent fundraising growth during the course of the campaign, with donations reaching $15-20 million per year, compared to around $7 million in 2012. These funds will be crucial in helping the University reach its educational, research and outreach goals and will provide much needed flexibility as we confront a more challenging fiscal future.

Nonetheless, Binghamton will continue to look for opportunities that will enable us to continue to grow and to improve our standing as the premier public. One thing about academic rhythms, whether we are talking year-to-year or decade-to-decade, is that even though you may not know precisely what’s ahead, you can still anticipate and plan for the future.


President Stenger's signature

Harvey G. Stenger