By Sean Glendon
After establishing himself as a results-oriented leader with the ability to create positive change during his tenure at Binghamton University, Harvey Stenger decided to set his sights on a stage where he could create an even larger difference: the United States Congress.
While the value of his Cornell degree may have decreased with the annulment of the school’s Ivy League status, the honorary degree that he was granted by Binghamton University after he announced his resignation definitely has some value behind it. Under Stenger, Binghamton University was transformed from a Public Ivy and the “Premier Public University of the Northeast” to a legitimate member of the Ivy League. Now mentioned in the same breath as Yale and Harvard unironically, Binghamton has drastically improved in national rankings in a variety of categories. Education rankings, value rankings, freedom rankings and quality of student life rankings soared while diversity rankings remained relatively stagnant. The creation of a football team also played a large role in the improvement of the perception of Binghamton; Tony Kornheiser nearly had an emotional breakdown of joy on Pardon the Interruption upon hearing that his alma mater would finally have a football team.
A tipping point in the term of President Stenger occurred in April of 2015, when troll-ridden now disbanded group Students for Change declared war on the University administration. Members of the group camped outside of the 8th floor of the Couper Administration Building for a 10 day period. While Stenger mostly ignored the group, and was frequently inconvenienced on his walk to the elevator, he did have food catered to the group out of his pocket for the first days. This resulted in the 8th floor of Couper becoming overpowered with apathetic and uninterested students, because whereever there’s Nirchi’s, a pack of college students will follow. As a result, Students for Change not only began to turn down the catered food, but also led to a hunger strike. While many students caved quickly, one student was admitted into UHS after lasting the entirety of the protest period. Not only did Mr. Stenger avoid caving to their demands, he would go out into the battleground and eat large and exquisite meals in front of the fasting students. It is important to note that the grades of the Students for Change suffered drastically, as they skipped classes and exams in order to protest. A lawsuit filed by them to address this issue was quickly thrown out in court.
After gaining a local reputation as a leader who played hardball and stood his ground, the now historic CNN interview occurred. In a heated debate with CNN anchor Don Lemon, Harvey Stenger was accused of being racist on national television. Throughout the interview, he maintained his composure, and managed to avoid angrily leaving prematurely. Don Lemon was suspended by the network for a month, and Harvey Stenger was featured in a viral video of Lemon’s outburst. Upon his return to campus, the divide was larger than it had been at any point during his stint at Binghamton. After the unfortunate clash between supporters and opponents that left three students injured, Stenger decided that the University was no longer the place for him.
In a strongly worded farewell speech, Stenger announced his resignation along with his Congressional campaign, saying “ I have been exposed to a plague stronger than I knew could exist. While I would love to stay and fight against it, I need to share my experiences with others so this plague doesn’t spread further. That is why I have decided to run for the 22nd district of the United States House of Representatives.” After having established his credibility through his success at Binghamton and having made national news for his feud with Students for Change, Harvey Stenger narrowly defeated incumbent Richard Hanna and earned himself a spot representing former students of his as well as many others.
Harvey Stenger’s Presidential replacement was alumnus John Chun Liu, former New York City comptroller and mayoral candidate. President Liu took an approach of ignoring Students for Change, and when they stopped receiving attention they got angry but eventually went away. In his first few months as President, Liu has done a fantastic job of following the Roadmap created by Harvey Stenger, while also implementing policy of his own. It will be hard to follow in the footsteps of Stenger, who fundamentally transformed our University, but if anybody can do it, Liu can.