I was accepted into the Scholars Program in February, after about a month of thinking I didn’t make it into the program. When I got that letter from President Stenger, saying I was the one they wanted, I finally felt that all my hard work had paid off. I was ecstatic to join the program, which affirmed my decision to come to this University. I arrived on campus, knowing no one, but already feeling a part of a community. As a Binghamton Scholar, we are all in the same boat; taking extra classes, and feeling the pressure not only from ourselves but from the University to succeed in everything we do. In my letter from President Stenger, it said that I was a student of exceptional merit, who would be surrounded by like-minded individuals. He was not wrong. However, it was during my Scholars induction ceremony that I found out what it really meant to President Stenger, to be a Binghamton Scholar.
We all arrived at least 15 minutes early for the induction, held in the University Union. Our professional mentors arrived with us, or even before us, working hard to make sure the event was on par with what they expected from us. Professor Ortiz took the stage exactly at 9:30 am and began the ceremony with encouraging and thoughtful opening remarks. However, he said something towards the end that made us all look at each other and wonder what our worth really was to this University: “We are still waiting on President Stenger to arrive.” At this point, we had been waiting for President Stenger for about twenty minutes. However, when Professor Ortiz couldn’t possibly hold out on opening the buffet for us any longer, he began to start calling each table to grab a plate, despite his efforts stalling for Stenger. Still, we had no word from the President.
To say we were offended would be an understatement. There was no warning, no explanation, not even an excuse, to explain the President’s absence at our event, yet we were supposed to be his most favorite students. At least, that was his promise to us.
Finally, after about 40 minutes of waiting, President Stenger took the stage as some of us were finishing grabbing our food at the buffet table, and began his speech. First, he congratulated us for being the top-notch, most valuable students at this University. Being best friends with someone who was not invited to join this program, I was offended. I am not so full of myself, that I believe I am superior to other students in any way. There was no reason for him to put down other students, in order to gain our favor, because he had already lost it.
He began to speak about excellence, what made us excellent, what made the University excellent, what made him excellent. He said, “We do what makes us excellent, that’s why we don’t have a football team.” To elaborate, Stenger was trying to make a point that we should only invest in things we know will work out. While this is a valid argument if done right, Stenger implied that as college students, we should not step out of our comfort zones to try something new. We should not put extra effort into things we are not good at. Simply, we should not try. But if we do, and we fail, we should simply give up.
Stenger moved on from his speech about excellence and began discussing what it means to be a Binghamton University student. Stenger wanted us to tell everyone we knew about this school, as though we are free advertisements he can do with as he pleases. Furthermore, Stenger made it clear that he wanted even more of our money, as if the $30,000 isn’t enough for the “public ivy” we all attend. “When you are alumni, we will ask for your help to make Binghamton even better. We expect that you will give us this help,” Stenger told us. We all know that he is referring to the alumni association that mails letters out to each alumni asking for money on an annual basis. In fact, my mother receives these letters year after year.
Classes hadn’t even started, and President Stenger had let us down. He arrives late to our ceremony, expresses that he doesn’t believe in his students, and begs us for more of our money. To say that his prospects for the University are skewed would be an understatement. This is the level of unprofessionalism at the top of the hierarchy here at Binghamton, and I implore all scholars here, whether you are in my program or not, to think critically about who controls your education and what they really want from you.
Thumbnail Credit: David Supervid, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons