By Logan Blakeslee
Binghamton University Parking Services sits somewhere at the intersection of greed and incompetence. Besides Sodexo, there is no presence on campus that is more universally reviled than Parking Services, and for good reason. Its policies have become more draconian over time and are deliberately designed to extract as much money from students as possible. I decided that enough was enough after hearing several dozen stories about unfair ticketing or the absurd inconsistencies that B.U. parking has compared to other SUNY schools. Something has to be done to protect members of this community from constant patrolling and price-gouging.
As the title of this article suggests, I made the decision to run for Student Association President because I am tired of paying more every semester for worse services. Nearly everyone I have spoken with on the campaign trail is tired of this experience as well. For the premier Public Ivy, one would expect students to be treated like human beings instead of wallets with legs, but here we are. To some, it may seem strange that I would want to take charge of yet another widely disliked organization that, historically, does not serve students very well. However, it is in the Student Association that I see untapped potential for activism in the coming academic year.
I should begin with an admission that the upcoming S.A. election on March 12 is, for me, a deeply personal endeavor. Those who have been around long enough may remember that I previously ran for president during the 2021-2022 election. The victor of that heated race, David Hatami, genuinely believed that the S.A. had a positive relationship with the university administration. That kind of idealism was far removed from the realities of daily life for thousands of students, on and off campus, and it translated into complacent policy. There was no resistance to increased parking fines or the $10 Appeals Fee from the S.A. E-Board during that time—no real representation for our basic needs. I felt obligated to run once again to show how dissatisfied people truly are with the way B.U. is managed.
I am running for president because I have no other choice.
The issues affecting Binghamton University are numerous, but over the course of this academic year, I was able to learn about real remedies that can make our lives just a little bit easier. The proposal for a “meal swipes” system in our dining halls struck me as a simple but ingenious fix to the unaffordable, non-nutritional mess that current meal plans are. I myself know what it is like to go without eating for long periods of time due to high costs, and it is severely damaging to academic performance and general health. I would gladly support alternatives that prevent me and others from eating just one or two small meals a day. It certainly works at other colleges, like Cornell, Stony Brook, or Cobleskill.
On the subject of campus dining options, I intend on addressing the highly problematic discovery of pork and ham in foods that were labeled halal, kosher, or vegan/vegetarian in multiple dining halls (particularly in C.I.W., Hinman, and Appalachian). Several students reported to me that cooking instruments were reused between preparing halal and kosher meals and foods that violated these cultural dietary restrictions, all without being washed. This can ultimately lead to cross-contamination, and that is unacceptable. To effectively combat Sodexo’s negligence towards hundreds of daily customers, I call upon the Student Congress to create a permanent S.A. Dining Committee, which will report on harmful Sodexo practices, instances of food poisoning, and violations of dietary restrictions. As president, I will build it up from the ground myself because we are seeing the awful effects of a monopoly firsthand.
While I served in S.A. Congress on behalf of OC3, I became aware that the S.A. had the power to set mandatory Student Activity Fees for all undergraduates. The funds raised by this fee are what keeps the Student Association running, and serves as the primary method for allocating club budgets every year. However, it also serves the purpose of funding tuition reimbursement for the S.A. E-Board. According to nonprofitlight.com, former S.A. Executive Vice President Erin Bishop made $6,250 from her position of power. Similarly, former S.A. President Emma Ross made $5,250. Upon learning this fact, it became much clearer as to why the E-Board heavily pressures Student Congress to not only keep the fee mandatory, but to increase it. This is done biennially with near-unanimous support from Student Congress. I alone opposed it.
At a time when inflation impacts the cost of living for all students, I find it unconscionable to raise the Student Activity Fee higher than it already is. If elected as S.A. President, I would veto any increases to the fee, and I would gladly fight to lower it if possible. This could be achieved by balancing the budget, and thereby preventing hundreds of thousands of dollars from going unspent every year. Eliminating waste is crucial to serving the needs of students, as well as lessening the financial burden of the incoming 3% SUNY tuition hike. For Binghamton, that burden will likely be a nasty 5-6% for all undergraduate students, given our status as a research school.
My agenda is a realistic one, but it is also proactive and rooted in my long history of activism. For example, I raised hundreds of dollars in supplies for homeless college students during my tenure as Vice President of Student Affairs at SUNY Broome. Very few people know that roughly 14% of American college students are homeless, and I want to make that common knowledge once elected. Students who struggle to get by every day for their essential needs must be assured that someone has their back, that someone is willing to listen and fight for them. Likewise, I served in the New York Department of Education’s Youth Advocacy Panel to speak on behalf of students with disabilities, and as a person born with autism, it is a topic that I care deeply about. These struggles have raged on silently for too long.
You may be wondering why my stated intent is to abolish Parking Services, an ambitious goal by any standards. My core belief is that institutions on this campus which do not faithfully serve the student body should not exist. My preference is for reform, but the opportunity for reform is fading fast. Parking Services themselves put a boot on the wheels of progress, and I say it’s time we break them off (metaphorically) with radical messaging. My campaign slogan is fashioned very deliberately to express the view that Binghamton University’s policies should resemble those of other colleges. SUNY Albany manages to have free visitor parking on weekends and expansive visitor lots, not to mention bus stop heaters. SUNY Farmingdale has accessible electric vehicle charging stations. SUNY Buffalo is far less aggressive in patrolling parking lots. What SUNY Binghamton does isn’t the norm, it’s the exception.
Branching off into secondary goals that I had when I previously ran for S.A. President, I would like to host a university-wide yard sale at the end of the Spring semester. Basically, it would involve allowing any interested student to reserve a table somewhere on campus to sell off unused items, like notebooks, trading cards, art posters, or similar things. They would be permitted to keep any profits they make, or to engage in bartering as they see fit. I think it would be a neat way to bring people together while ensuring items aren’t wasted.
I am also proud to say that I have a great working relationship with various Broome County elected officials, such as Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham, Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar, and U.S. Congressman Marc Molinaro. These connections are important to me because they offer an opportunity to bring student issues to the local and federal level. With Kraham and Akshar, I will insist on providing greater protections for students from interpersonal violence. It will also be important to adjust to the increasing availability of marijuana in Broome County. With Rep. Molinaro, I want to advocate for policies that promote college affordability first and foremost. The impact of a Blakeslee presidency will reach far beyond this campus.
Real change is coming soon. The Student Association election will be on March 12, so be sure to check B-Engaged on that date. If you want to see the university administration held accountable for its actions, I urge you to vote for Logan Blakeslee as your next S.A. President.