UB 2020 brings dissatisfaction among some SA members
UB Provost Charles Zukoski, left, gave a presentation on Realizing UB 2020 to students, mainly SA senators and e-board members, on Tuesday night. Some SA members, like Travis Nemmer, right, are unhappy with UB's drafted plans. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
Student Association President Travis Nemmer doesn't see much of a plan in UB 2020.
On Tuesday night, Provost Charles Zukoski held an open forum for students, mainly SA senators and e-board members. The session allowed students to share their input on the future plans of UB 2020 - UB's $5 billion renovation plan.
The plan is partially funded by annual tuition hikes that started this year and will equate to $100 million over a total of five years.
The provost asked for student opinions to help shape what he called "Realizing UB 2020" - a written plan on how to achieve the goals of UB 2020.
"The document has 'draft' stamped on it because it is now open for discussion," Zukoski said. "We are looking for feedback. We are looking for questions. Is it good, complete or incomplete?"
Nemmer had a response.
"I don't know," Nemmer said. "There is nothing for me to influence because there is no plan."
The document sets out four goals: make UB a national leader in education, research and innovation; make students effective leaders for tomorrow; strengthen UB's engagement in the local community and become a top-tier Association of American Universities public research university.
But the document is just "fluff," according to David Murphy-Longhini, a junior business finance, human relations and management information systems major and SA webmaster.
"What if you I told you 'I am going to make you the most attractive man on the planet, the most wealthy, with girls all over you?"' Murphy-Longhini asked. "What do you think about that? Of course you are going to say all that is cool. They didn't seem to have a plan, an objective or a focus."
When asked to respond to the negativity his presentation received, Zukoski said in an email, "I encourage students to read the narrative and ask questions if it is not clear to them."
Zukoski added, "Realizing UB 2020 is meant to be ambitious. The challenges facing higher education are large and complex and can't be addressed with simple solutions."
Murphy-Longhini, like Nemmer, said the document and presentation seemed disconnected - a disconnect mirrored in the relationship between the administration and its students, he added.
Dan Ovadia, a senior in the School of Management and the student representative for the University Council, felt the provost did a good job of articulating the overall direction of Realizing UB 2020.
Ovadia also stressed student engagement is important and "the plan doesn't end with the information sessions."
Zukoski encouraged students to send any additional feedback they might have to his office via email. Murphy-Longhini plans to take advantage of this request, as he has written a document over four pages.
Throughout the presentation, Zukoski emphasized the importance of internships for every student, some sort of international experience and establishing the "Heart of the Campus" - a complete renovation of Capen Hall and the surrounding buildings, which he hopes will help centralize the campus.
Nemmer feels renovations, for the most part, are unnecessary and the provost should focus on projects and programs that will have a more direct effect on students.
"We all want to make UB a better school than it is - a more distinguished university than it already is," Nemmer said. "Yes, I would like to see things more centralized and I'd like to see Capen look a bit nicer, but I don't need a super glass building that looks like a mall when we could just settle for working outlets."
Zukoski pointed out the themes of Realizing UB 2020 were health, the environment, creativity and justice. The university plans to create more "tangible" solutions with those four themes in mind.
Murphy-Longhini feels the problem is the provost doesn't have substantial goals. He believes the administration is looking at UB 2020 too broadly and they should narrow its focus.
"When you focus on everything, nothing gets done," Murphy-Longhini said.
Ovadia, who has attended other Realizing UB 2020 presentations, said the purpose of the open forum was to figure out the overview of the entire plan. He said the specifics will be set in the future.
"Again, at this point, we are talking about a broader direction for the university to use to establish distinctiveness; it is hard to see how it may impact individual departments and programs at the university," Ovadia said in an email. "Ultimately, continued success and development at UB depends on students, faculty, staff and the local community working together."
Murphy-Longhini doesn't think anything substantial will be done by 2020. He joked that "at this rate, it'll be 2020 before they decide what they are going to do."
"They aren't getting anything done," he added. "They are not moving forward. They are too scared to commit and begin."
President Satish Tripathi disagrees and is confident UB 2020 will meet its deadline.
"I don't think our agenda is too ambitious," Tripathi said. "It's realistic. There are a lot of things we need to do to get there, though."
The biggest problem with the presentation was the provost did not embrace what UB is doing well, according to Murphy-Longhini.
During the open forum, Zukoski said the freshman engineering enrollment increased by 50 percent this year. He said this can't happen again because UB won't be able to cater to that many students in the department.
Murphy-Longhini was "appalled" by the statement. He said the university shouldn't try to deter engineering enrollment and instead should welcome it. Flexibility and adaptability are important for UB's success in the coming years, he said.
"We absolutely want and will continue to seek student input into this process," Zukoski said in an email. "The student voice is an important voice in this process."
When Nemmer came to UB, he didn't know much about UB 2020. He said he's about to graduate not knowing much more about the plan.
"I realized that's OK, because the administration doesn't know much about UB 2020 either," he said.
In March, the next four strategies will be released for discussion. The finalized document will be released on May 15, according to statements Zukoski made in December.
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