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UB 2020 takes advantage of the students who need reform the most

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 21:01


When is UB going to realize that UB 2020 is an insult to its students?

The newest chapter to the university’s grand expansion plan is “Realizing UB 2020: A Window of Opportunity,” an exercise that, according to Provost Charles Zukoski, is “expected to transform UB.” The first draft, which was released for campus review on Dec. 19 and will be completed in May, allegedly “articulates UB’s mission and vision, provides planning context, focuses on institutional goals and values, and outlines three of several strategies that will form the basis for the university’s direction over the next several years.” Good, right?

Except the draft contains little beyond cliché definitions of what makes UB and the students who dwell in its halls so great.

So what’s the actual plan? We don’t know because it doesn’t exist. And we don’t know when we are going to know. Here’s the problem: UB is trying so hard to be this grand, global research university and wait for UB 2020 to transform the city, but it keeps forgetting that, meanwhile, it is supposed to be a comprehensive university that benefits all students and, most importantly, the students who are currently enrolled.

Objectively speaking, UB 2020 is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to expand the school and bring in revenue and job growth – in fact, it’s what the school should eventually be doing. But in its ideological sense, the repercussions for UB’s students are terrible, and it’s clear the university is taking advantage of them and the fact everyone feels they need to have a college degree to move forward.

A short history for the students who still aren’t really sure what the program is (we’re guessing a large majority):

UB 2020 is the creation of former UB President John B. Simpson, who sought after a plan to expand UB and make it a leader in education not only nationally but also globally. Following his first attempt and subsequent revision, Governor Andrew Cuomo and SUNY passed the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program in June 2011, a plan designed to make SUNY a catalyst for job and education growth throughout the state, particularly the SUNY University Centers in Albany, Binghamton, Stony Brook and, of course, Buffalo.

Idealistically, the program is a good idea and has done a few great things, including leading to the construction of Greiner Hall, Davis Hall and schools on South Campus. It also includes the “Heart of the Campus” plan, which will design classrooms, study spaces, computer labs, library facilities, dining services and dorms to provide a “learning landscape” everywhere on campus.

But UB 2020, which is expected to cost the university about $5 billion total and $375 million for Phase One (construction of the downtown medical school building) alone, requires a tuition hike – $300 extra each year (8 percent) for five years, with one year of hikes already completed – and tax revenue from NYS taxpayers to be added to the mix.

“Realizing UB 2020” is basically Zukoski’s call to action from President Satish Tripathi in an attempt to sort out some questions. It is nothing more than a plan of a plan, a list of what UB wants to achieve with the expansion years down the road.

UB 2020 is entirely overzealous. It wants to make UB students distinctive and give their degrees more meaning and turn the school into a world-class institution, but instead of building up what we already have slowly and carefully, the plan is to just take giant steps in an attempt to make up ground. It is impossible for UB to go head-to-head on reputation after a decade of reconstruction when the top-name universities our leaders so desperately want it to be like have had centuries to build their names.

The university is already ranked as a Research University with Very High Research Activity (RU/VH), according to the Carnegie Classification of the Institutions of Higher Education, but it doesn’t publicize that. The most important part of the draft (and perhaps the only tangible evidence of any impact) is part of the “academic strategy.”

Every program will be required to designate themes as the organizing framework meant to strengthen and better the students. But that’s it. Is there a reason the school doesn’t work with what it has and improve non-research oriented programs, such as the College of Arts and Sciences? Is there a reason it can be nearly impossible to register for the classes you need to graduate because they have been cut, while programs that aren’tmedicine- or engineering-related are losing out?

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Wed Jan 23 2013 13:16
Look, I'm a humanities student, so I am definitely feeling the cuts as well. And I know it seems unfair that the money is mainly going to building up the medical campus and the science departments, but there is a logic behind it. The global economy is more and more based in knowledge of math and science. It's a bummer, but it's true. America is trying to push that agenda with upper level education (as well as high school and below I'm sure) so we don't fall behind. Think of all the grants for production, particularly in fields like green energy, medical technology, and pharmaceuticals. If UB can get a head start and become an innovator in places like this, the money coming into the campus and the whole buffalo area will eventually be beneficial. Does it suck we just happen to be the students who got started with the tuition increases? Yeah. Does it suck we're in a major that's not marketable? Yeah. But putting money into places where there is demand is a smart move. Putting money into silk screen printing, musical theatre, or poetry is extremely noble. But putting money into green energy and medical technology, where people are looking for jobs, work, and products? That will bring people to the campus, to the area, and subsequently bring back money. More money will this place a better college overall. The lack of funding in humanities isn't just that UB is appropriating more money towards science than humanities. We're in a horrible economy: there isn't money for anyone, anywhere. Universities everywhere are shutting down arts, languages, English, etc. Maybe UB2020 is unfairly benefitting some students more than others because the money will go towards their programs directly. Well, that's what happens when some students choose to enroll in programs that are marketable in the age of science and technology. But eventually, the benefits to our campus and the area will be well worth it.

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