President Tripathi sits down with The Spectrum
Tripathi discusses sanctuary campuses, Dennis Black replacement
President Satish Tripathi wants all students to know how visible he is on campus. He attends basketball games, has dinner with students and said he is attentive to their needs.
“I’m not just someone on the fifth floor of Capen that students can’t come and talk to,” Tripathi said.
Tripathi sat with Spectrum Editor in Chief Gabriela Julia Wednesday afternoon in his presidential office. He was cheerful and smiled when talking about the success of the university. He takes pride in UB’s place as one of the top public universities in the nation and said UB2020 and the new General Education requirements are “something to be proud of.” He also acknowledged there needs to be improvements, such as renovating more facilities and hiring more minority faculty.
“These are not weaknesses, but these are things that we can continuously improve,” Tripathi said.
Tripathi was adamant about the campus being a place for “meaningful and safe dialogue.” He urges students to talk to him if they are fearful -- particularly students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
President Barack Obama created the DACA program to give relief to undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children.
English Professor David Alff and other faculty wrote a petition for UB to become a sanctuary campus and protect undocumented students. Tripathi issued two statements in regard to the petition, but said he cannot make the university a sanctuary campus himself; the SUNY Board of Trustees has to.
Tripathi said the university does not keep record of students’ immigration status and university police will not ask students for this information.
“Students cannot be arrested if they don’t commit a crime,” he said. “We don’t provide information to any agency unless required by law.”
There were other topics Tripathi was not so open about.
He did not comment on former vice president Dennis Black’s sudden departure from the university in July. In mid-October, The Buffalo News revealed Black is the center of an investigation that is looking into hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable expenditures.
Tripathi said Laura Hubbard, vice president for Finance and Administration, has taken over Black’s duties and has “done a good job taking on a double-duty job.”
He said the university is looking for one individual to take Black’s place. He doesn’t know who it will be or when they will take over, but said there will be a replacement “soon.”
Tripathi also had little to say in regards to UB’s place on the federal watchlist for allegedly mishandling a sexual assault case in May 2016. UB is one of 202 colleges under review across the nation.
When asked why the university never sent out a UB alert or notified the community of the assault, UB Spokesperson John Della Contrada said university police didn’t see this assault as an immediate threat.
“In some cases the assault is reported days later or there’s an acquaintance, so police don’t see it as an immediate threat,” Della Contrada said.
Della Contrada and Tripathi said they could not comment “on the particulars of the crime.”
Tripathi also took a moment to clarify that he does not have all the power some may think he has.
In response to Professor and Faculty Senate Chair Philip Glick’s proposal for shared governance in the UB Foundation – a private foundation that handles $1 billion in donations – Tripathi said the Foundation “does everything it’s required to do” and he “doesn’t see a problem.”
“The board makes a decision as a board and the Foundation has determined they are transparent enough,” Tripathi said. “It’s not my decision, it’s the board’s decision.”
Tripathi said the UB Foundation is a separate entity and focused the discussion on what’s to come for the university.
He said the downtown medical school is still under renovation and will open next fall for the start of classes.
“It’s the best thing for medical students because they will get educated next to the hospitals and can go back and forth and provide the best treatment to the patients,” he said.
When asked about renovating houses in the University Heights near UB’s South Campus, he said his administration has never thought about putting money directly into improving these houses.
“We don’t have money to do that. If we have money we invest in students and faculty, but real estate we don’t do,” Tripathi said.
He said the university has invested money in housing inspections for students’ homes. He mentioned the university has also invested in a program where a staff member’s loans will be forgiven if they live in the Heights for five years. He said 28 faculty have bought houses in the area.
“It’s a great way to get faculty and staff to live there,” he said. “It changes the composition, it changes the living environment and housing itself. I think it’s working.”
Tripathi repeated that all three UB campuses are under renovation as a part of UB2020, along with new study abroad programs and the hiring of a couple hundred faculty members.
Tripathi acknowledged that the number of minority faculty at UB is still low.
Three to 4 percent of tenure-track faculty at UB are black and those numbers have been the same at UB for years and are similar nationwide.
Tripathi said this low percentage is “not a good situation” and his administration, along with UB Equity and Inclusion, are working to hire more black faculty, but it is dependent on the pool that is available.
“If you look at how many PhDs are coming out that are African American in a particular field, the numbers are much smaller and we have to go back and think how many are actually going through college and finishing high school,” Tripathi said.
In regards to gender diversity, Tripathi said having five deans who are women is “good” and it’s “progress.”
Tripathi recognized there is progress to be made in other areas of the university. He said the decreasing enrollment in the arts and humanities is a national phenomenon and his solution to increase enrollment is to educate students on all of the majors and minors the university has to offer. He said the new General Education requirements “puts the arts in the center.”
“It’s important for us to educate students on all of the options, we don’t need to force anyone to major in something they don’t want to and a lot of them make a decision before knowing what else is available.”
Tripathi also said he is committed to UB as a Division 1 school.
He said UB football’s 2-10 record this season will not determine whether or not UB should be D-1 and said UB student athletes graduate with higher GPAs than the average non-student athlete population.
“You win some and you lose some,” Tripathi said. “You don’t look at what happened this year compared to last year… It’s not about wins and losses.”
Gabriela Julia is the editor in chief and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org