People’s Press Interview Gets BCC Wrong

 By Dorm Sleeper

             After reading this article, I would like to reply to the ignorance within it. I am a student at SUNY Broome who is living in the dorms. The first problem I would like to address is the statement saying “The kids in the dorms are really tearing those things apart, but I guess that’s why they charge so much for those cardboard cells!” I would first like to ask if you have even been inside of the dorms because they are not in any way screwed up due to us residing in them. They were put together in a hurry and many things are falling apart from everyday use. This problem has been brought up to the directors by the residents and has been addressed. As for them being cardboard cells, yes the walls are thin but they are far from an analogy to prison cells. The second problem I have with your statement is “I don’t think many students will pass their classes and then next year they can bring in a whole new group to put in debt.” I personally have a GPA of 3.9 and have been accepted to transfer to Binghamton University, Cornell University, and Temple University, so I ask how was I set up to fail at all? Yes, there are students who are here for the wrong reasons, which is true for many schools, but those students are not preventing the students who are here to learning. My next problem I would like to address is the statement “What’s going on now with the new dorms is they brought in all these poor people, the school did, with federal aid and lots of loans from downstate.” As a resident I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of the students here, and this is far from true. Many of the students from the city are from middle class to upper middle class. About half of the students who live here are from the city, while the other half are from upstate. I have only met a handful of students who are “poor” and most of them are from around here or upstate. Over all I would like to end this rebuttal with a simple statement saying, please next time you write a negative article, or any article again I would like to ask you to please do yourself a favor and do your research. Thank you.

Response to Dorm Sleeper

I want to thank the writer for commenting on the People’s Press online version. It merits a response. First, this interview was done at the beginning of October, not long after the school year started. This, of course, was still during a transition time, when everyone is adjusting. Second, these are the impressions of a single person, a resident of the area and a SUNY Broome student. We are a small community paper with no paid staff. These are her observations, not the position of the newspaper. Sometimes we do research backed up by empirical fact, more often than not, we publish interviews, cover actions, and provide a different perspective on current events to foster community conversations. None of the editorial staff has much contact with the SUNY Broome dorm universe. This, of course, is a problem. If you live in the dorms and/or attend SUNY Broome, please write to the People’s Press about the good and the troubling happenings on campus. Thanks for participating!

To continue the conversation, I want to discuss why we published the interview, and why I considered (and still do) Mrs. X’s account plausible.   First, Mrs. X was attempting to point out the several negative changes she experienced due to the large influx of students, including a strain on campus facilities. The dorms, for her, encapsulated the lack of preparedness by SUNY Broome, the predatory nature of student loans (a well-researched subject), and the poor quality of the dorms. The dorms were one illustrative example she provided. Others include the lack of proper transportation and larger class sizes. She reported meeting several students residing in the dorms and her ideas arose out of those conversations. Clearly, the extent to which this is happening at SUNY Broome is debatable. I cannot stress this fact enough: her criticism was not directed at low-income students from downstate or upstate, but was addressed to SUNY Broome. I believe (Mrs. X would agree, I think) that more low-income students should be on all college campuses.   More often than not, low-income students are used as a means toward more federal dollars, rather than expressive of an institution’s commitment to social justice.

I was interested in Mrs. X experiences with the dorms due to their financial history. An organization called the Broome County Local Development Corporation, which has the same board as the BC Industrial Development Agency, secured bonds for the dorm’s construction. This board has been very active in helping finance and procure tax breaks for private student housing developers in downtown Binghamton, shoveling out massive tax breaks to developers and sweetheart deals to large banking institutions. Elsewhere we have documented the incredibly high rents charged by places like Twin River Commons, so we were very interested about the dorms at SUNY Broome. Additionally, there was a community concern that dorms at SUNY Broome would create less space for local lower income persons to attend, the punitive reason for SUNY Broome’s existence. This is not to say that students and people from outside the area should not be welcomed wholeheartedly, indeed the Binghamton-Downstate connection is fruitful and dynamic. But experience with Binghamton University demonstrates that local students are frozen out to accommodate better off downstate students.

Furthermore, SUNY Broome built the dorms to suck more money out of students. Housing is cheap in Binghamton, except for student housing. There is a legitimate concern that dorms add unnecessarily to the high debt burden of New York students, on average over $25,000 at last check. Lower-income students are particularly vulnerable, as they have higher dropout rates, making college debt more onerous and life sucking. I am glad to hear that this may not be the case at SUNY Broome, but I know from personal experience that this is a common tactic used by schools across the nation, including at BU. It seemed (and still seems) utterly plausible that SUNY Broome would follow BU’s lead when it comes to indebtedness, dorms, and lower-income students.

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