Tag Archives: UB

UB 2020 TroubleTrouble

29 Mar

Generally, autonomy is good.  It makes sense to enable the people on the ground – the people closest to the delivery of services – to make decisions concerning how those services are delivered, and for how much.

So it is with UB, which has established a comprehensive plan that will not only help the university grow and thrive, but hopefully help nudge the region-at-large towards a 21st century economy.

As the News reports today, the entire vision of UB 2020 is in jeopardy due not only to the state budget crisis, but also to a bill now languishing in the state legislature that would enable UB to set its own tuition rates, within a certain framework, and taking that power away from the legislature itself.

A key piece of the SUNY legislation would allow schools to set their own tuition rates and to keep any additional tuition revenue on their campuses.

The extra money would help pay for UB 2020, a plan that would add 10,000 students, directly create 6,700 jobs and double the school’s economic impact to $3.6 billion, officials contend.

The plan also would create 20,000 construction jobs and see significant expansion of UB’s physical plant, including a move of its Medical School to the university’s downtown campus.

UB had pushed a package of reforms in Albany that would give the school more flexibility to grow on its own without having to rely on additional aid from the state.

The measure was pushed by lawmakers from Western New York. But critics feared that the proposed tuition flexibility could make UB too expensive for lower-income students and they said it could give UB officials too much power with too little regulatory oversight.

The legislation passed the State Senate but it never reached the floor of the Assembly. This year, Gov. David A. Paterson embraced the legislation and proposed expanding it to cover all SUNY campuses.

This being New York, this move is predictably opposed by several unions and interest groups who thrive under or rely on the status quo.  UB gets about $181 million of its $350 million annual operating budget from the state.  Contact your Assemblymember and urge them to support more local control – and more local control over funding –  for UB so that we can help spur some movement in our economy away from the mid-50s.

Wrong Again

14 Jun

Donn Esmonde, master of hyperbole, got his facts wrong last Friday in his column about violence near The University at Buffalo’s South Campus. Worse, his ideas are wrong too.

The fact in question is small but revealing to his wider point. Esmonde is talking about the tragic shooting death of Javon Jackson on the night he graduated UB.

Jackson’s tragedy should prompt UB officials to stop dipping their toe into the neighborhood and dive in. A similar tragedy prompted Milwaukee’s Marquette University to get off the dime a decade ago.

Here my ears perked up. I graduated from Marquette University a decade ago, Class of 1999. I remember no shootings on the night of graduation, or at any other time, in my class, or against any other fellow student. Neither do any of my fellow Marquette Alums in a quick, non-scientific poll I conducted. A Google search turns up nothing either. Yes, as a college fo 10,000 students, there are any number of regretable rapes, assaults, and other crimes. There was a kid who OD’d on Tylenol. But murder is something different. I have no idea what crime Esmonde is talking about.

But let me give Esmonde the benefit of the doubt for a moment. My memory is not what it used to be. The specifics of the crime are not germane to Esmonde’s larger point, which is that UB should get in the neighborhood redevelopment game, to reduce crime in areas adjacent to the South Campus.

So let’s now talk about the “dime” Marquette got off. Because Marquette did get into the neighborhood redevelopment game, but it was 20 years ago, not a decade. And the motivating factor was not random crime, but Jeffrey Dahmer.

marquette

Marquette University sits astride Wisconsin Avenue, just outside downtown Milwaukee. In Buffalo, think the Medical Campus on Main for a rough equivalent. But its an island – Interstates restrict the south and east sides (Buffalo is not the only city where highways get in the way), and to the North and West are higher crime, predominantly African-American neighborhoods, a la the East Side of Buffalo. For decades, there was not much interaction between the college and the neighborhood. Then, in 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer grabbed teenage boys off the street and ate them in his apartment, six blocks from my old stomping grounds.

Marquette certainly did get off that dime, and in a big way. They bought Dahmer’s old apartment building at 924 North 25th Street and knocked it down. They started buying homes adjacement to the college, kicked out the occupants, and knocked them down. In their place, they erected Campus Town in 1994.

campus-town

Marquette continued to “embrace” the neighborhood by demolishing older homes, and encouraging the development of student housing. Its the equivalent of UB or the Medical Campus buying and knocking down the entire Fruit Belt. Marquette now patrols (with their Public Safety squad cars), and has a modicum of control, of an additional sixteen square blocks north and west of the college.

Is this the investing and stablization Esmonde has in mind? Somehow, I think not. IMHO, Marquette should be commended for the investment it made in the surrounding neighborhood, the businesses it started, and the student population it brought to downtown Milwaukee. But can you imagine the fight if UB wanted to buy up “historic” homes in University Heights for the purpose of knocking them down and creating student housing? Does Esmonde even know what he is suggesting, with the Marquette example of “getting off the dime.” What exactly does Esmonde want UB to do?

The answer comes from Kevin Helfer, an ex-member of the Buffalo Common Council, who thinks its part of UB’s “core mission” to buy old homes and restore them. I’m sorry, but teaching and research are UB’s core mission. Don’t project all of your altruistic hopes and dreams on UB just because they are one of the few entities in Buffalo capable of raising large sums of money.    

Esmonde rails against his regular bogey-man, “absentee landlords,” as if home ownership is the solution to this problem as well. This is where students live – do you want the students, or their parents, to buy the houses? Isn’t college expensive enough already, without the requirement to buy a house to fulfill Buffalo’s seemingly collective need to have everyone own the home they live in. If not the students, then who will own them, besides absentee landlords. In fact, absentee landlords, in the manifestation of responsible developers and investors, are part of the solution to this problem.

Dennis Black, UB’s VP for Student Affairs, is the only one speaking common sense. He says:

the focus is on adding to the mature mix of grad students and faculty in University Heights.

“I don’t know of much conversation going on [at UB] about us getting back into the buy-rehab-sell business,” Black said. “There is not much talk of us as a developer.”

Good. Faculty incentives to buy in the neighborhood, panned by Esmonde, is one step to help University Heights. So is investment by evil outside developers, with capital, to reinvest in homes, and rent them to students.

But the final most important step has been mentioned by no one thus far. Do you know who’s “core mission” it is to keep the public safe: the police. If UB wants to make its campus safe for students, the Buffalo Police should be their first call. Crime in University Heights is actually down, according to the cops. Maybe we should let them do their job.

Some New WNYMedia Videos

5 Feb

Just thought I’d post a few videos we’ve shot over the past couple of days…

Session #24 of the always excellent Beer-O-Vision

Dr. Lonnie Smith is an authentic Master of the Hammond B3 organ and recently returned home for a gig and shared some memories of growing up in Buffalo and how those experiences shape his music.

Turner Gill’s Press Conference yesterday announcing his 2009 Recruiting Class

The International Bowl

2 Jan

It seems as if half of all Buffalo will be in Toronto Saturday watch the UB Bulls take on the Huskies in the International Bowl.

The WNYMedia.net sports guys will be liveblogging starting around 11am on the 3rd:

http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=28f176f56d/height=550/width=470