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Total Support for UB 2020 Still Lacking

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – UB president John Simpson made a passionate plea Wednesday asking the community to rally around UB 2020. Simpson's annual address to the community painted a bleak picture of what the region faces if UB's ambitious plans aren't realized. But not everyone is completely on board with the university's vision.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's full story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

$25 million in state cuts to UB have taken a toll. But, according to Simpson, the road ahead will be even steeper if the cuts continue and there is no clear path for UB ahead. Legislation to support UB's ambitious, long-range strategic plan It was passed by the Senate but is stalled in the state assembly. Simpson's speech was largely a call to arms. For the second year, his address urged the community - only this time more fervently - to rally around UB 2020.

UB clearly already has its cheerleaders. The room was filled with many who have worked for years along side UB to push its aggressive agenda. And why not? The pay-off they say is big. It's estimated that planned UB expansion could create more than 10,000 more jobs and bring thousands of people downtown every day to work, live and shop. Andrew Rudnick with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership said the business community is firmly behind UB 2020.

But not everyone feels as passionately about the plan.

State Senator William Stachowski said other SUNY campuses are howling about the UB 2020 bill that is sitting in the Assembly. Stoneybrook, Binghamton and Albany say they should be able to reap the same rewards of proposed reforms that would give UB greater financial flexibility. Stachowski said the bill might need to be more inclusive.

But other SUNY campuses aren't the only ones throwing up roadblocks.

UB's union representing academic and professional employees, UB UUP, would prefer things stay the way they are. In fact, the union is on record vehemently opposing the reform legislation. The union believes UB2020 would impact labor contracts and,that it, ultimately, would lead to the privatization of UB and other SUNY campuses. Stachowski said the union is being shortsighted. He said more professorships would be needed for the expansion and to maintain UB's position as a top research university.

But he admits that overcoming the union's objections and those from downstate is a challenge. He said it will take wide-spread, unrelenting community support to get UB2020 passed into law. Ironically, some of that commitment is missing from segments of the community that stand to benefit the most.

Reverend Matthew Brown is an African American pastor for the Pentecostal Temple on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. The east side, largely African American neighborhood is in dire need of the economic boost UB2020 promises. Brown said the problem is that most people there don't see "what's in it for them." Brown said that too is shortsighted. He said the plan will benefit the entire region.

Brown admits that he might not have rallied folks as well as he could have in the past. But after hearing Simpson's address Wednesday, Brown said he's ready to get to work on UB's "Big Idea." Brown said it's the only idea out there.

According to UB officials, achieving UB2020 would double the university's economic impact on the region to about $3.6 billion a year.