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Halstead’s Retirement Could Mean More On-campus Housing at SUNY Brockport

SUNY Brockport
SUNY BrockportMap of SUNY Brockport’s on-campus housing

SUNY Brockport President John R. Halstead announced yesterday that he is going to retire next year. So in many ways it’s a sad day in Brockport.

Halstead, the sixth president of The College at Brockport, has served as Brockport’s president since 2005, and he has overseen some dramatic changes for the college.

During Halstead’s tenure as president, The College at Brockport was:

  • Designated by The Princeton Review as one of 218 institutions to receiving "Best in the Northeast" recognition.
  • Listed among "America's Best Colleges" by US News & World Report.
  • Listed among "100 Best Values" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance.
  • Listed in the "Guide to 322 Green Colleges" by The Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges.
  • Named a "Military Friendly School" by GI Jobs.
  • Awarded the 2010 Financial Literacy Leadership Award from the National Student Loan Program (NSLP) - one of only three colleges nationwide to earn this distinction. The award recognizes higher education institutions that provide outstanding financial literacy education to their students.

According to SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, “The College at Brockport has thrived under President Halstead’s leadership over the last decade. The college is consistently recognized as a top value for students and has become a leader within SUNY for expanding applied learning opportunities, that prepare students for success in today’s competitive economy.”

As college president, Halstead has always focused on SUNY Brockport’s students. He always placed an emphasis on student engagement, and Student Success has been a part of every major speech he made and every strategic plan presented during his tenure.

As Halsted said when he announced his retirement, “The transformations in the living and learning environments - from our new Liberal Arts Building to our Special Events Recreation Center to the Townhomes - have all been accomplished to enhance the educational experiences of our students.”

In addition to great success in fund raising for the college, Halstead has been instrumental in improving the College’s infrastructure and landscape.

  • The Townhome Residential Living Complex was completed in the summer of 2007
  • The Special Events Recreation Center was finished in the fall of 2012
  • The Liberal Arts Building was finished in the autumn of 2014

But John Halstead is human, and humans aren’t perfect.

If there is one valid criticism of John Halstead’s time as president of SUNY Brockport, it is that he never understood how the growing flood of off-campus student housing has had such a negative effect on the Village of Brockport.

Maybe the next president of SUNY Brockport will get the picture. Maybe he’ll understand that in the Village of Brockport “Quality College Housing” is an oxymoron. Much of the off-campus housing is run down, and desperately in need of repairs and a paint job.

President Halstead never realized that the lack of on-campus living space has forced students to seek off-campus housing, and consequently whole neighborhoods have suffered.

Over time, converting single-family houses into student rental housing greatly decreases the assessed value of the property.

For example, during Halstead’s tenure the percentage of student rental houses on the southernmost block of Utica Street has grown from 27.7% to 55.5%. That’s’ a 27.8% increase in the number of student rental houses.

And that’s just one block. The next block north is 66.6% student rental housing. A neighborhood can't survive in those conditions.

Nobody wants to live next to student rental housing. You lose your neighbors when that happens. You lose the neighborhood feeling that used to make Brockport such a great place to live.

The incoming SUNY Brockport president is coming into the perfect environment to change that. Mayor Margay Blackman and Trustee Bill Andrews are both retired SUNY Brockport professors.

Margay and Bill understand what’s good for the Village and they want what’s good for SUNY Brockport. They are open to a better dialog with the SUNY Brockport president.

Let’s hope that the incoming SUNY Brockport president picks up where John Halstead left off, and does something to get more on-campus housing built on some of the wide open spaces on the SUNY Brockport campus.

That is just about the only way to eliminate the disgraceful off-campus housing situation in Brockport.