VP for Student Affairs talks Water Main break, Emergency Preparedness and more


Yomira Meregildo/The Record

I'Jaz Eberhardt, Reporter

Dr. Timothy W. Gordon, SUNY Buffalo State’s vice president for student affairs, has been vital in relaying information to students regarding developments in the Campbell Student Union. He recently released additional details about the renovations and updates in the union following the water main break on February 12.

“The biggest development is the elevator is now up and running,” Gordon said, “Which, for me, is important because we want to make sure that everyone has full access to the building, and not having an elevator certainly presented challenges.”

According to Gordon, the third floor has undergone repairs and is now accessible. The basement, however, still requires work.

“The basement is the longest standing concern.” he said, “That’s where we took the most water, so the carpet [and] drywall in those student offices have to be replaced, and then, of course, it has to be repainted.”

Currently, no timeline is available as to when students can expect full renovations to the basement area, as contractors continue to assess damages. However, staff from the Division of Student Affairs have assisted various student organizations in finding temporary locations.

While the full cost of damages caused by the water main break remains undetermined, Gordon has provided some insight into the financial aspect of the incident.

“To date, we don’t know the total financial impact of the flooding that occurred in the union but estimate we have incurred approximately $51,000 in costs related to the flood,” he said. “These costs will need to be paid out of campus operational and capital fund accounts.”

Gordon explained the construction will not likely affect the college’s budget, as SUNY System Administration has “emergency contingencies” for unforeseen events like the main break.

“We should not see an additional [financial] burden on the campus,” Gordon said.

Staff from various departments at Buffalo State continue to work with the City of Buffalo to complete construction, as the campus and city infrastructures are connected. Gordon attributes the college’s effectiveness in communicating issues, as well as the timeliness of repairs, to the preexisting relationship between the college and municipal workers.

“We are in a city;” Gordon said, “We will have things break and not work. There are maybe things that happen around our campus that change how we get to and from that campus, and so it’s important that we have those relationships.”

He explained his dedication to meeting the needs of students has been of the utmost importance to him since acquiring his position at the campus in recent months, including making accommodations during the main break.

“My first question is, ‘How are we going to take care of the needs that students have?’” Gordon recalls asking himself the morning of the incident. “Most importantly, feeding students who need to be fed, looking at how we get them to spaces that they plan to use that day that wasn’t available, so we did as little [as possible] to have a hiccup in the life of students on campus.”

With over 20 years of experience in student affairs, the incident in the student union was not his first involvement with crisis management.

“These things have happened for as long as our colleges and universities have been around,” Gordon said. “I’ve done a number of emergency management trainings. I’ve certainly managed a number of crises on campuses. I would say it is not uncommon for a water main to break on a college campus, so it’s not my first.”

Despite facing such a prominent challenge early in his time at the college, Gordon said his transition to Buffalo State has been going well.

“The exciting part about coming to Buffalo State is that I’ve really spent the bulk of my time at urban institutions of higher education, so it really does feel like home to me,” Gordon said. “I would say the campus has been very welcoming to me. I’ve had amazing folks in the division, around the campus, in the community helping me get to know the lay of the land and figure things out.”

Gordon, a native of Detroit, spent most of his career in the Midwest and is adapting to life in western New York for the first time, getting familiar with life on this side of Lake Michigan, as he expressed.

He has also adjusted to some changes in his role in campus involvement as well. Gordon was dean of students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for four years before coming to Buffalo State. Now, as vice president for student affairs, he oversees fewer students than he did in his former position but works with more faculty.

“[As] dean of students, I oversaw a smaller portion of the campus; so, student life particularly served as the main administrative liaison between students and administrators in the campus,” Gordon said. “As vice president here, I sort of have a much larger scope.”

One aspect of his job description that remains unchanged, however, is the work he does to communicate and act for the benefit of the students.

“The biggest similarity is that I, even as vice president, think it’s very critical for me to make sure I am hearing what students have to say and I am able to represent their voice,” Gordon expressed. “I have a lot more staff that can help me do that.”

He expressed that he is focused on making sure the college has “the best Bengal experience for our students as we possibly can.”

Having been a first-generation college student, Gordon’s aspirations and achievements reflect the work and commitment he has put into his career; and although he initially had his sights set on law school, he expressed his appreciation for working and being involved in student affairs.

“I do love the aspect of being in urban higher education, which I think certainly creates a more limited place to go,” Gordon said.

While he looks to spend a good amount of time at Buffalo State, Gordon also has his sights set on becoming a campus president in the future.

Gordon wants the Buffalo State community to know that he and the staff of the Student Affairs Division are devoted to meeting students’ needs and maintaining the quality of campus life.

“Obviously, you [Buffalo State students] all are a large chunk of the work that we do and we exist to educate students, “Gordon said, “and so it’s really important to keep students at that center.”

Also, despite his authoritative title, Gordon welcomes students to chat with him when they see him on campus.

“I would also say; people and students will find me really approachable,” Gordon said. “Sometimes it kind of takes some getting used to; ‘Who’s the random guy in the tie that’s talking to me over my chicken nuggets?’ But if students see me out and about, and they want to say, ‘Hey, I want to tell you about this; give me a couple seconds,’ I’m happy to do that, and if I can’t have that full conversation there, I’ll look for a place and time for us to get connected.”

Dr. Gordon has contributed to cultivating communication between students and staff, whether in the form of providing information and updates about an ongoing incident or by lending an ear to concerns and suggestions. He remains enthusiastic about using his role at the college to foster a positive environment for the campus community.

“I’m just really excited to be here,” Gordon said. “I think students will continue to have a great experience at Buffalo State, and I’m happy to just be a small part of that.”

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