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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    A Good 50 Years?

    Over the past 50 years, SBU has come a long way in many respects. We won’t go into the details of our past because we have already taken the time to recognize and respect the progress that has been made, especially the progress over the past decade under the leadership of President Shirley Strum Kenny.

    Kenny, in a recent student media press conference, was asked by a Statesman reporter to evaluate what our university has achieved over the past 50 years and project what might be in the next half century. She admitted that she couldn’t fully project what might be but did offer a wide overarching assessment that brought together the implementation of SB Manhattan, the university’s new role in overseeing Brookhaven National Laboratory management, and acquiring of the former Long Island University Southampton campus.

    There are certain goals set for the campus for each five year plan. While the university has repeatedly applauded its own efforts, rightfully so in making sure that progress is made, and while the University makes sure that the students, staff, and faculty know about every ‘good thing’ that happens on campus, we feel that this self-praise is highly overrated for a number of reasons.

    First, we know the campus has made progress over the past 50 years. The entire world has made progress. Other universities have made progress. People have made progress in the way they think, the way they work. The fact that SBU has made positive changes is not a surprise and should not be used to falsely goad students, staff, and faculty into thinking that we go to such a great institution.

    President Kenny acknowledged at the recent press conference that local residents on Long Island don’t always think very highly of SBU, whereas people outside of Long Island, across the nation and internationally, look at our institution more highly.

    Are we now supposed to pat ourselves on the back? Have we actually achieved anything by spewing these warm and fuzzy compliments? I guess so. All the students who came to SBU because they didn’t do well on their SATs give thanks to the endless fountain of flattery that gushes from the administrative and media relations offices. Thank you, President Kenny.

    SBU does provide quality education at an affordable price. And while the lower tuition does appeal to students, the administration as routinely compared SBU to other private universities on the basis of educational value. While private universities charge much more money for tuition, they do provide much more financial aid, and in the process, are able to provide an education that no one person or institution can refute as mediocre.

    At institutions like Yale, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, even places like NYU and Drexel, the students are highly motivated, capable individuals who make it through four years of competition with other students who are equally goal oriented.

    Here at Stony Brook, the administration boasts rising SAT scores with each subsequent freshman class, yet there still is no required essay on the SBU application. What kind of message does that send to high school seniors applying to college?

    No essay? That must be a great university!

    The fact of the matter is that many professors, not all, but many, are reluctant to take undergraduates into their laboratories. One of the organic chemistry professors last semester admitted during a lecture in front of about 500 students that many of us won’t make it to the health professions. As many people know, doing well in organic chemistry is a necessity if a student wishes to be admitted to medical or dental school.

    The fact that President Kenny admitted the difficulty in changing the minds of local Long Island residents does say something about our university. Long Island, as many people know, has many of the best public schools in the nation. School districts such as Jericho, Syosset, Ward Melville, and many others, which are very highly ranked have the good students that SBU needs to thrive. Yet year after year, these students are shunned away from SBU by teachers and guidance counselors with common perceptions that we aren’t all that great.

    The bottom line is, our 50th anniversary is a matter of school pride. Let it stay that way. Many more improvements need to be made before the undergraduate campus, at least, can really compete with the top universities of our nation.

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