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Stanley: I’m proud to say Stony Brook is on the move

SBU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. addresses the campus during last Wednesday’s State of the University. Ezra Margono/The Statesman

President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in his State of the University Address in the Staller Center for the Arts on Wednesday that “three years later, I’m proud to say Stony Brook is on the move” since his inaugural address in 2009.

“I wanted to remind everyone how vital Stony Brook was to Long Island, to SUNY, to the great state of New York and to the world,” Stanley said of his inaugural address, which he jokingly admitted was very long.

Stanley’s voice cut clearly through the main stage of the Staller Center with only about a third of the 1,050 seats occupied by alumni, faculty, students and community members. The main point of Stanley’s speech was comparing his goals from his inaugural address to the achievements made by the university that occurred in his three years as president.  However, he emphasized that “there is much more to do.”

“I argued that we must reinvest in our faculty, that Stony Brook would continue this extraordinary trajectory,” Stanley said.  “I said before that we have the most distinguished faculty in SUNY and one of the most distinguished faculties in the world.”

A new ‘hall of fame’ will boast the renowned faculty at SBU including Nobel laureates, National Academy winners, SUNY distinguished professors and others, Stanley said, to inspire and “remind everyone of what a special place Stony Brook University is.”

According to Stanley, 250 new faculty members have been hired over the past five years, and he gave recognition to all the new faculty and senior administrative appointments.

Stanley also recognized New York State Assemblymen Michael J. Fitzpatrick and Steve Englebright, who were both in the audience, for their aid in passing the NY SUNY 2020 legislature. Stanley said that the university has received 36 gifts of $1 million dollars or more and made special note of the investments by James and Marilyn Simons and the Simons Foundation.

“Frankly, I’m humbled and honored that so many individuals

believe in our vision, and believe that Stony Brook University is worth supporting,” Stanley said.

“We have much more work to do,” Stanley said. “A match to complete and many important areas to support. But I’m very confident that we can do it.”

John T. Martin, a senior cultural theory analysis major, was one of the students in attendance. He said his “blood was boiling” while at the reception in the Charles B. Wang Center that immediately followed the address.

Martin is an organizer with New York Students Rising, an organization “dedicated to defending public higher education and empowering students in New York State,” according to its website.

According to Martin, one of the university’s primary focuses is receiving funding.  “It changes the priorities of the administration to the point where it de-emphasizes students,” Martin said.

Martin had come with his friends expecting a question and answer session with Stanley “to kind of see President Stanley’s response and/or faculty responses to the celebration of a lot of this privatization process.”

Martin said the Hilton Garden Inn hotel on campus encapsulates and represents “a real absurd and stark privatization” of public education.

During the address, Stanley made a joke about measuring a “university’s health by how many cranes were on campus”.  He spoke about the various construction projects including the Hilton Garden Inn, which will open in February.

M.J. Ohma, a senior journalism major, said she came to address “the lack of student voice” in all aspects of the university especially the construction.

Ohma said SBU “pitches itself as a green university, yet with all the buildings they have cut down large amount of trees to do so.”

“There’s a lot of the things we would like to address that we think the campus is doing wrong and not having a proper student voice,” Ohma said.  “We thought it was suspicious that it wasn’t held during Campus Life Time so students’ voices could be heard.”

Laura Drapkin, a senior French major, also said the university lacks a student voice.

“The idea that as undergraduates, we feel this disenfranchisement that if we were to offer a suggestion, we don’t necessarily feel like it would be listened to,” Drapkin said. “If you have positive things to say, it’s welcome, but any grievances are very difficult to express.”

Stanley spoke about the university’s students and said he did not know their personal stories three years ago.  “These students and so many others inspire me,” Stanley said after citing specific successes of a few SBU students as well as the rising success of athletics.

However, Drapkin said the university has not been putting its students first.  “Without us, there is no university,” Drapkin said.

Tonjanita L. Johnson, chief deputy to the president, emphasized in an email the importance of the student body and said that they should hear from the president.

“Students are at the heart of everything that we do here at Stony Brook,” Johnson wrote.  “So, it is important that they have regular opportunities to hear from this institution’s leadership about its short and long-term plans for the growth and vitality of our university.”

Martin, Ohma, Drapkin and their friends approached Stanley at the reception to discuss their concerns.

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