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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 Look at President Kenny

    The brisk winds of fall have ushered a year of change, one of many to come in the odyssey that is the rise of ‘one of the world’s great universities,’ according to the Stony Brook University website.

    As of June 2009, University President Shirley Strum Kenny plans to retire from the office that she held for 14 years, according to the Office of Media Relations.

    This shift in the wind is the subject of speculation and ambivalence among both the student and faculty populations on campus. Kenny is not leaving the institution without her signature.

    According to one faculty member who requested anonymity, ‘She faced a lot of heat, what with the budget cuts and the image the university gave off years ago. I realize there may have been times when her intent was put to question and caused controversy, but you cannot deny that she transformed the campus, gave people something to talk about. She got us noticed.’

    The community certainly did start to take notice as the university rose from relative anonymity to hopefully become a flagship of the SUNY system in the future, a member of the AACU, and expanding its reach to both ends of Long Island, with a sustainability-focused Southampton campus as well as a Manhattan-based satellite.

    Expanded program offerings, a new $300 million hospital wing, funding as well as an aesthetically pleasing campus are some of the hallmarks of the Kenny era, as cited on the Stony Brook website.

    Some students believe Kenny helped bring the campus into the 21st century. According to Neil Torres, 21, a psychology major, ‘I don’t think anyone has ever changed as much as she has in the time she’s been here,’ he said. ‘I can’t say I agree with all her policies and I think that along the way she tended to forget the core of the school — the student body — but my parents went here and the difference is night and day for them. No concrete and great research.’

    Though there were many words of praise to be found on campus, there was also talk of the darker times the university faced under Kenny’s tenure.

    Larger class sizes, overpopulation, and a ‘lack of communication’ were some of the complaints raised in a survey given to faculty of the CAS, with 70% of the 250 respondents feeling that she had not committed strongly enough to maintain the quality of the school’s main initiatives and programs while focusing on expansion to Southampton, according to figures from the provost sourced by the Times Beacon Record.

    Ethical as well as economic concerns over the university’s partnerships with Chartwells and previous beverage supplier Coca-Cola also swirled last year, resulting in an end to the 10-year relationship with Coca-Cola.

    President Kenny, a native of Texas and a former employee of the City University of New York system, is the university’s first female president. Serving that role as well as those of member and chair of a number of financial and educational associations, including JPMorgan and the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Her impending departure has long concerned campus and SUNY officials who worry that, among other standing issues, state budget cuts that will affect every department campus-wide might narrow the field of potential candidates. ‘I don’t know who’d want the job right now, especially since things are getting worse,’ said a member of the Undergraduate Student Government.

    Whatever the final outcome, the general consensus on campus seems to be one of cautious optimism.

    ‘This school is a research-focused behemoth,’ said Carl Panagiotopolous, a marine science major. ‘It’s going to have problems because it needs to serve many masters, but I think the school handled them well. It’s getting off many people’s safety lists for a reason.’

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