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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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    USB to SBU: The Changing Face of Stony Brook

    At the end of August each year, many college freshmen anticipate moving away from home in their first steps towards independence and continuing education. At Stony Brook University, move-in weekend is quite an exciting event, with Welcome Wagon, Orientation exercises, partying, organizing dorm rooms, and most of all, making life-long friendships. Few of these precious first moments at Stony Brook University are dedicated to contemplating the architecture or history of the campus, however interesting it may be.

    Stony Brook University is known as a commuter campus, hosting a population of approximately fifty percent commuter students; however, this was not always the case. The idea of a State University of New York branch on Long Island was originally contemplated in 1948, and founded in 1957 at the famous Coe Plantations [and Mansion] in Oyster Bay, Long Island [Nassau County]. The location was later moved to Stony Brook in 1964, on land (480 acres!) donated by well-known Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville, after whom many famous buildings and organizations are named. In recent years, the campus has become more than double this size and is still growing. The first class to study at Stony Brook University featured students given the option of living in sex-segregated dormitories with strictly enforced curfews or commuting from their homes, however most students at this time lived on campus.

    Originally founded to be a small teaching college, it quickly grew from its starting class of 148 all white co-ed students to the multiracial population of 22,000 including approximately 7,000 graduate students and 1,900 faculty members. Stony Brook University, although intended to be a small teaching college adequately set in the ideal suburban location quickly and surprisingly became a leading research university that has been on the Top 100 Universities in America as rated by U.S. News and World Report. As recent as 2001, Stony Brook University has also been inducted into the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only organization.

    Although many students find the campus unappealing and drab, often complaining of the far-set buildings and the ghost town effect of the weekend clearing-out, the campus has undergone many changes that make it much more appealing than it has been since the five decades of its debut. The sprawling layout of the current Stony Brook campus is due mostly in part to the era in which it was built. Since the move from Oyster Bay to Stony Brook took place in the 1960s, and student activists were a main attraction, buildings were set far apart to prevent too much rioting, which could turn into a dangerous event, often involving Suffolk County Police intervention. The campus was often described as ‘neo-penal’ with the dorms compared to low-level secured facilities for lesser criminals; featuring almost no benches, outward facing buildings, patchy blacktop and mud banks and continual construction and scaffolding.

    In recent years, Stony Brook University has undergone an extreme makeover, featuring the long awaited Wang Center (a $25M project; the most expensive donation the university has ever had), several fountain installations, and general aesthetic appearance correction. The current President, Shirley Strum Kenny, an English major and the first-ever female president of this relatively young university has provided most of the enthusiasm and the push needed for these changes. Her changes have not gone unnoticed, being featured in an article in The Chronicle, proudly presenting the new improvements to this once drab campus.

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