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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


We deserve better than biweekly blackouts

Harriman Hall was the most recent building on campus to suffer a loss of power on Sept. 14. The numerous blackouts since the beginning of the fall semester are cause for concern. MANJU SHIVACHARAN/STATESMAN FILE

Somehow, both blackouts that affected my dorm struck when my phone battery was at five percent. Three blackouts in less than half a semester puts me in a mood dedicated to the Stony Brook administration and President Trump: flabbergasted yet unsurprised.

Along with the first Thursday night of the semester – a night of partying and bar hopping for many Stony Brook students – came a campus-wide darkness. At 12:20 a.m. On Friday, Sept. 1, a pipe in the Administration Building burst with steam, causing a blackout across main campus and leaving students unable to navigate to their dorms. My phone died.

Two weeks later, on Thursday, Sept. 14, Harriman Hall experienced a blackout, prompting an alert sent to students, faculty and staff. The alert read, “Due to an electrical power outage in Harriman Hall, all classes and events for today in Harriman Hall are cancelled.”

Two weeks later, around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, H-Quad, Mendelsohn Quad, Chavez and Tubman Halls, the Campus Recreation Center and  University Pool experienced a blackout that lasted until 10:20 a.m. My phone survived at three percent until I made it to the  Starbucks in Melville Library to charge.

“Yesterday morning there was a power outage that left several buildings without power on Stony Brook University’s West Campus,” Terence Harrigan, assistant vice president for Facilities and Services sent in an email regarding the Sept. 29 blackout.

“As of 10:20 a.m. yesterday, power was restored to all buildings. The cause of the outage was a ground fault on electrical feeder #11 due to leakage of voltage to ground at the East Stadium electrical switch gear. This appears to of happened due to aging of the equipment and the location of the equipment.”

Here at Stony Brook we have a steam leak in one building crippling all of campus, a full building being shut down for a day and aging equipment knocking out two quads, Chavez and Tubman Halls all within the same month. Why?

With all the academics that go on in Stony Brook, it can be easy to forget that the university is like a village, with a 2015 population of 9,101 and it is even a census-dedicated place. Think about how up-in-arms people would be if there was an Oyster Bay-wide blackout. About 2,500 more people live in Stony Brook University than Oyster Bay. Why should we be content with this?

In addition to the tuition we pay to attend Stony Brook, full-time students pay more than a thousand dollars in fees. Does this not cover our utilities?

My money should be spent on updating the system to provide clean water and electricity across this campus. I cannot focus on my studies if every night might be the night I get lost going back to my dorm. I could find myself playing catch-up because the building that holds my class could be out of commission for the day.

What if the power or internet went out in the middle of an online midterm?  Most of my homework is submitted online, so a reliable electrical system and Wi-Fi network are prerequisites for me to succeed as a student.

Blackouts happen. My hometown – Woodmere, Long Island – has lost power temporarily during blackouts. My house had no power for a while after Sandy. But those are understandable occurrences. I understand if a snowstorm causes a temporary blackout.

I should not need to lower my expectations for electrical power because the campus has “aging” equipment. I should not fear that a malfunction in one building affects the whole campus. As a member of the Stony Brook University community, I have paid for and deserve utilities available in all Long Island villages: reliable plumbing, clean roads and electricity.

These are necessary for academic success. They should be prioritized as such.

In the meantime, here is my warning to Stony Brook University residents:

Make sure to have your phones and laptops fully charged on Oct. 14 and 15.

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  • K

    KofenderOct 2, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Sorry, I know this was a serious story, but it did bring a bit of a chuckle to me. Blackouts have been an issue on campus for decades—dating back to when the university was built. It’s the steam pipes. It’s always been the steam pipes. The electrical system and steam pipes have been problematic since they were first installed (badly) in the early 1960s. Since then, by extending the current system, things have only gotten worse, not better (though I believe the Health Science Center or whatever it’s called now is on a separate and newer system). Construction on these systems has been, well, shoddy at best (look at a July 1974 Statesman cover story entitled, “Will the New Pipes Be X-Rayed? No, and they developed into a problem over the years). So do a little digging on the topic rather than just complain. There are a host of really obnoxious reasons why the blackouts have always been a think at Stony Brook—even when the system was relatively new. Shoddy state construction by the lowest bidder comes to mind…