Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium opened in 2002 with a $22 million price tag, named after New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle for his instrumental role in securing those funds.
Since its opening, LaValle Stadium has served as the lifeblood of Division I Seawolves Athletics, and a point of pride and commonality for all Stony Brook students. According to Patch, LaValle was responsible for funding millions of dollars worth of expansions over the ensuing decade. He also helped raise $21.1 million for a major rehaul of Island Federal Credit Union Arena in 2012 with Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. Between these grants secured for Athletics and other vital areas, from 2002 to 2018, LaValle fought for at least $164.8 million in 2018 dollars for the benefit of Stony Brook University.
As a gracious thanks, a petition is now circulating to wipe away his name from the stadium and alter the history behind the senator’s enormous contributions.
The petition is based on LaValle’s vote on NYS Assembly bill A576, which would ban the practice of conversion therapy — the asinine and harmful practice of attempting to convert homosexual individuals to heterosexuality — throughout New York. LaValle actually voted “no” against party lines, along with two other Republicans and one Democratic colleague, which is the basis for grievance from the petitioners. The alliance of clubs backing it, including the College Democrats, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, LGBT Alliance and House of SHADE equivocates LaValle’s vote as support “for the torture of LGBTQ* youth.” However, this is a huge jump to conclusions about Senator LaValle’s reasoning and character.
Let me be clear. I will make no excuse for anyone supporting conversion therapy. It’s an antiquated, overt violation of our protection from cruel and unusual punishment. There is not a chance in hell that I’d vote for an elected official who endorses it.
But, in the original article from The Statesman about his vote, a statement from LaValle’s office explicitly affirmed that he “personally opposes conversion therapy,” but that the bill sets a dangerous legal precedent of violating “the current method for banning a practice, in which professionals on state boards must review whether a practice violates medical standards.” This may allow the state legislature to choose which medical practices are “right.” Majorities in the legislature could subvert expert medical review and ban vaccinations because they feel the vaccinations are harmful, even if they are very clearly beneficial.
LaValle does not support conversion therapy — one can look into his actual voting record on similar bills. There have been previous versions of the same A576 bill in the past that have come to vote in the Higher Education Committee, such as NYS Senate bill S121, which had nearly the exact same text. Senator LaValle actually voted in favor of Senate bill S121 to ban conversion therapy, demonstrating that his most recent vote was as he said, a statement against the unrefined language and unclear precedent the bill now sets. Where were students thanking LaValle for his vote back then?
I personally disagree with LaValle’s vote and many of his policy positions; however, he has legitimate concerns over constitutional reasons for having voted against the bill. I am giving LaValle the benefit of the doubt that he voted for the reason he stated, and not because he’s secretly a raging homophobic bigot.
Jumping to extreme conclusions and opting to wipe LaValle’s name from our campus is the epitome of “biting the hand that feeds you.” To completely ignore his contributions and his essential role in attaining the stadium in the first place out of convenience is spiteful and hateful. Richard Laskowski, business professor and former dean of physical education & athletics at Stony Brook University, described the school’s sports facilities before LaValle’s contributions as “an embarrassment in so many ways — comparable to a high school’s facilities.”
Laskowski expressed his gratitude for LaValle’s work, saying “I owe him everything, and so does this university — and when I say this university, that also includes the students.”
The contributions LaValle has secured for the betterment of Stony Brook Athletics and the student body benefit students of all sexual orientations equally. By cutting our relationship with the senator, we are cutting off a vital ally in Albany. He has immeasurably helped Stony Brook’s diversity and campus culture thrive during his tenure by providing incredible outlets like an extraordinary stadium and a basketball arena comparable to Ivy League facilities through Seawolves sports, students of different cliques and interests bond over our pride in athletes like our nationally top-ranked women’s lacrosse team who even hit No. 1 last year.
Petitioning to cut relations with LaValle is essentially denying both our athletes and students the opportunity for future improvements to sporting facilities. With the school’s current sorry state of deficit spending, we sure as hell won’t be paying for upgrades ourselves any time soon. On the other hand, continuing relations and showing gratitude to LaValle, while also acknowledging political differences, would mean that students of all backgrounds can enjoy improvements to campus life that come with tens of millions of dollars in state grants.
I am opting to take LaValle’s explanation of his vote at face value. To assume that he secretly supports conversion therapy after he explicitly explained why he voted against the bill is at the very least unfair, but more importantly flat-out disrespectful and will leave a permanent stain on Stony Brook’s reputation of how we treat those that try to do us right.
The future harm from removing his name would be irreparable, and far outweighs the short-term gratification of pretending to be doing anyone a favor.