At the March 14 USG Senate meeting, Casey McGloin of the Graduate Program of Public Health, and the School of Health, Technology, and Management brought attention to a possible student food insecurity problem at Stony Brook. There are two types of this insecurity, one being without hunger, which McGloin described as “your typical college kid who survives on Ramen and pizza.” The other type describes a student who “physically does not have enough food.”
After speaking with the Office of Enrollment and Retention Management, as the problem may affect some of the 36 percent of undergraduate students who are Pell grant eligible, along with Student Health Services, McGloin found that food insecurity is an issue that some students have dealt with on campus for several years. She also spoke to Counseling and Psychological Services, which has worked with a handful of homeless students over the years that may have been food insecure. McGloin contacted regional pantries and discovered that students have visited for food, even recently.
To combat the food insecurity issue, McGloin presented a campus food pantry for Stony Brook, following the model of Michigan State University and Oregon State University, which have been leaders in establishing food pantries for their students. Those schools partner with regional pantries to purchase food items and are registered as charitable organizations in order to obtain the food. At Michigan, students in need meet with an interviewer that suggests servings and the students can then receive food provided by the pantry.
The plan for Stony Brook is still in the works. More information is still needed including anonymous testimonials from students facing food insecurity, options for a pantry space and food distribution, staffing, budget and an official proposal. McGloin explained, “We want to make sure this is definitely a need before we go ahead with it.”
Professor Scott Sutherland, Chair of the Undergraduate Student Council, was also at the meeting to present the new general education system that will be replacing DECs. The system, as of now, will be called “Stony Brook Curriculum” according to Sutherland, but suggestions for a different name are welcome to be considered. The Provost is pushing for the new system to be in place for students for the fall of 2014.
Sutherland said that one of the difficulties with DECs is that students do not know why they need to take a collection of classes adding, “It’s mostly treated as just a checklist of stuff you have to do if you want to graduate, whereas what it’s really attempting to accomplish…is to ensure that as a student you get a broad exposure to a lot of ideas, with the point of coming to a university is that you will prepare yourself for life beyond the university and part of that is opening your eyes to things that you didn’t necessarily know that you liked,” he said.
Sutherland explained what sets the new system apart from DECs is that “rather than being a collection of courses that you check off, it is a collection of learning objectives that the courses must provide.” This means that it is possible to take a course that covers more than one objective or that some collections of objectives may be spread across several courses.
It was mentioned that a drawback of the current system is that there are many DECs in a variety of requirements depending on majors. The new system will instead provide a “unified set of requirements,” Sutherland said. Asked whether this would change the minimum number of credits students have to take, Sutherland replied “We hope that it will change the minimum number of required credits that you have to take to fulfill your DEC in the sense that it will make them less…another complaint about the DEC is that many feel that it’s burdensome.”
The system will encompass four clusters of requirements than include versatility, interconnectedness, deeper understanding and lifelong learning. The goal, as Sutherland explained, is to make clearer to students why they are taking such requirements, provide added flexibility for students, and encourage faculty to design courses or groups of courses that students will find more interesting.