(EZRA MARGONO / THE STATESMAN)
There are precious few big events for students to attend each semester, and the fact that students will be forced to miss them due to class conflicts highlights the disconnect between the students and the university. (EZRA MARGONO / THE STATESMAN)

Throughout the academic year, there are but a few truly special events that break up the daily grind of coursework. This semester, two such events happen to be Brookfest and the recent Michio Kaku lectures. Whether one as an individual cares about these events or not, one can empathize with other’s interest in these exciting occasions. As for myself, I did not care much for the Kaku lectures simply due to my tendency to enjoy the social sciences, however I am finding myself overwhelmed with anticipation for Brookfest. That is why, upon finding out that some students who are in BIO 202 will be unable to attend Brookfest, I became outraged. Discovering that some students taking an Organic Chemistry midterm were unable to attend the Kaku lecture only furthered my anger.

Stony Brook is not known as a university with a great social life. If anything, the university is renowned for its academics and its prowess in the sciences. However, in order to make our university grow, those in power in the university must begin to become more well-rounded and embrace the social needs of the student body as wholeheartedly as they do the academic needs. The university should make a point of ensuring the entire student body has a chance to go to these events by requiring professors to postpone normal procedure for such events. It is not as if they are everyday occurrences where they would truly distract from a student’s studies.

To be fair, it has to be extremely difficult to schedule these occasions. The Undergraduate Student Government has been given this task and initially my anger was directed at them. “How could our own elected representatives neglect the over 1000 students taking a BIO 202 exam the day of Brookfest,” I thought. However, I quickly realized that there are more factors at play than just the choices of the USG and for that reason, I decided to dig further.

In order to determine how USG determines a date I reached out to the USG Vice President of Communication and Public Relations, Mario Ferone, and questioned him on the process for these events. First, he said they search for a viable venue. For something such as the Kaku lecture, the prime real estate tends to be the Staller Center. However, they do carefully consider other venues. In the case of Brookfest, venues such as the Staller Steps and others are considered, but as has been the case many times, LaValle Stadium was the best choice. As a consequence of this, USG then has to work around athletics, using only the dates deemed acceptable by the Athletics department, which severely limits artist choice, and ease of accommodation to students’ schedules.

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Although USG is in charge of scheduling these events, I truly believe that they are not at fault for the issues caused by conflicts with midterms and otherwise. Instead, it is the university as a whole that must do a better job. Perhaps these events could be integrated into the academic schedule from the start of the semester, so that professors could be forced to not hold courses during such events. It’s not as though one concert or one lecture with a world-renowned physicist will in any way damage a student’s experience at Stony Brook; in fact, it may just make it that much better.

One of my professors posed an interesting question in a lecture the other day, the basic idea of which went something like this: “Why do you believe Stony Brook, one of the best schools in the SUNY system with an enormous student body, is not on the same level nationally as universities like Michigan and Penn State?”—this caused me to think. The professor seemed to believe the major flaw was the sports teams and the past performance of these schools, however, I believe it is a crisis of integration within the student body.

There are many students who simply come to the university for their classes and leave immediately after they are finished. Many of my old high school friends are guilty of this and when I ask them why, they simply respond with “why should we stay?” Stony Brook University must do a better job of integrating these students through events such as Brookfest, the Kaku lecture and other occasions. If we can inspire a sense of pride within Stony Brook students similar to the pride that fills the students of these well-known universities, we can create a community. If we create a community of students who, rather than walking around campus in the sweatshirts and t-shirts of other universities, walk around in Stony Brook apparel, then, and only then, will we be able to make the leap to the level of recognition that universities such as Michigan, Penn State and others have. That is why it is so crucial for the faculty of Stony Brook to place a high importance on these events, and why it is so unacceptable for students to be unable to attend due to conflicts in scheduling.

I don’t mean to sound so harsh—I love Stony Brook and truly only want to see the best for this university. There are many great things going on here such as the building of the new arena, our emergence as a division one sports school, as well as the omnipresent excellence in academics Stony Brook has always had. It just frustrates me that this university has not realized its true potential because of things that should be so simple like scheduling a concert so that all students have the opportunity to go.

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Whether it be by creating a space specifically for student funded concerts or informing professors that they may not schedule exams at the same time of these major university events, the university must realize that events such as these are crucial to integrating the entirety of the student body. Only then will every student at this university be proud to say “I am a Seawolf.”

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