Old, gray buildings blot the landscape, water marks running down their sides like weeping giants. The barren trees jut up like spires, piercing the gray sky above, while a soft drizzle slowly patters off of the concrete pathways between buildings. If you thought I was describing a bombed out city in a barren wasteland, you would be wrong. I was actually describing my walk from the Humanities building to the Union last Tuesday. Many students across campus have grumbled about the ugliness of the buildings on campus, and the problem does not look like it is going to be solved any time soon.
In fact, I am not the only one who shares in this sentiment. I recently read an article in “Travel and Leisure” the other day that rated Stony Brook’s campus as one of the most ugly campuses in America, alongside campuses such as SUNY Purchase, Harvey Mudd, and University of Dallas in Irving, to name a few. The main complaint, according to the article, is that Stony Brook’s buildings are “bunker-like,” reminiscent of the 1960s. I think this description of the various buildings across campus is spot-on. In fact, I once caught myself accusing the buildings of looking like nuclear fall-out bunkers, or even like the bunkers from Saving Private Ryan (without the machine guns, of course).
However, after further thought, I realized that maybe the problem is not nearly as big as some of us complain about. Sure, it would be great to have buildings as beautiful as those at University of Pennsylvania, Yale or Brown. But Stony Brook is a public institution founded relatively recently compared to these other schools, which already had these beautiful buildings to use. And, going off of that, most of Stony Brook’s contributions come from the state government, private contributors and students’ tuition. Why should the university divert resources that could be used towards research, labs and funding for various student activities to renovate buildings? Even though it would be nice to walk across campus and look at beautiful buildings, I would rather have our laboratories and scholarships be kept up and expanded than see nice new buildings.
However, if Stony Brook were to somehow get additional resources that allowed them to renovate and update existing buildings, then I would strongly advocate for doing that. But, at the moment, it just does not take precedence among the various issues that trouble our campus today, from scholarships and sports teams, to lab upkeep and bus transportation (when it is not cancelled). While I had initially believed Stony Brook should divert more resources to campus beautification, my opinion on the matter has changed. As long as there are more pressing matters, Stony Brook should meet them first. Who knows—maybe one day, Stony Brook will become the updated, renovated campus we all wish it were. But for now, we’ll have to keep trudging along among the weeping giants knowing that someday they may change.