The Stony Brook Council honored the legacy and contributions of César Chávez and Harriet Tubman on Oct. 10 when the group confirmed the names of Stony Brook University’s new residence halls.
César Chávez Hall and Harriet Tubman Hall, both named after the prominent civil rights activists, reflect the university’s goal of increased diversity on campus.
“Stony Brook is a community where all are welcome and where our commitment to diversity is essential to providing an environment that not only promotes academic achievement, but also inspires compassion and tolerance,” Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement.
César Chávez was a Mexican-American labor organizer. He founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962, which later became United Farm Workers (UFW). He devoted his life to advocating for issues that pervaded poor farm workers, according to the United Farm Workers website.
“I think it’s good because Stony Brook is recognizing diversity on campus where there [are] African American and Latino students,” Tuesday Love, a senior biology major, said.
Harriet Tubman, an African American born into slavery, was an abolitionist and humanitarian. She is recognized for escaping slavery and later becoming the “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, a secret route used by the enslaved to escape the South. In 2020, her face will officially replace Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill, making her the first African American and the first woman in over a century, to be featured on United States currency, according to a New York Times article.
“I think that having these two names is the step to show that we’re an inclusive campus and we do value diversity and social justice,” Eduardo Diaz, the associate director of residential programs for apartment living, said. “It goes to show that the university is trying to be meticulous and understanding, making sure that names do create a positive message for future generations to come.”
On a campus where Latinos make up 11 percent of the student body and blacks make up six percent, according to the university, some students applauded the decision.
“They’re making an effort to be inclusive, so I praise them for that,” Victor Akinfenwa, junior health science major, said.
César Chávez hall opened earlier this semester, and Harriet Tubman Hall is set to open in January. Both buildings are located between Mendelsohn Quad and Toll Drive and together will have space for 759 students. Chávez has space for 302 beds and Tubman will have space for 457. Stony Brook University, already the largest residential campus in the SUNY system, will have over 10,300 beds after the completion of Tubman Hall.
“I think it’s a decision which shows solidarity with a lot of the student body that has shown an interest in kind of raising awareness of current topics of discussion like race and inclusion,” junior biochemistry major Alexandar Horvitz said. “And I think it’s something that the school hasn’t done enough of in the past, and it’s about time.”