At the risk of starting off sounding uncool and professorial, I have to tell you that Stony Brook students have never had it so good.
How do I know? I used to be one of you–way back in the last century, I was an undergraduate at “SUNY Stony Brook.”
You have Starbucks on campus! Sure, its offerings are overpriced and the coffee may not be your favorite, but it employs a lot of students and it’s a great way to make new friends. We had something called The Rainy Night House, a place where students could buy coffee and bagels and occasionally hear live music and see a really bad stand-up comic. You have a number of actual restaurants within walking distance. We had the Nosh in the Union. (Thank heavens for Goodies pizza – it wasn’t too good but it came to campus and the delivery guy didn’t squawk when those dastardly H Quad kids stole stuff out of his truck.)
How pretty is your campus! It really is. I vividly remember the night my parents dropped me off in front of my James College dorm one night during my freshman year. There were no lights on anywhere. Near-total darkness. Steam was coming out of the ground. It seemed like a scene out of an Edgar Allan Poe story. “My God!” my mother exclaimed. “We’ve brought him to hell!”
For the record, I majored in English literature. Why didn’t I specialize in journalism courses? Because there was no journalism major! There was no School of Journalism! See how much better off you are, already? I actually majored in The Statesman during my four years living on campus. Why didn’t I major in The Press or the Indy? I’m not sure they existed. See how much better, yada yada yada…
I came to the school based on what I read in “The Underground Guide to the College of Your Choice.” That was the hip book that high school seniors read before they decided to go Syracuse instead of Boston University or Stony Brook instead of Albany. I read: “…Stony Brook, the Berkeley of the East, where the dorms are like brothels.”
As I found out, Berkeley, a myth-making University on the Hill widely regarded as the coolest campus in the country at the time, was safely ensconced 3,000 miles to the west. As for the “brothels,” I never found anything on campus even remotely resembling one.
(Clearly I should have broadened my horizons and spent less time crouching intensely in The Statesman office, stuck in the bowels of the Union.)
Our enduring symbol back then was the fabled Bridge to Nowhere, which was supposed to provide a walkway between the Fine Arts (Humanities) Building and the blessed library. But the university, word had it, ran out of money for the project — and so it remained suspended in virtual midair.
Of course, we tough SB kids seized the day to create immortal T-shirts, proclaiming “The University to Nowhere.” I might still have one. But alas, it has been a long time since it fit.
That’s another thing: the T-shirts. It’s terrific how much school spirit everyone has nowadays! IN MY DAY (Yikes! How lame that must sound!), our athletic prowess was tied up in an All-American squash champion. I was a lettered athlete myself, as a member of the varsity bowling team — the main motivation was the weekend competition at the Bowlmor Lanes in University Place in Manhattan, next door to Stromboli’s, which then served the best slice of pizza in the Western World. But I digress.
Yes, I was a Stony Brook “Patriot,” the former mascot of the athletic teams. Come on! A Seawolf could kick a Patriot’s butt, no? And the school has since sent its players to pro baseball, football and basketball teams. Amazing!
My signature achievement as an undergraduate was winning first prize, senior year, in The Statesman Fiction Writing Competition. History will note that I submitted the only entry and utterly rigged the contest (with no help from WikiLeaks, which also did not exist). Did I put “Winning Entry – Fiction Writing Contest” on my resume for graduate school? You bet.
If you’re returning to the campus, welcome back! If you’re an incoming student, congratulations! You’ve made it! You’re firmly ensconced at the Stony Brook ofthe East!
Proud Stony Brook alum Jon Friedman teaches at the School of Journalism and elsewhere on campus and hangs out in Starbucks way more than he should.