A cup of water from a Stony Brook University tap in West Apartments building E. SHAHAAN SHAHEEN/THE STATESMAN

Any student shelling out thousands of dollars to live on campus at Stony Brook does so with certain expectations.

These are simple requests to the University, things like “please let us live within 50 miles of our classes” and “please send somebody to unclog my toilet if I ask.” Not quite things that everybody takes for granted, but standards of decent living nonetheless.

People do take for granted, however, the idea that $8,000 in dorming fees buys them a sink that might produce something recognizable as water, instead of whatever it is we’re looking at in our featured photo.

That picture comes to us courtesy of Shahaan Shaheen, a senior biochemistry major living in West Apartment, Building E. In case it was unclear, that’s water. Brave man that he is, Shaheen recounted how this monstrosity actually tastes.

“The tap water has a sort of after-taste to it compared to bottled water or filtered water,” Shaheen said. “The tap water tastes like water that you leave in a plastic bottle and leave out in the sun for a while.”

First things first: eww. In case anybody thinks this tap water situation is an isolated incident, there have been similar reports from across campus. Srivishnu Rendla, a freshman computer science and math major, had a similar experience with the water from a water fountain in the Earth and Space Sciences Building.

“There was a pretty sketchy looking, caved-in water fountain,” Rendla said. “I pressed the faucet button and there was a thick stream of water that had a cloudy appearance with bubbles. I still dared to take a sip as I was dying of thirst and had a 90-minute class ahead, the water had a profoundly distinct taste, which water from some of the newer filters doesn’t have. The taste was a bit sugary and very dilutely milky.”

That is disgusting. It’s bad enough that this stuff comes out of a sink, but at least sink water is meant to be used for purposes other than drinking. Nobody washes dishes in a water fountain.

There are a couple issues to unpack here. In all fairness, cloudy water is usually caused by air bubbles getting trapped in the pipes or in the water itself and is normally considered safe to drink. It could be a tear in the pipe, it could be a difference in water pressure, but as aesthetically odd as it may be, this is considered safe drinking water.

The real problem here comes from the taste issue. Plastic is the most common material used in plumbing pipes today, and water with a plastic taste generally picked it up from the pipes it traveled through. Personally, I like it when the water I paid for tastes like water. I’ll stand by that even if I lose a few friends.

Maybe murky tap water doesn’t kill anybody—I say it builds character —but it still serves as a sign of a much larger priority problem within the university. Time and time again, the university shells out money for new developments and buildings projects while failing to maintain the infrastructure already in use.

Sure, East Side Dining looks nice, but if what’s the point if we’re all stuck drinking milky water during campus-wide power outages?

Ultimately, the maintenance issue is about optics. It’s a lot sexier to take to a podium and tell the world “we built a fancy new dorm,” than it is to say “we fixed the plumbing.” There’s no ribbon-cutting ceremony for fixing the pipes.  

Still, if Stony Brook wants the prestige, and more importantly, the money, that comes from being a destination school, then it has to take care of the little things as well. Unless every old building and plumbing system can be replaced overnight, there’s a very real incentive to spending whatever it takes to bring the whole campus up to snuff.

Maybe they can use some of the money they saved from cutting the Theater Arts major.

  • Johnny Pierre

    excellent article Mike