Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said the school is not considering any plans to rename Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The name became a point of contention last month after the state senator, whom the stadium is named after, voted against a ban on gay conversion therapy.
“At this point in time, I think we have no intention of doing that,” Stanley said at a press conference with student media on Friday, Feb. 22. “But again, we are always listening to students and we want to know what students have to say and so on. But I think the senator’s explanation, for me, was satisfactory.”
In a letter to Stanley, LaValle explained that although he is opposed to gay conversion therapy, he voted against the bill because he feared it would jeopardize the current legal precedent for banning a medical practice.
“His vote was based on the fact that he felt there should be a standard protocol which had been followed in the past that if you’re going to ban a medical procedure, that there should be input from physicians into that decision to ban a medical procedure by the legislature,” Stanley said, later adding, “I hope people will recognize that while we may not agree with this, it wasn’t a vote in favor of conversion therapy.”
Stanley’s comments came in response to a petition posted two weeks ago which called on SBU to rename the stadium as a show of support for LGBTQ* students. Co-sponsored by the Stony Brook College Democrats, House of SHADE, LGBTA and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), the petition currently has over 800 signatures.
“For us, the explanation provided by Sen. LaValle was not enough, and that is why we’re going to continue with the petition,” Vice President of FMLA and senior political science and psychology double major Annalisa Myer said. She noted that the groups behind the petition are considering holding some sort of march or demonstration to keep the momentum going.
President of the Stony Brook College Democrats and junior political science and English double major, Cecilia Masselli, said that she feels Stanley has failed to grasp the gravity of the situation.
“[LaValle] voted to hurt the Stony Brook community — that’s the bottom line,” she told The Statesman. “His actions as a legislator got his name [on] the stadium so they should be able to get his name off as well. For a vote that hurts as much as this one, it makes sense to request his name be removed.”
Although Stanley acknowledged that LaValle’s response might have been hurtful to some, he held his ground in defense of the senator. “I understand how hurtful it must be for people to even consider the possibility of conversion therapy and that sexual orientation is a choice or a disease that needed to be cured and how hurtful that must be and why it’s such an important issue to them,” he said. “But at the same time, I do think that Sen. LaValle gave an explanation I think is appropriate for why he did what he did.”
Stanley pushed back against the notion that Stony Brook doesn’t care about its LGBTQ* students and said he would be open to meeting with the coalition behind the petition.
“I’m always interested in meeting with groups that have concerns about Stony Brook and whether or not we’re a diverse and welcoming community,” he said.
Charlie Scott, president of LGBTA and sophomore journalism major, said that while he understands Stanley’s point of view, he also wishes the president would consider the “weak logic” behind LaValle’s explanation.
“I’d really like for him to hear our side directly from us, and it would be great to speak with him about this issue,” Scott wrote in a statement. “At the end of the day, it’s good that we’re talking about this. It’s good that we’re talking about queer bodies, queer lives, and lost queer generations. I want justice, but queer folk rarely get that.”