I had a weird time getting to Stony Brook.
I grew up in Kings Park, about 20 minutes from Stony Brook University. I had good enough grades and test scores through high school to senioritis my way into a spot in New York University’s (NYU) journalism school, one of the highest ranked and most expensive in the country. That whole time I was getting ready to pursue a degree my family could only afford through the life insurance payments we got after my father passed, I had a lot of sensible people telling me that maybe I should give the much cheaper SBU a try.
But I wanted nothing to do with it. Growing up so close to Stony Brook, my joke was always that this school was “the ceiling of low expectations” — something other people could be proud of, but I would never accept as a viable option.
One dropout and a stint in community college later, I came to SBU in Spring 2017, humiliated into attending what I thought was the safety school to end all safety schools.
I could not have been more wrong.
My two years at Stony Brook have been the best of my entire life. The students, professors and friends I’ve met here changed me in ways I could never have anticipated. I found a second family at The Statesman that trusted me enough to let me write important stories, and eventually lead an entire section of the paper.
When I took over as Opinions Editor for The Statesman, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough things I felt strongly about to fill our pages week after week.
But the single greatest problem this university has is apathy — the apathy of the student body towards the university’s systemic efforts to dismantle itself.
It’s not that difficult to see why nobody cares about the issues that don’t immediately concern them. Half of the students here are commuters, many of whom aren’t around long enough to care. Then there are the STEM majors who are so swamped with work they can’t pick their head up long enough to find out what’s going on around campus. Once you filter out the people who are too busy or too removed to stay engaged, you’re left with about five political science majors and the staff of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to do right by nearly 25,000 Stony Brook students.
When I cover a protest at this school and more than 100 people show up, I’m pleasantly surprised. That’s less than one half of one percent of the student body, and it’s nowhere near the numbers that might make the university take notice that its community gives a damn about, say, Stony Brook’s systematic dismantling of its SUNY-mandated Writing and Rhetoric program.
The only activist movement I’ve ever seen bear fruit on this campus is the recent campaign to bring awareness to the university’s accessibility issues. After an awful lot of complaining from an awful lot of people about Stony Brook’s busted accessibility buttons, I actually saw mechanics going around and fixing them last week. That took protests, persistence and a whole lot of bad press — the only things Stony Brook ever really responds to.
So my advice to everybody who still has time to spend at this remarkably OK school is simple: get angry, get loud and get together. One shouting student might get drowned out by the stress of academic life, but I’d like to see this administration try and ignore 1,000 more.