A common criticism of Stony Brook — from students, faculty and outside observers alike — is our lack of school spirit. We’re a prestigious school, academically ranked 91st in the country, with Division I sports teams. Despite this, our campus life is often quiet — receiving a B- in student life from Niche — and our stadium and on-campus events often have low attendance. As an Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senator, these are some of the concerns I hear regularly from students. Homecoming is one of the few campus events with high attendance and genuine school pride. It’s a time when we come together as one campus community to tailgate and watch our D1 football team play to victory.
Yet this fall semester — in a bizarre change — our usual tailgate could be at risk, as rumors of plans to cancel or move the Homecoming tailgate spread this past week. At this past week’s USG Senate meeting, I learned that students will not be allowed to use the usual location — the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Parking Lot — for tailgating. This year, we’re being forced out of that lot to make room for the Homecoming BBQ, an alumni barbecue with no benefit to the student body; the Homecoming Committee is currently determining where to move the tailgate to.
The decision was made by the Homecoming Committee, a small body comprised of different departments like Stony Brook Athletics and the University Police Department, which put out no official statements and sought no undergraduate student input. On Friday, Sept. 20, a select group of USG Senators was allowed into a meeting to express their concerns. Although some student input is now being considered, it is two weeks until Homecoming, and there has been no public announcement to the student body about what is going on. The administration is looking for a place that would be sufficiently large enough for both students and cars, and is close enough to the game to make attendance actually worth it. Let’s be perfectly clear: there is no other spot on campus that meets this description. The Gym Road parking lot is too small to support tailgating. The North P and Railroad lots are too narrow and too small in general, while the South P and Student Activities Center parking lots are too far from the game.
Tailgating makes Homecoming more than any of the other low-attended football games (unduly low, they’re actually a really good team); it lets the Stony Brook community come together and have one giant gathering before the game. Last year’s homecoming game broke attendence records in LaValle Stadium with 12,701 people showing up to the game. of having the most It’s one of the few events that every student can enjoy and show school spirit. For many students, it’s the motivating reason why Homecoming is the only game they come to all season.
Students have made their opinion clear, recently circulating an online petition to keep tailgate in its usual location. It has already received over 1,100 signatures, gathered from concerned students spreading it through social media. Yet, the university still appears to prioritize the wants of everyone other than the student body.
Despite what some on the Homecoming Committee may think, any attempts to move the Homecoming tailgate from its usual location will guarantee low attendance at the game. The alumni barbecue has been held for years in various locations, so there are other workable places for it to occur. The LaValle Stadium Parking Lot is a sacred ground for Homecoming. As undergraduate students who will someday decide whether to give back to our alma mater, we should call on the Homecoming Committee and the university to keep the tailgate in its usual location. Furthermore, we are owed full transparency going forward and tangible student representation on the Homecoming Committee to ensure undergraduate voices are heard for many graduating classes to come.