Stony Brook is starting to earn recognition for its efforts to foster diversity.
In early November, the Faculty Student Association (FSA) won the National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) Edwin R. Golden Award for Inclusive Excellence for its commitment to diversity on campus. The award focuses on campus leadership and programs that promote cultural awareness and inclusion, according to the FSA’s website.
Their application for the award featured this February’s Black History Month plans, which include a Q&A and book signing with Nigerian-American chef, Kwame Onwuachi.
“It’s meant to be an educational opportunity for the campus community,” Sonia Garrido, the FSA communications manager, said.
This was the first time that the award was given to Stony Brook University; Garrido said the staff at FSA was thrilled to receive it.
“We kind of, like, broke the mold,” Garrido said.
In 2016, Stony Brook University implemented the Stony Brook University Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity in response to SUNY’s 2015 Diversity, Inclusion and Equity policy, an effort to become the most inclusive state university system in the U.S.
According to Stony Brook’s website, the plan grew out of “many discussions and written exchanges” with Stony Brook students, faculty and staff “of different races, ethnicities, ages, genders, religions, abilities, socioeconomic levels and sexual orientations.”
Interim President Michael Bernstein released a $1.6 million addition to the plan last month that will “recruit and retain students, staff, and faculty, as well as improve the lived experience on campus and encourage engagement with our local communities,” according to a campus-wide email.
The addition is the fifth segment in the diversity plan, which is broken down by idea.
The first section, “Introduction and Brief History of Stony Brook University Diversity Efforts,” is the framework of the plan. The initial draft was subject to critiques and commentaries from both students and staff, who “recommended ways to improve how we embrace our diversity to create and maintain a welcoming environment on campus.”
Section Two features offices, programs, events and organizations on campus that cultivate diversity, from race to sexuality. $466,750 from the new investment plan is going towards a goal of expanding student incentives, with $25,000 going to a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Workshop and $20,000 towards student affinity groups — organizations of members with a shared culture or identity — such as the Black Womyn’s Association, Asian Students Alliance and the Latin American Student Organization.
Section Three of the plan focuses on the progress that has yet to be made at Stony Brook. This section breaks down the percent of students and employees by race, ethnicity, sex and ability from the past to the present.
“Highlights of data on our students and employees provide an overview of where we are today and give us the ability to understand and monitor progress toward goals to advance diversity,” the plan reads.
The fourth section focuses on the university’s broader goals to fully enact diversity on campus.
The fifth and newest section of the diversity plan is the implementation plan, which will be used by councils and working groups that monitor and assess the diversity progress on campus.
The newly updated Advisory/Steering Committee, outlined in the fifth section of the diversity plan, includes students, staff and faculty. It will work with groups such as the Student Inclusion Leadership Council, a group of students actively involved in reporting the effects of the plan’s agendas on students on campus.
Stony Brook students are very vocal about these new initiatives.
Carine Green, a sophomore political science and women’s gender and sexuality studies double major, believes that the concept of diversity has yet to be fully applied on campus.
“Stony Brook has done a good job at the idea and look of diversity,” he said. “We haven’t established respect. The idea of diversity, the word isn’t enough. It doesn’t do anything.”
Green noted that Stony Brook could do better. He said that, as a person who’s black and queer, he’s struggled to be respected at the university.
“How are we able to move through the world if we aren’t being able to be put in different experiences?” he said. “We need to be sure to be putting forth every culture, everyone in front for this diversity plan.”
Green is the president of the House of SHADE, an organization for black LGBTQ+ students. Inclusivity is the group’s main goal.
“House of SHADE promotes more than being black and queer. You’ll understand our culture and us, yours. We want to hear what you have to say,” he said.
Kitchner Gaston is a senior biology major and member of the Haitian Student Organization, a club that aims “to make the student body more diverse among Haitian students,” he said.
When it comes to diversity as a whole, he believes the efforts will be best reflected through the students.
He said that it’s common for students to surround themselves with other students they feel like they can relate to, whether it’s their classmates or organizations on campus. The choice to branch out and meet different people is entirely dependent on them.
“It’s all in the student body’s hand,” he said.
Sabriya Saif, a sophomore psychology and political science double major, agrees that taking advantage of the diversity plan is up to students.
“The administration can only do so much,” she said.
Saif is the secretary of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, an all-inclusive organization for women of Stony Brook that “raises awareness of intersectionality,” she said.
She added that coming from a predominantly white school, Stony Brook has allowed her to meet multiple people of different backgrounds.
“People tend to go with the group that makes them feel comfortable, which is fine,” she said. “We should still try to meet new people from other backgrounds. It would really help us grow in terms of different perspectives.”
Azizat Sadiq, president of the African Student Union, said the encouragement of diversity has made her time here worthwhile.