President-elect Maurie McInnis addressed the university senate for the first time during the May 4 University Faculty Senate meeting held through Zoom.
She applauded Stony Brook’s efforts to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Your region has been so much harder hit than anywhere else in the nation,” McInnis said. As days passed by, cases on Long Island were continuing to spike and a region with a population of more than seven million people became a hot spot for the virus.
Suffolk County currently has the 5th-highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in New York, according to data from the New York State Department of Health.
“Since the crisis, my respect for this community has only deepened. The ways in which across East and West campus, you all have been partnering together to figure out the best ways to support Long Island, your community and one another, has been truly inspiring,” she said.
Since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in early March, Stony Brook University Hospital has tested 6,700 people for the virus, with about 4,000 individuals testing positive, according to Dr. Ken Kaushansky, senior vice president of health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. About 1,200 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized at Stony Brook University Hospital, with about 25% in the intensive care unit at some point, Kaushansky said during the university senate meeting.
Kaushansky said that the way the hospital has responded to the impact of COVID-19 is a result of the preparation, skill and devotion of both its faculty and staff.
“It’s our dedication — It’s our understanding as much as we could about the disease early on and acting on it with protocols and the best evidence-way to care for patients,” he said.
McInnis said that she’s been working with Interim President, Michael Bernstein, to learn about university operations, planning and budget. She ended her address by saying that she looks forward to opening and maintaining open lines of communication with the university senate in the future.
“We are hopeful that incoming President McInnis will bring a breath of fresh air to campus. She has, so far, said the right things,” Frederick Walter, a university senate executive committee member and astronomy professor at Stony Brook said.
Richard Larson, university senate president-elect and linguistics professor at Stony Brook, also believes McInnis has said the right things and his first impression of her was positive.
“She spoke well and remained throughout what turned out to be an extended meeting, which indicates engagement,” he said.
Larson said that in his own view, the relationship between faculty and administration hasn’t been the strongest over the past decade. “I am therefore very much hoping President-Elect McInnis will choose to make a fresh start and recruit new talent for Stony Brook University, who will work positively with her and with us to face the next, difficult period.”
Jeffrey Barnett, interim associate dean of students, said that from his interactions with McInnis so far, he believes that McInnis has shown her commitment to both the purpose and values of the university.
“I think our students will find her sincerity, student-centeredness and accessibility refreshing and inspiring,” he said.
McInnis plans to move to Long Island in June and is due to officially start as president of Stony Brook University on July 1.
“My family and I look forward to joining this amazing community in person,” McInnis said in a statement sent to The Statesman. “We are at a moment of great uncertainty and it is inspiring to see how the Stony Brook community has stepped forward to lead during this pandemic with conviction and purpose. I am proud to be a Seawolf.”