When students walk into the new Stony Brook University Student Union, they are met with a grand staircase and high ceilings. After three years of renovations and about $63.4 million, the new Union opened on campus this fall semester.
The building serves as a home for centralized student services, programs and initiatives. Located in the center of West Campus, the Student Union features three levels of newly designated areas, including an expanded office for the Center of Civic Justice, new student life highlights and an e-sports facility.
“It really is a wonderful opportunity for Stony Brook to create what I view as more of a one stop shop for student service,” Rick Gatteau, dean of students at Stony Brook University, said. “It just makes it a much better experience for students as they navigate the campus.”
The old Student Union first opened in January of 1970 and included a dining hall, classrooms, an auditorium, a student lounge, a bowling alley and a hair salon.
“The [old] Union is classic and was the first event center and Student Activity Center on this campus,” Jeffrey Barnett, assistant dean of students, said. “A lot of people have described it as the living room of the university at the time.”
When he was a Stony Brook student in the late ’90s, Barnett had his orientation in the old Union.
“It was everything in anything,” he said. “We wanted to retain a lot of those elements too, to [it] being the central hub to the university.”
The new Union serves as a Student Services Center, including aspects of student life.
Many services that were on campus also moved into the new Union, including the United Nationalities in Transcending Ideologies (UNITI) Cultural Center, Financial Aid, Parking Services and other services that were previously in the administration building.
A tour of the new Student Union. Its hours were expanded in mid-September to close at midnight Thursdays through Saturdays. Video by Kelly Alvarado
The new Union features a Club Hub Center, which is a lounge designated for student club space for programs and meetings. Before this space, clubs and organizations were limited to a handful of rooms in the Student Activities Center (SAC). Clubs and organizations will still have to sign up to use rooms, but there is a large increase in space with the new Union.
“We have 350 clubs and organizations on campus and our groups need space,” Gatteau said, “And so this provides literally almost double the square footage of space people can preserve.”
The additional space for clubs and organizations will also allow dance teams to be able to rehearse in a dance studio space that will be located on the lower level of the SAC once areas currently used for storage are vacated, according to Gatteau.
“It’s a work in progress, but we’re just trying to take into account all of the needs that we’ve heard from students over the years and providing the space,” he said.
There is also a space designated for fraternities and sororities to use for recruitment events and community programs. A new area that was never on campus is the gaming room featuring recreational video gaming stations and consoles, along with traditional games such as billiards and foosball.
The new Union also offers spaces for students to practice their religions on campus. The new Interfaith Center features the Mark & Gloria Snyder Hillel Center for Jewish Life, the Interfaith Chapel, Catholic Campus Ministries, Protestant Campus Ministries, Islamic Ministries and a new Islamic Prayer Room.
Large facilities include a 4,000 square foot ballroom, a tutoring space and an auditorium.
“I think the new Stony Brook Union is beautiful and promises to be a real game changer for student life on-campus,” Howard Gunston, director of student centers, said.
Since the Union has proved to be popular, its hours of operation have been expanded, according to Gunston. Previously, the Union closed at 10 p.m. daily, but as of Sept. 17, the hours were expanded so that it closes at midnight Thursdays through Saturdays. The Union opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on the weekend.
“We often talk about the limited number of Seawolves on-campus right now, but our lounge packs out daily, even on Sundays,” he said.
The only part of the new Union that isn’t completely built is the UNITI Cultural Center, which offers students opportunities to learn about different cultures on campus through conversation and programming.
“There will be meeting space, informal gathering space, study space and conference rooms,” Barnett said. “It’s going to be a place where people can come together to learn about different cultures to express pride in who they are.”