It might come as a shock to some of you that Stony Brook University (SBU) is not a school made for the arts. Perhaps the abundance of science buildings with the humanities packed in a corner, or simply its reputation as an internationally renowned research university.
Any way you spin it, artists at the overwhelmingly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based university are struggling to feel supported in a year that requires the best push-up bra money can buy. It’s important we delve into what exactly makes it so difficult for artists to shine at Stony Brook, and how we can improve our community to be as inclusive as it claims to be.
In a survey sent out by The Statesman, a majority of students felt there were not enough opportunities on campus for artists — artists being considered painters, musicians, dancers, etc. These students felt they were unsupported by the administration, and stated that they feel like a minority at Stony Brook.
The programs for the arts at SBU are few, and typically relegated to clubs as opposed to university-sanctioned classes and organizations; a handful of clubs that cater to on campus artists are Artists in Medicine, Photography Club, Camerata Singers and Pocket Theatre. Students often feel unrepresented and unsupported in their endeavors, as it forces them to coordinate many of their own activities and events without the help of the university. For example, most club meetings and events are held by club councils and members, and rarely are faculty advisors present or assisting.
The lack of opportunities not only disproportionately affects artistic students, but makes it increasingly difficult for STEM students to become well-rounded and involve themselves in activities outside of their course of study.
Out of all the survey responses on how to improve the experience of artists on campus, the most overwhelming outcry came for increased funding. In recent years, budget cuts have been positioned on the humanities, much like many other universities inside and outside the SUNY system.
This has placed an incredible strain on the already slim pickings for artists on-campus, shaving programs down to shells of what they once were. An increase in funding for the arts and humanities at SBU will allow for a bolstering of artistic programs, as well as an increase in the opportunities for students outside of classes.
“An increase in funding would allow these departments to offer more and more diverse undergraduate courses, providing students with a host of new artistic and humanistic experiences, as well as foster other types of artistic and creative opportunities,” assistant director of SBU’s Writing Center Sara Santos said. “Ultimately, such an investment would represent a recognition of the value of the arts and humanities within SBU.”
It will also allow for better networking opportunities, as well as open up new pathways for research in more unconventional fields.
Artists on SBU are tired of trying to scream over the chorus of STEM voices that drown them out. Rarely are the thoughts and feelings of artists expressed at Stony Brook — except in The Statesman Arts & Culture section.
By taking into consideration the wishes of artistic students, administrators can seek to make programs more accessible for both them and their STEM peers, crafting a more inclusive, diverse university that allows for and promotes the success of all programs and majors under its vast umbrella of majors, minors, and programs, totaling over 200.
Giving artists a voice on campus would merely dip the toes of SBU into the pool of inclusivity, but it’s certainly a start. Various populations at Stony Brook are struggling to stay afloat in the post-pandemic world, and artists are certainly one of them.
It may seem egregious — or insensitive — to call artists a minority on campus when considering the plights of racial minorities on campus. But in its most basic definition, artists are a minority: an afterthought to Stony Brook University. The artists at Stony Brook are just as important as the engineers, the physicists and the marine biologists; it’s time they felt that way.