Stony Brook University will use newly expanded SUNY funding to diversify the student body and school faculty.
Governor Kathy Hochul announced the approval of a $113 million increase in state funding for SUNY schools on July 28.
The funding will be used to improve student services, boost SUNY enrollment rates and promote college completion. According to Diverse, $60 million will be allocated for enrollment specifically. The remaining $53 million will be directed towards hiring SUNY staff.
“There will be more students and they’ll see themselves within their classrooms, within their research and their programming,” said Dr. Judith Brown Clarke, vice president for Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer for Stony Brook University and Health System, said.
According to enrollment data collected by the university, Stony Brook’s student population is mainly Asian and White, with 41.3% of students being white and 36.7% being Asian. Hispanic students and Black or African American students account for 13.1% and 8.6% of students, respectively.
Gospel Excel, a junior studying technology systems management with a concentration in computer science, is happy to hear about how this funding will impact campus.
“Diversifying campus is such a good cause,” Excel said. “Me being an African American student myself, I feel like if I went on campus and didn’t see students like myself, I would not feel very comfortable. It would be nice to come onto campus next semester and see more teachers that look like me, more students that look like me. It’s a comfort thing.”
Clarke explained the link between increased funding and diversifying campus.
“I really hate to think that fairness and equity really is grounded in money, but sometimes it is,” Clarke said. She was “thrilled” when she first heard the news of the increased SUNY funding.
Clarke noted that Stony Brook has had plans of promoting diversity within the staff and the student body in the past, and now has the funds to execute them.
“When you have money to support some of your initiatives, then it means that the things that you wish for actually can happen,” Clarke said. “So, I’m very excited that strategically, the things that we’ve been talking about — actually — we could act on.”
The SUNY Board of Trustees approved this expanded funding with the goal of prioritizing higher education and supporting the opportunities made available by SUNY schools.
According to Clarke, Stony Brook will use the expanded funding to employ “inclusive hiring practices.” This is intended to result in a more diverse staff that is more reflective of the student body.
These changes are not tentative; the efforts toward diversifying campus will be noticeable by next year, according to Clarke.
“We’re just evolving at a pace that is faster than a snail and moving towards a rabbit,” Clarke said. “I think this time next year, we’re gonna be so proud of ourselves.”
“A little sooner would’ve been nice, we’re in 2022. But it’s better late than never,” Excel said.
With more students being given the opportunity to attend college due to grants and funding such as the Pell Grant and more staff being hired, Clarke said that by this time next year, “we’re gonna look and feel and sound like our core values.”
“Having this funding is great in order to expand opportunities,” Gianna Badamo, a senior at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, New York, said. She is glad to hear about the increased funding and believes it will benefit college applicants who are restricted by finances.
Badamo is in the Med-Tech program at her high school; she is in the process of applying to college and is considering Stony Brook University for its extensive STEM programs.
“With applying for colleges, some might limit themselves due to application fees,” Badamo said. “This funding can aid students to broaden their options as well as their accessibility to a better education.”
Clarke emphasized the idea of “diversity of diversity,” meaning that this funding will bring in students of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Clarke said that this kind of diversity can transform Stony Brook.
Clarke is especially excited about how students will be impacted by a newly diversified campus. “Cultures shift when you have synergy,” Clarke said.