A screenshot of the original text of the 1962 article, “Frosh Statistics.” STATESMAN FILE

Liam Noonan is an assistant archivist at The Statesman and a BA/MAT student in Stony Brook University’s School of Professional Development. This article is co-written with aead archivist Kelcie Eberharth, an editor at Stony Brook’s Undergraduate History Journal and President of Stony Brook’s History Club. 

High school graduates face a plethora of tough decisions when arriving at their chosen university. At the top of the list: what should I major in? While there are countless options to choose from, it seems that Stony Brook University has drawn more students who look to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Stony Brook University has long been revered for its exceptional STEM programs, earning a place among the top universities in the nation. However, in Stony Brook’s storied past, it seems as though the humanities have been cast aside in favor of these STEM programs.

The Statesman has covered these changing demographics over the course of its history. From freshman statistics to curriculum revisions, Statesman staff and the Stony Brook student body have shared facts and opinions on such developments.


In the 1962 coverage of the incoming freshman class statistics, Statesman staff highlighted the demographics of the student body. The University was welcoming more students from regions beyond Long Island than in previous years. Though Stony Brook was drawing students from new regions, the major demographics did not change much. Only 25% of students entering Stony Brook studied liberal arts, while the rest of the freshman class studied what are now called STEM majors.

Also in the early years of the University, The Statesman covered a piece in 1969 on the development of a revised curriculum. Within its resolutions, a “General University Program” was added, wherein all students would be required to take classes in a diverse array of disciplines and broaden the scope of their studies. Additionally, a liberal arts major was added to the University’s degree programs for the first time. This change offered a renewed focus on the humanities within Stony Brook’s education programs — a more intellectually diverse student body.

Screenshot of the original text from the 1986 article “Liberal Arts Majors Soaring at Stony Brook.” STATESMAN FILE

A 1986 article published by The Statesman suggests how there had been a growing interest in the liberal arts among Stony Brook students. Liberal arts majors had increased by approximately 75%,”from 162 majors in 1981 to 290 in 1985.” However, Martin Travis, former chairman of the Department of Political Science, notes in the article that his department has the highest volume of students admitted to the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society and possesses the highest caliber of students. 

This trend of disproportionate admittance to the University’s STEM programs has long been present in Stony Brook’s student body. In 2020, STEM Programs made up the top five most popular majors for graduates that year, which begs the question: why are STEM majors so popular at Stony Brook?


In a letter to the editor from 1999, Spencer Segalla comments on the state of funding for the Humanities Department and its facilities. He expressed concern that while funds are appropriated for the beautification of the campus, departments were left in disrepair. In particular, he noted that the English Department was “a lovely example of how the humanities, and the liberal arts in general are being gutted public higher education.” 

While his critique addresses concerns beyond Stony Brook, Segalla’s comments address how often the humanities are sidelined in favor of STEM programs and campus beautification.

Though there has been an increase in the diversity of majors at Stony Brook University since the 1960s, it is clear that the school will always be dominated by STEM programs. Nevertheless, we are left asking the same question: do liberal arts majors at Stony Brook get the short end of the stick?


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