In the wake of announcements that Stony Brook’s Student Union would be vacated by January 2016 to make way for renovations, questions arose on the fate of the many clubs and organizations that occupy offices throughout the building.
Rooms 081 and 049 in the basement currently house the Craft Center, which holds frequent events that according to Andri Achilleos, 21, a double-major in studio art and art history, allow students to “relax and get away from the stress of work and classes,” and the Ceramics Center, where students, faculty and members of the local community gather to mold everything from sculptures to dishware.
The plans to relocate the two spaces, according to employees and frequenters of the Craft Center and its services are non-existent.
Also being lost to the Union reconstruction is the Student Activities Center Art Gallery.
According to Samantha Tracy, president of Stony Brook’s Fine Arts Organization, the space is being vacated to make way for the offices of the religious organizations that are currently housed on the second floor of the Union.
“I had to tell the future president and the future members that I’m not sure if you’re going to have a gallery space and be prepared to not have one,” said Tracy. “A huge learning tool in the art world is being able to look at your fellow students’ artwork and to share ideas. So now you have this matrix of ideas from other cultures, from other artists, from people of different ages and different skill levels, and you can walk around and you can talk about it and discuss concepts. Just that visual stimulation is a huge process in learning. That sharing of ideas really benefits Stony Brook and the Stony Brook community.”
This has raised concern amongst students and employees of the Craft Center and Art Gallery, who argue the value of having organizations and events like the Craft Night and student galleries on campus.
Along with Samantha Tracy and Emily Brownawell, a senior studio art major and avid user of the Ceramics Center, Achilleos began two petitions for the Craft Center and Art Gallery to raise awareness of the situation among the student body, reaching 1,200 signatures and earning the Craft Center administration a meeting with Dean of Students and Assistant VP of Student Affairs Tim Ecklund, who heard the case for maintaining outlets like theirs on campus.
“We didn’t start the petition as craft center employees, but as students,” said Achilleos. “We can actually show that students care.”
The case Achilleos and other advocates for finding a new place for these outlets is the necessity for stress relief provided by artistic endeavors.
“I definitely know that a lot of students, especially with the Craft Nights, come here to destress and to relax,” said Mikaela Batista, a graduate student in the Art History program who recently started working in the Craft Center.
According to Kate Valerio from Stony Brook’s Health Education office, the stress relief afforded by art is very real.
“There are definite health benefits to finding ways to distract yourself and use your hands” said Valerio. “[Health Education] has utilized the Art Gallery in several ways to support destressing of students. We’ve hosted poetry night in the Art Gallery among other events. Finding ways to utilize your hands has a definite stress-relieving effect.”
Batista said, “[The Craft Center] is just a great place to come and be creative. You don’t have to be an artist to enroll in a class here or learn or to meet new friends. I think that should be something that’s valued here, especially for students.”
This April, Stony Brook University hosted its largest ever Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). A total of 33 events took place in just 22 days to inform students and the community on how to prevent sexual assault.
Student groups and university organizations collaborated to hold a variety of sexual assault awareness programs. Each event took its own unique approach in teaching students on how to prevent sexual assault, or power-based violence.
While one or two presentations a week about sexual assault awareness is typical for Christine Szaraz, the Prevention and Outreach Counselor for the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), she attended up to four events each day in April.
“I’ll never say no to these presentations because it’s taken my entire career here at Stony Brook to see the level of demand for these kinds of services reach this peak,” said Szaraz.
Reported rape decreased in Suffolk County and New York state in 2012. But, sexual assault reports increased at Stony Brook that year. According to an SBU campus police report, there were 17 sexual assaults at SBU in 2012, which is five more than in 2011 and 10 more than in 2010.
In addition, the recent scandal of SBU alumna Sarah Tubbs who sued the school for “deliberate indifference” for how it handled her sexual assault case has drawn more attention to the topic of sexual assault on college campuses.
“I think what may contribute to the idea that the level of intensity around violence has increased, or maybe there’s more violence than there ever was is the media attention and presence,” Szaraz said.
She discussed how sexual assault goes beyond the physical attack commonly associated with rape. She said that people today are more educated on what actually qualifies as rape, which is when someone has sex with a person who simply says no. This has led to more people identifying and reporting sexual assault.
“If someone thinks that rape is this really narrow limited set of circumstances, it’s just a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife or a gun, then you’re not going to see a whole range of circumstances that legally qualify as rape even if it’s happening right in front of you,” said Szaraz.
Matthew Sacco, a senior English major at SBU, tried to inform students that sexual assault can manifest itself in more subtle ways. He is the president and founder of Students United for Action (SUFA), and organized a campaign called “Light in the Dark” where members inform students about how to intervene as a bystander witnessing sexual assault. During the evening of Thursday, April 23, SUFA members taped glow sticks to pamphlets with information about bystander intervention and handed them out to students.
The glow sticks were intended to invite more students to hear the members discuss their mission, rather than trying to gain their attention by simply giving them a piece of paper. The Student Union was their main destination where crowds of sororities and fraternities huddled around the entrance, waiting for their rides to attend house parties off campus.
“After doing this outreach for a very long time, you understand when someone is ready to have a conversation or even when having a conversation about sexual assault is triggering someone’s personal experiences,” said Sacco, who spent the night handing out glow sticks to students and engaging them in conversations about the mission of “Light in the Dark.”
“It’s been really amazing to be a part of this because I’ve had so many great conversations with people and I think it’s been really amazing empowering advocates who really didn’t know how to address the issue.”
A core theme of SAAM was emphasizing that sexual assault doesn’t discriminate whom it affects.
“Sexual violence is not about women, it’s about community,” said Dr. Smita Majumdar Das, CPO Assistant Director. “Men, women, everyone is equally impacted by violence. So, when we’re looking at a community, we’re looking at how we as a community change our norms and step in when violence occurs. It’s about you, it’s about me, it’s about everyone to play our part in this.”
Tanya Barbot, a junior psychology and sociology double major, volunteered to help SUFA with their “Light in the Dark” event. She sought to inform both male and female students about the issue of bystander intervention.
“There’s a lot of people who are afraid to step in because they feel like they don’t really have a say in what’s going on or they’re afraid of the repercussions of what can happen,” Tanya Barbot said, as students chattered around her in their fraternity or sorority groups. “But, they need to understand that they need to protect other people.”
“Light in the Dark” wasn’t the only event on SBU that looked to spread sexual assault awareness. On April 27, junior english major, Christine Publik, hosted an event titled “50 Shades of Grey Areas” in the H Quad on campus. She used the event to tackle the important issue of how to define sexual consent, and to avoid the “grey” areas.
“Consent is defined by SBU as a negation or the act of saying no,” said Publik. “Rape culture, victim blaming and what people think consent is in general is really important for me because the policies are there, but there are so much more in between like the ‘grey’ areas.”
Publik’s event title is a play on words in reference to the highly acclaimed and controversial book and movie adaptation “50 Shades of Grey.” The story drew attention to abusive relationships, which is closely associated with domestic violence and sexual assault. Some argued that the relationship between the two characters falsely portrayed a positive BDSM relationship. Hence, Publik’s use of the title “50 Shades of Grey Areas.”
Additionally, groups of students gathered on the afternoon of April 14 for a march through the SBU academic mall. This event was called “Walk in their Shoes,” and was hosted by one of the campus sororities and Megan Smedley, an internship consultant at the SBU Career Center. Participants shouted, “Stop the violence, stop the silence,” catching the attention of many onlookers with their energy.
With the wide array of sexual assault awareness programs that took place this April, Szaraz plans to host even more events next year. She compared the amount of focus students gave to sexual assault awareness when she graduated from SBU in 2003 to the attention the topic draws today.
“So, what I’m seeing is the temperature generally having come up if we’re looking at warmer being better and more people getting involved and engaged,” said Szaraz. “When I was a student, I would say that the temperature was rather cool. It was tepid water. But, now the water is really warm. I don’t think we’re simmering, but we’re approaching that simmering point.”
Gone are the days of overhead projectors and the screeching noise of chalk on a chalkboard. Now is the time for Apple TVs and iPads to teach, increasing mobility for college and university professors and bringing more interaction between students and professors, and students and their fellow peers.
Stony Brook University is among the many schools in the country with technology beginning to take center stage and the University is wasting no time. Newly-opened Frey Hall is the technological hub of the school, utilizing Apple TVs in all four of the lecture halls in the building and designing a classroom that may look like it did 100 years ago, but is technologically advanced for 2015.
“The vision for the learning spaces at Stony Brook is supporting teaching practices that already exist but envisioning the ways that faculty want to engage students in the future and power a lot of that through really smart design and the use of technology whether it’s existing or emerging technologies,” the University’s Chief Information Officer Cole Camplese said.
According to Camplese, the classrooms of the future need to support three things in order to be successful. Really good wireless, different kinds of ways for faculty to interact with students and more flexibility.
This, in turn, will allow professors to teach as they please, whether it is to continue to stand in front of a class and lecture, or to walk around and engage their students while using the technology present, something Camplese strongly encourages.
“I think the future of teaching looks less like drill and practice, lecture and repeat, and doing more of that stuff out of the classroom and have time in the classroom to participate and do stuff,” the former Penn State Senior Director of Teaching and Learning with Technology said.
The goal for technology going forward is to be more of an aid in assisting students to learn. At a young age, students are put into groups by sitting at tables, making them work together and work as a team. As students got older, it was more singular in nature, with teachers having students do a lot of the work on their own.
Camplese wants to get back to the good old days.
“Learning is a social enterprise, and we do it better when we do it together,” he said.
There are some downfalls to it, however, as chemistry professor Joseph Lauher describes for his class. He has to use clickers, or quick answering devices to send answers to his laptop, because the phones have one significant downfall to them.
“They just simply aren’t fast enough,” Lauher said. “For what I’m trying to do with my class, they just are not fast enough. Would I love to just use the phones [for both the quizzes and clickers]? Yeah! But it isn’t fast enough yet.”
The big thing that the technology is going to do is unite students and bring back collaborative learning. This takes education back in time when in reality it is moving forward.
“It returns us to a time when technology wasn’t the driver of a classroom,” Camplese said.
As time progresses, Camplese wants to create a diversity of workspaces, where professors can use this technology as much or as little as they please. But the possibility of them being there is what he hopes will entice the professors to use it and realize that there is something there.
“The chalkboard challenged teachers in a way that computers are doing that now,” Camplese said. “It unlocked all of these potentials that scared the heck out of students.”
Well, right now, technology is unlocking a lot of potentials that is scaring the professors instead. But down the road, it will be a great innovation that the teachers will enjoy.
Stony Brook University has been described as affordable, communal, diverse and exceptional, just to name a few. It is considered in the top one percent of universities around the world, ranked number 88 by US News and World Report and roughly 90 percent of its graduates get jobs after graduation.
And it is certainly not immune to mental illness that plagues other college campuses.
A 2012 survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors showed that 95 percent of college counseling center directors said the “amount of students with significant psychological problems is a growing problem.” SBU was a part of this survey.
But just how many students suffer? Last year, the Statesman reported that 1700 students came to CAPS for help last year, double what it was in 2004. It is open to students from 8:30am to 5pm on most weekdays. It’s unclear, however, how many students CAPS has served this year due to confidentiality.
Meanwhile, 52 percent of people in a 2007 ACHA survey at Stony Brook University “reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function at least once in the past school year.” More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition, according to the American College Health Association.
“A lot of people don’t talk about it, and I know there is a lot of depression on campus, and I know it’s really hard to find something that relaxes you because you’re so caught up in your studies and you’re so caught up in what you’re doing,” said Emily Markowitz, 22, a marine science major. “It’s really hard for people to get out of that and remove themselves.”
“They have this really negative ball around them and that travels and that’s contagious,” Markowitz added.
Alex Bouraad, an 18-year old bio-pre med major and fellow trained in recognizing depression symptoms, said that Stony Brook has some- but not enough- resources for people with depression.
“I feel like Stony Brook lacks a lot of the support people with depression need,” Bouraad said. “There are options like going to CAPS, or going to CPO or seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist, but it’s not as readily available as it should be.”
Stony Brook acknowledges that mental health and suicide are a growing issue. Events like “Part of the Pack,” a suicide awareness and prevention program ran by the residence halls, had representatives from CAPS present. Programs like “Let’s Talk”, an extension of CAPS, also try to close the distance, allowing some students in Tabler Quad and West Apartments to talk to someone without journeying far in the evening when CAPS is closed.
And yet, it can still feel like nobody is there to help.
“Sometimes I guess it can be very lonely and quiet,” said Elizabeth Lyton, 21, a senior majoring in health science. “So most people do feel like there are no other students to reach out to.”
“It has more to due with the stress levels,” she added.
But there are options on campus, according to Cathrine Duffy, associate dean of student support on campus. Student Support, she said, works as a “network of other departments” and does a lot of “behind the scenes” work like validating documentation and reaching out to professors in the event of a hospitalization or a death in the family.
“We do this in a way so that students don’t have to repeat their story six different times because that can be traumatizing for them,” Duffy said.
Duffy also pointed out that there are other resources like CAPS, Financial Aid, Disability Support Services and the Academic Success and Tutoring Center that they could refer students to. She noted that when students feel secure academically, they feel happier.
“College is hard. We recognize that, so we do a lot,” Duffy said. “A lot of student activities, weekend life programming, a lot of the residential hall programming, campus recreation center- the reason these places program so actively is to give students a healthy outlet.”
460,000 NCAA student-athletes have to fit their sports and social lives along with school work into their daily schedules. The problem is, there are only 24 hours in a day.
“It’s very hard. It’s very hard,” Courtney Rickard, Stony Brook’s Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development, said. “I tell every recruit and their families when they come, I would have failed out of school if I had been a Division I student-athlete.”
There are some programs that help their pupils take the easy way out to squeeze sports and school work in, while still getting through the rigors of a college course load.
“We’re not the North Carolina scandal, we’re going to do it right,” Rickard said. “If we’re going to have athletics at Stony Brook, we’re going to do it right.”
That has not always been the case for the Seawolves. Way before Stony Brook’s baseball team went to the 2012 College World Series, the men’s basketball team beat the No. 13-ranked squad in the nation at the end of 2014 and the women’s lacrosse team earned a top-five national ranking this year, the Athletics Department found itself in trouble.
Ever since, Stony Brook Athletics’ administration has worked with its student-athletes to make their two jobs—one as a student and another as an athlete— as successful as possible.
“You’ve got the athletics piece and you’ve got the academics piece and heaven forbid they want to join a club, they want to be involved in something, that’s a drain on their time,” Rickard said. “Our job really is to try to help alleviate any of that stress and really organize their day.”
Ever since Rickard started as an advisor at Stony Brook in 2003, Seawolves student-athletes have improved in the classroom. The department’s overall grade-point average has risen from a 2.86 in the 2003-2004 academic year to its current number of 3.08.
Stony Brook’s Director of Athletics, Shawn Heilbron, will soon unveil that the department seeks to bring the overall GPA to a 3.15 as part of a larger five year plan, per Rickard.
According to Dr. Richard Laskowski, who was the Dean of Physical Education and Athletics at Stony Brook over a decade ago, departments looking to increase performance both on and off of the field, as Stony Brook is attempting to do, face a challenge.
“You’ve got to bring in good students. But history shows, unfortunately, that generally the higher the level of athletic performance that’s asked for in a university, the more difficult it is to get those students who have high grades,” Laskowski said. “They’re more likely to focus on their athletic ability.”
An example is the University of Notre Dame, where according to Laskowski, who was also a high-ranking administrator at St. John’s University, the Fighting Irish have slightly lowered their standards for the sake of securing students who can help them the most on the playing field.
According to CNN, the academic fraud bug bit them in 2014. “Several University of Notre Dame students, including four football players, are being investigated over academic fraud allegations, the university said.”
Stony Brook does not want to sacrifice its academics for anything.
“Because of the high standards we have here at Stony Brook, we always wanted to do that, that was always one of our goals when we were doing a strategic plan or a five-year plan, increase the GPAs,” Laskowski said. “But to do that, it’s hard to also increase the level of your athletic program, it’s not that easy. It’s very challenging.”
That is a struggle that Rickard and company deal with every day.
“Coaches don’t like surprises at the end of the semester,” she said. “but we don’t like surprises during the semester.”
Academic coaches meeting individually with students and teams holding study halls at the Stuart Goldstein Student-Athlete Development Center are some of the efforts made to keep students on track.
“It’s everybody at the table,” Rickard said. “Everyone involved with student athlete welfare coming to the table and working so that the calendar of things they have to do somehow fits in those 24 hours.”
To faculty, it is not about merely helping student-athletes skate by and just earn their degrees, either. Since Heilbron took the job a year ago, much time has been spent focusing on what comes next for the Seawolves.
“That hundred percent placement in something after graduation is going to fall on our shoulders here in student-athlete development and it really always has, but now it’s put into place, it’s written out,” Rickard said. “I think that’s a challenge because that’s a hard task to fill, but at the same time, that’s what our mission is. I always tell people on their recruiting visit, ‘if you come here for four years and you leave and you have no idea what to do after that, I have failed you.’”
Despite the obstacles, Stony Brook Athletics is not failing, but only building upwards.
The beginning of this semester marks the birth of my professional Twitter account @bridget_downes. Since January, I’ve worked my way to 46 followers. My personal account has 228. Gaining followers is a feat that takes time if you don’t happen to be a celebrity.
To gain followers, you must follow a recipe: post frequently, tag all posts, and interact with people. Posting frequently is important because not only does it show your followers you’re alive and kicking, but it provides a constant feed of information, which is what people want.
Tagging posts is another helpful tactic. By adding #freedom to your tweet regarding your 320 homework, any Twitter user who searches for freedom may stumble upon your tweet. This increases the chances of people visiting your Twitter account and potentially clicking “follow” when they enjoy your amazing, fully comprehensible, well-tagged tweets.
Adding hashtags won’t hurt your SEO, either. In fact it would do the opposite. So add all the appropriate hashtags your heart desires, without being excessive. If you add too many, people will stop reading them.
Interacting with people is another important ingredient in the recipe to gain follower count. People like being responded to. People like being acknowledged, noticed. If others see that you interact with your followers, they might be more inclined to approach you. This is also a good way to network. Twitter is a social medium, after all.
In addition to my personal Twitter account and my professional one, I run the account of Stony Brook Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood. I work as the social media coordinator for Vox, which includes running Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This means I am in charge of publicizing and promoting our events to increase turn-out. As a group, we also post relevant articles that deserve signal boosting to spread awareness.
Under the Vox account, I follow Twitter and Instagram accounts that have similar messages and goals as our group. This leads to follow-backs, based on similar interests.
Though I don’t have hard proof, I’ve heard people say that some accounts gain followers by going on a “follow spree,” and then unfollowing the accounts after gaining the follow-backs. Although this sounds effective, it seems morally wrong in my opinion. So I’ll stick to the original recipe.
For Bihua Yu, living in America has been a growing experience. She moved to America from Ningbo, a modern seaport city in southeast China, to attend Stony Brook University. Her goal is to become a college math professor in China. She enjoys the freedom of living half a world away from her homeland and growing as an independent person.
When a veil was lifted from 28-year-old Mathew Ryerson’s eyes, it had nothing to do with a wedding. Instead, the Stony Brook University political science student got a fresh start in life. He was free to live again.
Ryerson graduated high school in 2005, but suffered from what at the time seemed like typical fatigue as his weight ballooned over 300 pounds. Little did he know that the fatigue was the least of his worries.
In the early days of 2009, he made a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night that led to a cycle of worrying, researching and fear. Ryerson’s right side went numb. He had no clue what was happening to him.
With no steady job and a last-second effort to enroll full-time at Suffolk County Community College in order to obtain health coverage shut down because of an outstanding bill, Ryerson had no choice.
He had to go to the hospital without health insurance.
After the neurologist on-call went over the Long Islander’s situation, the doctor’s initial evaluation would later turn into a confirmed reality: Ryerson had Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that affects the covering of nerves, which yields symptoms that include problems with muscle control, vision and balance.
Yet, after his first attempt at helping himself with self-injections caused more harm than good, Ryerson eventually found Tysabri, an infusion done once a month, which has changed his life for the better.
Ryerson still has moments where he has to sit in his car to wait for tremors in his hands to calm down. Every day may not be his best. But, the positive-minded Seawolf, who can often be seen and heard at Stony Brook athletic events, does not let it get to him.
Every time he steps into a classroom, all that is there is a professor and his goal of learning. Ryerson would say he was let out of a cage. He stepped out, turned around and locked the disease in it.
For Bihua Yu, America has been a growing experience. The Chinese international student moved to America to attend Stony Brook University with the hopes becoming a college math professor in China. But, what she’s been getting is more than just a career booster. She enjoys the freedom of living half a world away and growing up as an independent person.
I wasn’t always sure what I wanted to do with my life. Since I was five-years-old I always imagined myself being a marine biologist. I was amazed with the ocean and what lived inside of it.
As I got older and started college I felt myself at a crossroad. I no longer knew if this is what I wanted for myself anymore.
My first two years of college was spent at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. I chose to stay as a liberal arts major, and dapple around until I knew what I definitely wanted.
It wasn’t until I took a business of communications class and I’ll never forget what my professor said, “chase your bliss.” For days I had this quote in my head and thought what is it I love most? That’s when it hit me, I love TV and always wanted to be a reporter, but more for entertainment.
Red carpets, golden globes, celebrities and fashion is what I love. I love reading about it, talking about it, researching etc.
As my two years approached I knew I had to look into a four year school to begin my major. First I looked into Miami university, but 58,000 dollars a year was out of my price range.
I’ve heard of Stony Brook numerous times before. My older brother -six years older- wanted to go here and his friends went too. So the name always stuck in the back of my head since I was younger, and I knew it was an excellent school.
After I applied I was pretty much banking on stony Brook and Brooklyn College as my back up. Both schools have great broadcast departments, so I wouldn’t be upset with either. Though going away to Stony Brook was at the top.
I nearly had a panic attack when I received my acceptance letter. As I said before my brother applied, but he was rejected and he was always the book worm, so I was stunned. I sometimes still can’t believe I am here.
I realize now I made the right choice in coming here. I am so thankful that two years later I am here doing exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life.