by Natalie Crnosija
A University senator voiced her concerns about the establishment of a Stony Brook University satellite in South Korea at the Undergraduate Student Government Senate’s September 25 meeting during open agenda.
University Senator Julia Link received information about SBU Songdo during a September 10 University Senate presentation given by Deputy Provost W. Brent Lindquist. Link said she has many concerns about what the plans entail, which include exporting some SBU faculty to the South Korea campus. The purpose of her address was to pass information about the Songdo University plans on to SBU students through the USG. Link added that professors had not been informed of the SBU Songdo plans, though they would be affected through proposed staff movement to South Korea.
“I didn’t bring this to you to make a decision because nobody did,” said Link. “I want the help of USG to educate students, to give them a heads up…Amid budget cuts and class cutting, to start sending teachers overseas just doesn’t seem like a very good idea.”
Lindquist presented to the University Senate because, unlike USG, the University Senate is a legislative group composed of faculty and students who set university policy. The University Senate may express an opinion on the SBU Songdo proposal, but the ultimate decision remains with SBU President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr.
According to Lindquist’s “Planning Update SBU Songdo” PowerPoint, SBU will provide the academic programs, the faculty, the students and will grant SBU degrees. In exchange, South Korea is forming the Incheon Free Economic Zone, where it will establish a “Global University Campus.” Within this zone, SBU and 10 other universities will set up satellites. The South Korean government will pay for the facilities for approximately five years. After five years, SBU will take primary responsibility for funding. SBU Songdo will not be funded by New York State, but will receive funding from research, specific grants, SBU Songdo tuition and the South Korean government. Link expressed that the establishment of these grants exclusively for SBU Songdo was essentially diverting money that could be going to SBU proper instead.
Link said she had asked Lindquist about the benefits of the SBU Songdo to resident SBU students. “He said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if it will or if it will not’,” said Link. “He did not give any kind of valid answer.”
Lindquist was unavailable for comment.
Interim Media Relations Officer Lauren M. Sheprow said that SBU resident students would greatly benefit from SBU Songdo’s establishment. “The value of a Stony Brook degree will be enhanced,” said Sheprow. “Currently an SBU degree has very limited international recognition — as compared to, for example, UC Berkeley, or UCLA. With a branch campus in Asia, the recognizability of an SBU degree will be expanded in an area of the world that is developing as a global economic engine. Our desire is to provide students the same international cachet with an SBU degree.”
Furthermore, Sheprow denied that there would be the loss of students and resources abroad.
“Market studies show that foreign students who want to come to the US are not going to change their minds,” Sheprow said. “Conversely, US students who want to study overseas are unlikely to be currently at, or thinking of coming to, SBU. We expect Songdo to provide increased study abroad semester program opportunities for our US students.”
Similarly, USG Senator Syed Haq asserted that other universities, like SUNY Buffalo, have institutions abroad. SUNY Buffalo was the first SUNY to establish a satellite, which is located in Malaysia. Haq later asked the Senate to consider the SUNY Songdo issue when the student representatives on the Senate of Arts and Sciences are picked. “All the information we are receiving here is hearsay,” said Haq.
USG President Jasper Wilson said that a SBU Songdo committee will be formed by faculty representatives within the Senate of Arts and Sciences. The Senate of Arts and Sciences is a legislative body composed of faculty and students within the University Senate. This committee will include student representatives who have not yet been nominated by Wilson. The Senate of Arts and Sciences nomination/confirmation process will begin next week’s USG Senate meeting.
“I am pretty sure that Provost Brian Lindquist and President Stanley will be coming to talk to the Committee of Arts and Sciences to answer the faculty’s questions…so more information gets out there,” said Wilson. “I do not think it’s very helpful to continue this discussion any further.”
Amid the debate, multiple USG senators tried to communicate that they could not issue an opinion on the SBU Songdo plans. “I want to make clear that nothing has been approved yet by the university or the university president,” said USG Senator Keith Tilley.
Former USG Senator Adam Kent said that the SBU Songdo question had been deferred to the Undergraduate Council, another legislative undergraduate policy committee, of which he was part last year. Currently, Kent is sitting on the committee as an observer. “Whatever information is given and that is allowed to be shared, I will more than happily share,” Kent said. “We were told to keep it quiet because they do not know what they are doing…it is being sent into committee to look into it. One of many things, the feasibility and the pros and cons. I will be putting the student’s best interests on this campus in America in mind.”