At his annual State of the University Address, President Samuel Stanley welcomed 66 new faculty to Stony Brook University. After years of operating under a hiring freeze, this was a big deal for the excited faculty in attendance.
“The 2020 Act is a game-changer,” said Stanley of the bill that will increase tuition for this year and for each of the next four years. The bill will also put a stop to the budget cuts that have resulted in a 26.9 percent decrease in state funding in the last four years.
A number of administrative cuts will still be necessary, especially in the short term. “Revenue increases will not offset the cuts until the fifth year,” said Stanley, who pointed to shared services and department mergers as some of his money-saving initiatives.
Stanley also stressed that fundraising remained an important priority for the university, saying that it was something his staff needed to improve on.
“There are fewer class sections and larger classes,” Stanley said of the budget cuts. While he said state funding would “keep the lights on,” long-term investment would depend on philanthropic donations.
And while Stanley warned that university administrators would have to work hard in the year to come, the audience of mostly faculty and friends of John Toll, for whom a memorial service was held, still had plenty to cheer about.
Stanley trumpeted the university’s numerous achievements over the past year, including recipients of grants, early achievement awards and three Guggenheim Fellowship winners. He also listed a number of buildings that had been either expanded, constructed or completed in the past year.
Stanley also mentioned a number of planned initiatives, such as SUNY Korea and the reconstruction of the Student Union, for which there are few publicly available concrete details.
But the audience applauded most enthusiastically when the 66 new professors were introduced. In the build-up to the State Senate’s and Assembly’s votes on the NY2020 bill, at least one department head had expressed his need for new professors to make up for the employees he lost to retirement and other universities.
A large part of Stanley’s speech was made up of charts and graphs that painted a picture of a changing university.
According to preliminary data, Stanley said, Stony Brook is a more competitive school this year than ever before. He cited a record-high average SAT score and an unusually low acceptance rate.
The freshman class is also significantly more Asian than ever before. White and Asian students make up 32 percent of the freshman population. The percentage of white students in the new class is unusually low compared to the 41 percent that makes up the entire student population.
This year’s address even involved social media. Stony Brook’s official Twitter account shared some of President Stanley’s most positive-sounding quotes, such as “Stony Brook continues to attract the best students, year after year,” as he said them. A number of Stony Brook organizations and students had re-tweeted the sound bites before the speech was even over.