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Jessica Vestuto

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Stony Brook has done it again. On Sunday, author Junot Díaz shared the petition to Save Hispanic & Latino Studies at Stony Brook University, responding to the administration’s decision to suspend the doctoral program in Hispanic Studies and to combine the undergraduate program with other units. “This sucks. Stony Brook, what the hell are you thinking?” Díaz wrote in his post. Díaz is a Dominican American writer who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. He’s also won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. He visited Stony Brook in 2010 when Oscar Wao was chosen as the freshman-reading novel and shared that he wrote the novel because he felt immigrant communities were unrepresented. This theme is persistent in his work. Díaz is also known for his laid-back personality and for being an all-around…

I signed the petition to save the Humanities and the Arts at Stony Brook University because I’m trying not to feel completely hopeless. Because when the university releases a new financial plan, I can guess what was cut without looking. Because the root of the word university means “the whole” and Stony Brook continually shows it cares only about a portion.   Because the Dean of Arts and Sciences is supposed be an advocate for the arts and the sciences. Because the university doesn’t think I do “research” because it happens in a library and not a lab. Because that’s ridiculous. Because STEM classes are held in the new Humanities building and humanities classes in the old Physics building. Because purposely making classes in certain majors difficult to enroll in and then claiming no one is enrolling is a blatant abuse of power. Because I want my degree to be…

Most people think my bookcase is chaos. I don’t organize my books alphabetically, chronologically, or by genre. But there is a system and to me, it somehow makes sense: I arrange my books according to what authors I think would enjoy each other’s company. Catherine Lacey resides next to Flannery O’Connor. Colson Whitehead next to Sherwood Anderson. Ann Beattie next to F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this unconventional and somewhat bizarre arrangement, living authors rub elbows with the dead. Until recently, I never gave the fact that I read contemporary novels much thought. I always regarded them as inseparable from the rest of literature, some even more compelling than certain classics. It was not until my American Literature professor informed the class that he refused to read contemporary novels that I realized such a literary proclivity even existed. When asked why, he said he’d rather read something that had “stood the…

There is a circle of 10 empty chairs in the center of the room. Rows of fluorescent lights glow brightly from the ceiling, waiting for something to move beneath them. A few minutes before 4 p.m., a woman and a man enter. For the woman, the walk from the doorway to the chairs is easy: the mind says walk and a chemical reaction in the brain tells the muscles to move, a process so dependable it is thoughtless. For the man it is not so simple, as his legs are less willing to cooperate. The walk requires the arm of his spouse, a patient source of support to help him see the journey through. When he gets to his chair, he looks tired. Two more people enter the room. The seated man sees the newcomers and, with a surge of newfound energy, immediately takes hold of the chair’s arms, pushes…

How much time do you spend choosing classes? If you are like me in my freshmen year, a lot. I combed the Undergraduate Bulletin for days, enamored with the collegiate sounding classes: Introduction to Political Science, Moral Reasoning, Society and Evolution, etc. It seemed like just reading the names was making me smarter. I examined each description carefully, and even went as far as to Google names of professors. If you are like me now, two years later in my junior year, registering for classes is a nuisance. The newness of the process has worn off, the excitement is gone and using my SOLAR account now feels like paying homage to a time when a friendly paperclip helped me on Microsoft Word. Yet with every enrollment date I still feel the underlying responsibility to get it right. Everyone has heard the unfortunate tale where one forgotten course meant delaying graduation…

I first saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off eight years ago in my seventh grade health class on the day before spring break; a white flag from the teacher relinquishing any attempts of keeping us focused the day before vacation. I was skeptical at first—who names their child Ferris?—but I was won over three minutes into the film, when moments after his hoodwinked parents leave his room, a bed-headed and eager-eyed Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, sits up in bed, looks into the camera and says three words: “They bought it.” “How could I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?” Bueller asks following his performance as the despondently ill son. As a high school senior on an unwavering quest to have fun, Bueller skips school, borrows a Ferrari and turns the city of Chicago into his playground for the day, cleverly evading every adult and…

It was 6 a.m. when President Samuel J. Stanley Jr. awoke to the loud drone of a jackhammer. He lay on his back, sore from the stiff mattress, and stared at the ceiling. The white paint was peeling. “Where am I,” Stanley asked, lifting his head to see a tiny room enclosed by four unfamiliar walls. The air smelled of mildew. Outside, the jackhammer continued its loud whine. Stanley stood, his back aching and his head throbbing, and went to the window. The view looked out onto the construction on Toll Drive. That’s when the tired man realized where he was, the exuberant words he had spoken yesterday resurfacing in his mind. “I will spend the weekend in a Stony Brook dorm room,” he had said at the press conference. “Our faculty does everything we can to truly understand what our students go through. As the president of the university,…

In 1636, a farmhouse on one acre of cow pasture became America’s first establishment of higher education. As told in The History of American Higher Education by Roger L. Geiger—distinguished professor of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania University—the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, hoping to establish a college comparable to the universities of their former country, an Oxford or Cambridge of the New World, gave 400 pounds to what would become known as Harvard University. Seven years later, in 1643, a pamphlet titled “New England’s First Fruits” published a passage recalling the university’s conception: “After God had carried us safe to New-England, and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood… one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity…” 373 years later, these words still are inscribed on Harvard’s gates, and politicians still…

Joan Didion called grammar a piano she plays by ear, but we can’t all be Joan Didion, wearing over-sized sunglasses and crafting sentences reminiscent of a Henry James novel. Instead, for us undergrads, grammar is often a piano played out of tune and with great frustration. Stephen Spector, professor of English at Stony Brook University, has seen this frustration first-hand. He has been teaching English courses for 40 years, including a survey of the history of the language. For this reason, when Spector began to write a grammar guide, he wanted to create a book that would benefit his students. May I Quote You on That? (Oxford University Press, 2015) teaches grammar by example, compiling quotes from celebrities, writers and historical figures, a method of teaching that serves to put readers at ease. “A lot of students are anxious about their grammar,” Spector says. “I wanted to dispel that anxiety…