The ideology behind Project 50 Forward is full of good intentions—like put- ting in the effort now to establish a foundation for the next 50 years. Stony Brook is swiftly climbing the ladder in terms of academic quality and prestige, all while the State’s debt looms largely. However, Project 50 is using verbose terminology, like “Operational Excellence” and “Academic Greatness,” and hope-filled mission statements to mask the fact that they are treating the progress of the University much like a corporation treats the ailments of a sinking ship. The film Office Space was the epitome of the corporate stereotype abusing its dependent and vulnerable employees, and Stony Brook’s Administration is utilizing Project 50 in the same fashion.
With its minimal and expected selection of focus group participants, which are more mouthpieces of the Administration than legitimate representation, Project 50 is a prime symbol for how the Administration wants to handle the University’s progress. Currently, the student focus groups are in the process of being formed and planned for use only in Operational Excellence, which is one of three missions of Project 50’s entirety. To further minimize this representation, the focus groups are only planned for use in the second of the three phases of Operational Excellence.
The student focus groups, which are composed of student organizations, from USG to the Residence Hall Association, will not provide the primary or genuine input of the entire student body. The organizations are comprised of students who obtain their positions either through lack of competition or the vapid recommendation of a friend, and sought after simply for personal interests like a line on the resume.
This University has a student body of more than 20,000 students, including graduate students, and yet the majority of that enormous figure will have absolutely no voice in the 50-year plan. Therefore, this project’s effectiveness and implementation hinges on the idea that the average Stony Brook student won’t have the know-how, experience or leverage to have any real say in the progression and re-formation of the administrative processes.
The irony of it all is that Bain & Company, the internationally recognized management consulting firmed hired to assist with Operational Excellence, has been used in the past by other universities with full student participation.
As President Stanley said himself, “this is not going to be successful if we don’t have involvement from everybody who is going to be concerned by this and that’s students, staff and faculty.”
Judging the success of Project 50 on President Stanley’s standards, the launch has been a complete disaster.