How do you get students to stay at school on the weekends, when they would normally be heading back home to work or do their laundry or eat actual food? For the Undergraduate Student Government, making off-campus areas more accessible could be one possible solution.
Two bus services are currently in the works, with one available earlier than the other: a route directly to Port Jefferson that stops at the movie theater, and one that makes travel to New York City cheaper than any other form of public transit at an estimated cool $7.00.
This could, potentially, increase student’s involvement in the towns surrounding the university. But as anyone who’s been at the school for more than a week knows, getting anywhere without a car is a total bear. Suffolk County Transit buses are consistently late, and driven so that riders do not feel safe at all. Cab companies around campus charge super high prices, which of course comes with the territory of driving in a place where everything you want to get to is spread out. ($16 to go from the Port Jeff ferry to campus? Seriously?)
While bus routes on the weekends do stop in key places like Pathmark, Wal-Mart, Target and the Smith Haven Mall, their latest route leaves at 5:15 p.m. That doesn’t leave a hell of a lot of time for activities outside of grocery shopping and perusing Forever 21 for a little while.
The Suffolk County buses only cost $1 for Stony Brook students, but their arrival at a certain time is typically a crapshoot. A few small stores are located within reasonable walking distance from campus, including 1089 Noodle House, The Bench, a Dunkin Donuts where they don’t cut your bagel for you, and of course 7-Eleven for all your booze and drunken snack needs.
Along Main Street in Port Jefferson, there are a solid number of little stores and restaurants. There’s even a Gap! Specialty boutiques and retailers, however, don’t necessarily call to the student population in large numbers as much as they do to the tourists who visit the village every year. A late-night bus route, which would run from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., is part of USG’s proposal, but this will not solve the problem of keeping students on campus on the weekends.
The second proposal, for a bus route that makes it even cheaper for students to get to Manhattan, will absolutely not solve the problem. The demand for this service will be very high, considering the amount of people who commute to and from Brooklyn and Queens, but it will not keep students here on the weekends.
The solution will come when a college town is created around Stony Brook University. Plans to create just this along Route 25A, where the 7-Eleven and Bench and 1089 Noodle House already form the basis for foot traffic from the university, are in the works from President Stanley. Pushback from the local community, who believe that their quality of life and the value of their homes will be decreased, is available in abundance.
The only way to create a more involved and present campus community is to actually make a community that they can be a part of, and proud of. Look at SUNY New Paltz: their campus publication is the main source of news for the local community, and students are the economic base of the Village of New Paltz.
Students need more than just something to do, expensive stores to shop in and places they have to budget excess time to get to and from. They need to feel like they’re a part of the Stony Brook campus community. They need to feel like this is home.