As a new wave of transfer students were accepted to Stony Brook University, approximately 200 admitted applicants with aspirations of on-campus living found there was no place for them on Stony Brook’s primary West Campus.
Stony Brook’s attempt to make space for them involved a neat deal struck with Dowling College in which the top two floors of the Brookhaven Residential Village, a 289-room, apartment-style dormitory located on Dowling’s auxiliary campus in Shirley, have been rented out especially for them.
According to Stony Brook’s website for the residence hall, residents are guaranteed housing on West Campus come fall 2015.
While opinions on their new housing situation differ, many residents of ‘BRV’ have found it difficult to find their place in the campus community while subject to what many consider an exceedingly infrequent shuttle bus.
Located approximately 18 miles away from Stony Brook University, a nearly 30-minute bus ride separates the Brookhaven residents from their classrooms. While these numbers seem relatively small, with many Stony Brook students and faculty commuting longer distances by car daily, BRV residents without cars are given only five chances each day to catch the shuttle to Stony Brook.
The Stony Brook-bound buses begin at 7 a.m. and run every two hours until 1 p.m. with a final bus running at 4 p.m.
Getting back though, has proven more of an issue. Buses home become increasingly infrequent over the course of the day with the last two running at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Jarred Ostrander, 19, a business major and transfer from SUNY Adirondack, expressed the frustration that he and others at Brookhaven have felt.
“I get out of class at 8:20 p.m. and I have to wait until 10:30 p.m. to leave,” said Ostrander. “So I have to wait two hours and 10 minutes just to get on the bus, and then another half hour to 45-minute bus ride, so I wouldn’t get back until 11 p.m.”
Early in the semester, there was no 7:30 p.m. bus, stranding students with classes ending after 5:45 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.
According to Ostrander, he confronted those in charge of deciding the bus schedule early on.
Ostrander asked, “Are you guys going to fix that?”
Their response? “What do you mean fix?”
“It doesn’t work.” Ostrander told them. “That’s what I mean, it doesn’t work. You’ve got to fix it.”
But budget concerns meant that no more buses could be added to the schedule after the 7:30 p.m. bus.
While Ostrander said that these gaps should, ‘in theory,’ be good for taking care of homework, it never quite works out like that.
“I have two hour-and-a-half breaks between classes, and I have that two hour gap, but I’m not thinking about doing my work during that two hours. I’m thinking about how I’m going to get home quicker, I’m trying to find a ride, and I usually do,” he said.
That’s where making friends has come in handy, said Ostrander, who doesn’t have a car on campus.
But even with the availability of a vehicle, the physical distance between the school and the residence means that acting like a typical campus resident is more of an inconvenience than it’s worth.
“There are kids that drive, but even if they have a break, they don’t want to drive. They’d rather take the bus because it’s free.” said Ostrander. “It’s time but it’s not gas.”
A similar sentiment was shared by Karen LaFortune, 20.
“You can’t keep up because you’re always waiting for a bus. You’re dependent on a bus, so you could never come back and forth to chill with people on campus,” said LaFortune, a Health Sciences major who transferred to Stony Brook from Rockland Community College in Suffern, N.Y.
LaFortune said that sometimes the capacity and not the infrequency of the buses is the concern.
“Sometimes we’ll get on the bus, and if it’s packed, they try to tell you to get off,” LaFortune said. “What are we supposed to do?”
Though efforts have been made to rearrange the bus schedule around midterms, little more convenience has been gained.
“This whole week is supposed to be exam week,” said LaFortune. “There are people taking orgo and chem and they’re frustrated because they want to go home and study, but they can’t because they’re sitting there outside, waiting for a bus.”
In addition to issues with transportation, the students at BRV encountered another recurring problem with the building’s slow and spotty internet connection.
Senior Tom Tartaro complained that the internet is “a quarter of the speed” of the internet provided on West Campus.
Transfer Robert Ward, a pre-computer science major, confirmed this with a connection test that returned an average upload and download speed of approximately 2 Mbps. Eight Mbps is typical on West Campus.
In fact, according to Tartaro, there was no internet access for the first two weeks of the semester.
Jarred Ostrander said that one Saturday, “I tried to do my bio homework and everything’s online; there’s no Wi-Fi. I mean, there’s Wi-Fi, but for the whole day, it was down.”
The fliers in Brookhaven’s halls say that the building managers blame residents’ own routers for interfering with the Dowling-provided signal, going so far as to offer rewards for those who could identify people running these “rogue routers.”
Though Ostrander, LaFortune and other residents stated that, in spite of what they see as a few relatively large inconveniences, the amenities that Brookhaven Recreational Village offers are sufficient, and the community that has formed separate from West Campus is close-knit.
Ostrander said it was “nice” to see the other residents of Brookhaven on the academic mall.
“The kids from Brookhaven, we stick together kind of,” said Ostrander.
The students on the Brookhaven hall council are especially enthusiastic about making Brookhaven feel more like a community.
Hall council president Caitlyn Walsh said, “I feel more a part of the campus here than I did at my previous university.”
Walsh asserted that the quality of the rooms at Brookhaven, which all come equipped with at least one private bathroom, a kitchen with a full-sized refrigerator and stove top, and other appliances, compare to those in West Apartments.
“Depending on where you live, our housing is much better than some of the older residential buildings,” Walsh said.
“We’re trying to make it so that people don’t instantly think bad things when they hear Brookhaven,” she continued.
According to Walsh, Vice President Catherine Rodriguez and Secretary Serena DiLeonardo, many upcoming activities are planned to entertain Brookhaven’s residents, including autumn classics like pumpkin and apple picking at one of the farms not far from the Dowling campus.
The building’s budget for events is the same as any other Stony Brook residence, according to Rodriguez, but the three weren’t aware what the dollar amount was yet pending an upcoming quad retreat.
“We have a lot of stuff, and when you’re there it’s fun, there’s a lot of stuff to do,” said Ostrander.
“There’s a volleyball net. It’s quiet. It’s low-key, it’s nice. I plan on staying there until I get campus housing,” he said. “If we got everything we wanted, and they really fixed the Wi-Fi, and we got buses every hour, and it really worked, I wouldn’t mind staying there for the whole time [that I’m a Stony Brook student].”