Photo by Jane Montalto.
In September, Stony Brook University placed as the best public university in New York state in the U.S. News & World Report 2023 Best Colleges ranking. Stony Brook’s slogan, “far beyond,” is described as a framework for students, faculty, alumni and staff to tell their stories, describe their life-changing experiences and show their pride. However, if the home of the Seawolves wants to truly go far beyond, it needs to solve the administration issues that continue to haunt its students.
Although Stony Brook is a fierce competitor with the best universities in the country, problems in areas such as infrastructure, parking, housing, Wi-Fi connectivity and more create inconveniences that, when added together, can affect students’ ability to learn.
Clara Dana, a senior double majoring in marine science and environmental studies, shared that the conference room in Endeavour Hall used for her chemical oceanography class this past fall did not have enough room to accommodate all of the students, forcing some of them to watch the lecture sitting on couches spread around the room. She also mentioned that, while half of the students attended the class on South Campus, the other half did it on the Southampton Campus. Therefore, the two professors had to conduct class via Zoom, making it harder for students to absorb lecture content.
“[It] is kind of unfortunate because I feel like I could be getting more out of the class because the professors are really good,” she said.
It’s important to note that it is normal for marine sciences students to take classes in the Southampton Campus. The problems that Dana points out are that it’s harder to focus when the two different sections merge in a zoom call and that the classroom used for the South Campus section didn’t have seats for all the students.
Dana explained further frustration with the fact that students cannot park in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences’ parking lot. SoMAS is located on the South Campus — a 23-minute walk away from Frank Melville Jr. Library according to Google Maps. Even though the number of SoMas undergraduate students is more than 50 times the number of the school’s faculty members, nearly all the parking spots are reserved for faculty and staff permits. The ones that remain are paid, leaving students without much choice.
“If there was some ability for us to have parking there, I think that would be a lot more convenient,” Dana said. For her and other students who have classes on the South Campus the options are to walk from West Campus or park in the commuter lot and take the bus to South Campus.
The situation at SoMAS is nothing more than a reflection of what parking looks like for the rest of campus. Even though commuter students make up almost 50% of the campus population, they only have access to six of the 42 parking lots on campus. To park in five of these locations — lots 3, 5A, 5B, 6A and 24 — students have to pay $112.50 per semester. These lots, also known as commuter premium lots, are at a walking distance from the academic mall. The only other option is Lot 40, formerly known as South P — an enormous square of parking spots with “Wolfie’s Hut” at its heart. However, it is a 15 to 20 minute bus ride away from the main campus, causing inconveniences for students who have to factor in an unpredictable bus schedule and wait in very long lines that can spread around the hut.
Recently, the university announced that it will implement a fully paid parking system starting this fall semester. In the new system, every person who wants to park on campus will have to either buy a permit or pay a daily parking rate. This means that Lot 40 and faculty parking lots will no longer be free and even less accessible.
While the commuters battle for the best parking spots, residential students are facing their own struggles. This past fall, The Press conducted an anonymous and voluntary online survey regarding students’ satisfaction with the university’s administration. One residential student shared that the elevator in their building has been broken since the beginning of the academic year.
“I think this is a problem in the building and I am confused why it hasn’t been resolved when the semester is already almost over,” the student explained.
Beyond problems with the elevator, students who answered the form also expressed concerns about moldy dorms, a shortage of washers and dryers and lack of prior notice from the university when a new student is placed in the dorm.
One student remembered when the residents of Gray and Amman Halls in Mendelsohn Quad were relocated after the buildings flooded during a storm caused by Hurricane Ian in fall of 2021. The student said they remember staying awake for more than 24 hours with nowhere to go besides a lounge in H Quad.
“The school should be much more equipped for emergencies like that,” they wrote.
Since Amman Hall houses first-years, these students were left with an unwarm welcome during their first semester at Stony Brook.
While these residential issues might distract students from their studies, inconsistent wifi connectivity faced in the classrooms directly undermines learning.
Marvin O’Neal, a senior lecturer in the biology department, uses PointSolutions software in his BIO 204 recitation. It allows students to answer poll questions that count toward their grades. He said that, although students have the option to use a clicker to respond to the questions, the immense majority prefers to use an app because it is less expensive and more convenient.
However, O’Neal reported that the class encountered difficulties while trying to connect to Wi-Fi in a classroom at Frey Hall last fall. When he contacted the Division of Information and Technology (DoIT) asking for a solution, he was told that all classrooms have adequate connectivity to Wi-Fi — denying the problem’s existence, as he explained.
“As a student, I would expect fast, reliable connectivity in lecture halls, labs, dorms, libraries, study areas, and classrooms,” O’Neal wrote in an email.
When he complained to DoIT about this problem several years ago, they told him that that classrooms did not have adequate bandwidth and that they lacked the funds to fix the issue.
These are only some examples of how many administrative issues Stony Brook University has been plagued with in the past few years. Maybe even worse than the fact that these issues exist is that most of them could have easily been avoided if the university was faster at addressing them.
Right now, the administration passes through the situation unharmed. If these issues continue to affect the lives of students and faculty, the university’s reputation will be damaged and the quality of education and learning will decrease. Stony Brook will have a harder time to achieve its goal to truly be among the best in the United States. No one wants that, not even an administration that pretends to be ignorant.