Interim President Michael Bernstein enthusiastically delivered the 2019 State of the University address to a half-filled Staller Center’s Main Stage audience on Oct. 16, 2019.
Bernstein started with introducing his preferred pronouns, gathering applause to highlight the importance of inclusion on International Pronouns Day, stating that it is “a day to respect, share and educate about personal pronouns.”
Citing a recent New York Times article, Bernstein emphasized on the importance of diversity inclusion, and how it is beneficial for all to create a safe environment for everyone.
“We resolutely believe — as scholars, as scientists, as educators, as artists — that a diverse and inclusive population generates optimal results,” he said. “And it’s better for the economy as well.”
The interim president proudly boasted about Stony Brook University making it into Us News’s“Top 40 Public Universities” list and Money Magazine’s “Top 50 Best Value Universities.”
“Our university demonstrates, not only the best of what American higher education has to offer,” he said.ut the array, and indeed the total 360-degree richness, of what American higher education has to offer.”
Stony Brook University’s success in research and scholarship remains consistent. The university spent a whopping $245 million on ‘Research and Development’ in 2018, up from $238.6 million in 2017 and in 2018, 10 enrolled students received the Fulbright Scholarship – a record for SBU.
Bernstein highlighted that Stony Brook is expanding rapidly with the increasing number of applicants each year. To accommodate these incoming students and their needs, the university is in the process of adding more infrastructure in the coming years.
Highlighting the strategic initiatives and infrastructural plans, Bernstein said that the university is currently going through a transitional “phase of expansion.”
Students can rejoice in knowing that the long-awaited Student Union is set to be inaugurated in March 2020 after three years of construction, while West K will supposedly add 300 more beds to student housing on campus by Fall 2020. A new residential hall in Tabler Quad is also under design andan indoor practice facility for college athletes already under construction. The university plans on renovating the Chemistry Building and Javits Lecture Hall as well in the coming academic year, and will be addressing the shortage of parking on campus, Bernstein said.
Highlighting the economic significance ofStony Brook University, he also spoke about enhancing economic development in the region. Being the largest on-site employer with 15,139 employees on Long Island, this university has an economic impact of more than $7 billion annually while generating $420 million in tax revenue.
Speaking vaguely about the university’s budget, Interim President Bernstein tried to paint a faintly optimistic picture.
“We have stabilized the budget,” he said. “We are trying to do what any sustainable and stable enterprise does, which is to enhance revenue and control costs.”
To do this, Stony Brook is venturing into the digital education sphere by offering online classes and “other initiatives for which there are robust markets,” Bernstein said without providing any specific plans.
Bernstein thanked the staff and faculty for their hard work and for maintaining patience during this time of financial uncertainty where resources are being spread thin, while also emphasizing ‘strategic choices.’
“”Choices” implicitly and explicitly means saying no at times,” Bernstein said while talking about freezing hiring. He also said that the university has to pick and choose the sectors that it wants to grow and at times it comes at the cost of cutting down other sectors. “I always say that our university can be great at anything it wants but cannot be great at everything it wants.”
Robbye Kinkade, Assistant Professor of the Health Science Major, feels that the university is going in the right direction despite the budgetary concerns.
“Our current president is way more communicative than the previous one,” she said.“I feel like he would be very good for our university.”
But some students are still skeptical of the university’s budget. Two graduate students from philosophy backgrounds (who have requested anonymity) were passing out flyers [see below] after the president’s address, raising questions about his remarks regarding the budget.
“Graduate students pay about one month’s salary back to SBU in order to teach undergraduate students,” one of the students said. “It’s unfair because we feel like we are getting robbed of our labor and have to pay the university in order to work here.”
The protesters highlighted the plight of graduate students, stating that they are barely breaking even with their pay given the amount of work they do.
According to a 2018 research report titled ‘Analysis of the Financial Situation of Stony Brook University,’ published by Howard Bunsis, “SBU had $420 million in reserve funds as of 2017.” Students are demand to know why the university is cutting departments, freezing hiring and underpaying graduate students if it has so much of a surplus.