Save Lives: Keep Stony Brook University Online this Fall

Save Lives: Keep Stony Brook University Online this Fall

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Stony Brook Community started this petition to Maurie McInnis and

Welcome to Stony Brook, President McInnis! Please don’t kill us.

Those words may seem melodramatic, but they are the only way we can find to properly express the feelings we have as you begin your term as President of Stony Brook University. As members of the Three Village area (many of us alumni, faculty, and students of SBU), we were heartened upon hearing of your appointment as President earlier this year. Your strong administrative track record and background in the humanities suggested that you would be well-positioned to avoid many of the blind spots of the previous administration and focus on community-building efforts that have been sorely neglected.

However, reading your Fall Planning Update of June 25th, we are distressed to see that you are pursuing a course of action that imperils the campus community as well as the wider community of which SBU is a part. We are well aware of the pressures you must feel as a new president anxious to keep enrollment and on-campus residence revenue numbers steady. However, we do not think that adding to the death toll of students, faculty, and community members is a justifiable means to that end. Enrollment can bounce back, but the dead cannot be revived.

While it is clear from the Update that the administration has been hard at work on plans to keep students safe while in the classroom and moving about campus, the fundamental issue of bringing people from all over the country to Stony Brook to live in dormitory housing, which is by nature high density and communal, and letting them mingle and roam free in our community is one that the plan does not address - because it cannot address it. While NY has done a great job of crushing the curve, it has been at enormous cost to each and every one of us.

Bringing thousands of young people from around the country to live communally at Stony Brook University and interact with community members on and off campus can only be felt as a slap in the face after what we have sacrificed to protect our community, which includes the students, faculty, staff and administration who you oversee. It is particularly difficult to stomach when the data show that the rise in cases elsewhere in the country is happening disproportionately among young people. Just last week, one student coming to NY from Florida caused a cluster in Westchester prompting a response from Governor Cuomo. And the latest data suggest that many states are looking at peaks in late summer or early fall, right at the time that students would be coming from them to Stony Brook.

There is also reason to believe that in this case doing the right thing is also doing the smart thing. It has been well demonstrated that localities that stayed locked down for the longest during the 1918 pandemic experienced a stronger economic rebound post-lockdown than those that opened up sooner. It is also our understanding that summer enrollment at SBU is up ~10%, despite classes being online, which is also consistent with what we know about other institutions in the region. It seems that students in a pandemic know what’s best for them, and want online classes. Some major universities like USC seem to be figuring it out, too.

This pandemic has been incredibly challenging for leaders and decision-makers throughout the globe, and as you see in the news daily, many leaders in the US have shown themselves to be woefully lacking in even the minimum standards of human decency. While you have many duties as President of Stony Brook University, keeping students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community safe should surely be your top priority. Otherwise, the question that will be going through our minds is: if she cares about her own career more than our lives, how can we respect her, let alone trust her?

We hope you will reconsider your plan for on-campus residents and studies, a plan which will imperil both our community and your legacy at Stony Brook. Make the right call, put the right foot forward, and grant our simple request: please don’t kill us.

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