Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis has issued a message welcoming the Stony Brook community as the Fall 2020 semester begins. The message reads as follows:
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty of the Stony Brook Community,
Welcome to the start of Fall 2020. Today marks the beginning of so much — a reimagined campus experience, a strengthened commitment to our health and safety practices, and an embrace of new forms of learning and academic inquiry. But it’s also the beginning of a time of extraordinary potential and unlimited possibility. In the coming months, we at Stony Brook are going to scale new heights of creativity and tread uncharted territory as researchers, scholars and students of the world.
When I was a student, one of my favorite things about the beginning of classes was walking among the aisles and aisles of books at the campus bookstore, wondering about the countless subjects and imagining the new avenues of thought that lay open for me within these different disciplines. And even though wandering through a physical bookstore and many other basic rituals won’t be the same this semester, I know that on a profound level, it’s all still here: a university life brimming with possibility, options and discoveries; a future that contains unbridled potential; and an academic experience of personal and collective growth and intellectual exploration. And though, right now, we are living through uncertain times, our ambitions for the future remain unchanged. Together, we will build an academic community that, though physically distant, is enriching, alive and connected in every way.
To do that, we will rely on what has always made Stony Brook so special: the sense of dedication and camaraderie that this University — a symbiotic network of students, staff and faculty — has shown in the face of adversity. We will continue to show solidarity and support for our neighboring communities. We will continue to contribute and innovate through cutting-edge research. We will continue to think critically and inclusively about how to build a humane world for all. Each and every one of us will be responsible for making a campus community that is safe, healthy and dynamic. As individuals, we will all be required to adhere to the COVID-19 policy as set out by SBU and approved by SUNY, including our daily health screenings and social distancing protocols. Now is a good time to think about how taking care of your personal health is, in fact, a social act. We’re a school of ambition, audacity and care. We thrive individually when we succeed collectively. Monitoring your own health will allow us all to get the best academic experience we can.
And we are here to help. Since February, Stony Brook University Hospital’s Emergency Department has seen more than 6,700 patients for potential COVID-19, and the drive-through testing site at the South P Commuter Parking Lot has seen more than 51,000. Our clinical and research faculty and staff have innovated treatments, developed clinical trials and research initiatives, and implemented telemedicine communications for our patients. Our Hospital stands ready. While personal responsibility and accountability will be key in maintaining the health and safety of our campus this year, no individual is ever alone. We have your back — every step of the way.
Of course, this summer has also taught us that our global situation is very fluid, and unexpected twists (both good and bad) can happen at a moment’s notice. At Stony Brook, we will meet the challenges of this next year with flexibility and ingenuity. We are committed to staying in line with NYS, SUNY and CDC guidelines and know that even our most careful plans are subject to change.
Stony Brook University has been challenged economically, socially and administratively over the past few months. In this, we are not unique. But Stony Brook will be unique in the resilience, determination and creativity we show in overcoming the many obstacles we face. Leaders across campus are continuing to work on the Stony Brook Diversity Plan, which, under the guidance of Vice President of Equity & Inclusion Judith Brown Clarke, sets actionable goals for a just, equitable and humane campus for all. At Stony Brook, these words carry a considerable amount of weight; we are one of the best public research universities and most diverse campuses in the nation. We have a special way of university life built and bolstered by the hard work of our staff and our supportive relationship with our community. We have a demonstrated commitment to accessible education and social mobility. We know that justice, equity and humanity are intersectional concepts that are present in everything we do — from our leadership to our research initiatives; from our pedagogy to our artistic practices; from our community outreach to our support for the Hospital; from our individual intellectual lives to the collective health and safety of our campus.
So this is the beginning of Fall 2020. This is just one moment in a sea of moments that define our lives and academic careers. But as Joan Didion wrote in her memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking: “Life changes in an instant. The ordinary instant.”
Yes, this is just one instant. What follows is sure to be a rich, strange, difficult, complex and beautiful story for each member of our community — a lifetime of problem-solving and intellectual inquiry and curiosity. But still, for now, I think we can all take a moment to savor this instant: the challenges we’ve overcome to get to this point and the potential we have, right now, to build a better future — year by year, day by day, instant by instant.