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University Gears Up for 2020 Census

2020 Census

This year’s census count is critical to ensuring that the Stony Brook community and its Long Island environs are properly represented in Congress and adequately funded by the state.

Beginning in March, the University will undertake its biggest effort yet to ensure a smooth and accurate count of everybody on the campus, empowering students, faculty and staff by making sure that everybody has a chance to be recognized. 

Center for Civic Justice
Center for Civic Justice tables on campus.

Stony Brook’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, comprising stakeholders from across campus,  is already tackling the responsibility of spreading the word through their respective areas of expertise. The Center for Civic Justice, for example, is planning to use its team of student ambassadors to work on videos and messages that will go out to the student populations.

“We’ll have our weekly social media content shared through our platforms under the hashtag ‘Census Sunday,’ which has so far received good engagement,” said Steven Adelson, coordinator for the Center for Civic Justice. “We’ll also have tabling events that will spread and highlight the importance of this year’s census.”

Getting the message out to the surrounding community, as well as to Stony Brook faculty, staff and students, is fundamental. According to Joan Dickinson, director of Community Relations and chair of the University Census Initiative, the University could lose out on crucial government support. 

“If we don’t get an accurate count, we don’t get our fair share of funding,” Dickinson said. “The next Census isn’t going to happen until 2030, so if there’s an undercount now, the effects are going to be felt for the next 10 years.”

Once a decade, the Constitution mandates that a census be held in order to capture information about every person living in the country, regardless of citizenship status. Starting on April 1, 2020, everyone on campus will have an opportunity to fill out the census survey by mail, by phone, or, for the first time, online. 

An accurate count ensures that Stony Brook’s home county of Suffolk gets its fair share from a pot of over $675 billion in annual federal funding to local communities. Additionally, it determines how legislative districts are drawn, including Long Island’s representation in Washington D.C. Last but not least, census data influences economic development by helping businesses conduct market analyses to drive private sector investment decisions. 

For employees and students, this often translates to day-to-day standard of life factors, including nearby highway planning, construction and healthcare, as well as foster child programs, nutritional supplements and school lunches.

Title 13 of the U.S. Code, a data protection law safeguarding identifiable information, prohibits the U.S. Census and its employees from sharing any of the data collected with anyone or any agency including, but not limited to, Homeland Security, or ICE. The census does not ask participants about their citizenship, social security number, or mother’s maiden name. The census only collects traditional demographic information, including age, nationality, and gender. Nothing in the census survey will create legal issues for the undocumented, or others wary of govenment intrusion.

Census ambassadors from Stony Brook intend to accommodate our widely diverse population and work alongside census representatives to surmount cultural hurdles. For instance, this year’s survey will include 59 unique languages. Recruitment of individual census takers responsible for those languages is taking place throughout the country. 

2020 Census
2020 Census

Students living on campus can expect census takers to work alongside residence hall employees to count individuals as batches, or they may distribute a form to each resident. 

Off-campus commuters may respond to the census online, by phone or by mail beginning March 13. Commuters should make sure they submit only one response for their primary place of residence, highlighting everyone who lives in their household.

The SBU Census Committee will roll out their campaign through diverse channels. They hope to utilize a broad coalition of campus groups, organizations and services.  

For instance, the committee plans a messaging campaign about how individuals can guard against fraudulent surveys. Also planned are updates using the CORQ app, the Statesman newspaper and public service announcements on WUSB 90.1 FM, the campus radio station. 

If you’re a student, and would like to participate in raising awareness, please contact Joan Dickinson, director of Community Relations, and  chair, SBU 2020 Census Complete Count Committee at 

For more information on Long Island’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, please reach out to the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island at 515-505-4427. 

For more information on the 2020 census in general, please visit

— Kevin Wu

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