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Long Island Business, Labor, And Community Leaders Gather To Demonstrate Support For Stony Brook University's NYSUNY 2020 Plan

Jun 8, 2011 - 12:15:35 PM

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Kevin Law, President of the Long Island Association, Jimmy Castellane and others from the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trade Construction Council, Stony Brook student Rob Drago, University Senate President, Professor Frederick Walter, and Bone Marrow Transplant Patient and "Prevail" founder, Dustin Wunderlich, gather to lend support to Stony Brook's NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant application and plan.
Melville, NY, June 7, 2011 – A number of high-profile Long Island business, labor, and community leaders joined together at a press conference today with leaders of Stony Brook University’s administration, faculty and student body to demonstrate their support for the University’s SUNY 2020 plan that increases student access to the University, creates thousands of well-paying jobs and enhances health care services on Long Island.
 
Kevin S. Law, president of the Long Island Association, and Jimmy Castellane, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council, joined with SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., Professor Fred Walter, University Senate President and Professor of Astronomy, Robert Drago, a third year Stony Brook University political science and history education major, and Dustin Wunderlich of Nesconset, a patient of bone marrow transplant specialist Dr. Michael Schuster of Stony Brook University Medical Center, who is 270 days post bone-marrow transplant, and founder of the Prevail Foundation an organization he started for the purpose of helping others when faced with a similar journey.
 
The plan is Stony Brook University’s application in response to Governor Cuomo’s NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant, an initiative designed to make the State University of New York a leading catalyst for job growth in New York State, while strengthening the academic and research programs at SUNY’s four University Centers: Stony Brook, Buffalo, Albany and Binghamton. The initial phase of the program focuses on a $35 million capital construction challenge grant that will be awarded to each Center upon approval of a detailed, long-term economic development and academic enrichment plan.
 
Stony Brook’s SUNY 2020 application includes plans to build a new translational medical research building; hire additional faculty and staff; and, launch economic development partnerships with industry in the Long Island region. It would also give Stony Brook the ability to implement a predictable tuition program that will protect families from runaway tuition hikes and, at the same time, increase financial assistance for eligible students from families with an income of $75,000 or less.
 
“This plan is not just about expanded research and economic development, although it accomplishes both of those goals,” said Dr. Stanley. “Most importantly, it’s about increasing access to a quality education at Stony Brook. Students will be able to get the classes they need to graduate on time and we will be able to open our doors to 1,500 more students over the five year period of the plan. At the same time, we’ve made a commitment to increase our financial aid so that our most economically disadvantaged students will be protected against a tuition increase. Every student will benefit.” 
 
As a patient who may some day benefit from a new translational medicine cancer research and treatment facility, Dustin Wunderlich, 27, of Nesconset a Stony Brook University Medical Center patient of Dr. Michael Schuster, speaks to the advanced cancer services from which he recently benefitted at Stony Brook, 271 days post bone-marrow transplant while Kevin Law and Dr. Stanley listen.
Programming for the translational medical research building (MART) will focus on cancer research, advanced medical imaging, and cancer care. The 250,000-square-foot facility would be located on the Stony Brook University Medical Center campus where scientists and physicians would work side by side to research and discover new treatments and technology which would be brought to market more efficiently and quickly. Construction of the MART would create 4,200 construction-related jobs.
 
Over the past three years, difficult economic times have resulted in reduced funding to SUNY. At Stony Brook, this has led to a reduction in faculty positions; fewer class offerings for students and larger class sizes; students being shut out of required courses which leads to delayed graduation, and students being forced to take summer and intersession classes, or an additional semester or year, which are not covered by TAP or Pell grants, so the additional costs come directly out of the student pockets.
 
The infusion of additional revenue generated through elements of Stony Brook’s plan will allow for the hiring of 245 faculty, 80 medical professionals, and several hundred new graduate students and staff over the next five years and while enabling Stony Brook to admit an additional 1,500 students during that same period. Courses taught by full-time faculty would greatly increase, as would the number of undergraduate course sections available to students in every discipline.
 
With additional faculty, the student-to-faculty ratio, which is currently 28-to-1, would be reduced to 22-to-1, an important industry benchmark that matches the average of public AAU institutions – the organization comprising the top 62 research universities in the North America, including Stony Brook. With significantly enhanced course access, Stony Brook’s four- and six-year graduation rates would improve by eight per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.
 
Mr. Law, of the Long Island Association, said, “Long Island’s economy is fragile. Long Island has been losing well-paying jobs which are being replaced with lower paying ones. As a high-cost region, Long Island needs higher-paying jobs, and the Stony Brook plan will help create more than seven thousand of them. It is imperative that we seize this opportunity because economic stimulus at Stony Brook University is economic stimulus for Long Island.”
 
Mr. Castellane, of the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council, said, “This recession has hit the construction industry very hard, and while other industries have begun to recover, the unemployment rate in the Building and Trades’ industry remains around 30 percent. This project will mean well-paying, steady work for us, and the money we earn on this project will in turn support other businesses on Long Island, and the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council strongly supports Stony Brook’s SUNY 2020 plan.”
 
Commenting on the access issue, student Rob Drago, a political science and history education major entering his junior year in the fall, said that one of the most challenging things he and his peers face at Stony Brook is finishing a four-year degree in four years. He, himself, has had to take classes in the winter session to fulfill academic requirements, because the classes he needed were closed out for the fall and spring semesters.
 
“These scheduling conflicts are not unique to me or the classes required to fulfill my double major, and it would not be a problem, except that I have to pay an additional $800 in tuition and fees per each winter or summer class I have to take,” Drago said. “And I am not eligible for the New York State tuition assistance program or Pell Grants either, so that extra cost is tacked on to my overall student loan.”
   
Drago said he understands that increasing tuition is not the most popular thing for a student to be advocating, but “the added winter and summer session courses I have to take is costing me a lot more than a modest increase would cost. $800 per class adds up very quickly. If that can be alleviated by paying $200 dollars per semester, and it means I don’t have to take any more winter or summer classes, and can take the classes I need while I’m already here throughout the year, I absolutely support it.”
 
Dr. Walter, the University Senate President, noted that Stony Brook is one of the jewels in the crown of public higher education in New York State, “growing from a few buildings in a field of mud to become a world-class research and educational institution, and one of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Our mandate is to offer a premium higher educational experience for New Yorkers. But we are so much more -- Stony Brook University is a major employer and the economic engine that drives the Long Island economy, and the Stony Brook Medical Center is the tertiary care facility for all of Suffolk County.”
 
But, he stressed, that like all of New York, the University is struggling with the effects of the current recession. And, as such, he and his colleagues view the SUNY 2020 initiative is “an ambitious plan to build on the University's strengths to drive the Long Island economy forward into the 21st century and to recover from our recent losses. The Stony Brook University Senate is in broad agreement with this initiative.”
 
The plan has also been endorsed by dozens of other Long Island business, civic and community groups and leaders, including the LIA, the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council, Association for a Better Long Island, Vision Long Island, Long Island Metro Business Action, Rauch Foundation, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and numerous chambers of commerce.
 
 
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