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Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Stony Brook University professor Patrice Nganang was released Dec. 27 after being detained in Cameroon for three weeks. Photo from the Free Patrice Nganang Facebook page

A writer, poet and professor is enjoying freedom once again.

Cameroon police detained Patrice Nganang, professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at Stony Brook University, as he was leaving the country for Zimbabwe at Douala International Airport early in December. The detainment came after the Cameroonian-native and United States citizen published an article on the website Jeune Afrique. In the piece in question, the professor was critical of Cameroon President Paul Biya’s administration’s approach to the ongoing instability in Anglophone regions of Cameroon. Many have criticized the government’s response to citizen’s protests regarding marginalization in the regions

Robert Harvey, a distinguished professor at SBU, said Nganang’s wife Nyasha notified him Dec. 27 of her husband’s hearing suddenly being changed from Jan. 19 to the morning of the 27th and that he was released and all charges dropped.

“No doubt all the pressure mobilized from various sectors helped,” Harvey said.

Dibussi Tande, a friend of Nganang’s for 10 years and one of the administrators of the Facebook page, Free Patrice Nganang, which has gained more than 2,200 followers, echoed Harvey’s sentiments.

“It is a feeling of relief and pride in the amazing work done by a global team of human rights activists, journalists, civil society organizations, friends, family, etc., to bring pressure to bear on the government of Cameroon to set him free,” Tande said.

In a phone interview after his release, Nganang agreed that the pressure from outside of Cameroon, especially from the United States, played a part in his being set free earlier and being treated well while in prison. He even was given meals from outside of the jail and didn’t have to eat prison food.

“The pressure not only led to my early release, it was also such that it gave me a better condition in jail so it made it possible for me to have a more humane condition,” Nganang said.

Among the charges Nganang faced were making a death threat against the president; forgery and use of forgery, due to the professor having a Cameroonian passport despite being a U.S. citizen, as the country does not recognize dual citizenship; and illegal immigration due to not having the proper papers as a U.S. citizen.

Dedicated to writing about the conditions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, Nganang said he was in the country for two weeks interviewing people. He said those in the western and English-speaking region of Cameroon must adhere to a 6 p.m. curfew, and the border to Nigeria is locked. He feels as a writer it’s his job to travel to the country and let people know what is going on there.

He said he always understood he might be arrested one day, “because of the kind of work I do. I’m very critical, I’m outspoken, I write editorials, etc. I’ve expressed my opinions freely for 20, 30 years. So I have always been prepared to face justice at a certain point because Cameroon is obviously a tyranny.”

According to a statement from a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the congressman’s office had been in contact with the U.S. Department of State, Nganang’s family and Stony Brook University administrators during the professor’s detainment.

“In the face of an increasingly oppressive government, Professor Nganang has worked tirelessly for a better future for his country and family,” Zeldin said. “As Professor Nganang fights for the freedom of all Cameroonians, we fought for his. I look forward to his safe return home to his loved ones and the Stony Brook University community.”

Nganang is on leave from the university this academic year to attend to family business in Zimbabwe and to pursue a fellowship at Princeton University in the spring. During Nganang’s detainment, through a U.S. embassy representative, he sent a message to Harvey asking him to let his former students know that he hadn’t forgotten about their letters of recommendation.

Nganang said when he arrived at the airport in Washington D.C., he was greeted by a crowd of people, and he was given a ride home to Hopewell, New Jersey. The professor said he was grateful for the help he received from elected officials and representatives of the U. S. Embassy, and the support of his family, friends and neighbors. When he arrived home, he found friends at his house shoveling the driveway and filling his refrigerator.

“Coming out of jail after four weeks of a harsh ordeal and facing such an outpouring of love — my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since then because all my neighbors are concerned — guess what, it made a difference,” Nganang said.

Updated to include quotes from Patrice Nganang Jan. 4. 

SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivered his annual address to the university community Sept. 27. File photo from Stony Brook University

During his annual address, Stony Brook University’s president celebrated the past and looked forward to the future.

President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., delivered his State of the University Address to the Stony Brook campus community Sept. 27.

He said the first graduating class of 1961 consisted of approximately 40 students. In 2017, the university granted 7,313 degrees and certificates, including master’s and doctoral degrees that did not exist the first year.

The number of buildings has also changed on campus from a few to 136 structures.

Stanley said the students attending the university come from more diverse backgrounds compared to bygone decades. Diversity he said is something Stony Brook is committed to.

“We hope to reflect the diversity of the state we live in as well as the country we live in,” he said.

Stanley said while the number of international students has increased since 1957, this is the first year the amount of freshmen from other countries has decreased. He said he has received feedback that a number of international students are hesitant to study in the United States due to changes in immigration policies. The president is a supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan instituted by former President Barack Obama (D). He said students protected by DACA at the university come from tough economic backgrounds yet succeed academically and epitomize the American Dream. He said SBU is committed to working with legislators to create a pathway for the students.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. File photo

“Stony Brook University I hope has communicated to the campus and the world our support for these students,” he said.

Stanley said the university is trying to change the way it recruits in order to create more diversity within the crop of faculty members, as well.

Another development at Stony Brook through the years has been the change in athletic success. The president said most teams originally operated as club sports, then developed into Division 3 and eventually Division 1 teams.

Stanley touched on the addition of Southampton Hospital as part of the Stony Brook University medicine family, which occurred this past summer.

“It’s really going to improve service at both hospitals,” he said.

The president said with a $1.7 billion budget, Stony Brook University Hospital serves 400,000 patients and offers a Level I trauma center, while the newly dubbed Stony Brook Southampton Hospital serves 100,000 with a $175 million budget.

He said the university is currently working on the Medicine and Research Translation Building and construction is scheduled to be completed in spring of 2018. The eight-level 240,000-square-foot building and 225,000-square-foot new Bed Tower will create opportunities for scientists and physicians to work side by side in the hopes of advancing cancer research and imaging diagnostics.

Stanley also addressed the university’s $24 million deficit, and he said he knows SBU can overcome it. The president said the biggest issue was the failure of the state as the university has not been included in state allocations in recent years

“I absolutely support faculty and staff getting raises, they are completely appropriate,” he said.

Despite the deficit, hundreds of faculty members and students have been welcomed to Stony Brook University while the number of administration positions has decreased. The president said administrators are “working harder than they ever been before to help the university.”

Stanley has asked department heads to look at their needs when an instructor leaves, and to consider if the workflow can be adjusted if the position cannot be filled. The goal, he said, is to have the least amount of impact on students.

The president said The Campaign for Stony Brook to raise funds for scholarships and research is $559.2 million toward a $600 million goal. It strives to reach the goal by June 30, 2018.

Stony Brook University students show their support for those protected by DACA. Photo from Stony Brook University

As President Donald Trump (R) proposed to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Stony Brook University community members and students voiced their support for the DREAMers — the name given to the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants that were brought to the United States as children.

University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. stated his and the institution’s continued support of DACA in a Sept. 5 email sent to the campus community.

“We have seen how the recipients of DACA have a positive impact on our campus and broader community,” Stanley said. “Diversity of perspectives, thought and understanding serves as a foundation of Stony Brook’s academic enterprise and helps our students become global citizens. Let’s do what’s right, and unite to support our ‘dreamers’ together.”

Two days later, more than 200 students, faculty members and administrators united in the March for DREAMers rally to show undocumented students at the university their support. In addition, the marchers presented a letter to administrators listing further actions they hope the university will take.

Marchers show signs they brought to the March for DREAMers rally at Stony Brook University Sept. 7. Photo from College Democrats

Members of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, an equality advocacy group, were among the rally’s organizers. The group’s Vice-President David Clark felt it was important to stand up for classmates who may feel vulnerable now.

“I wanted to, first of all, raise awareness of the concerns of DACA recipients and DREAMers on campus and also to show support of them on campus,” he said.

Clark said participants were thankful for the institution’s support of undocumented students and appreciated the university’s current stance on DACA, and Stanley’s statement that the campus should be considered a sensitive location by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Clark said the marchers were joined by representatives of non-campus groups including the Islandia-based SEPA Mujer, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of Latina immigrant women.

The college junior said administrators cooperated in securing a ballroom in the student activity center where participants gathered for speeches after walking around a circle and congregating in the main academic mall’s plaza. He said chants included,

“Say it loud. Say it clear. Dreamers are welcomed here.” Marchers held signs with messages that included, “Undocumented and unafraid” and “Sin DACA, Sin Miedo,” which in Spanish means, “Without DACA, without fear.”

Clark was satisfied with the turnout of the peaceful protest.

“I was really happy that so many Stony Brook students care about their fellow classmates, friends who are undocumented, who are getting through a very hard time right now, a time of uncertainty for them,” he said.

In their letter, marchers asked the university to ensure SBU would not provide information to ICE about any undocumented students or their families, not allow ICE to take students into custody without a judicial warrant, and to let students know if ICE is on campus through the university’s alert systems. The organizers also asked that a list be available on the website of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to notify those who are not citizens where private scholarships may be available to them.

Stanley said in his Sept. 5 email that the university does not request or require immigration status as part of the admissions process. He added that immigration status is not a factor in student housing decisions, and the university does not share private information.

Honoree US Vice President Joe Biden (center) stands with Samuel L. Stanley Jr., President, Stony Brook University, Former and James H. Simons, Chair Emeritus, Stony Brook Fountation and IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond during the 2017 Stars of Stony Brook Gala at Chelsea Piers April 19, 2017, in New York, NY. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for Stony Brook University)

Stony Brook University recognized the 47th vice president of the United States of America, the Honorable Joseph R. Biden Jr., at its 18th annual Stars of Stony Brook Gala on April 19 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The former vice president was recognized for his outstanding career and dedication to the fight against cancer.

“Cancer touches us all in some way and at some point,” said Biden. “Everywhere I go, people share their stories of heartbreak and hope. And every day, I’m reminded that our work to end cancer as we know it is bigger than just a single person. It carries the hopes and dreams of millions of people who are praying that we succeed, praying for hope, praying for time — not someday, but now.”

As vice president, Biden led the White House Cancer Moonshot, with the mission to double the rate of progress in preventing and fighting the disease. Under his leadership, the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force catalyzed novel, innovative and impactful collaborations among 20 government agencies, departments and White House offices and over 70 private sector collaborations designed to achieve a decades’ worth of progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in just five years.

In addition, Biden helped lead the effort to pass the 21st Century Cures Act that provides $1.8 billion over seven years for the Cancer Moonshot’s scientific priorities.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity to honor former Vice President Biden,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley. “The Cancer Moonshot has the potential to transform cancer research and prevention around the world. This critical initiative is a reflection of the work our researchers and doctors are doing in Stony Brook Cancer Center labs — using insight, innovation and strategic collaborations to push the boundaries of what we know about how best to diagnose, treat and ultimately prevent the disease that is responsible for more than 8 million deaths a year worldwide.”

Research and discovery are at the heart of the Stony Brook ethos and the university’s Cancer Center is a shining example of its commitment to combating the malady. Stony Brook doctors are on the forefront of the next generation in cancer care.

The Cancer Center will relocate next year to the new 254,000 square-foot Medical and Research Translation facility (MART), which was designed to enable scientists and physicians to work side by side to advance cancer research and imaging diagnostic and will be the home to the new Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging. Stony Brook researchers are receiving worldwide attention for their pioneering research into the genesis and behavior of cancer cells at the molecular level, which will one day help detect, treat, and eliminate the disease altogether.

Every spring the Stony Brook Foundation hosts the Stars of Stony Brook Gala to benefit student scholarships and a select academic program. Since its inception in 2000, the event has raised more than $42 million. A portion of the net proceeds from this year’s gala will support the Stony Brook Cancer Center.

Biden joins a distinguished roster of scholars, politicians, celebrities and luminaries who have been honored by the gala for their outstanding and relentless commitment to society, including Nobel Laureate CN Yang; actors Julie Andrews, Alan Alda and Ed Harris; founder of Renaissance Technologies Jim Simons; CA Technologies founder Charles Wang; and world-renowned conservationists Richard Leakey and Patricia Wright.