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Michael Bernstein

Michael Bernstein on the Stony Brook University campus. Photo from Stony Brook University

As the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close, Stony Brook University’s recent interim president is returning to familiar territory.

Michael Bernstein will remain at SBU, even though his last day as interim president was June 30. On July 1 he returned to his former position as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Last August, Bernstein took on the role of interim president after the departure of former president, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Bernstein said he decided to stay after a request from new university president, Maurie McInnis, who was appointed in March, and added that a search for his replacement may take up to a year. He plans to move to California in the future.

“I’m in a position, I think, to help Maurie as she transitions in as the new president,” he said. “Obviously, we’re very much challenged with planning through this COVID emergency and figuring out how we’re going to manage the fall semester, not to mention the whole academic year.”

While the pandemic got in the way of working on some SBU goals such as strategic revisioning, strengthening a few of the business practices and revitalization of the computer system, he’s confident that McInnis, with whom he has been in constant contact since her appointment, will be prepared to take on the challenges once the 2020 fall semester can begin.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which required colleges and universities to switch to online learning and hold events virtually since March, Bernstein said he enjoyed his time as interim president overall.

“I was surrounded by a superb senior leadership team,” he said. “We were getting a lot done in terms of managing university affairs.”

Bernstein said he realized the importance of taking precautions early on once the number of COVID-19 cases started rising in the U.S.

“My sense was that we were in the midst of an emerging crisis that was going to accelerate pretty quickly and pretty dramatically,” he said. “We made a decision to shut down and start canceling major campus events pretty quickly.”

He said that the campus nearly closed earlier than it did but the school had to wait for directions from the State University of New York administration to coordinate with the broader school network. Bernstein said the last major event at the campus was the 2020 gala held at the Staller Center March 7.

“I had said at that point that we will have no more major campus events, and we were a little early when we made that decision,” he said.

While he received some pushback, he’s glad he made the decision.

“I think within a couple of weeks people were circling back to me saying, ‘That was the right decision, thank you for making it as quickly as you did.’ I think it became clear to people that we had to shut everything down.”

He added that shortly after the university cut back on public events, students were asked to head home, and spring break was extended to two weeks so the university could prepare for online learning.

He said at the last in-person university council meeting, it was realized they were all in the midst of a critical moment in their careers and that everyone would be defined by what decisions were made. While he said it was a challenging time, he remained positive.

“There’s the old saying, ‘Calm seas and blue skies do not make good sea captains,’” he said. “You’re not in a leadership position to work when things are calm. When things are calm and fine, you don’t need leaders.”

SBU Community Will Look for Alternate Ways to Celebrate

Stony Brook University student toss their caps to celebrate their graduation in 2018. Photo by Greg Catalano

This year, Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University won’t see its usual sea of red caps and gowns.

SBU Interim President Michael Bernstein announced April 2 on SBU’s YouTube page that the university will not be able to hold its spring commencement ceremony in person May 22.

He said the decision was a difficult one that was made “in a deliberate and careful way.” Bernstein added that input from medical experts and the current guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the governor’s office were taken into consideration.

“Our choice ensures the well-being of our community and loved ones,” he said.

Graduates will receive their formal diplomas within two months of their graduation date.

He said countless graduations are being reinvented countrywide.

“These unexpected and disheartening circumstances will not, of course, make these occasions any less significant nor less joyous,” he said. “The accomplishments we will celebrate on your behalf will always be real and vivid.”

Faculty, staff members and students, Bernstein said, are weighing different options as to how to celebrate with alternate ways, and the graduates will be brought together in a virtual way May 22.

“I am very sorry that your final semester at Stony Brook has been derailed by this tragic public health crisis,” he said. “And I want to thank all of you who in so many ways have supported our community as we confront this unprecedented emergency. It’s that very spirit for which your class — the Class of 2020 — will always be uniquely known.”

Muhammad Fithra Yoga started a petition on change.org asking SBU to not cancel but postpone the spring commencement ceremony to the summer after the pandemic has passed.

“For us senior students graduating this spring, we all have been waiting for this special commencement of our class,” Yoga wrote on the petition page. “We understand that conducting commencement in May is not possible, however, we do not want a virtual commencement to be held.”

As of April 3, nearly 600 signed the petition. In 2019, more than 7,500 graduates, ranging between the ages of 18 and 72, joined the nearly 200,000 Seawolves worldwide as Stony Brook University celebrated its 59th commencement.

On April 1, the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University announced it would allow its senior medical students to graduate in early April. The move is to enable them to work at SBU hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic under the supervision of residents, fellows and attending physicians. The graduates will begin their residencies July 1 at the facilities they match with across the state and country.

The school held the medical student’s Match Day via Facebook Live last month. The university and 116 students were complying with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a press release from Stony Brook Medicine.

Each year medical students around the country look forward to Match Day, a national event where approximately 30,000 fourth-year students find out their residency assignments.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president of Health Sciences and dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine, joined in the celebration.

“You are an incredibly bright, energetic and accomplished group who will soon be called ‘doctor,’” he said during the Facebook Live event.

 

On March 7 Kelli O’Hara and Sutton Foster joined forces for the first time in a double headline show at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts for their 2020 Gala and, though no one knew it at the time, this would be the last show of the Staller Center season. Performing songs from their lengthy repertoires, both Tony-winning performers gave it their all to a sold-out crowd despite mounting precautions and fears surrounding COVID-19. 

“I know this is a time of a little bit of nerves and wonder and mystery and anxiety … we want to give you a night away from that,” O’Hara said during her performance. The show went on, but out of an abundance of caution, the Gala’s reception was canceled. Little did O’Hara know, her comment about it being the last time audiences would be together, quickly became true. (see more photos at www.tbrnewsmedia.com)

Days later, on March 10, at the urging of Interim Stony Brook President, Michael Bernstein, the Staller Center announced that all March events were canceled. Bernstein’s bold and forward-thinking guided Staller Center Director, Alan Inkles, in his decision to cancel the Starry Nights concert, which was scheduled that same evening. 

One week after that, Inkles also took the lead and stated that all events at the Staller Center through May 15 would be canceled. In the following days, other theaters and arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera, followed suit. In a time of considerable unease, theatre venues across the world have closed their doors to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We were the first East Coast Arts Center that canceled shows for March last week and second in the country,” Inkles said. Indeed, the Staller Center decided to close before larger venues such as Broadway, The Metropolitan Opera House, and London’s West End. 

Performances by the Russian National Ballet, America’s Got Talent finalist Diavolo, and the 30th-anniversary show of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, among many others, are no longer coming to the Staller Center this season. “We are working with all of our artists and their managers in attempting to reschedule their shows in upcoming seasons and working together to find creative ways to minimize the financial hardships that appear imminent for these performers,” said Inkles. 

Other canceled events include: three remaining MET Opera Live in HD screenings, the Spring Film Series, A Capella Live, Starry Nights, Jack Licitra: U are the Music!, the Emerson String Quartet, Carol Wincenc, and the Doo Wop Project. The Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery is also closed to all in-person visitors through the end of May.

The Box Office is closed to in-person visitors, but patrons are asked to call or email the box office at 631-632-ARTS[2787] or [email protected] with questions or concerns. 

While Staller is offering credit or refunds for all ticketholders, generous sponsors, donors, and partners are offering their help, and many patrons have kindly donated their tickets back. 

“We are certainly seeing some great humanity in the art world as everyone scrambles to help each other,” Inkles said. 

Stay tuned for announcements on the Staller Center’s 2021-22 Season at www.stallercenter.com and visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com for information on this July’s 25th Annual Stony Brook Film Festival.

All photos by Millie Elangbam/Staller Center

Interim President Michael A. Bernstein with podcast guest Thomas Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft. Photo from SBU

Stony Brook University recently launched its first-ever official podcast, “Beyond the Expected,” to highlight the expertise and contributions from outstanding members of the SBU community. 

SBU leaders and personalities host guests whose stories exemplify the diversity of the SBU community and thought and the global impact of their scholarship. “Beyond the Expected” offers compelling interviews and insightful perspectives from members of the Stony Brook University community and beyond who are deeply committed to contributing their time, talent and solutions to the most pressing issues in the communities where they live, work or play. 

The 30-minute show features rotating podcast hosts, beginning with inaugural host Interim President Michael A. Bernstein who kicked off the podcast series by delving into compelling discussions with members of the campus community who are making a great impact on the lives of others. 

Through teaching, research and discovery, scholarship, engineered solutions, diversity, public-private partnerships and philanthropic relationships, these new episodes of “Beyond the Expected” podcast interviews will bring this to life. “Stony Brook University faculty, staff and students put their heart and soul into their work, which elevates our regional economy and contributes more broadly to areas such as environmental sustainability, health care, and social and cultural identity,” said Bernstein. 

“This podcast will showcase their drive and diversity as we learn about what inspired them when young, and what they’re doing now that helps make Stony Brook the great community partner that it is today,” he added.

Some of the inaugural featured guests and topics of discussion on the “Beyond the Expected” podcast include:

Professor Abhay Deshpande on the evolution of nuclear science and his involvement in planning for the Brookhaven National Lab-awarded development of the Electron-Ion Collider.

Dr. David Fiorella on cutting-edge approaches to interventional brain surgery and new services he has brought to Long Island, helping save lives of stroke victims.

Jazz Artist-in-Residence Thomas Manuel on the origins and historic relevance of The Jazz Loft, the song that got him hooked him on jazz and a memory of his best performance.

Dr. Sharon Nachman on the safety of immunizations and vaccines and insights on the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Dr. Carolyn Peabody and second-year MSW student, Meesha Johnson, on the 2020 Census and getting the Native American population in Suffolk County counted.

Actor, director, screenwriter and author Alan Alda, visiting professor and founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in conversation with Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts.

“Beyond the Expected” podcast is now live and can be downloaded and subscribed to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Radio Public and Google Podcasts. One can also check out the vodcast on YouTube.

Stony Brook University Interim President Michael Bernstein during the school’s State of the University address in October 2019. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University interim president Michael Bernstein has officially withdrawn his name for consideration in the search for the next SBU president.

Bernstein made the difficult decision “after considerable reflection,” according to an email statement from SBU.

“As he considered his future career options, he felt he needed the freedom to pursue external professional opportunities, without the complication of being an internal candidate at Stony Brook,” the statement read. “Michael has stated that he has been enormously impressed with, and inspired by the excellence of the faculty, staff, and students throughout Stony Brook’s campuses. It is his and the cabinet’s expectation that we will continue to work together as a team over the course of this next semester to move forward on all of our key goals.”

The interim president took over the reins at the university after former SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. exited the position Aug. 1, 2019. In May of 2019, it was announced that Stanley would take on the role of president at Michigan State University in August that year.

In June of 2019, the State University of New York Board of Trustees approved Bernstein as interim president. Previously, Bernstein had served as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs as well as professor of business, economics and history at SBU since 2016.

During an exclusive interview with TBR News Media in August, Bernstein said he had been originally planning to step down as provost and move to San Diego. When Stanley announced he was leaving, he was asked if he would consider the interim role. During the interview, when questioned if he would consider staying permanently, Bernstein said he had an open mind.

“Let’s see if I like the job and more importantly let’s see if the job likes me and we’ll go from there,” Bernstein said at the time.

The news came as a surprise to members of the Three Village Civic Association, who were aiming to create a stronger relationship with the university, and TVCA 1st Vice President George Hoffman said the group was disappointed.

“Michael Bernstein was an affable and outgoing person,” he said. “The first thing he did when appointed interim president was to reach out to all of the community organizations and invite us for breakfast to discuss how we can improve the relationship between the university and the community.”

Hoffman said the civic association “had great hopes for future relationships under Bernstein.” It was something they felt like they didn’t have with the previous administration.

“It is our hope that the search committee will select a candidate that has the same understanding of the importance of community partnership as Michael Bernstein,” he said.

In September, SUNY announced a search committee that includes faculty, staff, Stony Brook Foundation members, students, administration, alumni and Stony Brook Council members. To aid the search, the committee set up the email address [email protected] for comments and suggestions to be submitted.

Pictured from left, Chris Graf, Michael Bernstein and Gloria Rocchio (holding original sketch of Memorial Rock) and Judy Greiman

In 1946 Ward Melville designated a plot of land on Main Street, right beyond the Stony Brook Village Center, to honor veterans of foreign wars.  

Michael Bernstein, Interim President, Stony Brook University; Judy Greiman, senior VP, government and community relations/chief deputy to the president at Stony Brook University; Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization; and Chris Graf, owner of Stonegate Landscape recently met at the site to review the results of recent efforts to refurbish the area in preparation for Veterans Day.

 The area has been renovated several times over the years and recently needed additional work.  Graf stepped up to take care of this project, gratis, installing another boulder and new plantings, updating the area to the state it was in when first created in 1946. WMHO, along with Stony Brook University, partnered together and paid for an additional plaque as well as a bluestone marker.

Photos from WMHO

*This article has been updated to reflect Michael Bernstein’s new title.

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Stony Brook University Interim President Michael Bernstein during the school’s State of the University address in October 2019. Photo from Stony Brook University

Michael Bernstein, interim president of Stony Brook University, delivered his first State of the University address at the Staller Center for the Arts Main Stage to a packed auditorium filled with faculty, staff, students and elected officials Oct. 16.

During the speech, which lasted about an hour, Bernstein touched on several topics including important university initiatives, key strategic commitments, enrollment growth, Stony Brook Medicine’s future, financial woes and successes and challenges in the future.

A key theme of the presentation was highlighting the school’s rich history, including attracting trailblazing pioneers over the years and providing world-class education.

“We strive to always evolve to meet the needs of our students,” Bernstein said.

The interim president touched on the university’s efforts in diversity.

Bernstein said he is committed to improve diversity on campus and in the SBU community. The school in the past year has spent close to $1.7 million on diversity initiatives.

“We believe as scholars and educators that diversity generates optional results and better education that we can provide for our students,” the interim president said.

Similarly, Bernstein highlighted the university’s increase in admitted international students. He stressed the need to continue to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for them.

“We are an elite institution not an elitist institution — that is very much part of our DNA here at Stony Brook,” he said.

On the economic side of things, Bernstein touted that SBU continues to be a vital contributor to Long Island.

SBU is the largest single-site employer on Long Island with more than 15,000 employees and has continued to be an economic driver in the local economy generating more than $7.2 billion.

Bernstein highlighted the accomplishments of Stony Brook Medicine.

He mentioned the expansion of the Stony Brook Medicine umbrella with new partnerships in Southampton that include the MART building in November and the Children’s Hospital in the Hospital Pavilion, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.

“[The hospital] will be the very best facility on Long island for pediatric care,” Bernstein said.

Reducing expenses and increasing revenue was an important topic brought up.

Bernstein said efforts have been made to streamline university operations and monitor hiring. Top budget priority areas for the 2019-20 school year are focused on student success, growth in research and faculty support. Construction on new buildings and residence halls are underway as well as plans to address parking problems on campus.

“We know we have to address those issues,” he said. “We will get to a better outcome downstream and we salute you for your patience.”

The interim president also made sure to highlight the university’s four-year graduation rate. The rate for the class entering in 2015 has reached 64 percent, which signifies a 17-point increase over a six-year period.

File photo

With the departure of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. as Stony Brook University president July 31 and the appointment of Michael Bernstein as interim president, the school and the State University of New York have begun the process of finding a new permanent president. Elected officials and community groups have called on SUNY to include local representatives in the search committee and selection process.

Supervisor Ed Romaine during his State of the Town address. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Stony Brook University is one of the crown jewels of the SUNY system,” said Ed Romaine (R), Town of Brookhaven supervisor, in an Aug. 26 letter sent to Kristina Johnson, SUNY chancellor. 

Citing SBU as being ranked one of the top 35 public universities in the nation and a major health care provider for the community, Romaine described SBU as “an integral part of our community as an educational resource, employer and economic driver.”

“Because of this, I urge you to include at least two representatives from the community on your search committee for a new university president,” Romaine said.

The supervisor recommended eight different community groups that he felt had qualified individuals that could serve on the search committee.

“The president of the university is a huge part of the community. I believe the community should be invited to the search committee for the new president,” Romaine reiterated in an interview. “We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

The Brookhaven supervisor brought up the issue of off-campus housing, particularly illegal rooming homes, which he acknowledged the school has worked with the town to crack down on landlords.

Romaine brought up traffic, especially the issues on Stony Brook, Oxhead and Nicolls roads.  

“I proposed to the county they consider making three lanes north and south from 347 to the university because that’s where it really jams up,” he said. “… The university is already working with us, but the best way to confirm that is to make sure the local community is represented.”

The Three Village Civic Association also sent Johnson a letter.

“We appreciate the many benefits of being the home community of a large world class university,” the association stated in the letter. “However, with those benefits come many challenges for our small community. We think it would be beneficial for the search committee to include a civic perspective that can help bridge the specific needs of the university with those of the surrounding community.”

“We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

– Ed Romaine

University officials, said in a statement that SUNY board of trustees sets the procedure for the search and determines the mix of committee members. Members of the Stony Brook Council will be included who are also community members.

SUNY Guidelines for Conducting Presidential Searches require that the local college council, the Stony Brook Council, follow a prescribed process and submit names to the SUNY board for consideration.

The search committee would consist of four members of the local council, including the chair, seven members of the full-time teaching faculty of the campus, one undergraduate student, one graduate student, one alumni representative, two campus-related foundation representatives, one academic dean, one professional or support staff member, one incumbent or retired SUNY president from another campus or a member of the chancellor’s senior staff designated by the chancellor.

SBU said members are nominated by faculty, staff and students. The faculty then vote via a secret ballot on the seven faculty positions, and the rest of the positions are selected by the council chair from the list of nominees. 

Nominations for the committee took place over the summer, according to university officials. Voting on faculty representatives began on Aug. 26 and runs until Sept. 6. Once the faculty results are in, the council chair, Kevin Law, will finalize his selections and will convene the first search committee meeting. The first meeting will likely be in late September.

SUNY could not be reached for comment before press time.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Interim SBU President Michael Bernstein meet with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to discuss energy effeciency improvements. Photo by David Luces

In an effort to fight climate change, Stony Brook University will receive $79 million in energy efficiency improvements and upgrades throughout the campus. 

New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was on hand at the school Aug. 19 to announce the planned upgrades in front of the university’s Center of Molecular Medicine. 

The improvements build upon the State University of New York’s Clean Energy Roadmap, a partnership between SUNY and state energy agencies that aims to accelerate progress toward the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. 

The energy efficient upgrades will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28,000 tons a year, which is the equivalent of taking over 5,000 cars off the road. It will also save the university nearly $6 million in energy and maintenance costs annually. 

“As the largest single site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook University must remain committed to reducing our carbon footprint,” Interim President Michael Bernstein said. 

The improvements, which will be financed and implemented by the New York Power Authority, will include a number of energy-saving upgrades such as lighting, ventilation and building management upgrades at university buildings, including residence halls, science buildings and the hospital. 

“As the largest single site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook University must remain committed to reducing our carbon footprint.”

— Michael Bernstein

The planned upgrades continue the university’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint. NYPA and SUNY have already partnered to complete more than $50 million in energy efficiency improvements at Stony Brook. If all goes according to plan, expectations are for the removal of nearly 16,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. 

Some of those projects included interior and exterior LED lighting upgrades, replacement of older HVAC equipment, pipe insulation and lab HVAC modernization. 

PSEG Long Island provided more than $500,000 in rebates to Stony Brook University for projects underway. 

“We have a moral responsibility to protect this Earth while it is in our hands,” said Hochul. “Forty percent of buildings owned by the state of New York are on SUNY campuses … If we are going to make an impact this is where we start.” 

SUNY and NYPA, together, have completed energy-saving projects at more than 600 SUNY facilities, reducing energy consumption by more than 6.2 megawatts, removing more than 48,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, and saving $12.1 million annually, according to SUNY. The public college institution and power authority are currently partnering to implement energy-saving measures at more than 30 additional SUNY buildings. Once completed, they expect it will reduce SUNY’s energy consumption by an additional 1.6 megawatts.

A Q&A with Michael Bernstein

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants. Photo from SBU

Michael Bernstein, the new interim president of Stony Brook University, came by TBR News Media’s office for an exclusive interview where he spoke on his new role, challenges the school faces and his thoughts on the future. Here is what he had to say. 

Is there any chance you will stay in this role permanently?

This past January, I talked through with [previous SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.] about concluding my tenure as provost [at the university]. 

My partner Patty and I have made plans to go to San Diego, where we’ve had a home for 20-plus years. It’s been a prime directive to get back to San Diego. 

Michael Bernstein. Photo from SBU

Things changed, when Sam announced he would be leaving, and he asked if I’d be willing to serve in the interim [president] role if the chancellor of SUNY, Kristina Johnson, asked me to do so. 

I remember at that meeting, I was like, “I need to talk to Patty and then I’ll talk to you again.”

Patty and I talked it through and here we are. I am delighted to be in this role. As for the longer-term future, we have open minds and will take it one day at a time. 

Let’s see if I like the job and more importantly let’s see if the job likes me and we’ll go from there. 

So you don’t see yourself as a placeholder?

No, I am the interim president. My goal, my hope and my intention is to do the job — that’s what the chancellor expects from me and I think that’s what all our colleagues on campus expect of me. I’m going to do my best.

It’s true when you are serving in an interim role, you have to balance the reality of the role with the tasks that have to be done. 

There are some things an interim president might not be able to do. Some lifts might be too heavy. I’m here to serve the campus the best I can. 

What do you see as your biggest challenges?

Challenges are also opportunities. We want to maintain the trajectory that Sam established in his decade-long tenure [as president]. 

Our student success metrics have been improving in the past 10 years. Graduation rates have gone up and we want to keep that momentum.

Right now, our six-year rate is at the high mid-60th percentile. Roughly 62, 63 percent of our students have their degrees in hand within six years of their initial matriculation. The goal is to get that number up into the 70th percentile and that’s doable. It will take work, resources and determination. 

The quality of our students keeps going up. We are doing a much better job in advising, tutoring, counseling and making sure they have a clear path to graduation. 

There’s still this general anxiety over whether or not the school focuses more on STEM than the humanities and arts. What do you think should be done in those terms?

I’m certainly aware of the sentiments. We do have outstanding departments and units in STEM base fields. That’s been true probably since the day the school opened. 

It is not something we would ever ignore or look past. I actually feel the sense that we are overlooking the arts and humanities is sometimes misconstrued. We have some excellent programs — political science is a nationally ranked program, our Hispanic language and literature program is one of the best in the field, our music department competes with Julliard for MFA [master of fine arts] students.

I’ve just used those programs as an example … could we strengthen other units? Of course, when we have the ability to do so, but that’s in the sciences too. 

Is there a chance the theatre arts major will come back?  

Sure, there is a chance. There are no plans on the table today. The decision to deactivate the theatre arts major was a tough one made under stressful budgetary circumstances. 

It is always a relative judgment — do you do this before you do that. I know it is a tough conversation to have with colleagues, especially if they are in the area where you said, “No, we are not going to invest here.” 

“We are simply not the kind of university of size and resources where we can do everything at once.”

— Michael Bernstein

We are simply not the kind of university of size and resources where we can do everything at once. 

We have to make some tough choices. I always say to people, “The word’s not ‘never,’ the word is ‘not right now,’ and we’ll have to see what the future brings. 

Is there a way to bridge the gap with commuters and residents so they both feel like they are a part of the campus?

At the moment, we can’t envision a future where we have 100 percent residency for our undergraduates. It just doesn’t seem practical in terms of the site, the amenities and infrastructure. 

Also, I don’t think it is something the student community wants. We have a significant community of students who prefer to be commuters for any number of reasons. We want to make sure we are delivering an outstanding experience for both the resident and commuter students. 

That’s challenging. We do have a student affairs team that is looking at the issue of commuter students. Thinking of ways of making the experience better.

Title IX [regarding sexual harassment, discrimination in education law]?

I think SUNY as a whole and here at the Stony Brook campus is resolutely committed to robust Title IX processes and procedures. We have good leadership at the Title IX office. We are constantly trying to make sure we are doing the best we possibly can. How can procedures be improved. 

One of our biggest concerns is that the information about Title IX processes and procedures is disseminated effectively, so that everyone at the university community is aware. 

I’m determined ongoing in this role to supply as much support as possible to them and let them know I have my hand on their back; making sure the campus is safe, secure and welcoming to all constituents is job No. 1. 

Rumors of the possibility of more shops on campus?

We’ve always been involved in thinking through opportunities for potential partnerships or ways to improve amenities and capacity on campus. 

I have no concrete contract to pull out and say we are doing this. We are exploring things all the time. We know we have to build more dorm capacity, which means we have to bring more amenities to campus.

If we can find partnership to do that, like we did with the hotel, we would explore that. Why wouldn’t we? I don’t know if it will happen but it is something worth exploring. 

What is the status of the new MART (Medical and Research Translation) building/Children’s Hospital?   

We have been frustrated by delays, but I’m told the latest is end of October for the MART and the beginning of November for the Children’s Hospital. 

Has the problem been in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system or foundation?

In response to this question, Nicholas Scibetta, vice president for marketing and communications, stepped in:

Not foundation. It’s more quality checks and things like that. It’s been our drive on our side -— the Stony Brook side — to make sure that everything is exactly where it needs to be.