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Union Lobbies to Eliminate Tech Fee as University Explores Increases

A roundup of the latest news from Stony Brook University.

Members of the Research Assistants Union called on university president Samuel Stanley Jr. this week to eliminate the technology fee for research assistants – just one day before the university announced it is considering raising general student fees.

About 25 RAs dropped by Stanley's office unannounced around noon on Monday to deliver handwritten valentines thanking him for his recent decision to waive their transportation fee and asking him to axe their technology fee, which members of the union have called redundant.

"Most of the RAs already use computers provided by their groups or have their own," said Regina Caputo, 26, a fifth-year physics graduate student and RA. "It's like asking employees of Google to pay for the internet they use at work."

Stony Brook faces a 30 percent cut in state aid for the coming school year, however, and elimination of the technology fee would mean less revenue to support and expand computer and internet services on campus. Now, the university has announced it is considering raising student fees across the board by as much as $121 per semester for undergrads and $104.50 per semester for graduate students for the coming school year. It is seeking student feedback via this online form.

According to university data, Stony Brook already charges students less in fees, including smaller technology fees, than other SUNY schools. The technology fee at SBU is around $200 per semester, compared with approximately $300 to $350 at schools like Binghamton, Albany and Buffalo.

"We are not currently considering waiving such fees for RAs," university spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said on Tuesday.

The university employs over 700 RAs who are represented by the Research Assistants Union, a part of Communications Workers of America Local 1104, which is currently seeking its first contract with the SUNY Research Foundation since its inception in 2008. According to the union, RAs earn a little more than $20,000 per year on average. Among the research assistants' concerns is acknowledgment of their status as both student and employee of the university.

"They would like to think we're just students," Caputo said. "We're both, but we're doing work that benefits the Research Foundation financially."

Thieves Damage Cars in South P Lot

The University Police Department issued a crime alert Feb. 11 after students reported daytime thefts and criminal mischief in the South P commuter lot.

Thieves removed tires from one vehicle and took airbags and other parts from another during the week leading up to the Feb. 11 crime alert.

"University Police investigators have discovered that this pattern of thefts is part of a current crime trend which has been occurring on surrounding higher education campuses in the county," the department said in the alert.

A Suffolk County Police spokesman said the Sixth Precinct is working with University Police on the investigation.

Professor Disproves Anthropological Myth

Dr. John Shea has published a paper in the journal Current Anthropology which proves the behavior of early humans was almost as complex as that of humans today, shattering a long-held belief that they were much simpler beings.

“Archaeologists have been focusing on the wrong measurement of early human behavior,” said Shea, a professor of anthropology and research associate for the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. “The search has been for evidence of ‘behavioral modernity,’ a quality supposedly unique to Homo sapiens, when archaeologists ought to have been investigating ‘behavioral variability,’ a quantitative dimension to the behavior of all living things.”

Shea used stone tools dating back as far as 250,000 years and as recently as 6,000 years, and noted that the construction of those tools failed to support the behavioral revolution which many anthropologists believe took place. Instead, he showed the evidence supports the existence of wide variability in human behavior.

"Whether this range is significantly different from that of earlier and other hominin species remains to be discovered, but the best way to advance our understanding of human behavior is by researching the sources of behavioral variability,” he said.

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