That news was delivered Monday night at a meeting of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, where Stony Brook's vice president for external affairs, Elaine Crosson, said "the solution is not just building on-campus beds."
"The university is looking at and we're talking to developers and owners of parcels of land that are properly zoned areas, for the possible construction of off-campus housing units," she said.
Even if more beds are added for students on campus, Crosson said, the demand for off-campus housing won't necessarily go away because Master's students and Ph.D. students often don't want to live the on-campus lifestyle.
Crosson's presentation included a graph that showed that average enrollment increases are nearly in line with the average number of beds for on-campus residents over a 13-year span that includes the past 10 years plus the coming three years [see attached PDF]. According to university data, the average enrollment increase over the past 10 years is about 200 students and is projected to be 163 students for the next three years – numbers which include non-traditional students such as part-time students and people taking courses through the School of Professional Development. Also according to the data, the average number of beds added and to-be-added during that 13-year span is 217.
"We house more of our students on campus at Stony Brook than any of the other [SUNY] university centers. ... There’s never going to be a one-to-one ratio of students to beds. There isn't at any university or college," Crosson said.
Another solution the university is exploring could involve a partnership with nearby schools. The university is "also talking with nearby colleges [that] might have available residence hall beds that they’re not using that we could possibly rent for our students," she said.
During the meeting another Stony Brook official, Barbara Chernow, senior vice president for administration, presented an overview of new developments on campus. Chernow touted the opening of LEED-certified buildings such as the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics and the new School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences facility on the Southampton campus. She said the university "kept all the promises we talked about the last few years" when it came to the new Hilton Garden Inn on campus, also a LEED-certified building, which was built on less than one-third of the 11-acre parcel that had been originally designated for the hotel. In response to a civic member's question, Chernow said more plantings would be added to replace the swath of trees that had been cut down for utility access during the construction process.
But the crowd steered the conversation to housing whenever it had the chance, and brought up the issue of university employees that own houses that they rent to college students, saying it's an issue of ethics. But Crosson said the university cannot take action against faculty or staff members who have invested in property.
"Generally speaking, you cannot discipline a union employee for matters that fall outside of the collective bargaining agreement," Crosson said. "The university can only monitor conduct as it relates to university performance and behavior, and only the town has the authority to enforce the town code and fine illegal rentals."
Bruce Sander, of the organization Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, suggested that faculty or staff members who own and illegally rent to students are engaging in "conduct unbecoming of an educator," and therefore could be disciplined by the university.
In response, Crosson's suggestion was to file a complaint with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
More than one person asked for Stony Brook President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., to appear in person at the various public meetings held on the topic of student housing.
"I think we need someone at his level to present to this community what the plans are," said Anthony DeRosa, also with the group Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners. "... We want to know if he really knows how serious things are around here. We’re not against the students, not against the growth of the university ... but you guys have got to do something, and you’ve got to do it quickly."
Crosson said Stanley is thoroughly briefed about each meeting university officials attend.
"Let me assure you that the president is very much aware of the concerns of the community," she said.