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A Moment for Clarity and Unity in Uncertain Times

An Election Message from President Maurie McInnis

November 1, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

If you’re like me, you’re feeling the effects of what Alex Williams at the New York Times called the Year of Blur, the disorienting combination of anxiety and monotony that has followed us all in 2020. Though there have been moments of joy, we have quietly—and, for many of us, in isolation—weathered a year of disruptive events that have made the passage of time feel rather vague: a global pandemic, a contentious national election, a series of terrible deaths that elevated awareness of systematic racism, civil unrest, a challenging economy, and extreme climate events. It has been understandably difficult to find a moment of clarity or peace and with the election this week, I know that, for many, the myriad emotions of the past year are heightened.

Some of you have shared that you feel isolated, lonely, and disconnected. We are all longing for the chance to return to normal. Our work to build a new future is a process. Step by step, I know we will get there, together.

I’ve been so proud of how the Stony Brook community has responded this fall. In our 11th week of the semester, we’re still keeping cases of coronavirus low, with strong plans and great cooperation from every corner of the campus. We’ve slowly returned to residence halls, classrooms, research labs and offices, even though many of our interactions still require masks, screens and zoom links.

I’m convinced there is a reason that Stony Brook has succeeded so far, while others have experienced setbacks. We live up to our mission and values. So, as we prepare for the likely uncertainty and challenges of the days leading up to and following Election Day, let’s take a moment to stop and remind ourselves of the things that bind us together as a community:

  • Our mission calls on us to celebrate diversity as we provide high-quality education, advance knowledge, deliver high-quality healthcare and be an economic leader and good neighbor in our surrounding community. 
  • We value diverse perspectives and experiences, including those that differ from our own.
  • We value care, respect, and civility, even when we disagree.
  • We value and protect free speech, even when the views of others are anathema to us.
  • When events threaten to divide us, we value common ground, inclusion and community.

I know you will live up to these values. Because even if time has felt vague this year, we do have the ability to make real decisions and make our voices heard. Thank you to all of those who have voted, and to those who may be casting your ballot as this message makes its way to your inbox. For many of our students, the 2020 election is their first experience voting; to those I just want to extend my gratitude—you are voting at a truly unique time in our country’s history. It is a moment you will always remember.

While we wait for the results, we are bound to be anxious and tense. Practice patience, extend courtesy, and be considerate. When results do come, given the variety of political affiliations that are part of our strength as a diverse community, some are bound to feel elation while others will be disappointed and distressed. I encourage you to reach for empathy. Reach for critical understanding. Reach for the profound combination of caring and intelligence that makes you a Seawolf.

Over the last few days, the University’s leadership team has reached out to offer guidance to faculty, staff, and supervisors, and we have offered literally dozens of programs, tools and resources to help our community prepare for the days ahead. All of these efforts are designed to encourage interaction with classmates and colleagues in ways that keep us safe, strong and united as a community.

I’m counting on you to do your part. We worked together to successfully slow the spread of a virulent virus; surely, we can work together to stop the spread of division and hostility in this unprecedented election season. We will be a community of understanding and respectful dialogue during this turbulent time. We will continue to be a place of learning and health. I am heartened by this fact and hope you will be too as we embark on the final two months of the year.


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Maurie McInnis, PhD