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Gorman: SUNY rap video surprisingly white

Brendan Martin

Brendan Martin (Credit: SUNY)

As part of a new marketing strategy, the State University of New York released a rap anthem on YouTube Wednesday. “The SUNY Anthem,” which had more than 43,000 views and 300 comments by midday Friday, puts a positive spin on the educational, financial and social quality of attending one of the 64 SUNY schools.

The star is Brendan Martin, a 2010 SUNY Albany graduate, who also wrote and produced the video. SUNY contributed $3,000 for its production. 

Backed by electronic music, Martin raps: “When you go to SUNY, you’re on the right road. So if you want to dream, then come and join the team."

While SUNY in general brags about its high-quality education and relatively low cost, it is also known to crow about the diversity students find at any given campus. The anthem's music video, however, gives off a completely different vibe. 

In the video's 3 minutes and 52 seconds of publicity for the system, most of the participants are white. You might think an organization with so many resources dedicated to diversity would pay a little more attention to the video's representation. At Stony Brook University, a flagship SUNY school, for example, the Asian and South Asian population is significant. The SUNY anthem, however, does not have any proportional representation. 

According to SUNY officials, the video will be featured on at suny.edu and used for recruitment, public events and everywhere else possible.

Is SUNY sure it wants to do that? 

The video quickly generated a slew of negative comments on YouTube. They range from noticing grammatical errors in the song to how generically the rap culture is portrayed. It's "Schoolhouse Rock!" gone wrong. And it's sending a subliminal message that might have slipped SUNY's mind: the idea that the schools are made for the stereotypical high school "it" crowd — skinny white kids.

Not very accurate. Not at all diverse.

Alexa Gorman is a senior studying journalism at Stony Brook University, a SUNY campus. She is an intern this semester for Newsday Opinion.  


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