Stony Brook University is Long Island's largest four-year college, but some of its neighbors have never been on the campus.
University officials are hoping to change that by hosting a free community fair on Saturday designed to showcase the school and let non-students know they're welcome to visit.
“When I’m out and about, I see people in Setauket who say, 'I’ve never been on the campus,' " director of community relations Joan Dickinson said in an interview last week. “In the past, people didn’t understand that they can come to campus. So we’ve spent a lot of energy saying to people, 'Yes, you can.' ”
The four-hour fair, called CommUniversity Day, will start at noon and feature activities meant to give visitors a flavor of campus life — including marching band, dance and choral performances, science demonstrations and an ice cream social. Visitors to the "instrument petting zoo" get a free kazoo and an invitation to take part in the "kazoo-niversity" performance at 2 p.m.
And visitors can take part in rubber duck races — a longtime Stony Brook University tradition in which the toy fowl compete on a stream that runs through campus, Dickinson said.
A smaller version of the fair was held for the first time last year and was deemed a success, Dickinson said.
“The whole idea is you get a chance to get a glimpse into what Stony Brook University is about,” she said. “There are many interactive things to do. It’s having fun while learning.”
Relations between the university and the community have frayed in recent years over complaints about off-campus student housing. Brookhaven Town launched a crackdown of code violations at those houses, and university officials have tried to help students find legal housing.
Bruce Sander, leader of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, which has been critical of the college's efforts, said the open house was a welcome attempt to improve community relations.
"I think it's good that they're trying to reach out," Sander said. “They’re working at it. We have to continue the dialogue on an ongoing basis.”
Dickinson said the university "always tries to be a good neighbor. … We’ve done a lot of work on the off-campus housing situation and I think we’re in a much better place now."
Officials plan to hold the fair every other year, she said, adding the event also could prove beneficial to university staff and students.
“It’s a large campus," she said. "Sometimes people don’t always know about another department in another building, so it’s a chance to introduce ourselves to one another, as well.”
Parking for the event is free, Dickinson said, adding the first 3,000 visitors will receive a reusable shopping tote. Visitors are asked to register at: stonybrook.edu/sbucommuniversity.