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A chat with incoming SBU president Maurie McInnis

Incoming Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis during

Incoming Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis during a conference call on Tuesday.

Tuesday afternoon’s virtual meeting with incoming Stony Brook University president Maurie McInnis wasn’t the way the Newsday editorial board traditionally gets to know a newly selected university president, and it won’t be a traditional start to a presidency for McInnis, either.

McInnis, the provost and executive vice president of the University of Texas at Austin, told the board that she’s not even sure when and how she’ll be able to come to New York to start her tenure, which officially begins July 1. But there are other ways the coronavirus pandemic will change her job, from how she oversees the medical school and hospital, to the determination of when and how students will return to campus. She’s hoping that’ll be in time for the fall semester. She initially had expected to spend “a ton of time” on Long Island even before she officially took office, beginning listening sessions with faculty, students and other key groups, as one way to improve communications among the university community.

“I’m a little less sure of how that’s going to work now,” McInnis said, noting that she’s not sure whether she’ll even be able to start making those connections this summer. “I hope by the fall, we’re in rooms together.”

McInnis, an art historian, said she’s also concerned about what COVID-19, and the extraordinary economic strains it created, mean for Stony Brook University’s financial standing. 

“I will admit I am very worried about the funding picture for Stony Brook,” McInnis said. “I was worried before. I’m considerably more worried now.”

McInnis noted that Stony Brook has been a centerpiece of the state’s efforts to fight the coronavirus, from the work its hospital and researchers are doing, to its role in hosting quarantined study-abroad students, to the fact that its campus will be used for an additional field hospital facility. The entire State University of New York system, and the state, must understand the “disproportionate” economic impact on Stony Brook, she said. 

It will take money from the state, federal government, and philanthropists to help Stony Brook gain stronger financial footing, she added.

For now, though, McInnis will have to start learning about Stony Brook and Long Island, and preparing to lead the school, through virtual conversations and meetings.