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Opinion

’Twas the night before Election Day

The entrance to the campus of Stony Brook

The entrance to the campus of Stony Brook University. Credit: Heather Walsh

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Pointing Out

What’s in a name?

As the last order of business in its October meeting, Stony Brook University’s oversight and advisory body approved a resolution to rename the Stony Brook School of Medicine. The new name would be the Renaissance School of Medicine, after the East Setauket hedge fund.

The reason? Years of donations to Stony Brook from Renaissance employees: more than $500 million starting in 1982. In roughly the last six years, more than 2,500 gift transactions had been recorded from 111 Renaissance employees. Renaissance founder James Simons, of course, has long been a major Stony Brook backer.

But the renaming raised some eyebrows thanks to Simons’ political opposite: Renaissance’s longtime top executive, Robert Mercer, a major backer of President Donald Trump. Mercer announced last week he would step down from his executive and board positions at Renaissance to blunt a backlash from clients of the $50 billion fund because of his views. He also sold Brietbart Media to his daughters.

Members of the North Country Peace Group that has been protesting Mercer, a Long Island neighbor, were surprised at Stony Brook’s action. The Three Village-area activist association has been trying to raise the alarm about what it saw as the surprise renaming, says group member Myrna Gordon.

Despite Mercer trying to distance himself from the fund, Gordon still doesn’t think the company, which the U.S. Senate concluded in 2014 had failed to pay more than $6 billion in taxes, should get its name on a state institution.

“We try to do what we believe is in the best interest of the university,” said Kevin Law, chairman of the Stony Brook advisory body and president of the Long Island Association. Law said the renaming now goes to the SUNY Board of Trustees, which he expected would take up the matter before the end of the year or early next year.

The peace group plans to lobby the trustees, a new front in their Mercer fight.

Mark Chiusano

Pencil Point

Clueless

More cartoons of the day

Quick Points

Putting out fires

  • The number of middle and high school students playing football on Long Island is declining because of concerns over long-term damage from concussions. Which means parents and kids are using their heads in a different way.
  • The only controversial thing about former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writing in a new book that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was mismanaged, took minority constituents for granted, made mistakes with stiff messages and lacked passion is that it’s Brazile who wrote it. That train left the station a long time ago.
  • Lots of states are gearing up to crack down on slow drivers in the left lane. Hallelujah! But it might be more productive to enforce laws banning texting, eating, applying makeup, reading, phoning, daydreaming and Sunday afternoon driving in the left lane — and all lanes, for that matter.
  • Out on the West Coast, Democrats are on the verge of taking over the state senate in Washington, which would give them total control of the state apparatus. Then there would be an unbroken “blue wall” that includes Oregon and California, mirroring the blue wall in much of the Northeast. The party, however, would do better building a bridge of blue states between the two walls, smack in the middle of the country.
  • Speaker Paul Ryan says Republicans are on track to move the tax reform bill through the House by Thanksgiving and get it to President Donald Trump’s desk by Christmas. Ryan will be lucky if the Senate shows him any love by Valentine’s Day.

Michael Dobie

Programming Point

Live from Newsday Opinion, it’s election night

Tuesday’s Point will hit your in-boxes later than usual. In case you need some reminding, there are some big races in Nassau and Suffolk underway. Check out Tuesday’s newsletter for the latest insights as we all await the results.

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