In this day and age most college students are big texters. What comes along with that are the emojis and they are small digital images or icons used to express an idea or emotion. They liven up text conversations and make them more entertaining.
Some teachers, in an attempt to be more relatable and seem cool to their students, use these emojis in emails and messages to their students. The reaction from students is mixed.
In a Twitter poll, “Is it weird if one of your teachers attempts to use emojis in their messages?,” the results were dead even: 10 voters thought is was OK, while another 10 didn’t.
Kevin Kamping, a 20-year-old liberal arts major, thinks it’s OK. “I don’t find it weird if a teacher wants to throw in an emoji here and there. It makes the teacher more relatable and shows a lighter side to them.” Teachers are always trying to relate to younger students, using emojis is just another tactic, he said.
While some students don’t have a problem with the emoji use from a teacher, others feel differently.
Lucas Moreno, a 20-year-old liberal arts major, said, “I hate the fact that my teachers try to use emojis. It feels like they are trying too hard to relate to students that it gets annoying seeing them try over and over. It just seems forced. Just be yourself.”
When the Covid-19 outbreak caused all SUNY schools to shut down for the rest of active school semester there were a lot of unknowns. How would classes take place now? Where will they take place?
Once the smoke cleared, it was decided to move classes online for the rest of the semester. But even then, there was panic among students without access to computers to access their classes. So Suffolk County Community College launched an initiative to lend laptops to students.
Carol Wickliffe-Campbell, chief of staff to the president, oversaw an operation that was to able to hand out 167 laptops to students. Students emailed her and then applied online.
Once a student was approved, the laptop could be picked up at the main entrances to all of the Suffolk campuses. Public safety staff wore masks and gloves to be safe about the transaction students and would need to show their IDs and the public safety member would put the laptop in the back of their car without any contact between the two. If a student could not make it to campus, they were shipped to their house.
“Even though we were prepared and had a lot of laptops, SUNY provided 250 extra ones including some Chromebooks,” Wickliffe-Campbell said.
Now, access to computers is helpful, but some students don’t even have internet connections. Suffolk handed out 30 internet hot spots. Wickliffe-Campbell said the program’s results have been “positive” and there have been “no cases of the laptops not working.” But if students did have trouble with their laptop there was an IT link to chat with someone to help with any troubles students may have had.
Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus technically has three options to dine. The Babylon Student Center cafeteria — with a variety of options including Moe’s Southwest Grill, Grille Works, Bene Pizzeria, Asian Village and the breakfast bar– is the most popular. It’s also the place where most students gather in off time to socialize. Starbucks, located separately towards the back of the cafeteria, is another option.
But there’s a third, lesser-known option. It’s called the P.O.D. Market, located on the bottom floor of the Southampton Building, where fewer students travel to frequently.
The P.O.D., unlike the cafeteria, is more like a convenience store in that it sells smaller snack items instead of full meals. The items sold there range from a bag of chips to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
A freezer carries frozen meals such as Hot Pockets, White Castle burgers, etc.
There is also a microwave to heat up frozen food before rushing off to class.
Even with multiple vending machines scattered throughout campus, they don’t have the biggest selection, while The P.O.D. offers a variety of snacks.
Regarding the location of the P.O.D., “They wanted something down here at the bottom of the hill,” said a cashier, who said she wasn’t allowed to divulge her name.
The P.O.D. is a convenient stop for students in taking courses in the Southampton Building, rather than having to run to the cafeteria up the hill, but students interviewed for this story said they haven’t had the chance to visit it because of its location away from their studies.
“I have heard of it, but have never entered it,” said Jordan Menjivar, 18. He added that he likes the look of it.
At 2 p.m. in the Mildred Green Room of the Babylon Student Center on March 11, students were sent in groups of 15 through the “Tunnel of Oppression” to learn about human trafficking, immigration, food insecurity and “The Rise of Hate.”
These four themes are displayed in a dark room with black tarps covering the surrounding walls. Each topic is presented on its own board in the middle of the room. On the large black dividers, posters, photographs and printouts of articles including disheartening statistics are attached.
The event included interactive displays revealing a ‘Tunnel of Oppression,’ a ‘Human Library’ and a ‘Tunnel of Hope’ for students to learn about different forms of prejudice and meet people who are advocates or have direct experience with racism, sexism, antisemitism, or able-ism.
Upon entering the room, faculty members guided students towards the right side of the divider, where a large white poster tacked to the board writes “Human Trafficking.” The subject took up two boards, as did the other three topics filled with hard-to-stomach facts and situations about children and young adults who are tricked and manipulated into human trafficking.
“Under U.S. law, human trafficking is defined as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing or obtaining of another person for transport; for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation using force, fraud and/or coercion,” one poster read.
Underneath, there’s a black-and-white photo of a child holding a sign with the words “Not For Sale.” Surrounding this picture were several more.
Students gathered around to read about human trafficking on Long Island.
“It was eye-opening,” said 21-year-old Andrew Abraham. After three semesters at Suffolk, Abraham said he did not realize that there were victims of human trafficking in his own community. “It brings you into a world you weren’t into before.”
More depictions of hatred and societal struggles such as hunger on Long Island, mass shootings and acts of terror on the other three walls stunned students.
“It was shocking,” said 21-year-old Thomas Intrabartola, who is in his third semester at Suffolk. “I didn’t really know much about it and today I learned a lot. It was a heavy-hearted experience, from human trafficking to the Charleston shooting, it’s a little crazy that all that sh*t goes on in this world.”
Under the “Food Insecurity” section, one poster read: “39% of students said they ate less than they felt they should because there wasn’t enough money for food.” Another stated: “42% of college students are food insecure.”
Having students aware of the issues is very important to Malika Batchie Lockhart, chair of the event and assistant in the Multicultural Affairs Office.
“This event is meant to increase students’ level of awareness as well as encourage them to care and not to become detached and desensitized,” Batchie Lockhart said.
People may not realize that these struggles are closer to home than they think. When students and faculty become aware of this, it can promote change and offer potential solutions for those struggling.
With over 14 years of counseling experience, Batchie Lockhart has participated and helped organize several “Tunnel of Oppression” events on each Suffolk campus. After recognizing that this event can actually be triggering to some students, she didn’t want students to leave feeling heavy or sad. This is when Batchie Lockhart had the idea to implement the “Tunnel of Hope,” where students can see “the light at the end of the tunnel,” she explained.
The idea was to create a warm setting for students to pass through at the end of the event.
“It should feel airy, with bright colors and calming colors,” she said. “And with the human library, it brings a different way that students can experience what they already saw on another level.”
“This is the fight that we should be putting all our energy into instead of feeling like there is no hope.”
Very different to what students would see in the first tunnel — darkness, horrifying statistics and photographs filled with hate and despair, the Tunnel of Hope allows students the opportunity to discover how they can get involved to help their community and reach out to victims.
“I want students to leave knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Batchie said, “and that light is them.”
If you are not an international student, it is very likely you at least know one of them on the Ammerman campus. For years, Suffolk County Community College has provided developmental English classes to people from all over the world who seek to pursue a better education and, perhaps, even a career in the United States.
There are two different programs available for those students.English Language Learners, a non-credit program, is open to any adults interested in improving their language skills. English as Second Language, a for-credit program, is designed to prepare students for college-level work in degree programs.
Prof. Laura Cudia is the coordinator of the ESL and ELL program on the Ammerman campus, and she manages it with the help of other assistant professors, such as Rich Lauria. Lauria, who has been teaching for 20 years, started at SCCC five years ago. He is also an ESL advisor and helps guide students daily.
Since 2015, Lauria has noticed that the decline in college enrollment has affected the ESL program as well.
“We are countercyclical to the economy. No one wants to cheer for a recession, but if we hit some tougher economic times, and people start to get laid off, that’s when they decide maybe it’s time to get some more education or training to be able to change careers or to get a better job,” he said prior to the coronavirus restrictions that have shut down many businesses and forced classes to go online.
However, the enrollment decline is not the only obstacle faced by the program. Unfortunately, joining the program is not something most students want.
“It’s like I am selling something people don’t want but need. Sometimes students come in, especially the ones who have taken ESL classes in high school, and they don’t want to take ESL classes anymore. Sometimes I have to convince students that they need this, so that’s an interesting position to be in,” he said. “This program is the foundation for any future studies they are going to do.”
The ELL program offers a placement test. The test concludes their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. For those already in college, their ESL classes are determined by the regular college placement test.
Racine Topaloğlu, a former ELL student from Germany, is now pursuing a degree at SCCC and working as an assistant in the ESL office. Topaloğlu said the program helped her with her grammar and writing skills.
“The grammar class was more difficult to me than the composition class. In Germany, I was a better writer. I love to write. Professor Lauria’s classes were full of motivation, and we could write about our own lives and personal experiences. That helped me a lot.”
Josseline Soto, a current ESL student from Guatemala, said, “The way professor Lauria explains the language makes it really easy. My English has improved a lot since I started taking classes at Suffolk.”
Sevket Arar, her classmate from Turkey, agreed.
“I was a part of the ELL program, and now I’m taking a couple of ESL classes. It helps a lot with my communication at work. Lauria is the best professor.”
In his office, Lauria has flags, currency notes and a map with pins on different countries. Every new student can pinout where they are from. The program has received people from all over the globe, such as Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Korea, Pakistan, and Egypt. Most international students are usually from China, aiming to finish their studies at Stony Brook University.
Lauria follows a motivation theory, which comprises a five-tier model of human needs. “The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid. You can’t feel fulfilled in life and relationships unless you feel safe first, you feel like you belong. I make sure they feel like they are safe first, feel like they belong next, and then we can work on their esteem,” he said.
His main goal is to make foreign students feel accepted, as he guides them into the next step of their academic life.
“I try to put myself in their shoes. A little empathy goes a long way. And as an advisor, I have to ask them: where are you going from here?”
Many students don’t understand what life is like for people with disabilities. One club, Access to a Balanced Learning Experience, or AABLE, hosts events to help change that.
On March 4, AABLE, alongside the Student Government Association and the Community Service Club, hosted the Dining in the Dark event during Common Hour, which showed students how challenging it is to eat as a visually impaired person.
The event, which was held in the Babylon Student Center’s cafeteria, started attendees being seated. They were each were given blindfolds to put on to simulate being blind, as well as ponchos to wear in case the food spilled onto their clothes.
Then, they were served beans and rice, both chicken and beef with vegetables, vegetable dumplings and vanilla pudding for dessert. The students were asked to pay attention to their own experiences eating the food rather than other things around them, such as unrelated conversations and their smartphones.
Attendee Jason Fried noticed that his other senses were heightened when being blindfolded, specifically his hearing. Not only did he find it difficult to find his fork, he also felt a bit of intimidation and anxiety due to the blindfold.
“I thought we would have to get up and go make our own plates at the front of the room,” Fried said. “I could not imagine how I could be successful in doing that.”
Matt Galea, an attendee who has a blind family member, felt that trying to get any food was the most challenging part of the meal.
“It’s very difficult, because you can’t exactly see where the food is, and it is very difficult to pick up,” Galea said. “I feel that it is very difficult to be [a visually impaired person] and it would take a very good amount of courage to face this every day.”
Guest speaker Marylin Tuzzi, who came from the Suffolk Independent Living Organization, an organization that helps people with disabilities in Suffolk “to gain effective control and direction of their lives,” according to the group’s website, spoke about her experiences with being blind. She has worked at SILO for 13 years and volunteered there as a transcriber 30 years ago.
Tuzzi said that thanks to technology, being able to read screens, dining out for visually impaired people has become slightly easier, as they can look up the menu items for restaurants beforehand.
“We know what we want to eat,” Tuzzi said. “We just want to be treated equally like everybody else.”
Several attendees said events like Dining in the Dark are important for people to attend.
“I feel that people at the college, whether they’re students or employees, need to pay more attention to the day-to-day experience that a vision-impaired student goes through, and try to understand what we can do to make sure that they can be successful at the college,” Fried said.
Meesha Johnson, a SILO representative, said, “I think the most important thing is to make this an inclusive environment where everyone is treated equally, whether you have a disability or not.”
March is the time for spring break. But before, or even after, one whole week of living it up, comes midterms. Students scramble to study and apply what they’ve been taught to ensure that that their grades don’t suffer. Since it’s such a stressful time for students, it’s important to find ways to maintain a more relaxed and focused mindset.
The Babylon Student Center, located between the Smithtown Science Building and Huntington Library, has an assortment of places to visit to help students keep a healthy mindset to help them through midterms.
Grab a bite
The cafeteria, across from the information booth, hosts a variety of vendors, from Moe’s Southwest Grill, to Starbucks, to a station where you can make waffles from scratch. There’s no time limit for how long you can stay, so you can hang out and chill on your own or with friends as long as you like if you have free time.
Heading downstairs to the basement floor to the right past the library can you find the gaming room. Like all other facilities in the Babylon Student Center, you will need your id card to check in and out of the facility. In this room can students bring their video game systems to play them on the several TVs provided. The room is also has a table with no TV for use of board and card games, so it’s not just video games. The catch is that students have to bring their own entertainment, nothing is provided except the TVs.
You don’t have to play alone, as the game room can be a very sociable hangout for established friend circles. “A lot of the people who hang out in here are friends with each other,” said SCCC employee in training Jeffory Davis, 26. “They probably know each other from before coming in here.”
A place to pray or meditate
While still in the basement, students can find the Interfaith Meditation Room in the hallway after passing the faculty offices. The room is meant to be a safe place for students to pray in their respective religions. Checking into this rom is a bit unorthodox as you need to return to the lobby on the first floor to check in at the info booth.
The room isn’t solely to be used for religious purposes, however.
“There are students who meditate in there,” said biology major Luis Fernandez, 20, who works at the information booth. “We have students who just go there because it’s a quieter place on campus and you can also do yoga down there.”
Need extra quiet? Try the Quiet Lounge
If you need a change of pace but still want to work and study stress and distraction-free, on the second floor of the student center can students check into the Quiet Lounge. Students need to use their ID cards to check in. The Quiet Lounge manages to live up to its name, being a small and quiet area for students to work and relax uninterrupted – which is the rule.
“Unlike the library, you can eat here, so that’s a plus,” said liberal arts major Camie Wenicer, 19. “You can also charge your electronics. The charge station in the lobby no longer works so you can come here if you need to.”
Brownstones Coffee, a family-owned and operated restaurant chains that serves breakfast, lunch or brunch, opened in Centereach in November.
Store manager Diego Morcles, 28, who has overseen the location since it opened, said some of Brownstones’ favorites include its many styles of pancakes, waffles, eggs and omelets.
“We never get any complaints of any bad service,” he said. “We always get good praises of what food we serve.”
Brownstones, which has 25 to 30 workers, operates seven days a week. It is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, it is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Brownstones also has locations in West Islip, Amityville and East Northport.
Skyler Sur, 17, who has been working there for more than two months as a hostess said she has fun serving people and bringing them to their table. She also serves drinks.
Elena F., 33, a server who had been working at another branch for three years before coming to Centereach when it opened, said, “I serve all kinds of people of many backgrounds. I always get good satisfaction from every customer and lots of big tips.”
Eliane Costello, 51, who has visited several times with her family, said her favorite is the french toast. “It tastes great,” she said. “I would definitely recommend this to friends and family.”
The menu also features birthday pancakes decorated with sprinkles, icing, whipped cream and cherries, the cinnamon swirl with brown sugar and cinnamon swirl topped with rich cream cheese.
For lunch, Brownstones serves burgers and several types of meat sandwiches. They also serve paninis and salad dishes for the vegans.
Diego Morcles is the store manager at the new Brownstones Coffee Centereach location. (Suffolk Sentinel/Christian Foley)
Theater arts began as a standalone program in the 1990s, but the school has been producing theatrical productions since 1959. There are three sequences in the theater arts program: acting, general theater and technical theater.
There are currently 75 students in the theater arts program, with most of them being in the acting and technical theater options, said Charles Wittreich, the academic chair for the theater arts program.
Students must audition to get into the acting option of the program.
“The audition for the acting sequence happens at the end of the first semester,” Wittreich said. “The final in Acting 1 is a two-person scene that you rehearse and perform in class, and they take that audition scene to an audition night for the sequence.”
The program is designed for people with no stage experience.
For instance, the shows produced by the program only require that the people auditioning read the scripts and be prepared to do several scenes with script in hand.
The theater arts program is designed to prepare students for their desired jobs by exposing them to various aspects of theater.
“When you’re here, you’re not going to an acting school or a technical school,” Wittreich said. “You’re going through theater training, so you’re exposed to all kinds of disciplines. So you’ll work in the scene shop, you’ll work in the costume shop, you’ll work hanging lights, you’ll work doing props and the like, so you wear a lot of different hats while you’re here.”
Susan Browne, a student in the theater arts program, said her favorite part of the program is “the fact that I can learn about lighting, stage design, costumes, props” and all aspects of theater, in addition to acting.
To be successful, theater arts students have to be committed to their work, be on time for their classes, have to work hard and be open to suggestions, Wittreich said. They also must attend additional rehearsals.
Liam Attriege, another theater arts major, said being dedicated to the work is the most important part of the program.
“If you’re not dedicated, you don’t gain as much out of it,” he said. “Without the dedication, I have found that some students will struggle to produce work that will change and make them grow as an actor.”
Doing anything in the theater arts program is not an easy task for the students, Wittreich said.
“It requires a great deal of effort and time. That’s what makes it slightly different than other majors. Because some students can come and just take classes and leave. Theater students are fully immersed and it’s sort of like being pushed into the deep end of the pool. We won’t let you drown, but rather make sure you can swim.”
Julia Larotonda, a theater arts major who is also in the current production of “Titus Andronicus,” said that since the program is so well-rounded, getting to know all aspects and trying to do well in them “is key to being successful.”
Wittreich and the program’s students said the lessons learned in theater arts can be applied to many other disciplines.
“The skills that you attain by committing yourself in this training are applicable to almost any career path you can imagine,” Wittreich said.
“The benefits go far beyond just learning the craft that you are passionate about,” Attriege said. “I think a lot of the classes and programs here actually help just you better act as who you are as a person and better understand yourself and help you with life decisions going forward.”
Larotonda added: “I think it could actually really help anybody, no matter how much talent you have, to grow as an actor or technical in theater major and take something from the department once you’re finished with it.”
Strolling around the Ammerman campus, you might notice loose paper flying around parking lots, garbage sprawled out the sides of buildings and plastic and glass bottles lying on the ground under tree shade.
For some people, it may feel normal. For others, such a mess raises concerns regarding the quality of campus life.
Despite the very few recycling bins around campus, there is actually no official recycling system that operates for the Ammerman campus.
“Frankly, on a college campus, it’s a little embarrassing that we don’t have recycling,” said Ammerman’s Executive Dean and CEO Wes Lundburg.
Lundburg said he has worked with passionate students in the five years he’s been at the campus to make recycling a concrete reality. “We tried twice on my watch,” he said, referring to the Town of Brookhaven. “Twice I had the plant ops director contact them. They won’t come pick it up.”
While Brookhaven could offer recycling pickups at the Ammerman campus, it is expected the garbage to already be sorted and ready for collection.
Since the Ammerman campus does not have the financial resources nor the manpower to organize garbage sorting teams, Lundburg said, the Town of Brookhaven recycling and waste department will not pick up recycling from campus.
Brookhaven officials did not return multiple requests for information by deadline.
“If students wanted to pull together and do recycling for a year…great!” Lundburg said. “I would prefer to hear our organization is going to take it on and we’ll make sure that next year’s group of students of this organization will carry that forward.”
“We can provide trash cans or recycling bins out there…I would authorize that,” he said. Details would have to be worked out, however.
The rare recycling bin on campus has likely been placed by faculty who took the matter into their own hands, according to Dan Linker, president of the campus’ Faculty Senate and an English professor. Separate bins for paper, cans and plastics can be difficult to successfully incorporate on campus because people may not discard the material properly, he said.
“If we bring [the bins], they want to make sure we are sorting out the garbage because they don’t want to go through the garbage,” Lundburg said. Ultimately, “I would love to see someone take this on. We just can’t do it.”
But for students like Danielius Krivickas, a 19-year-old engineering science major, recycling is still important for the campus to pursue. Sitting in the Huntington Library with his stainless-steel reusable water bottle, Krivickas said he and his family recycle at home.
“Recycling is something I would like to see on campus,” he said.
Before coming to Suffolk, Krivickas went to the University at Albany. “During my time at Albany, I didn’t really see too much trash,” he said. “Not only were there more trash bins, but they were separated into three different categories and it kept it more organized, so people were actively throwing away their stuff [properly]. I don’t see why not have a place to put your plastics and your papers…whatever is better for the environment.”
Second-semester student Gaby Reyes shared similar views.
“I don’t see why they can’t put more recycling bins around campus,” she said. “In college, you learn how to become an adult and you learn responsibilities, so I think one of the things that they should be teaching the students, especially because this school is so big and reaches out to so many students, is to enforce recycling.”
While Reyes believes recycling is an essential tool to incorporate in students’ lifestyles, she said having a school enforce recycling could run deeper than just keeping a cleaner campus.
“When [students] grow up and have their own kids, they can teach them to recycle as well.”
For now, said Lundburg, “It’s a dead end. Trust me. It is a dead end.”