What's "sunny purchase"?
October 6, 2009 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Is it OK to use the SUNY abbreviation when referring to State University of New York schools outside of the tri-state area/east coast?

It's OK to write it out on a resume, but it sounds really clunky when someone asks you where you went to college. State University of New York Purchase College just has so many syllables and also sounds kind of pretentious.

I'm only asking because I have encountered people who don't know what SUNY means so I was wondering how other SUNY-ers handle it.
posted by amethysts to Education (29 answers total)
I'm in California and know what it means, fwiw.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:15 AM on October 6, 2009

I'm in MN and have never heard of it. Why not say "state university of New York"? It's not too long, and if they want more info you can add the 'purchase college' bit.
posted by Think_Long at 10:17 AM on October 6, 2009

I'm pretty sure A.P. Style would say you have to write it out before you abbreviate for any sort of formal writing intended for a mass audience.

That being said, I think a lot of people would get SUNY, just as UNC or UC-Irvine are commonly understood.
posted by Vhanudux at 10:17 AM on October 6, 2009

I think it would be fine. It's an acronym and if someone doesn't understand what it stands for they'll ask. It's the same as saying I went to UNC Wilmington or UC Davis, which is what I would say if I actually went to those schools.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:18 AM on October 6, 2009

That is a tough one and I think it depends on the context (i.e., a resume, a conversation, or whatever) and your audience. Sometimes I use just the city name, and sometimes I spell it out entirely. In a casual converation it might be better to just say "Purchase College" rather than enunciate all 13 syllables.
posted by exogenous at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2009

"Where'd you go to college?"

"Stony Brook, New York." (or Buffalo or Binghamton or whatever)
posted by box at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2009

I'd say SUNY Purchase in conversation.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:30 AM on October 6, 2009

Best answer: I'd go with Purchase College, myself. I tell New Yorkers I went to SUNY Binghamton, but it's Binghamton University for everyone else. The schools seem to prefer it, too: both Purchase College and Binghamton University call themselves by those names on their websites, as distinct from, say, Geneseo, which calls itself the "State University of New York at Geneseo."

As an added bonus, you avoid the state-school stigma that, unwarranted though it may be, can happen sometimes.
posted by Garak at 10:32 AM on October 6, 2009

Best answer: A lot of the SUNY schools are moving away from using SUNY in the name, much like the CUNY schools have not had CUNY in the name for a long time (Hunter College, Baruch College, City College, etc.).

Unless you REALLY want to point out that you went to a state school, "Purchase College" is perfectly acceptable. It's what the school is called on its website.
posted by hamsterdam at 10:41 AM on October 6, 2009

posted by Postroad at 10:42 AM on October 6, 2009

To expand on that last bit, I think it might be because the SUNY acronym is kind of gross. To me, "SUNY Binghamton" sounds like some gussied-up community college. I don't get that same subconscious, negative impression from "Binghamton University" or "Purchase College."
posted by Garak at 10:43 AM on October 6, 2009

My brother went to Binghamton and just says "Binghamton". Friends who went to Purchase and Stony Brook say the same leaving SUNY out altogether.

It's like going to UC Irvine and just saying Irvine.
posted by cazoo at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2009

NYer here. It is odd to just use "Purchase College" or "Purchase, New York". I would write SUNY Purchase. Otherwise you are writing, State University of New York at Purchase or State University of New York, Purchase College. If I wrote it out, I would add in parenthesis the (SUNY) after York and before Purchase.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2009

Most people I've spoken to recognize SUNY when spoken.
posted by Citrus at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2009

Depends on the SUNY. I can just call my school "Binghamton University" now that they have D1 basketball and all (and officially changed the name), but the other SUNY schools, I dunno. I do agree with lucy.jakobs that if there's any confusion about the acronym, people can just ask, like with other often-acronymized schools. Besides, if they haven't heard of your particular SUNY, you're not losing anything by adding the acronym. Expanding it out is, indeed, quite clunky for non-official usage.

That said, they can have "SUNY-Binghamton" when they pry it from my cold dead hands. Likewise "Harpur College". "Binghamton University", like there aren't enough BUs out there... and don't get me started on the effing Bearcat. Go Colonials!

On preview - Garak has a point that it's kind of a weak acronym. But I don't think that, if your listener hasn't heard of the school at all, that there's a big difference one way or the other. There are plenty of crap no-name private schools too...
posted by a young man in spats at 10:55 AM on October 6, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah I have no problem writing the full thing out on my resume, or using SUNY for people from NY or environs. It's just that when people ask out here in the Midwest, or for example in my graduate classes we're all asked to announce where we got our undergrad on the first day of class, I never know how much I need to say. I like the succinctness of Purchase College and its lack of ambiguity or pretentiousness. Even though it's still kind of a dumb name for a school, IMHO.

I appreciate all your feedback! Keep it coming.
posted by amethysts at 10:57 AM on October 6, 2009

Best answer: Depends on what your goal is. You can just say Purchase College, but I'd wager even people in the tri-state area will have no idea what that is. Adding SUNY gives a reference point if they know what it means, but "soony" isn't exactly self-explanatory when spoken if they don't. Expanding the acronym doesn't really help since now you might as well leave Purchase off entirely since most will be confused by the state school + college thing.

You could always make up your own name like Purchase State University. (That's how NJ names the state schools that aren't Rutgers.)
posted by smackfu at 11:17 AM on October 6, 2009

Plenty of people refer to Chapel Hill as UNC Chapel Hill, even here in Arizona, or UC Berkley, so I don't think it's totally absurd. It gives a hint of context for someone who might have no clue what Binghamton is, like myself.
posted by disillusioned at 11:23 AM on October 6, 2009

I'm a SUNY grad and I run into this problem all the time. My resume reads "State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo" but in conversation with anyone outside of NY, I just say I went to the "state university of New York." I crossed the country a couple times this summer so I got to make lots of introductions. Only three times out of the hundred-ish times I said so did someone say "Oh! SUNY! Which school did you go to?" Much more often I got "That's in New York City, right?" or some variant on "wow, life in New York City must have been busy/frantic/exciting."

I would like to use "Geneseo State University" in conversation but outside of NY, it's meaningless and in NY, I say "SUNY Geneseo." When back in the Rochester area, I just say "Geneseo."

fwiw, I hate, hate, hate that there isn't a UNY with a central campus like there's a U[pretty much every other state's initials].
posted by thewestinggame at 11:36 AM on October 6, 2009

As a SUNY graduate and employee:

"Purchase. It's in NY."
posted by oflinkey at 11:37 AM on October 6, 2009

thewestinggame: solve your problem with

"Geneseo. It's in upstate NY."
posted by oflinkey at 11:40 AM on October 6, 2009

I would think anyone in graduate school in the US would have heard of "SUNY"... or at least more of them would be familiar with SUNY than with "Purchase College". It's a known quantity around these parts (Ontario, Canada) but, granted, I'm not far from New York.
posted by onshi at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2009

I think that if a person goes to a SUNY school or a UC school, it's pretty traditional to simply omit the state university designation (although UC is less onerous to say than SUNY). At any rate, amongst those who talk about these things, no one is ever confused by hearing people refer to colleges as "Stony Brook" or "Davis" or "Berkeley".
posted by TypographicalError at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2009

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and we know what SUNYs are. But then, outside of the east coast, it might be less a function of geography and more of whether folks run in nerdy academic circles like I do.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:06 PM on October 6, 2009

I'm a New Yorker and if you told me you went to Purchase College, I would ask if your school had a rivalry with SUNY Purchase.
posted by yeti at 2:18 PM on October 6, 2009

FWIW, SUNY Stony Brook frequently self-identifies as Stony Brook University. That said, I definitely identify some of the SUNYs by the presence of the SUNY tag (like yeti, if I heard "Purchase College", I would wonder if it was anywhere near SUNY Purchase). This is slightly embarrassing, since I am currently at another SUNY, so I should know these things.

I would agree with those suggesting something along the lines of "Purchase, it's in New York" for conversational purposes. (Or I guess you could say Purchase State College.) I always have to explain my undergraduate college by location ("[Name], it's in upstate New York.").

And then I usually have to clarify "upstate New York" by explaining where it is in proximity to a couple of other cities. There is way too much "upstate New York" in New York.
posted by pemberkins at 4:06 PM on October 6, 2009


I think when I was attending SUNY SB, the full name of the school I was attending was the State University of New York at Stony Brook, College of Engineering and Applied Science. SUNY Stony Brook CEAS for short.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2009

Best answer: To my Midwestern but educated ear, SUNY Purchase is recognizable as part of the highly-regarded SUNY system -- but then Wisconsin has a similar system and not all states do. On the other hand, some of our schools -- and I'm talking about the four-year colleges, not the statewide community college system -- do go more by their historical names, while others are more variable. UW-Stout is often just Stout, but UW-Whitewater (a former teachers' college that has had different names over the decades) is probably most common for that school.

Anyway, you're probably stressing too much over this. In conversation, "Purchase College (beat)." If someone looks confused, "Part of the State University of New York." Sports fans would probably get "Part of SUNY" if you want to be brief. For most people knowing the college you went to is more about being able to say "Oh, did you know X?" than anything else.
posted by dhartung at 9:26 PM on October 6, 2009

Well as an alumni of SUNY at Stony Brook, after a six year failed PhD bid, I always shorthand the name using a string of expletives. Works well for me.
posted by genefinder at 5:50 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

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