Testing Faith

Posted on 10 April 2010

Stony Brook’s decision to all but close its Southampton campus is not one only residents on the East End should be enraged by, but taxpayers state-wide as it represents a colossal waste of public money, and the opportunity for the state’s school system to develop what appears to have been a growing, and successful, campus in Southampton.

While Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. has released a statement saying the university remains committed to research and education at Southampton, in the cuts alone – the elimination of student and faculty housing, ending new undergraduate admissions, reducing the use of the 81-acre campus to just two buildings and the course offerings to marine sciences and the graduate writing program – Stony Brook has signed the death warrant on its Southampton campus. It is inconceivable to imagine the campus will once again flourish with such limited capabilities.

And it did appear to be on the verge of flourishing once again. According to State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who vehemently opposes these cuts, admissions applications are up over 50 percent and 800 students were ready to attend Southampton this fall, up from 200 in Stony Brook Southampton’s inaugural year in 2006, when state leaders helped broker the $35 million purchase of the school from Long Island University. That the students and educators who have begun to rebuild this campus have had the rug pulled out from under them in such a fashion is deplorable, particularly when it appears their hard work was actually paying off. 

Even worse, as when Long Island University was on the verge of selling off the campus for development five years ago, the loss of an institution of higher education will have dire economic consequences for the East End, not only in lost jobs, but also in the economic boost a university can provide commercial districts and the rental housing market.

The enormous waste of state monies – our taxpayer dollars – in this venture may be the most difficult to swallow. With Stony Brook’s assurances that they would not only maintain, but also expand the level of higher education on Eastern Long Island, the state legislature provided some $78 million of taxpayer dollars for the purchase of the campus and capital improvements. These improvements included completing the campus’s new library, refurbishing the entire campus, most of which will now be darkened, adding to the marine sciences department facilities and renovating the dormitories, now likely to never host students again. 

We call on state leaders – and it appears they are ready to do so – to prevent the closing of a university that is so much a part of our community and economy. Short of that, we demand Stony Brook and the SUNY system return the investment taxpayers willingly gave them, trusting the promises they made were in good faith. As things currently stand, our faith in Stony Brook University remains rocky at best.  

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3 Responses to “Testing Faith”

  1. Stony Brook Southampton is the home of 72 beautiful acres right between Sunrise and Montauk Highways. We can see the water from our campus. We have a marine science center on the water, accompanied with 5+ ‘floating classrooms’, ocean-going boats as well as pontoon boats to study the local bays.

    We have a brand new LEED Certified-Silver Library with a geothermal heating and cooling system- the first LEED building on any SUNY campus. Our Library holds the Pollack-Krasner archives collection. We have a wind generator that powers the Student Center. We have one the East End’s historic landmarks- the Windmill, that was just recently renovated might I add. We hold Meditation in the Windmill twice a week and have ‘Tea with the Dean’ nights. All of our buildings are wireless and have the most advanced education technologies. A brand new baseball field was just installed.

    Some of our clubs include Scuba, Colleges against Cancer, Sailing, Marine Biology, Organic Garden and Greenhouse… We have a 90ft X 40ft organic garden where we grow vegetables for our cafe. We planted a fruit tree orchard last spring. We buy our coffee from the Shinnecock Nation. We get our apples from the Milk Pail.

    Our Fine Arts building houses the largest Shakespearean Theatre on the East End: Avram Theatre, as well as Avram Gallery which highlights local artists. We hold lectures, movie nights and events that are open to the community.

    We have classes that study the Sustainability of the Pine Barrens, Red & Brown Tides and Algae, Long Island Marine Habitats, Whales off Montauk, Green Business, Environmentally Friendly Architecture and more. Students do research on our marine, environmental and economic situations on Long Island. Our students do internships for Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Southampton Town, The Riverhead Foundation, Atlantis Marine World, Piping Plover recoveries, Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and the Peconic Land Trust.

    We organize beach cleanups. We work at your bakeries, hardware stores and coffee shops. We go to your gyms, bars, and movie theaters. We rent your houses that stay empty all winter.

    Is all of this going to waste?
    Do you not need us?
    Is this worth saving?

    SOS Save SBS

  2. School reformer says:

    Or maybe keeping it open inflates costs of the education system in NY and ultimately the taxpayer/student. It clearly had been poorly managed by Tim Bishop and his successor.
    The $78 mill to purchase and moderately improve it works out to $97,500 a student. Why is it better to subsidies a mediocre institution when there is educational capacity at a very low cost elsewhere in the state? What soes sucking that cash out of taxpayers really cost, in hours that a parent can’t spend with their child?
    That is what drives me nuts about the media; you never bother looking into the other side of the story, which is actually, in this case, the whole and ultimately true story, as Southampton is winding down.

  3. Student says:

    What I don’t understand is why they are cutting the environmental classes and not the MFA program? From what I’ve heard and seen, it is the environmental program that drew students to the campus.

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