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.