By Claire Walla
On Wednesday, November 17 SUNY Trustees voted to ratify the decision made by SUNY Stony Brook President Dr. Samuel Stanley last April to shutter residential buildings at the university’s Southampton location and relocate undergraduate programs to the main campus.
This decision comes nearly three months after the New York State Supreme Court on August 30 effectively annulled Stanley’s decision last April, ruling that he did not act in compliance with state education laws, which require all “big decisions” to be presented to and receive recommendations from the university council. Even though the council eventually voted on October 4 to support Stanley’s decision, and even though the SUNY trustees recently voted the same, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. and State Senator Ken LaValle maintain that the university continues to defy the law.
“Stony Brook is consistently acting illegally,” Thiele said, adding that “[The trustees] ratified something that the court has already annulled.”
He and Senator LaValle will continue to challenge the university’s court case, which Thiele said he expects to see a final decision on by Christmas.
“A key pressure point for us is that, come January, Senator LaValle will probably become Chairman of the [state’s] Higher Education Commission,” Thiele explained. This is possible, he added, because the Republicans have taken control of the Senate, giving LaValle—a republican who lost his seat on this commission under the democratic majority—a leg up.
However, Thiele added, the court case is not the main issue at hand. “The ultimate goal is to get the campus reopened,” he said.
Though he and LaValle have already drafted legislation to turn the campus into a separate branch of the SUNY system, this is move is not likely to take place overnight. In the meantime, SBU has laid-out tentative plans for the space, like creating an arts campus or partnering with Southampton Hospital. These are plans Thiele said he and LaValle are willing to work with in order to get the campus functioning again.
“It’s still not going to be a fully operating campus by September—we’re not going to be able to attract new students in sizable numbers,” Thiele noted.
However, he added that “Senator LaValle and my goal is to put the next pieces in place by the next budget process.”
The environmental sustainability program was moved to the main Stony Brook campus at the beginning of this academic year, leaving only graduate programs in marine science and creative writing in Southampton.