College Suit Settled

Posted on 19 August 2011

By Claire Walla


More than a year after students of Stony Brook Southampton College pressed charges against Stony Brook University after university president Samuel Stanley closed the satellite campus without fair warning, all litigation has come to an end.

The settlement — agreed upon by the students involved, members of grassroots organization Save the College and officials of Stony Brook University — entails four main components: the university will pay for the students’ outstanding attorneys fees, the Sustainability Program at Stony Brook’s main campus will be guaranteed through 2014, the state university system will fund a sustainability conference at the Southampton Campus in 2014 and University President Samuel Stanley will formally apologize to the students who were impacted by the closing of the campus.

“It certainly wasn’t everything everyone wanted, but it was important to ensuring the future of the college and, certainly, from a point of view of justice, it was important for the students, who were very much wronged, to bring this to court—and to win,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele this week.

Along with Senator Ken LaValle, Thiele has been instrumental in reestablishing activity on the satellite campus, which this year has been completely shuttered, save for graduate programs in writing and marine sciences. The campus is an important issue for both legislators, both of whom played pivotal roles in getting the State University of New York (SUNY) to purchase the campus from Long Island University back in 2006.

President Stanley announced the campus’ closure last April, just three months before the start of the coming school year, citing the impact of state budget cuts. He came under fire for the move in large part because he had failed to consult the school’s University Council before coming to his decision. By university law, the president is obligated to consult with the council before making any “major plans,” such as closing a campus.

“In a perfect world we would have brought the sustainability program back to Southampton. [It is now being bolstered on Stony Brook’s main campus.] That is the one disappointment here,” Thiele continued. “But, we did get justice for the students.”

Thiele said his goals while guiding students through their lawsuit were, first and foremost, to achieve justice; but also to assure that the program will continue.

Now, with much of the controversy behind them, both Thiele and LaValle are looking to the future of the campus.

In a press release last week, he announced $6.9 million had been re-appropriated to the Southampton campus for a new marine sciences building, and Stony Brook recently issued $7.5 million for a new student center. Construction on both projects is expected to start within a year. These contributions exemplify what Thiele referred to in the press release as an “ambitious vision” on the part of he and Senator LaValle “that would make the campus a busy academic hub benefiting all of Eastern Long Island.”

“I see now the potential for a very bright future,” Thiele continued. He said the arts program will be “the keystone” of the future of the college, but expanded programs in marine sciences, the creation of a sustainability institute and construction on a new medical facility that will bridge a partnership between the college and Southampton Hospital will see the school into the future.

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7 Responses to “College Suit Settled”

  1. The university still maintains only the programs it chose for the SH Campus and had already moved the “sustainability” program to the main campus. The big difference in this decision is that taxpayers must pay the $30,000 in remaining fees to the students’ attorney! Thanks for sticking taxpayers with the check, Mr. Thiele.

  2. Deb Klughers says:

    It is disgusting that someone other than President Stanley paid the $30,000.00 in legal fees, but Fred Thiele is certainly not to blame. One would think that the person responsible for causing this entire charade would be held liable. A ruling in Supreme Court declared the closure of Southampton (by Stanley) to be illegal. “Accordingly, the petition is granted pursuant to CPLR $7804(e), the respondents’ determination to close the Southampton campus is annulled, and respondents are enjoined from proceeding with the plan to close the Southampton campus until such time they comply with the mandates of Education Law $356 .” Stanley ignored this court order- and a motion for contempt of court was filed. Utilizing taxpayer funded legal counsel, Stanley appealed. While it was in appeals, the University proposed the settlement we have today. You should be thanking Samual Stanley for this entire mess and subsequent taxpayer burden, which is well above the $30,000.00 payment for the students legal fees. If you want to play the blame game – let us cast it appropriately and blame Samuel Stanley. To blame Fred Thiele is beyond ridiculous.

  3. Sustainability Mom says:

    If Dr. Stanley had followed educational law, the taxpayers would not be stuck with a check. Judge Baisly ruled that Dr. Stanley violoated educational law. So do not blame Assemblyman Thiele. It was the sustainability students who researched educational law and discovered that Stony Brook University violated New York educational law. Dr. Stanley suddenly announced he was closing the Southampton campus on April 7, 2010, without consulting the university council., speaking with the students, or the faulty and staff.

    Assemblyman Thiele spent countless hours on weekends, many hours on the phone with students, and many hours on the phones with parents, to help guide them.

    A violation of educational law has to be filed under Article 78. In an Article 78, the state’s Attorney General’s office defends Stony Brook University, which costs the taxpayers money, but does not cost Dr. Stanley or Stony Brook University any money. Filing a lawsuit against a state university cost the students and the East End community, $25,000.00 for the initial legal fees.

    Unfortunately, the judge did not rule that Dr. Stanley had to restore the Southampton campus with it’s separate budget from NY State, but he did rule that no further actions could be taken by Stony Brook, until the matter was settled. Dr. Stanley did not transfer all the majors to the Stony Brook campus, an hour and a half away, from the Southampton campus if you park in the commuter P lot and take a bus to class.

    He did not transfer my daughter’s major in business sustainability. I suggest you do some research and read the Stony Brook Press articles that specifically interview students’ who no longer had their original sustainability major. The courses that business sustainability students needed to continue their studies, were not offered in the Fall schedule, despite Dean Mary Pearl specifically telling the students, she was making sure all the classes they needed would be at the Stony Brook campus. She was 7 feet away from me when she made this statement. Stony Brook publishes many things in the media, but it is up to you to find out whether or not they are true. The business sustainability major wasn’t the only major that Stony Brook failed to transfer.

    Take the time to do your research before you make untrue statements.

    The truth is that Stony Brook University was expecting an 8-10 million dollar budget cut, as stated in the University Senate Meeting on November 2, 2009, by Dr. Stanley. He did not say the separate Southampton campus budget was going to be cut, because there was a 5 year plan in place for the Southampton campus to be supplemented as it grew to a 2,000 student campus. In these meeting minutes, it is recorded that 575 students attended the Southampton campus, although Stony Brook has published much lower numbers in the media.

    If you look at the 2010 budget statement for Stony Brook University you will not find anything that says it was losing 10 million dollars from the Southampton campus. To the contrary, SUNY provided a separate budget of 7.4 million dollars to supplement the Southampton campus for 2010, since the enrollment had grown to 800 students. Many of the students were from out of state, because there is not one school in the US that offered as many sustainability undergraduate courses, as Stony Brook Southampton. You can read the minutes yourself: just google university+minutes+November+2+2009+Stony+Brook.

    In my opinion, when you read the minutes, it looks like Dr. Stanley decided an easy way to deal with the state cutting the main campus budget, was moving the undergraduate Southampton students to the main campus so he could use the 7.4 million dollars on the main campus. The only way Stony Brook was going to save money was by not rehiring, nontenured teaching staff. Stony Brook lost about half of the students who attended the Southampton campus, and their money, when they made this callous decision. After the way Dr. Stanley treated these students, there was no way my daughter would take any classes at Stony Brook University. She did not trust him with her education.

    By the way, you owe Assemblyman Thiele and apology.

  4. Sustainability Mom says:

    If Dr. Stanley had followed educational law, the taxpayers would not be stuck with a check. Judge Baisly ruled that Dr. Stanley violoated educational law. So do not blame Assemblyman Thiele. It was the sustainability students who researched educational law and discovered that Stony Brook University violated New York educational law. Dr. Stanley suddenly announced he was closing the Southampton campus on April 7, 2010, without consulting the university council., speaking with the students, or the faulty and staff.

    Assemblyman Thiele spent countless hours on weekends, many hours on the phone with students, and many hours on the phones with parents, to help guide them.

    A violation of educational law has to be filed under Article 78. In an Article 78, the state’s Attorney General’s office defends Stony Brook University, which costs the taxpayers money, but does not cost Dr. Stanley or Stony Brook University any money. Filing a lawsuit against a state university cost the students and the East End community, $25,000.00 for the initial legal fees.

    Unfortunately, the judge did not rule that Dr. Stanley had to restore the Southampton campus with it’s separate budget from NY State, but he did rule that no further actions could be taken by Stony Brook, until the matter was settled. Dr. Stanley did not transfer all the majors to the Stony Brook campus, an hour and a half away, from the Southampton campus if you park in the commuter P lot and take a bus to class.

    He did not transfer my daughter’s major in business sustainability. I suggest you do some research and read the Stony Brook Press articles that specifically interview students who no longer had their original sustainability major. The courses that business sustainability students needed to continue their studies, were not offered in the Fall schedule, despite Dean Mary Pearl specifically telling the students, she was making sure all the classes they needed would be at the Stony Brook campus. She was 7 feet away from me when she made this statement. Stony Brook publishes many things in the media, but it is up to you to find out whether or not they are true. The business sustainability major wasn’t the only major that Stony Brook failed to transfer.

    Take the time to do your research before you make untrue statements.

    The truth is that Stony Brook University was expecting an 8-10 million dollar budget cut, as stated in the University Senate Meeting on November 2, 2009, by Dr. Stanley. He did not say the separate Southampton campus budget was going to be cut, because there was a 5 year plan in place for the Southampton campus to be supplemented as it grew to a 2,000 student campus. In these meeting minutes, it is recorded that 575 students attended the Southampton campus, although Stony Brook has published much lower numbers in the media.

    If you look at the 2010 budget statement for Stony Brook University you will not find anything that says it was losing 10 million dollars from the Southampton campus. To the contrary, SUNY provided a separate budget of 7.4 million dollars to supplement the Southampton campus for 2010, since the enrollment had grown to 800 students. Many of the students were from out of state, because there is not one school in the US that offered as many sustainability undergraduate courses, as Stony Brook Southampton. You can read the minutes yourself: just google university+minutes+November+2+2009+Stony+Brook.

    In my opinion, when you read the minutes, it looks like Dr. Stanley decided an easy way to deal with the state cutting the main campus budget, was moving the undergraduate Southampton students to the main campus so he could use the 7.4 million dollars on the main campus. The only way Stony Brook was going to save money was by not rehiring, nontenured teaching staff. Stony Brook lost about half of the students who attended the Southampton campus, and their money, when they made this callous decision. After the way Dr. Stanley treated these students, there was no way my daughter would take any classes at Stony Brook University. She did not trust him with her education.

    By the way, you owe Assemblyman Thiele an apology.

  5. Wanna Know says:

    Mr. Blumental seems to think that it is perfectly alright for the President of a New York State University to violate Education Law and make unilateral decisions without any financial repercussions.

    Unfortunately, our state government has it set up that since the University President is a STATE paid employee, he is entitled to FREE legal counsel provided by the Attorney General’s office, meaning that it is paid by the taxpayers.

    Since the University is also funded by the state, the $30,000 that was ordered to be paid by the University and the parties named as defendants, will also be out of the taxpayers pockets.

    There is something really wrong with our system, when a state employee breaks the law and the taxpayers pick up the bill for his/her defense along with a settlement amount of $30,000.00.

    Our elected officials are there to assist us when something like this happens. Assemblyman Thiele has been an advocate and a voice for the students and campus community.

    If Mr. Blumenthal would like his voice heard about where his taxpayer money is going, he and everyone else should demand reform. There should be No free ride for any state employee when they are found guilty of breaking the law. President Stanley should have been handed a bill to recoup the taxpayer money used for his defense and he should be held personally responsible for the $30,000.00 for making a unilateral decision and violating educational law.

    One persons actions cost so much for so many and his punishment is an apology?

  6. Deb Klughers says:

    Hey News 12- Attention ALL reporters-Inquiring minds want to know. When is that apology? Will you be there to ask questions and get us some answers? Can’t wait to hear Sam’s pretentious “sorry if you think I messed up your school” lame excuse for an apology. New York State taxpayers deserve an apology. FYI: Richard Blumenthal was Mr. Thiele’s opponent in the last election. Just saying…

  7. dklughers says:

    In regard to the “apology” that Stony Brook was to present to those affected by the discontinuance of the program at the Southampton Campus, I would like to let you know that only the 6 student petitioners are being “invited” to the apology now turned PR stunt.

    The email sent to the 6 student petitioners does not say that Stanley is making an apology to anyone. What it does say is “Please join me and members of my senior staff on September 12 at 2:00 PM a meeting has been scheduled in the newly dedicated Sustainability Studies Program academic space located on the first level of the Melville Library, adjacent to the Career Center. At this meeting we will discuss the transfer of the Sustainability Program from the Southampton Campus to the main Stony Brook campus, your continuing transition to Main campus, and some of the developments that are taking place in the Sustainability Studies Program under the leadership of Martin Schoonen. Please respond to my Executive Assistant, Carol Londoiro, at 632-6267 or carol.londoiro@stonybrook.edu to let her know if you are able to attend.” I responded and asked to attend the September 12 meeting, and this was the Universities response.

    Ms. Klughers,
    I am writing to let you know that this is a closed, by-invitation-only meeting, and individuals not directly invited by President Stanley will not be able to attend.
    Carol Londoiro
    Executive Assistant to the President

    I have since asked for an invitation and have received no reply. It is my understanding that of one of the petitioners parents who asked to attend was also sent a similar denial email as was a member of the SAVE group- also a petitioner on the lawsuit.

    This should be public information and not for the ears of a select few! Many people were affected by this illegal closure, including past, present, and future students, employees who lost their jobs, and the taxpayers of the state of New York, to name a few. The stipulation of settlement does not state that other students may not attend, it actually states that those affected would be invited to the “apology” event, but clearly, this is the case.

    Please let it be known that President Stanley not only ignored State Education Law, (and was found guilty of such in a NY State Supreme Court) disregarded court orders,(he was also found in contempt of court) he is now in violation of a settlement agreement that he proposed (proposed is putting it politely) to the student petitioners.
    This is outrageous and this “meeting” should be open to whomever would like to attend.

    ALSO-The $30,000.00 legal fee was paid for by the Stony Brook Foundation money. This not-for-profit foundations mission statement is as follows…
    “The mission of the Stony Brook Foundation is to advance the mission and goals of Stony Brook University by facilitating, accepting, and managing philanthropic gifts and grants for the benefit of the University, the University Medical Center, and the Long Island State Veterans Home.”http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/giving/foundation-questions.shtml
    I guess they also pay Stanleys legal bills….


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