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Local Officials Want an Independent College, University Intends to Keep It

Posted on 30 April 2010

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By Bryan Boyhan


The future of the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University does not lie with Stony Brook at all, according to a group of local elected officials and students.

Instead, the campus should become a fully independent college of the state university system.

The proclamation came last Thursday as the most recent salvo in an attempt to keep the campus open as a full time, residential college, and local officials have asked to meet with university officials to negotiate a deal to purchase the development rights to the college’s 82 acres.

University officials responded this week they would be open to a meeting, but showed little sign they would be willing to surrender the campus.

Two weeks ago, Stony Brook University, which has owned the campus for four years, made the sudden announcement that it planned to close most of the buildings on campus, leaving only two programs, marine sciences and the graduate program in writing, and two buildings. All other students, university president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley said, would be welcome on the main campus. As of this week 273 students of the 373 full timers on campus had begun the paperwork for the transition, the university said. The motivation for the closing is financial, said Dr. Stanley, who argues that significant cuts in state funding have left the university no other choice. He is expected to make a total of about $54 million in cuts to meet the short fall, about $7 million of which would come from the cuts at the Southampton campus.

But during a press conference last week underneath the college’s iconic windmill, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and other officials laid out a plan that would call for the Town of Southampton to purchase the development rights to the 82 acre campus using millions in Community Preservation Fund money. That acquisition, argued Thiele, would more than satisfy the university’s financial concerns, and guarantee the campus would be used for educational purposes.

In addition, said Thiele, he would help spearhead a movement to take the campus away from Stony Brook University.

“The current administration at Stony Brook doesn’t believe in Southampton,” said Thiele in an interview. The assemblyman has said the university underwent a shift when former president Shirley Strum Kenny — who championed the establishment of a sustainable sciences program at the local college when the state bought the campus from Long Island University — retired last year. The university, now headed by Dr. Stanley, has taken to re-positioning itself as a research facility, said Thiele, and the local campus, with more of a humanities-based curriculum, does not fit into that design.

Indeed, said Thiele, the administration at Stony Brook has resented the money Southampton has received.

In response, Dr. Stanley and State University Chancellor Nancy Zimpher wrote this week: “We too are concerned about the future of Southampton and remain committed to its students. Most importantly, despite repeated claims to the contrary, the Southampton campus will remain open. To this end, we will maintain the Southampton location as a vital and vibrant site for teaching and research, most notably at the pioneering Marine Station, home of Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and through the renowned Southampton Writers Workshop. Currently, plans are in the works for several other SUNY campuses to make productive and expanded use of Southampton’s facilities.”

In front of an audience of more than a hundred students and staff members, a parade of local officials last week promised they would work to secure the campus as an independent institution.

“Using Community Preservation Fund money is an ideal way of preserving Southampton College,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to cheers. “We want to preserve it not just because of the college, but because these 82 acres are very important to us.”

It was not lost on the audience that, prior to the state stepping in to buy the school in 2006 — ironically orchestrated by Thiele, State Senator Ken LaValle and Congressman Tim Bishop — LIU had considered selling the campus to developers.

According to a letter of proposal sent to Dr. Stanley and Chancellor Zimpher last week, the open space on campus would yield about 40-45 developable units. Thiele, who helped author the legislation, said the Community Preservation Fund — which has yielded over $600 million for the five East End towns since its inception in 1999 — allows for such a purchase, and, further, the development rights could be sold to developers who wish to increase density in other parts of the town more suitable for development, thereby replenishing the money spent for the campus.

The first step will be for the group of local officials to have the land appraised; but for the proposal to work, Thiele et al need a willing seller, and the reply this week would imply the university is not willing to give up the property. Thiele said the battle is being fought on two fronts. Locally, on campus, students have waged a fight that includes demonstrations and are preparing a suit against the university and the state. In Albany, said Thiele, he and LaValle are working to persuade their peers to provide some language in the upcoming budget that would allow the school to remain open as a four-year residential facility. The university, said Thiele, has paid lobbyists working to counter them.

“The president of the university and the chancellor are not from New York State and they don’t understand New York,” LaValle said to an appreciative crowd last Thursday. “And they don’t understand that New Yorkers fight for what they want.”

University officials are open to talks, but appear committed to maintaining the campus.

“We fully intend to continue the use of the campus and we are engaged in discussions about how to best utilize Southampton’s facilities,” wrote Stanley and Zimpher. “Accordingly, we welcome ideas for the Southampton site that are beneficial and will maximize taxpayer investment. In fact, this is at the top of every meeting agenda concerning Southampton.”

They have suggested meeting in the coming week.


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6 Responses to “Local Officials Want an Independent College, University Intends to Keep It”

  1. Marianne Klepacki says:

    Stony Brook does not = Southampton. The sustainability program and its students are being exiled from their unique campus and the unique Township of Southampton, because a new president and a new Chancellor are focused on research ventures. It is clearly not a shortfall of State funding, as this paper reports:

    “In response, Dr. Stanley and State University Chancellor Nancy Zimpher wrote this week: …..Currently, plans are in the works for several other SUNY campuses to make productive and expanded use of Southampton’s facilities.”

    It seems, the Chancellor and President Stanley, have not communicated, in advance, with the Township of Southampton and its residents. This does not seem to be a transparent “SUNY Strategic Plan,” http://www.suny.edu/strategicplan/files/sunystrategicplan_draft.pdf, as written by Chancellor Zimpher, which includes the community.

    The main goal of the new SUNY Strategic Plan, it seems, can be summed up as “SUNY will develop strategies to draw in the full suite of investors – including federal, state, private and venture capital, and even grant funding – and get it where it’s needed to support innovation.”

    The Stony Brook Foundation provides 150K to President Stanley in addition to his base salary. In 2009, SUNY Chancellor-Elect Zimpher said, “…. I particularly want to thank Jim Simons for helping us recruit Dr. Stanley….”

    When you read the “Testimony of James H. Simons” Before the House Committee on Science and Technology from March 4, 2010, it is clear to see he is a driving force behind the idea of developing more research/private industry based campus ventures. If money is the issue, as Assemblyman Thiele stated at the press conference, we would find out by the response of Stony Brook and the Chancellor. This article leads one to believe, they are not willing to give up the 82 acres in exchange for money that is potentially being cut from their budget, but paradoxically, they do have plans to expand it.

    Why can SUNY afford to make “expanded use of Southampton’s facilities,” but exile the students who are studying sustainability, to an overcrowded campus with no guarantee that their professors from Southampton will be at the Stony Brook campus to help them finish their degrees?

    I lived in the Stony Brook community when Stony Brook was negotiating with the Gyrodyne Corporation, for 246 acres adjacent to the university. There is a clear history how Stony Brook University works when it wants something.

    “Following delivery of the Offer in August 2005, Gyrodyne’s management initiated discussions with the University seeking to achieve a negotiated settlement with respect to the Property. Gyrodyne repeatedly indicated a willingness to sell the Property or a portion thereof at fair market value. In furtherance thereof, Gyrodyne proposed a negotiated transaction in which an independent third party could determine the fair market value of the portion of the Property that would be the subject of such negotiated sale. Furthermore, in an effort to accommodate the University’s needs, Gyrodyne indicated a willingness to consider a sale to the University of a portion of the Property, adequate to accommodate the University’s proposed Research and Development Campus, at a price discounted from the market price. In addition, Gyrodyne expressed a willingness to negotiate all terms of any sale of the Property, including the number of acres and the price per acre. Gyrodyne attempted to achieve a negotiated settlement in good faith, believing that removing the Property from the condemnation process was in the interest of all parties.

    On October 26, 2005, the University informed Gyrodyne that Governor Pataki plans to conduct ground breaking ceremonies on the Property on Friday, November 4, 2005, with respect to the University’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology. While the University has not taken the necessary steps to vest title to the Property in the State of New York, it could do so at any time.”
    http://www.gyrodyne.com/press_view.php?id=17

    If you have 800 students, paying approximately 5K for tuition, that is 4 million dollars to support the Southampton campus. There are out of state and global students paying 12K for tuition. Based on pass statements made by Shirley Strum Kenny, the dorms are self-supporting. I would think the green house and organic garden help to make the food service, self-supporting. This campus seems very close to being self-supporting.

    Many of the young students and the adult students at the Southampton campus will tell you that they are still in shock, do not want to go to an overcrowded 25,000 student campus, an hour away from the Township of Southampton. The east end provides many work experiences and internships, related to sustainability and the environment, which they will not be able to replicate in Stony Brook. Stony Brook is not the right setting to support these students, in this area of study, which is so important. Stony Brook is too far for some young, and adult students to continue their degrees. Not all students are able to live in dorms.

    Why are so many students, parents, community members, and politicians, participating in raising funds, to keep the Southampton campus open, if many current students are portrayed as being registered at Stony Brook? Registration keeps the courses that they hope will be put back at the Southampton campus. The question is, will Stony Brook University keep the professors and staff that have taught and mentored these students? Are the professors listed in the courses for registration at the Stony Brook campus?

    This has been anything but, an experience that tells me “The student is at the heart of all we do.,” SUNY Strategic Plan 2010.

    This decision does discourage people from finishing their degrees, who live on the east end. It breaks an educational trust. It discourages life long learning for the adults of the east end. It forces east end students to live away from home, and away from a community that is steeped with many strategies and experiences for preserving the environment.

    The public has seen the vigor, the devotion, the creativity, of the Southampton students, in the face this decision void of any previous communication with the community or the students/staff. Imagine what these students can do to support this campus if you bring entreprenuership into their curriculums at this campus! These students can innovate, too.

    See Chancellor Zimpher’s plan:

    http://www.suny.edu/strategicplan/files/sunystrategicplan_draft.pdf

  2. charles says:

    “Currently, plans are in the works for several other SUNY campuses to make productive and expanded use of Southampton’s facilities.” ???

    2 weeks ago that president told the press that he did not have a business plan & that no one should expect one overnight. Did he really expect us to believe that he took such a drastic action as shutting down this campus without first having any kind of plan of what he would do with it after that. Now he’s got this plan that everybody else can have that campus – except the students for whom it was created? How dare he try to brag that the students had registered at the main campus. THEY HAD NO CHOICE. If they didn’t, they would have no school at all to go in fall. Thats like someone hijacking an airplane in midair & then inferring that the passengers must like it because those chose to stay in their seats. Ontop of that, he insults our intelligence to boot, by playing a game of semantics in stating “the campus is not “closing”. Keeping the gate & 2 buildings open does not mean he didnt close down the place for the use it was intended. Unfriccinbelievable.

    The legislature needs to impeach that president.

  3. James Corrigan says:

    The refrain of the displaced students of Stony Brook Southampton College is “Education is Nonnegotiable.” The echo of a right asserted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nation’s members in 1948, its presence as the rallying cry of a group of students suggests there is something really bad happening at Stony Brook University and something that New York State taxpayers are failing to pay attention to.

    Stony Brook Southampton’s preeminent focus is on its innovative Sustainability Studies programs. It is one of the few colleges in the US that has such a concentrated purpose.

    These programs are focused on implementation, and that is the key difference between this school and most others. Here, the students don’t just study a subject, they learn through hands-on involvement in actually putting their knowledge to work. The goal here isn’t just about publishing research papers on sewage treatment, for example, it’s about the students involvement in building a real sewage treatment plant to change their own sewage into clean water in the most environmentally benign way possible. The school itself is their laboratory. They know that they will not have the same opportunity on the West campus. It is too large and its focus is primarily on research, not implementation.

    President Stanley, the new head of Stony Brook University is using the budget mess in the New York State Legislature as an excuse to close down Southampton’s Sustainability programs. The argument that Stanley and the new SUNY Chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, are giving for the closure of Southampton is little more than a smoke screen to misdirect our attention from what they are doing to what the legislature is doing.

    According to Daniel Melucci, Stony Brook’s associate vice president of strategy and planning, who was quoted in a recent article in a campus newspaper, there will be no immediate savings from the closure of Southampton. Any future savings will accrue as the employment contracts of the Sustainability faculty expire over the next two to three years.

    It seems clear then that there is another use that Stanley has for the campus, and the closure of Southampton is simply about shutting down the sustainability programs and clearing house to make room for whatever his intended use is.

    We should not overlook the fact that Southampton’s closing is a convenient stick for SUNY to beat the NYS legislature over the head with for their failure to respond to the privatization and deregulation desires of the current administration which are found in the proposed Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA), that is always mentioned in any discussion by the administration of the Southampton campus.

    What is being overlooked in this political battle of wills are its effects on the students and their families. They have a right not to be used as a means to someone else’s end, as Stanley is using them today. The dissolution of the ambitious dreams of these students is a human cost that does not appear to make it onto Stanley’s radar. It is hard to see the current and incoming students of Southampton as anything but pawns in a bigger struggle between SUNY and the New York State Legislature, with Stanley serving as the front man.

    As troubled as Albany is, the Legislature is our legitimate government. And the SUNY system is a public asset that belongs to all the taxpayers of New York State. The end result of PHEEIA, besides freeing SUNY from effective oversight by the Legislature, will be changing SUNY from an educational opportunity available to all New York State residents into one that is accessible primarily to those with the ability to pay.

    Dr. Stanley has taken pains to address this problem by pointing out that economically disadvantaged residents will be protected through the allocation of some of the higher tuitions that he plans to charge into scholarships. But this does nothing to address the middle class families who will not be able to benefit from that, who will continue to have to foot the bill for the university’s operations through their State taxes, and yet who will not be able to secure an education for their own children without bankrupting themselves.

    According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” And merit should not be defined by the size of your income.

    Stanley’s decision is a political ploy that has caused great harm to the 500 current and 300 incoming students of the Southampton campus, their families, the faculty and staff and their families, and the greater community that supports them. This has been a stab in the heart of a truly innovative educational program that was designed to address the needs of the world today. The kind of program that raises the level of excellence in our children’s lives, that gives them hope for a better future. President Stanley has acted precipitously, shortsightedly, and yes, meanly.
    Sincerely,

    James M. Corrigan
    Lecturer, Stony Brook Southampton
    Recipient of President Stanley’s 2010 Award for Excellence in Teaching

  4. evan says:

    This is NY. We call a spade a spade here. And you, Stanley, are a bold-faced liar. Just stop. Stop playing word games with this. NYers are not blind or stupid. You ARE closing the environmental college, everything it came with and stands for, and everything that was promised to those students when they were recruited to attend there. You are only keeping THE PROPERTY open. And you’re doing that for your own self-serving interests.

    If budget cuts were really the problem, you would be jumping at the chance to unload that not-so-”academically significant” campus (your words – not mine). So stop blaming budget cuts – every SUNY has budget cuts & no others are shutting down major parts of their campuses.

    This was no sudden decision – admit it – this has been in the works for some time. Budget cuts are a convenient excuse for your agenda to get rid of a college that you deem to be not worthwhile. SUNY doesn’t show the Southampton campus on the map or even on the listing of SUNY campuses. When was that print change made? Your decision was made well before whatever that date that was.

    A few months ago, the SUNY Chancellor made a big speech about the importance of environmental sustainabilities in the SUNY system & stressed that this was one of the objectives of her 5 yr plan – then, when she criss-crossed the state visiting ALL of the SUNY campuses, she never even bothered to stop by the only environmental sustainability college that SUNY has. We can all read between the lines there. Why bother visiting a college that she already knew she was conspiring to put out of existence.

    Have either of you read the parts of the SUNY strategic plan that mention Integrity, Trust, and Open Honest Relationships? What about the part where it says “CREDIBILITY IS A PRODUCT OF INCLUSIVENESS AND TRANSPARENCY”? You 2 disgust me.

    Stop taking the tax-payers of this state for fools. Be a man, Stan. Just come right out and say what you really think – that this type of “green” is not worth your effort. That these 800 students, and the hundreds who would have followed them to make a difference for this planet, don’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of your empire. That they are expendable, in your way, and can just go someplace else because what they are doing is, as you said, not “academically significant”.

    You know what Stan? YOU can just go someplace else. Maybe Miss Chancellor will take you on over to the NCAA with her when she jumps ship.

  5. SBS parent says:

    i cannot believe the havoc these two administrators are reeking on these students, this community and the good reputation of Stony Brook University and the whole SUNY system, that with it’s falts has provided great educations for its citizenry and beyond. it’s time Dr. Stanley and Chancellor Zimpher move on and SUNY and Stony Brook University look for replacements, people with character and integrity that our young people can admire and believe in!

  6. evan says:

    Come join us for an amazing night at Atlantis Marine World as we support the cause to Save the College at Southampton!!

    May 20th, 2010 at 7pm.

    Enjoy our benefit dinner in a unique night at the Aquarium.

    FEATURING:
    LIVE MUSIC FROM LOCAL MUSICIANS
    SILENT AUCTION SHOWCASING WORKS OF LOCAL PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS
    AUCTIONS OF ITEMS FROM LOCAL MERCHANTS

    The event will feature keynote speaker
    GORDIAN RAACKE
    Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island

    In 2007 Mr. Raacke was selected as a Climate Change Messenger to take part in a demanding training program led by former Vice President Al Gore to help spread the word about the dangerous threat of and solutions to global warming. We are extremely honored to have him support our cause and speak to us at our event!

    Remarks also made by our local elected officials who have been fighting extremely hard for us students to KEEP OUR SCHOOL!

    We would like as many parents and members of the community to attend this event. This is going to be a spectacular evening for all of us to gather together and support our beloved cause, while enjoying each others company in addition to those who are extremely successful within our desired industry!

    This is going to be a BIG ONE guys!!!

    Price of Tickets is a Tax-deductible charitable donation!

    PurchaseTickets at: http://savethecollege.org/events.html

    *Corporate Sponsorship Packages Available*
    *AD’s Available in the Events Program*

    Checks payable to:
    Save the College at Southampton Inc.
    P.O. Box 1176, Southampton, NY 11969
    Please RSVP by May 15th


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