By Andrew Rudansky
Students at Stony Brook Southampton College have filed suit against the SUNY Stony Brook University in response to the university’s decision to close the Stony Brook Southampton campus. The suit, officially filed on Monday, May 24, accuses Samuel Stanley Jr., President of SBU, and the board of trustees at the university of, among other things, closing the Southampton campus down without first going to the Stony Brook Council for approval, as is required by the State Education Law.
The lawsuit is asking the courts to prevent Stanley and SBU from closing the Southampton campus. The main petitioners in the suit are Stony Brook Southampton students and the not-for-profit corporation Save the College at Southampton, Inc., “Save the College” was first created when Long Island University planned to close the school down, and before SBU purchased the campus in 2004.
The students have hired the Melville based law firm of Lazer, Aptherker, Rosella & Yedid, P.C. to take their case against Stanley and SBU. The students held demonstrations, marches and a series of grassroots student fundraisers to raise the over $18,000 in legal fees.
The school officially announced its intentions to close down most of the campus by August 31 of this year, shuttering the residence halls and closing all but two of the academic buildings: Chancellors Hall and the Marine Sciences Research Center Complex.
The enrollment for the Spring 2009 term was approximately 500 students, and before the decision came down to close the campus Southampton accepted approximately 800 students for the Fall 2010 semester. Most of these students will be transferred to the SBU main campus in Stony Brook.
According to the court documents filed by the student’s lawyers, “SBU and the SUNY Trustees announced the decision to close Southampton without any notice to petitioners, the student body or faculty.” The court documents further claim that the school made the decision to close the school in secret to escape scrutiny from students, the press and the public. Most inflammatory of the accusations in the suit is the claim that President Stanley is closing the Southampton campus in order to sell off the “residentially zoned campus land to real estate developers in order to generate funds for SBU.”
Lauren M. Sheprow, from the Office of Media Relations at Stony Brook University refused to comment on any aspect of the pending lawsuit. Sheprow said, “The court filings are under review and will be responded to appropriately in court.”
Stony Brook Southampton Sophomore Katie Osiecki has helped spearhead
the lawsuit against the school. “I do think this is a credible lawsuit,” said Osiecki, “[President Stanley and Stony Brook University] did everything wrong.” Osiecki says that many members of the student body are angry how the SBU administration handled the situation. Osiecki has plans to attend school at the SBU main campus next fall, but also says that she might drop out.
Upon hearing the news of the lawsuit, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. sent out a press release which categorically stated, “I support the students in this lawsuit.”
Stony Brook University has until June 14 to answer the allegations before the State Supreme Court.