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Officials, Students Will Fight to Keep Southampton Campus Fully Open

Posted on 09 April 2010

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By Bryan Boyhan

In an effort to close a growing budget gap, Stony Brook University intends to shut down most of its Southampton campus by the end of this summer. The university is faced with a 20 percent cut in state aid and is forced to make nearly $55 million in cuts, according to university president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, Jr.

State assemblyman Fred Thiele, state senator Ken Lavalle and congressman Tim Bishop met with university officials on Tuesday afternoon, in a closed door session, when Stanley presented the plan to close down the dorms and eliminate all programs except the graduate writing program and classes for the marine science program — legacies of the period LIU was at the campus. The balance of the existing programs would be continued at the main campus.

“It is their intention to close everything,” said Thiele Tuesday night at a meeting of the Noyac Civic Council where he was guest speaker. “No students on campus, no faculty on campus. That tells you everything you need to know about the state. Invest $78 million, and then do nothing with it.”

There will be a presence on the campus, although scaled back considerably, and far removed from the vision that was drawn out in recent years when Stony Brook heralded the campus as a place where they would train young professionals in the sustainable sciences.

As proposed, only a couple hundred students would attend classes there in one building, Chancellors Hall. The recently renovated dormitories, library and fine arts buildings would all be closed by the end of the summer. The future of the staff, including recently-hired dean, Dr. Mary Pearl, is in question. Thiele predicted Dr. Pearl would likely be absorbed on the main campus, as would some others on staff.

“But the biggest part of the budget is personnel. If they’re making cuts, people are going to lose their jobs,” said Thiele.

New York State purchased the campus from LIU in 2005 for $35 million, after alumni, local politicians and community members fought a protracted battle to keep the campus an educational institution when LIU announced its intention to sell. Since then, they’ve invested approximately $43 million more, said Thiele, himself a campus grad, to rehabilitate buildings on the campus.

“This is a terrible waste. [The campus] is an excellent opportunity to train people in a way to meet the needs of a new economy,” said Thiele, who along with LaValle and Bishop were instrumental in getting the state to purchase the school.

The assemblyman denied the campus had been a failure, and insisted enrolment was up.

“The number of applications rose by 54 percent, and the number of students on campus was expected to increase by 20 percent,” said Thiele, adding they planned to have 800 in 2011. He added that the average SAT scores of those being accepted had increased by about 20 points.

“It’s not that Southampton was not giving a return on investment,” said the assemblyman; “it’s because budget problems are everywhere and Stony Brook had to make cuts.”

Stony Brook’s president, Dr. Stanley, painted a darker picture.

“The business plan that has been in place is not sustainable,” said Dr. Stanley in an interview yesterday. He pointed out that, at its height, LIU had 1,500 students on campus and charged $20,000 in tuition and claimed the school was unprofitable.

“We had 470 students and charged $5,000,” said Dr. Stanley. “It cannot sustain itself, unless the state is willing to contribute more money.”

“We have barriers,” he observed, and noted there was no endowment for the campus.

Asked what criteria he would use to consider making Southampton a full, residential campus again, he said it would need to offer an “academically significant” program and “be financially sustainable.”

Thiele confided there were two major strikes against the local campus. The first is that Southampton is like the “new stepchild” in the university system and there were those at the main campus who felt their programs should have been getting the money that was going to Southampton.

“It was the same issue when LIU owned the campus,” said Thiele. “It feels like we’re the outpost out here.”

In these tight times, he said, Stony Brook had to make cuts and it seems they wanted to sacrifice Southampton.

The second problem is that the campus is caught in what Thiele called “Albany politics.”

The state university system, he said, wants to offer different tuition rates at different schools, and it wants to set those rates without any oversight.

“The legislature is leery of that,” said Thiele.

Thiele suggested that some in the legislature feel the university system is proposing cuts “all over the place” in an effort to leverage political pressure that would lead to allowing them to set their own tuition rates.

“They’re caught in SUNY politics and Stony Brook politics, and are being sacrificed in that,” said Thiele.

Even though there will be fewer students, the university hopes to find other ways to use the campus, including hosting conferences and perhaps offering special classes, said Dr. Stanley.

“I do not foresee selling it,” he added.

Thiele said he has not given up on keeping the campus open full time.

“We’re going to have a hell of a fight,” he said, not excluding filing suit.

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10 Responses to “Officials, Students Will Fight to Keep Southampton Campus Fully Open”

  1. Maria Lezamiz says:

    I am saddened and sickened by this article. Two years ago my child was accepted into the Southhampton campus. She has done beautifully there and is very happy. The hands on opportunities available to students at Stonybrook Southampton are endless. To think that because of political beurocracy this campus may close angers me. Please let me know what I can do or whom I may write to to put a stop to this ridiculous suggestion. They haven’t even given the place a ch

  2. Lisa Morales says:

    student rally today, deans meeting this afternoon. there are links for assemblyman, senator, governor, etc….

  3. Lisa Hofmann says:

    This is a very sad day. I am a union electrician working at suny Southampton and I learned of my layoff in the newsday this morning. No one seems to mention the fifty or so union trade members that will be losing their jobs today!!!

  4. Art says:

    They put so much money and effort into making it attractive. What sense does it make to close it after all that? You would think people in charge of an educational institution would have a better business plan than that. Grade earned F-. What a shame. What’s next another shopping mall?

  5. jt says:

    Suffolk County State Assemblyman Thiele just released this statement vowing to stop the closure of Southampton campus by suing SBU & fighting for Southampton to become independent & separate. Anyone interested in voicing their support can call his office 631-537-2583. Or send a letter online at his website at:


    “Today, I was informed by Stony Brook University that they will be closing the residential college at Southampton. I oppose this decision in the strongest possible terms. This decision is wrong on every level.Under the leadership of former President Shirley Strum Kenny, Stony Brook University made a commitment to eastern Long Island to maintain and expand opportunities for higher education. That commitment has been amply supported by the State Legislature with funding for both operations and capital improvements. In fact, the State, beginning with the acquisition of the campus, has invested more than $75 million in capital improvements. In fact, that investment was just beginning to bear fruit under the innovative, creative and energetic leadership of Dean Mary Pearl. This year, applications for admission increased by 54% and the mean SAT scores for Southampton applicants have skyrocketed. 800 students would have been at Southampton this fall. Southampton was successfully making the transition back to a full service college.

    Instead, the new administration has decided to kill the baby while it is still in the crib. Apparently, the new President of Stony Brook has forgotten the Hippocratic Oath- “first do no harm”.In the realm of public education and public service, there is no more egregious wrong than to break a public commitment. However, that is exactly what Stony Brook is doing today. They are taking the substantial goodwill created by Stony Brook on the East End in the last five years and flushing it down the toilet.Not only does this announcement constitute a breach of faith, it makes no sense from the perspective of long term fiscal or education policy. The State has invested more than $75 million at Southampton. We purchased the campus, completed the library, refurbished the entire campus, renovated the dormitories, and began other investments to the Marine Science facilities and the physical plant.

    Further, the projected savings from mothballing the campus simply don’t add up. Savings are grossly over-estimated. One must wonder if there is another self-serving agenda at work at Stony Brook. The State University will be abrogated its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of New York if they attempt to close the college.In addition, higher education is the key to economic recovery; the decision that Stony Brook makes today will cripple efforts at economic revitalization and put more local people out of work.

    Reminiscent of the community’s experience with Long Island University, this decision was made without the input of elected or community leaders. It has been hatched in the bowels of the SUNY bureaucracy in the most secretive and underhanded way. The process was designed to thwart the consideration of less drastic alternatives.Stony Brook officials are also being deceitful when they say they are delaying or suspending action at Southampton. This is a knife in the heart to those who want a full academic experience at Southampton. Once the residential college has been shut down, it will be impossible to resurrect. Who would ever believe Stony Brook again?

    What Stony Brook is proposing is not a Southampton College, but a “Stepford” College where all appears normal at the main gate, but the heart and soul of the institution have been ripped out. So again East End leaders must join together to save education from the so-called “educators,” who unceasingly come to Albany seeking money under the guise of the education of our children, but will sacrifice education at the drop of a hat to promote their own narrow agendas.

    For my part, I will again work with the leaders of “Save the College” to garner public support to reverse this ill-considered decision. I will also help to investigate the initiation of a “Citizen Taxpayer Action” under Article 7-A of the State Finance Law to enjoin Stony Brook from the illegal waste of the public investment that has been made at Southampton. Finally, I will sponsor legislation to amend Section 352 of the Education Law, to statutorily establish Southampton as a college of arts and sciences under SUNY, separate and independent of Stony Brook.

    This decision cannot be allowed to stand.

  6. Rosemary Nickerson says:

    My daughter was recently accepted to the class of 2014 by SUNY Southampton, along with a generous financial aid package. She would have been an “out of state” student as we do not live in NY. This school was one of her top choices among the many competitive schools where she was accepted. She was impressed, as was I, by Southampton’s honors program and their commitment to sustainability studies and environmental education..both cutting edge fields that are only beginning to gather steam. This is a sad and tragic loss for students, like my daughter, for Stony Brook, and for Long Island and for NYS. I hope this misguided decision never comes to fruition. Honestly, if SUNY is that desperate to cut the budget they could have reduced some of the “out of state” financial aid packages and kept the school operational. The programs and opportunities it presents are unique in higher education. We would have probably paid to send our daughter to this wonderful school without the financial aid, if that were her ultimate choice. Who is really benefitting here?

  7. Pam Murphy Ewers says:

    I,too, am deeply saddened by this. I am a member of the FIRST graduating class (graduating cum laude – third in my class) at Southampton College on June 8, 1967. I remember the pride all of my classmates felt at being the pioneers….. I received an excellent education there (triple major: French, Political Science & Philosophy and minors in Spanish & English Lit.) It seems to me today that education is not valued at any level (I read the article about Pierson where my husband graduated & I taught there in 1978-79 before moving from Sag Harbor.) This country needs to make funding for education (& health care) the PRIORITY. If we cut the Pentagon budget by 40% virtually ALL of the necessary social programs would be paid for. It seems that spending tax dollars for weapons, wars & killing is much more important….well, I guess if we cut education, more young people will join the military to willingly become cannon fodder.

  8. Frank Storm says:

    For Stony Brook University to take over Gyrodyne property by ‘eminent domain’…then announcing that a hotel will be built on their property against the wishes of the community…and now coming in on a Tuesday night with guns blazing and taking over the campus to shut it down…


    When will our community wake up to fight against this? How can all of you sit down and allow them to destroy our community and now our children? They must be stopped.

  9. Stony Brook Southampton is the home of 72 beautiful acres right between Sunrise and Montauk Highways. We can see the water from our campus. We have a marine science center on the water, accompanied with 5+ ‘floating classrooms’, ocean-going boats as well as pontoon boats to study the local bays.

    We have a brand new LEED Certified-Silver Library with a geothermal heating and cooling system- the first LEED building on any SUNY campus. Our Library holds the Pollack-Krasner archives collection. We have a wind generator that powers the Student Center. We have one the East End’s historic landmarks- the Windmill, that was just recently renovated might I add. We hold Meditation in the Windmill twice a week and have ‘Tea with the Dean’ nights. All of our buildings are wireless and have the most advanced education technologies. A brand new baseball field was just installed.

    Some of our clubs include Scuba, Colleges against Cancer, Sailing, Marine Biology, Organic Garden and Greenhouse… We have a 90ft X 40ft organic garden where we grow vegetables for our cafe. We planted a fruit tree orchard last spring. We buy our coffee from the Shinnecock Nation. We get our apples from the Milk Pail.

    Our Fine Arts building houses the largest Shakespearean Theatre on the East End: Avram Theatre, as well as Avram Gallery which highlights local artists. We hold lectures, movie nights and events that are open to the community.

    We have classes that study the Sustainability of the Pine Barrens, Red & Brown Tides and Algae, Long Island Marine Habitats, Whales off Montauk, Green Business, Environmentally Friendly Architecture and more. Students do research on our marine, environmental and economic situations on Long Island. Our students do internships for Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Southampton Town, The Riverhead Foundation, Atlantis Marine World, Piping Plover recoveries, Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and the Peconic Land Trust.

    We organize beach cleanups. We work at your bakeries, hardware stores and coffee shops. We go to your gyms, bars, and movie theaters. We rent your houses that stay empty all winter.

    Is all of this going to waste?
    Do you not need us?
    Is this worth saving?

    SOS Save SBS

  10. jt says:

    If Stony Brook was so short of funds that it has to shut down the only college in the US that focuses entirely on environmenal sustainbility and throw 800 students off campus, tell me why in the world they are spending millions on building a brand new campus in SOUTH KOREA! (see

    Another example of our tax dollars at work.

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