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Why We Were Forced to Streamline Southampton Operations

Posted on 23 April 2010

By Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

President, Stony Brook University

Faced with a 20% reduction, amounting to nearly $55 million, in New York State financial support over the past two years, I announced last week that Stony Brook University has been forced to make strategic cuts and streamline operations at its various locations. Notably, we are suspending the residential program and new undergraduate admissions at Stony Brook Southampton.

I have stated publicly on many occasions, however, that the university remains steadfast in its commitment to research and teaching at the site. The Marine Station of the pioneering School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (SoMAS) will continue to serve as a critical hub for landmark discoveries and breakthroughs in such areas as the atmospheric sciences, as well all the major disciplines of oceanography – biological, chemical, geological and physical. Similarly, the world-acclaimed Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree program and the renowned Southampton Writers Workshop will, as always, attract Pulitzer Prize and other award-winning novelists, journalists, poets, and champions of the written word to share their insights and experiences with students and the community at large.

Moreover, we are not abandoning our commitment to the nearly 500 affected Southampton students. We have enacted a number of immediate measures to ensure that they experience minimal impact as they work towards their degrees and on-time graduation. For example, we are expanding summer academic programs at the main campus and enhancing our student advisement services to assist students at Southampton so that they can continue their studies on the main campus without losing credits. Already, nearly 200 Southampton students have been so registered for the fall semester.

Academic programs that will no longer be offered at Southampton will be available at the main campus, including those environmental studies offerings that earned such wide distinction. SoMAS students will continue to take some of their fieldwork and laboratory classes at Southampton, with the remainder of their coursework at the main campus. Bus service between Southampton and Stony Brook will continue in order to accommodate them. Prospective students who have been offered positions at Southampton will also be able to matriculate at the main campus or receive a full refund of their application fee should they choose to go elsewhere. Most of the residential students have met already with our staff representatives and are being given priority in a dorm on the main campus, where they will be clustered to preserve the sense of community they built at Southampton.

I can assure you that all these steps, while economically necessary, were never ones we wanted to make. Our hands were tied by the massive cuts in state funding and the restrictions we face in controlling our own finances. Indeed, unlike public higher institutions in other states, including the University of Michigan, University of Texas at Austin, Penn State and Rutgers, we are not able to set our own tuition rate. And long periods have gone by without the legislature authorizing any incremental rise in tuition. When tuition was finally raised for the first time in spring 2009, after six years of inactivity, it was a double digit increase followed by another large hike in the fall of last year. But, rather than us keeping the increased funds to enhance the educational experience for our students, the state took almost all of the money for itself, to help alleviate its own budget problems.

Unfortunately, the fundamental cuts in our state allocation, coupled with a higher cost structure and a business model that relied heavily on state support made it impossible for us to continue the residential component of the Southampton location. It is, however, only one part of the response to the resulting fiscal crisis. We have already reduced our budget by some $20 million to help offset the severe loss in state funding. The remaining budget cuts total about $34 million, the deficit our university is facing in the coming fiscal year. The main campus will absorb $27 million, through a variety of measures, including reductions in administrative support and academic programs. In addition, we are also closing one location in Manhattan.

Nevertheless, we are in fact moving forward, looking towards ways to ensure that Stony Brook University remains strong for the 25,000 students we serve. Ultimately, we need the state and the public to consider education from a K-16 perspective and support sustained investment in higher education accordingly. We need Albany to recognize the key role research universities like Stony Brook play in economic development, jobs creation, and generating the innovation that drives new discoveries and creates new businesses for our region. The new strategic plan for the State University of New York system unveiled this week helps spell out how much we can do for the State if our potential is truly unleashed.

A key component is the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA), a measure contained in the governor’s budget and in modified form in the Senate Budget Resolution. PHEEIA, which allows the SUNY Board of Trustees to set a fair, responsible, and equitable tuition rate, would enhance our academic programs, improve our ability to generate revenue from public/private partnerships and end some unnecessarily restrictive accounting practices. We see PHEEIA as vital to our future, a critical tool that, in one fell swoop, will strengthen public higher education across the state, save millions of taxpayers dollars, and drive economic development and improve the quality of life here on Long Island and throughout the state.

But right now, in the absence of a budget with no apparent relief from Albany, we must be fiscally responsible and live within our means. With so many millions of dollars slashed from our budget, and with passage of PHEEIA uncertain, we have to be extremely diligent and prudent, and not stray from the core elements of our missions of research and teaching. Practically, this means we will continue to target programmatic reductions, eliminate those that are relatively expensive and impact a small number of students, and can be made in the framework of tenure and unionization constraints.?In short, to make us stronger in the long run as one of the top public research universities in the country in these challenging economic times, we need to be as efficient as possible. Strategic realignment helps us achieve this goal.

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3 Responses to “Why We Were Forced to Streamline Southampton Operations”

  1. jt says:

    the SBU president must be feeling the heat generated by the students he is throwing out of Southampton. They really are making an impact if he felt the need to explain himself in op-ed. SOS SBS!

  2. Marianne Klepacki says:

    I think the point that Dominick makes below, is right on target, when he talks about such a large impact on a small amount of people. The emotional and economic impact on the 500+ current students, the 300 admitted additional students, and the 75 staff, is huge. The Southampton campus is what saved Stony Brook from losing their Mid Atlantic College Accreditation. One of the Sag Harbor reporters spoke about it in a recent article. The critique was that Stony Brook was too research oriented and not oriented towards educating the students. Southampton provides that balance. There are no lecture halls that hold 400 students here, with one professor and 3 TAs. The students and staff know each others names in Southampton. One of the Southampton students from Shelter Island went to meet a professor to try to transition to the SB campus, and he told her, when she introduced herself, not to bother, because he will never get to know her. She was amazed and mortified. About 25% of the students have no plans to attend college in the fall, because they need time to make a good decision about where they will transfer, given this abrupt, untimely, decision that Dr. Stanley made without the consensus of the the Stony Brook Council. How do you think this affected the students’ ability to focus on their classes and midterms?
    Dr. Stanley’s staff told the students to sign up at the Stony Brook campus because they would not have registration at the Southampton campus. So to cover themselves, until they can find a university that will accept such a late request to transfer, they are registered. It does not mean they have paid tuition. It does not mean they will stay after being treated with little thought to what the students need.
    Dr. Stanley was personally recruited by James Simons, the billionaire CEO of Renaissance Technologies, to be president at Stony Brook. Dr. Stanley managed more than 580 million dollars in research at Washington University. The 64 SUNY college system has about 850 million dollars in research money, and the SUNY Research Foundation has a new goal of getting 1 billion dollars in research money. Dr. Nancy Zimpher Chairs that foundation and Dr. Stanley was just made a trustee of that foundation. Dr. Zimpher is the Chancellor of all the 64 SUNY schools, too, and in her Stratigic plan, part of her core mission is to have more research at college campuses. The SUNY research Foundation gives Dr. Stanley 100K a year in addition to his base salary of $400K. Why? Mr. Simons is a chair emeritus of the Stony Brook Foundation, which also gives or delays giving 150K in additional compensation to Dr. Stanley. Why? He gets the 26 acre Melville Estate on the water with a 8300 sq ft house. It is not for housing. Furthermore, the 6, and 6.7 and 10 million dollar figures that have floated around in the papers as the annual cost of the Southampton campus is very debateable. I know Fred Thiele has stated so and that is why he wants answers. Some people think the figure when you have 800 students on campus, as was scheduled for the fall, could be as low as 2 million dollars. I think, since there is 275 billion dollars from the stimulus money available for grants to the states, this year, with NY state competing for it by stating they will match every dollar with 10% of state funds, there is a good chance Stony Brook wants the students off the campus so they can use it for a facility for their grants, to do research in cooperation with private industry, which is still classified as an “educational purpose.” Is that right? I do not want to be right. Please feel free to “google” any of the above information.

    “How does shutting down a facility that houses many programs which are unavailable anywhere else, adhere to President Stanley’s assertion that we must “not stray from the core elements of our missions of research and teaching;” especially when those programs are vital in the “research and teaching” of sustainable practices that may very well save our planet. This may only, as Stanley says, “impact a small number of students,” only 500 or so (not to mention staff and faculty), but it seems such a large impact on such a “small number” is grotesquely disproportionate.”
    Dominick Quartuccio

  3. Marianne Klepacki says:

    editorial by Peter Kohler

    SUNY Strategic Plan

    April 27, 2010

    SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher brought her strategic planning tour to the College at Old Westbury last week. It was an unintended irony, we suspect, that the new chancellor chose Old Westbury, ranked as a fourth-tier school where last year dozens of students lost dormitory privileges over low grades.

    And, Zimpher’s visit came as students from SUNY Southampton continued protesting the state university’s arbitrary decision to mothball most of their school, a decision State Senator Ken LaValle and other East End officials are working to reverse.

    Some strategy. While much of Zimpher’s vision makes sense, such as strengthening SUNY’s economic development role, the chancellor has tied her strategy to a questionable tuition-raising plan. She supports passage of Governor Paterson’s plan to give SUNY campuses flexibility in setting tuition, letting them keep the funds.

    While it makes sense to let a major research university like Stony Brook raise and retain tuition funds, Zimpher’s plan fails to address the cost problems that are burying young people in student loan debt.

    Is SUNY too big and too costly? Does it need 64 campuses? Some say Old Westbury and Farmingdale should be merged. And what about better integrating the community colleges that are educating growing numbers of transfer students?

    It’s obvious that a strategic plan is lacking when SUNY Stony Brook can take over Southampton College one year, and essentially close it three years later.

    SUNY certainly needs a strategy, but one with less blue sky and more nuts and bolts.

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