Stony Brook Council: Lap Dog or Watch Dog?

Posted on 10 September 2010

By Karl Grossman

 The decision by a state Supreme Court judge that Stony Brook University acted illegally in shuttering the Stony Brook Southampton campus was strong. Justice Paul Baisley, Jr. “annulled” the closing and “enjoined” the university from taking any further action to close the campus.

  State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, in whose district the campus sits, said “pursuant to the court decision, we will seek the re-opening of the Southampton campus.”

 “Outlaw University” was a headline on the judge’s decision. This reflected well the judgment on how Stony Brook U.—led by its president, Dr. Samuel Stanley—ordered the closing of the campus.

The reaction of the Stony Brook administration didn’t refute this. A central issue in the lawsuit, brought by Stony Brook Southampton students, was that state Education Law “requires the Stony Brook Council to review and make recommendations on ‘major plans’ that affected SUNY Stony Brook,” noted the judge in his decision. He agreed and found that the Stony Brook Council did not do this when it came to the closing of Stony Brook Southampton.

In response, the university administration issued a statement declaring that Dr. Stanley, on May 11, at a Stony Brook Council meeting, “apprised the council…about both the budgetary impact of residential operations at Southampton, and his intention to relocate a number of academic programs from Southampton to the Stony Brook campus.”

Yes, but Dr. Stanley’s announcement of the closing of Stony Brook Southampton was made more than a month before—on April 7.

The judge, in his August 27 ruling, pointed out that the Education Law states “the operations and affairs of each state-operated institution of the state university shall be supervised locally by a council consisting of ten members.” It is supposed to “review all major plans of the head of such institution” and this includes “care, custody and management of lands, grounds, building and equipment.” This is a “statutory mandate,” he emphasized.

And, indeed, when Stony Brook University in 2005 took over what had been LIU’s Southampton College, the council “passed a formal resolution expressing its strong support for the acquisition.” The “acquisition of the Southampton campus was acknowledged by respondents to be a ‘major plan’ involving the council’s statutory review-and-recommend duty and authority.”  But not its closing — and thus the law was broken.

Declared Mr. Thiele in a press release: “The students of the Southampton campus are to be congratulated for taking action against this unfair, ill-considered, and now illegal action to close their school. They have fought for their rights and won. In the process they have benefited us all”

“Stony Brook University made the decision behind closed doors to shut down the Southampton campus.” And “not only” was there no consultation with the Stony Brook Council “as required by law” said Mr. Thiele, but also “a failure to consult with elected officials, community leaders, students and even administrators at the Southampton campus. The entire process lacked transparency and openness. The reason is obvious. The closure of the school cannot be defended in an open discussion.”

 “New York State has invested $78 million at the Southampton campus,” he continued. “That investment was beginning to bear fruit.” The “school was well on its way to meeting the ultimate goal of 2,000 students.” It “was succeeding.”

But “a new Stony Brook president with a hidden agenda to close the campus had to lie to the public to justify his decision,” said Mr. Thiele, skewering Dr. Stanley on numerous grounds. 

What’s next? Will the university council — nine of its members appointed by the governor — stand up and function independently. Or will it now just rubber-stamp Dr. Stanley’s decision?  The council hired Dr. Stanley. Does this mean it has to stick with his whopper of a bad decision? In recent years we have seen how so many corporate boards became lapdogs of management, not watchdogs. Will the Stony Brook Council take a different stance on Stony Brook Southampton? We hope so.

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4 Responses to “Stony Brook Council: Lap Dog or Watch Dog?”

  1. Student says:

    So if the council agrees with Stanley they are a lap dog, and if they agree with you they are a watch dog. Very objective.

  2. js says:

    If the council just rubber-stamps an after-the-fact “approval” on that which has already been illegally implemented, the entire council will be seen as a sham. The closure was illegal. The college never should have been dismantled & if the judge had made his decision sooner, it wouldn’t have been. Therefore the college should be restored immediately, its programs re-instated, its students and faculty brought back. THEN the work can begin to review & consider additional educational uses for the campus and other cost saving alternatives that the president admitted he never considered before taking his drastic action.

  3. pops says:

    There is no money. culd be the council sees the bottom line. the state is cutting suny by half a billion dollars. that is $500,0000,000. realtiy is no fun, but its still reality.

  4. hal says:

    it’s BS that there is “no money”. they just don’t want to use their money for lowly undergrad students.

    #1. SUNY has $450 million in cash accounts that can be used tapped into for emergencies. NY Sen. Stavinsky urged SUNY’s Chancellor to use just $75 million from that to avoid academic cuts. The Chancellor refused.

    #2. The Chancellor was just outted by the Times Union press giving tens of thousands in raises to her highest-paid executives, ontop of exorbitant salaries and enormous amounts in additional perks

    #3 The Chancellor was also found to be in the midst of a multi-million dollar office renovation for her executive suites.

    #4 The NY State Senate just called a hearing to demand answers from SUNY’s Chancellor & top officials over their outrageous spending at a time when they are claiming that they dont have the money for students’ undergrad programs.

    #5 The press broke the story that SUNY is paying $250k/yr to one executive for a no-show job.

    #6 Stony Brook University closed an entire 4 yr college supposedly to save just $6 million over 3 years, but it still has 22 big-bucks VP’s earning a total of $4 million/yr. 22 VPs.

    #7 The NY Comptroller’s office recent report found SUNY to be wasting millions in a dozen different ways & urged them to become more fiscally responsible.

    #8 The NY Senate Task Force on Government Efficiency recently investigated SUNY for “wasteful spending” and found that it is flushing away tens of millions of dollars every year in “unnecessary spending”

    check out if you don’t believe it.

    There IS money. It’s just not being spent on students.

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