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Story - Education

Apr 8, 2010 9:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Abrupt and tearful end to Stony Brook Southampton dream

Apr 8, 2010 9:24 PM

Stony Brook Southampton students greeted university administrators with tearful questions and silent protests on Wednesday afternoon, following news reports Tuesday evening that Stony Brook University would be effectively shutting down the fledgling satellite campus at the end of the summer.

That afternoon, Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. and other top administrators arrived at the Shinnecock Hills campus to meet with faculty, staff and students and explain their unexpected decision to eliminate student housing and pull the plug on most of the programs there, in response to mounting cuts in state funding.

Students said they had heard news reports Tuesday that the campus was shutting down and gathered in the university’s main quad after dark to mull over the news and mount a response. Some of them said they had only heard by word of mouth Wednesday morning.

Scores of students gathered outside Chancellor’s Hall at about 12:30 p.m. and awaited Dr. Stanley’s arrival, holding signs with slogans like “S.O.S., Sustain Our School,” and “How Can We Save You If You Can’t Save Us?”

The students stood in concerted silence as Dr. Stanley walked from the parking lot to the building entrance minutes later.

As a closed meeting among administrators, faculty and staff commenced inside the building, students outside expressed their lingering shock. Just one day earlier, they were part of a rapidly-growing nearly 500-student campus that was geared toward environmental studies, marine sciences and sustainability. But on Wednesday morning, they were hitched to a sinking ship and pondering their futures. Many students waxed sentimental about the tight-knit atmosphere and world-saving ideals that attracted them to the campus.

“It had a nice small program in a nice intimate setting,” said Frank Mindlin, 19, a sophomore marine sciences and environmental studies student from Smithtown, who works as a resident assistant in the campus dorms. He said he’s not yet sure whether he will opt to switch to Stony Brook’s much-larger west campus or transfer to another school.

“It’s a little bit of betrayal,” he said of the cuts to the campus.

As she stood holding a sign outside Chancellor’s Hall on Wednesday afternoon, Heidi Mittelsdorf, 26, an environmental studies major from Westhampton, said switching to the west campus was not an option for her.

“I just wasted three years of my life,” she said. “I’m not going to graduate.”

As it stands, Stony Brook Southampton will continue to operate as a quasi-autonomous campus until August 31. At that point, the students will either be absorbed into the west campus or transfer to another college, according to university officials.

Faculty and staff began to trickle out of Chancellor’s Hall at about 2 p.m. and made their way through a corridor of student protestors who lined the path to Avram Theater, where Dr. Stanley was set to address the student body.

Dr. Mary Pearl, the dean and administrative vice president of Stony Brook Southampton, was one of the first to exit the building and see the students lined up for hundreds of feet in front of her.

“This is great,” she said, and burst into tears. The students cheered and applauded as she walked across the campus between them.

Dr. Stanley and a group of other university administrators left Chancellor’s Hall about 15 minutes later. The students again stood silent as the officials passed between them.

For the next hour, Dr. Stanley explained his decision to students in the packed auditorium. He began by apologizing that the campus had learned about the decision through news reports, and said the university had planned to make the announcement on Thursday but was pre-empted by the media.

Dr. Stanley reiterated what the university had said in a press release that morning—that the university was closing Stony Brook Southampton as a cost-saving measure, in the wake of $55 million in state funding cuts handed down from Albany over the last two years.

In recent days, he said, it became clear that the 2010-11 state budget, which is still tied up in both houses of the State Legislature, would not restore funding to the State University of New York system, and that it would not contain the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA), which would allow individual SUNY campuses some freedom to set their own tuition rates.

Before Dr. Stanley addressed the crowd, Dr. Pearl spoke briefly, ensuring students that staff and faculty would remain dedicated to the students to the end.

“This has been a shining moment for sustainability, and other schools will be looking at us as a model of what can happen on a very special small campus,” she said. “I’m truly sorry it can’t be this one.”

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This is an incredibly short-sighted move IMO, and the basic problem was probably spawned in Albany at the door of Mr. Silver, Speaker of the Assembly.

Justice Shall Prevail.

Sustainability programs shall be restored at Peconic University, Peconic Bay Rural Transportation Authority, and Peconic County.

Mark my word.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 6:47 PM
Peconic (County) University, Peconic Bay Rural Transportation Authority, and Peconic County sounds like the proper response to decades of Western Suffolk getting the taxes from Eastern Suffolk. Allow this to be the kick-start to the independence movement that is now imerative after this insult.
By Scratch (26), Sag Harbor on Apr 7, 10 7:02 PM
Keep the school. The flagship program, with a casino all but inevitable, should be Hospitality, an industry that is not going away from the East End. Have that as part of an overall business program at the school. Environmental Science, Writing, Hospitality. Having the School linked to SBU left it just as vulnerable as having it linked to LIU, an after thought.
By Lester Ware (15), Sag Harbor on Apr 12, 10 9:12 AM
Seems misguided, but it looks like it will happen. I hope the University will have the decency to help students such as Ms Mittesdorf transfer somewhere they can complete their degrees.

What is to happen to the campus? Highest and best use would be to provide affordable housing for the area's workforce which is in dire need of places to rent year round that don't cost an arm and a leg. Perhaps that could be accomplished by converting the dorm buildings into apartments. Creating some single ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Apr 7, 10 6:59 PM
there has been talk that they are going to sell it to the reservation and they are going to build a casino...who knows but affordable housing would be nice
By shannon87 (1), hampton bays on Apr 9, 10 1:27 PM
The Shinnecock Indians leased the land to Southampton College, so the land belongs to Shinnecock tribe (not the school, nor SUNY, nor NY state). Why not petition (ask) the Trustees of Shinnecock to work with you to retain the collegiate environment. They, too, have had environmental and marine programs for over 30 years (when I lived there). Look ahead, not down. Learn from history, then make it.
By Padre's 70s kid (3), Southampton on Apr 10, 10 2:48 PM
I believe there is a clause in the deed to the property stating it must be used for educational purposes. So, I suppose it will just sit there and moulder until we have to invest ANOTHER $78 million into renovating it AGAIN.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Apr 7, 10 7:18 PM
Southampton Town could invoke the power of Eminent Domain to take this over, and then transfer/sell the campus to Peconic County after its establishment.

Take the reins Anna!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 7:27 PM
I assume this is laced with a touch of sarcasm - but eminent domain required fair price paid (some people, I'm not suggesting you) believe the government gets it for free. So, that being said, there's no way SHT could ever come up with the $30-80 million it would be assessed at.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 7, 10 7:34 PM
No sarcasm intended at all, Nature. This investment would pay off IMO.

Sustainability will pay for itself over time, It is just a matter of financing.

Think The Big Picture.

If NYS does not see this, then we need to take the action to the local level.

If nothing else, the $30-80 million investment is a good investment, for what, 80 plus acres? (don't have the statistics here right now.)

Just a question of financing and vision IMO.

Take the reins ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 7:47 PM
PS -- If initiated quickly, this move could include continuation of the current academic programs at SBS under the new Peconic University, Peconic County, and Peconic Bay Regional (Rural) Transportation Authority.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 8:18 PM
The Town is on the verge of laying people off because of a budget crunch - where is this money going to come from? The state? The same people who are closing this because they don't have enough money?

I understand your point, but it's fiscally impossible and there's a reason this college is closing for the 2nd time in 5 years. Southampton Town is not better qualified to run this university. A private entity couldn't, and the state can't. Furthermore, I'm not an expert on eminent ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 7, 10 8:22 PM
A good deal can always be financed. Witness the multi-TRILLION dollar bailout of the financial industry. A sad deal but done and over.

$80 million (top end estimate?) is a bargain IMO.

Plus how many TRILLIONS will the Earth save for a viable Sustainability Vision, perhaps championed by the new generation being trained at Shinnecock College?

Immeasurable IMO, and well worth the investment.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 8:41 PM
Duh! yea, that's a brilliant idea there PBR! You should run for office, so we could be bankrupt faster!
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Apr 8, 10 3:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
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. ...more
By JuliaMargaret (5), Southampton on Apr 10, 10 12:39 PM
Southampton Town can't invoke eminent domain because the land was leased to Southampton College way, way back. Who's land is it? The Shinnecock Indians. Go talk to their Trustees.
By Padre's 70s kid (3), Southampton on Apr 10, 10 2:50 PM
This is beyond ridiculous and absurd. The people responsible for this decision are clearly not qualified for their positions and don't understand how near-sighted this is. Aside from the students who are going to need to find a new school, the faculty and employees who are going to be laid off, etc. etc., I don't understand how this makes fiscal sense. They spent $40+ million dollars AFTER buying the property, and now they are going to let it sit and rot? How will SUNY ever convince a student ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 7, 10 7:37 PM
We need a real community orientated college....they must embrace and welcome the community.....they have not
By Bel (86), southampton on Apr 7, 10 8:03 PM
Who is the "they" you are referring to?
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Apr 7, 10 8:10 PM
Shinnecock College?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 8:23 PM
A whole lot of crazy talk on this topic. SUNY owns the land and the Trustees (in Albany) will act in their own interests and not the Towns. And their interests is in propping up the more established upstate campuses. They won't be sitting around allocating funds to maintain 60 (80?) vacant acres and buildings, so everyone needs to be concerned with how to stop the sale of the land. They (SUNY) would just be taking a page from the LIU playbook, except this time the only people with any money to buy ...more
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Apr 7, 10 11:13 PM
SUNY doesn't own the land. Shinnecock does. The Shinnecock Indians leased the land to Southampton College in the 1800's (1886? 1866?) I know there's a deed, because I've seen it. The Shinnecock also gave the LIRR right of way through their land. I say work with the Shinnecock Trustees to come up with a plan - Shinnecock College? Shinnecock U? Just a thought.
By Padre's 70s kid (3), Southampton on Apr 10, 10 2:56 PM
Peconic County NOW!
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 7, 10 11:52 PM
Shelly Silver strikes again!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 8, 10 12:46 AM
great spot for a casino
By frank84 (10), hampton bays on Apr 8, 10 7:17 AM
Maybe you have somethin there!!!!
By not a fan (2), Islip Terrace on Apr 8, 10 11:38 AM
What's next - closing the elementary school because there are too many programs? Or maybe cutting out all extra activities such as the sport teams at the high school. This is getting absurd. Let the kids like Ms. Mittesdorf, who have probably worked their tails off studying and paying tuition, graduate first. Let every student there graduate and just accept no new ones. Renovate the building and make it a school again - this time with a totally different school board.
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Apr 8, 10 7:25 AM
How about a nice public golf course?
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Apr 8, 10 8:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
They needed to offer REAL classes here that appeal to majors that are being studied right now like teaching,Nursing, business and engineering things like that. The programs were not good and if they would have just made it exacly like the other campus in Stony Brook which is (overflowing to the point that they are not accepting people anymore) Then more people would have maybe signed up. I pass this campus on my way every night to St Jospehs and think what a waste of a perfect campus for me.
By SESMOMOF2 (21), SOUTHAMPTON on Apr 8, 10 9:12 AM
Where do you get your info that Stony Brook's main campus is not accepting any new students? That is simply untrue.
By bailey (52), East Hampton on Apr 9, 10 7:34 AM
You have to understand that since every single college on long island offers courses in those specific fields, stony brook southampton was created. It's a place for local kids who really embraced growing up on long island and really understand the beauty of the place where they live. (obviously also for those who are naturally curious in the earth sciences). It is a very special school that has one main focus and that is the environment. Trust me too, it is not just a 'hippie, tree-hugger school.' ...more
By community (4), Moriches on Apr 10, 10 1:02 AM
Is the value $30 to $80 million if the property can only be used for educational purposes? Here is an “off the wall” idea, ask the Shinnecock Indian Nation to take over the college. They could be the first tribe to run a public college, and as a recognized tribe they might have some avenues of funding from the Federal Government that the state doesn’t.
By Baloo (7), Remsenburg on Apr 8, 10 10:52 AM
I have to say Im OUTRAGED. All u people shud shut up and think about one thing....there are kids there who made CAREFUL decisions to attend this school. If they had wanted to be at the main campus, they certainly WOULD HAVE. so NOW mid April when admissions are already sent out for the "Normal" admission process, you tell these kids sorry but we cant help you anymore. Patterson, SUNY, Thiele and a host of others should be ASHAMED. My son attends(ATTENDED) southampton and let me tell u, talk about ...more
By not a fan (2), Islip Terrace on Apr 8, 10 11:36 AM
Senator LaValle lets start a business incubator in Southampton campus...
They should start a affordable evening school for the local community,
art classes, languages, yoga, interior designing, indesign, photography etc etc
is time to build a bridge with the community
By Bel (86), southampton on Apr 8, 10 1:51 PM
You know, all of your ideas were apart of the bigger picture for stony brook southampton, this all would have eventually happened within the next couple of years. The reason it could not happen so soon was because we had to work with the budget we were given and expand our ability to house more students in due time that way we would financially be able to support ourselves. Everyone at stony brook southampton has had so many ideas and so many plans to have more classes, especially in the evenigs ...more
By community (4), Moriches on Apr 10, 10 1:06 AM
What about selling it to Kiwanis, or whatever it's called now? I'm sure there are plenty of marine research labs that could use the acreage and facilities for R&D. Or what about converting it to a Performing Arts Center like they have in Westhampton Beach?
By DrEngine (10), Brookhaven on Apr 8, 10 2:44 PM
First, while I have some sympathy for the students, they did not choose very carefully - this was an experiment of enormous proportions - and since LIU had already demonstrated with great success that it was impossible to sustain this campus, perhaps these folks should have been a little more discerning in their choice of school. More to the point, the administrators at Stony Brook should have had the good sense (an oxymoron to be sure) to look at the overall situation and see it as a losing ...more
By Zeus (1), Taunton on Apr 8, 10 2:53 PM
Enrollment was up 54% this year. The school was growing as it was supposed to. We made a choice based on the integrity of the SUNY name and the mission of sustainability that all of us at SBS work towards on a daily basis. There was no "disclaimer" that this was an experiemental program that might shut down at any moment. And the least they could have done was to alert us that they would be closing with enough time to make alternative plans. We found out about this on April 6. Many universities ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Apr 8, 10 7:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
You're blaming the students for choosing an ACCREDITED university? A branch campus of a SUNY school that's been in existence for 40 years? How was that a risky bet from an outsider's perspective?
By bailey (52), East Hampton on Apr 9, 10 8:13 AM
Thank you, we all made our decisions very wisely and with a lot of care.
By community (4), Moriches on Apr 10, 10 1:08 AM
It's sad to say, but the university has lived its lifetime and it is time for it to be laid to rest. It clearly affects many many people and families, but you have to progress forward and what will come will be good for everyone, eventually. A Culinary School of Arts would be fabulous, but nobody listens - ever!
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Apr 8, 10 3:00 PM
Didn't they just open a culinary school in Riverhead?
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Apr 8, 10 7:55 PM
Yes, they listened to me and it's doing spectacular!
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Apr 8, 10 8:23 PM
Lease the campus to another college (if there is one) who can tap the wealth of knowledge from accomplished summer residents of the east end. How about Betty Ford College?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 8, 10 5:32 PM
"NYU - Southampton" has a nice ring to it. They've got the money.
By WHBinManhattan (47), Manhattan/Westhampton on Apr 8, 10 9:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
I total support this. (LIU SH Alum here)
By splashdown (21), sag harbor on Apr 9, 10 8:13 PM
I am old enough to remember when the college opened. 1963 I believe. And the 70's when the students started a 10 watt FM radio station. I visited he campus many times over the years, concerts, etc. What a loss!
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Apr 8, 10 10:40 PM
Zeus (Taunton)...your suspicion doesn't work
By Bel (86), southampton on Apr 9, 10 8:53 AM
Another Culinary School????????
We have one in Riverhead...SCCC...that whole campus for a culinary school ...isn't too much??
Is there enough student to have 2 culinary schools?
By Bel (86), southampton on Apr 9, 10 8:56 AM
Opening another school at this site would be a solution. However, it probably would not be a State University with State University tuition. My daugther is in college now--and it costs $50,000. per year--we need affordable options on the East End. She has attempted to take a course at Southampton two summers in a row---the choices are minimal and a joke. Stony Brook sabotaged Southampton right from the start by not offering courses and majors. I feel very badly for the students that are enrolled ...more
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Apr 9, 10 9:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
StoneyBrook needs to seriously rethink its business plan. Someone's suggestion of nursing courses was excellent, especially with Southampton Hospital nearby. There's a nationwide shortage of registered nurses and medical technicians. Clearly this could be an opportunity for Stonybrook to grasp. And it's true that the college never tried to build bridges with the community. It rarely offered courses open to local students, whereas many other colleges do, so didn't encourage local kids to consider ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Apr 9, 10 2:12 PM
Good point here goldenrod
Its my understanding nursing schools and programs are in decline around the country, yet at the very same time there is a shortage of nurses and related medical technicians. With proximity to Southampton Hospital and also Peconic in Riverhead it seems like an idea worth investigating. New York City is not far away, a real market for medical occupations after graduation.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Apr 9, 10 3:44 PM
The funny thing is, the best paying jobs and places where there are the most openings is within the environmental and new technologies industry, so if I did have the opportunity to graduate with the degree I am working on (Environmental design and planning, I focus on the architecture courses) I would have been able to get an immediate hire with any one of the townships within suffolk county as an environmental planner, my starting base pay would have been $64,000, thats including my benefits. This ...more
By community (4), Moriches on Apr 10, 10 1:14 AM
By david h (405), southampton on Apr 9, 10 3:56 PM
and they had the nerve to get rid of the radio station, because they needed expansion space!! Unbelievable. Other thoughts -- maybe Hofstra or Adelpfi could be expanded, or Columbia?...some existing univ. It's a shame. If all else fails, low-cost housing is an excellent solution.
By bughouse@optonline.net (3), Southampton on Apr 9, 10 5:10 PM
NO way should this beautiful property become a slum by affordable housing. It should remain an education center by some means or if not, then a public Arts area. It should remain as virgin as it now is and hope that the state can elect some responsible Republicans who won't keep it in a constant bankrupt condition.
By Doug (14), Hampton Bays on Apr 9, 10 7:11 PM
I propose that someone ask Southampton resident George Soros to take over the campus and start a new university with an environmental and poitical curriculum. He has sponsored educational and cultural institutions abroad and cares about democracy and the environment, both of which are being degraded by the radical right in this country. Soros has also supported the arts and that field would also work well in this community. He probably could invest the money and the leadership to make this work. ...more
By ArtSmart (1), Bridgehampton on Apr 9, 10 9:31 PM
I am a Stony Brook Southampton student and I have been working relentlessly towards preserving our campus. If you have any contact information for George Soros, and feel inclined to pass it on, please reply to this message and we can figure out a way to get in touch. Thank you so much for the suggestion!
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Apr 9, 10 11:23 PM
I see a big real estate deal coming.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 9, 10 11:01 PM
Hmmm? The State in financial crisis, the University in a financial pinch and looking to consolidate, the Shinnecock Indians want a casino and are willing to pay for it, sounds to me like the wheels were put in motion behind closed doors. It wouldn't surprise me.
By macattack59 (3), Pittsford on Apr 10, 10 9:39 AM
Although Pianofest's summer concerts will go on as scheduled, I am sad about these developments. We are hoping a solution can be found so that students can complete their educations. And where is the logic in promising a creative writing course but closing the library?? Writers without books??
By Pianofest (4), East Hampton NY on Apr 10, 10 3:16 PM
Does anyone else want to know why they are shutting down the most important program. The environmental program is what got students to the campus. Why are they keeping the MFA program? The last time I checked there are not MFA classes(lol) This is pathetic.
By Sad Student (3), East Hampton on Apr 10, 10 7:31 PM
The MFA is probably a profit center with rich older locals paying full boat for summer seminar courses.

I agree that this is pathetic--the nonsense new lighthouse built by the coast guard station in hampton bays cost $15 million and is for maybe 2 boats/year in distress. The new curriculum at Southampton was cutting edge and right on point for the 21st Century. The "Stimulus Package" that we all are paying for had over $35 billion in education credits, why can't the New York Congressional ...more
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Apr 11, 10 9:46 AM
The only reason Stony Brook got involved was the land value. Let's stop kidding ourselves. The campus is for sale.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 11, 10 6:53 PM
Anyone who thinks that there is any way that Southampton College is going to be turned into a casino has obviously never tried to drive past it around 9 AM or 5 PM during the week. It is ALREADY a traffic nightmare. If the Shinnecocks build a casino, it will be in Calverton, where the land is cheap and the LIE would take on the added traffic. Besides, New York State is flat broke and has to get top dollar for that land, which means developers. LaValle and Thiele could push LIU around, but Albany ...more
By Dr. Java 1982 (1), Ponquogue on Apr 12, 10 3:12 PM
LaValle and Thiele work in Albany, ergo...
By Tree Man (19), Southampton on Apr 12, 10 5:59 PM
You can bet on it!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 13, 10 9:26 PM