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Story - Education

Aug 31, 2010 6:01 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Judge rules that cuts to Stony Brook Southampton violate state law

Aug 31, 2010 6:01 PM

A State Supreme Court judge ruled Monday that Stony Brook University’s decision to close the dorms and slash academic programs at Stony Brook Southampton was illegal—a zero-hour development in a months-long fight to preserve the satellite campus.

But as the dust began to settle this week after the ruling, state officials who have been fighting the draconian cuts for months remain hazy on what the court decision actually will mean—namely, whether or not it will be enough to preserve the Shinnecock Hills campus as a four-year college focusing on a environmental sustainability curriculum.

The decision by Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. came on the first day of fall semester classes at Stony Brook University, and one day before the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton were scheduled to take effect. As of late July, 305 of the 373 students enrolled at Stony Brook Southampton have registered instead for classes at the main campus in Stony Brook, according to university officials.

Monday’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of Stony Brook Southampton students in May, about a month after Stony Brook University, under duress from multimillion-dollar state funding cuts, announced that it would slash spending at the satellite campus.

Katherine Osiecki, 18, of Sag Harbor, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she was sitting in a class with other displaced Stony Brook Southampton students on the main campus on Monday when she got a voice mail from State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. informing her about the ruling.

“You know when you get so happy your eyes water like you’re crying? That was the feeling,” Ms. Osiecki said. She added that she did not know what the ruling would mean for the displaced students, but she is satisfied nonetheless. “I think that all the hard work we put into it paid off,” she said.

A copy of the decision indicates that Judge Baisley took issue with the fact that Stony Brook University bypassed its own university council when it decided to slash spending at Stony Brook Southampton. State education law mandates that the 10-member Stony Brook University Council must “review all major plans” of the university administration.

The ruling concludes that Stony Brook University’s decision to “close” Stony Brook Southampton is “annulled” and that the university can take no further action on that front until it allows the council to review the plans, and puts itself in compliance with state education law.

“The university has reviewed the document and will respond as appropriate,” Lauren Sheprow, a Stony Brook University spokeswoman, said in an e-mail on Monday evening. “As soon as schedules permit, the Stony Brook [University] Council will convene to further discuss the decision to relocate the undergraduate and residential programs from Southampton to the Main Campus.”

Mr. Thiele, who has helped guide the students in their legal challenge, said on Tuesday that the next step is for the judge to issue an order to Stony Brook University. Within the next couple of weeks, the students will propose that the court order the university to restore the campus as soon as possible, said Mr. Thiele, who, along with State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, has mounted a multifaceted campaign to reverse the cuts.

Stony Brook University officials have estimated that they can save $6.7 million a year by cutting programs at the Shinnecock Hills campus. Prior to making the cuts, Stony Brook was spending about $10 million annually to keep Stony Brook Southampton open, they said.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, Mr. Thiele congratulated the students, and had harsh words for Stony Brook University and Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., Ph.D., president of the school, and the man behind the decision. In his press release, Mr. Thiele called Dr. Stanley a “new Stony Brook president with a hidden agenda” who “had to lie to the public to justify his decision.” As he has done in the past, Mr. Thiele again alleged that Dr. Stanley lied about almost every facet of the decision to cut spending on Stony Brook Southampton, including the fact that the university was forced to make the cuts for financial reasons.

“Stony Brook University made the decision behind closed doors to shut down the Southampton campus,” he wrote. “Not only did they fail to consult with its University Council as required by law, they failed to consult with elected officials, community leaders, students and even administrators at the Southampton campus.

“The entire process lacked transparency and openness,” he continued. “The reason is obvious. The closure of the school cannot be defended in an open discussion.”

Mr. LaValle celebrated the ruling in an interview on Monday evening.

“This is a great thing at a time when people are not sure that government is working correctly or our laws mean anything,” he said. “Our laws do mean something, and our processes do mean something, and you can’t circumvent or abort laws that have gone through a deliberate and contemplative process.”

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Little Guy: 1
Bureaucratic Mess: 0
By HW (21), southampton on Aug 30, 10 7:00 PM
Makes me smile. A lot of people won by virtue of a wise decree from the bench.
By radioconsultant (4), Reno Nevada on Aug 30, 10 9:04 PM
2 members liked this comment
The time is ripe for a move that would create SUNY Southampton, independent of Stony Brook. It's a crime that students have been deprived of their sustainability educational programs. Taxpayers were ripped off too- millions in improvements poured into this campus.
Economic conditions have remarkably increased attendance at SUNY schools- this is a campus fully ready but now unoccupied due to bureaucratic bs. SUNY Southampton would be a wonderful new change!
By semi local (19), southampton on Aug 30, 10 9:12 PM
Well I'll be d*mned. Congrats to the students and those who fought - I'm the first to admit I was wrong. Now I'm really glad they didn't use CPF money to buy the campus!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 30, 10 9:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
Thank you Mr. Nature. I for one do appreciate that. 5 little undergrads stood up to goliath & were vindicated. Now on to an independent SUNY Southampton.
By ts (71), southampton on Aug 30, 10 9:36 PM
Thanks to Assemblyman Thiele and Senator LaValle
By ts (71), southampton on Aug 30, 10 9:38 PM
2 members liked this comment
OMG! I spent the day lost on SUNY, being helped by my dear resilient students from Southampton, who would show me where my classrooms, elevators, buildings were... They were in smiling groups, stopping to chat with people and hug everyone. When they found me outside the library, I was stunned by their news. After so many losses, so much sorrow, for these young people to see that they were right to be upset, to march, to rebel, to seek justice is such a powerful message.

To celebrate their ...more
By heatherdune (12), Hampton Bays on Aug 30, 10 9:44 PM
The next scheduled meeting of the The Stony Brook University Council is September 28, 2010 at 9:00 AM on the Main Campus of Stony Brook University. Space is limited and anyone wishing to attend must contact Susan Hines at 631-632-6270. I imagine this issue is now on the agenda- show your support!
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Aug 30, 10 10:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
This meeting has been re-scheduled for October 4, 2010. Same time.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 1, 10 10:06 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 1, 10 10:07 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 1, 10 10:07 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 1, 10 10:09 AM
An independent SUNY Southampton would be a terrible decision. The only thing that kept the campus open the last 5 years was money from Stony Brook. Its simply not a sustainable campus economically at the current SUNY tuition. And the state assembly and congress won't allow the individual schools set their own tuition (like many other states). The unfortunate reality is that running the Southampton campus does actually COST MORE than other campuses. In order to be self-sustaining tuition would ...more
By ibrip (2), Hampton Bays on Aug 30, 10 10:28 PM
"The only thing that kept the campus open the last 5 years was money from Stony Brook."???
Well, obviously. It was a satellite campus OF Stony Brook. Where else would the money have come from? It was part of the Stony Brook budget.
And comparing a private university such as LIU with a publicly-funded institution such as SB: Southampton is senseless. They have nothing in common, financially or otherwise. And, as Mr. Suffolk has posted below, if enrollment was allowed to grow, as planned, ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Aug 30, 10 10:56 PM
I dont think its correct to say that the only thing that kept the school open was "money from Stony Brook". I understand the state legislature was providing millions in funding each year specifically for Southampton - money that Stony Brook could only spend on the Southampton college. I believe that is what Thiele was referring to when he said that every cent given to Southampton was resented by the main campus' administration. BTW, as far as I know, while Stony Brook's state funding may have ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Aug 30, 10 11:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Its not a dangerous precedent to allow schools to set their own tuition. Many other states with large university systems already employ such a system. The reality has nothing to do with enrollment or acceptance - again, look at what happened with LIU (I was an alumn). Southampton costs more to operate, period. That's the reality. 800 students at 3600 a semester is not enough to sustain that campus, especially with a science based curriculum (lab courses cost more to operate). And to make Southampton ...more
By ibrip (2), Hampton Bays on Aug 31, 10 12:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
Once you get at least 5000 students, then come and ask the taxpayers to fund it as a Suny Campus. The college will be closed and the land sold to developers.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Aug 31, 10 12:02 AM
No SUNY operates at a profit. They all are taxpayer subsidized. Stony Brook PR people kept saying it costs twice as much to educate a student at Southampton than at Stony Brook. That was true with 400 students at Southampton. But admissions were way up -- 800 were accepted for this semester before the announcement -- so, obviously, the cost per student would drop dramatically as population increased. By the time Southampton had its goal of 2000 students, the cost difference between Southampton and ...more
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Aug 30, 10 10:40 PM
Truth be told, I'd like to take SSL courses this Winter, since I took Latin in high school like an idiot. Ha, ha.

There are benefits to having the campus for the ENTIRE community, such as continuing adult education.

Spanish as a second language is almost a requirement these days, and truth be told, it's easier to sponsor a potential citizen, if you speak their language.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 30, 10 10:55 PM
hopefully the wheels can get in motion to somehow reverse this situation ASAP, as in reopening the abandoned college in february...the commute to stony brook has claimed many who, like me, one day just stopped at 62, n never returned
By jaboga (11), Speonk on Aug 30, 10 11:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't know why everyone is celebrating. The council will get together and close the campus down. As for there being a Suny-Soythampton, forget about it. The state taxpayers should not be subsidizing a campus of only 300 students. If you want a college in Southampton, go back to paying private university prices! After all, it is the Hamptons.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Aug 30, 10 11:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
what campus of only 300 students? if youre talking about the college at Southampton, that was the number of just its incoming freshman class. There already were 500 students there. In all, 800 students were enrolled for this semester. And that was the target for this year - year #3 of the new school's 5yr plan - so it was right on track to reach its full capacity of 2000 in the near future, & on schedule.
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 6, 10 4:29 PM
Theres always Suffolk Community College for all you over achivers in the Hamptons!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Aug 31, 10 12:03 AM
gee walt, a little misplaced anger and resentment?

oh, and by the way... the campus - its acreage - would have to be rezoned to be sold to developers. don't think this will happen.
By concerned east ender (49), Sag Harbor on Aug 31, 10 9:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
Dear Walt, Do you actually live out here? Because if you did, you would know that the people who live in those mansions you see on TV are rarely out here, except in the summer and on occasional weekends. The rest of us work very hard year-round. The number of full-time residents who can afford private university prices is very small. That is why having an undergraduate campus with reasonable tuition is so vital for the East End.
By bingo (1), Sag Harbor on Aug 31, 10 9:15 AM
Based on the proceedings so far, I think we should let the students and their representatives handle the next steps. You are giving them less credit than they deserve. Grassroots movements such as this is not only beautiful to observe, it is just. And lately, it appears the only way to achieve the will of the people.
By progessivesrtoast (21), the springs on Aug 31, 10 9:18 AM
2 members liked this comment
If the State can pay for campuses in the wilds of upstate New York- why can't they pay for something in a more populated area closer to more students?
By artizt101 (29), Hampton Bays on Aug 31, 10 12:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where does Tim Bishop, the former, Provost stand on this. he is unusually silent...although I can respect him keeping a low profile around here. He isn't exactly the favored son he used to be. I just looked up "obsolete" in the dictionary and it said "see provost" - where it then said "see Tim Bishop".
By progessivesrtoast (21), the springs on Aug 31, 10 4:33 PM
Maybe other colleges and universities can have "satellite" campuses there....
By DiDi (16), Southampton on Aug 31, 10 4:39 PM
Stony Brook is intentionally misleading the public with the figures it keeps putting out there. First of all, there were 800 students enrolled for this semester at Southampton (not 373). Only about 300 of the 800 Southampton students moved to the main campus while waiting for the reinstatement of their college at Southampton. What has happened to the other 500 and their academic plans? Secondly, Stony Brook's figures on the cost of educating a student at Southampton does not reflect the 800 students ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Aug 31, 10 5:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Stony Brook University released a new statement Tuesday evening. We are working on bringing you an updated story.

In the meantime, here is the statement:

Updated Statement from Stony Brook University regarding the Court's August 30, 2010 ruling:

August 31, 2010

Although not yet part the legal record, in fact Stony Brook University has already complied with the Court's directive. On May 11, 2010, at a regularly convened meeting of the Stony Brook Council, President ...more
By BOReilly (135), 27east Web Editor on Aug 31, 10 7:12 PM
So, on 5/11/2010 the SB council did the right thing, but did not include this fact in its legal papers for the current suit?

Is this a dream, Toto?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 31, 10 7:18 PM
He may have held a meeting with the council & whatever public knew about it in time to attend & they may have discussed his intentions for Southampton, & the council may have made a recommendation, but the fact is the undergraduate college was still being terminated. They were not discussing whether or not it should be. It was already a done deal, so this really doesnt satisfy the requirement outlined by the law. Also, how could he "comply with the Court's directive" in May when the students' ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Aug 31, 10 7:51 PM
I'm not sure I entirely understand how a decision that was made public on April 7th, 2010 could have been made on May 11, 2010.
It is my understanding (though I am certainly no expert on the Education Laws on New York State) that all "major" decisions to be made by the University President or any of the higher ranking members of the administration need to be approved by the University Council PRIOR to any action being taken. The timing seems a bit convoluted here, no?
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 1, 10 8:27 AM
2 members liked this comment
It just shows the arrogance yet again. He made the decision & announced its a "done-deal" in April. In May he informed the council what he already did. They recommended forming a panel to decide what to do with the property next. At no time has anyone discussed or voted on whether the closure needed to or should happen or if it would be allowed to happen. Along the way they all skipped the part that says they must review, consider, recommend, and approve decisions BEFORE implementation. Its ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 1, 10 8:45 PM
As I recall, wasn't there a 'Blue Ribbon" commission in "Revenge of the Nerds"?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 1, 10 4:34 AM
This cant just be fixed by a council vote to approve what is already illegally implemented. The president broke state law and harmed students in the process. PERIOD. The SUNY chancellor who gave him free-reign to do so says she "stands firmly behind him." We do not need to hear their excuses for their illegal and harmful actions. This is not about soothing "hurt feelings" as Newsday seems to think. These administrators of a public state institution violated state law and students were harmed because ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 2, 10 3:47 PM
The school should re-open in Spring 2011 with a full slate of classes by Fall 2011.

That said, how will they recruit qualified faculty and staff, considering the knee-jerk nature of President Sam Stanley, MD?
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 4, 10 9:22 AM