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Sep 7, 2010 6:26 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Stony Brook Southampton students want judge to order reopening of campus in spring 2011

Sep 7, 2010 6:26 PM

A group of students who successfully sued Stony Brook University over its decision to cut nearly all programming at Stony Brook Southampton is still waiting to hear if the same judge who declared the move illegal will follow up by ordering the Shinnecock Hills campus to reopen by next spring.

The ruling handed down last week by State Supreme Court Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. states that Stony Brook University broke State Education Law when it slashed spending at the satellite campus without following the appropriate procedures to approve the moves. The decision, however, does not order university officials to reverse the cuts, reopen the dorms at the satellite campus, or require that academic programs relocated from Stony Brook Southampton to the main campus in Stony Brook be moved back to Shinnecock Hills.

For those reasons, attorneys representing the displaced students filed another document in State Supreme Court last Wednesday, September 1, proposing that Judge Baisley, in his final judgment on the case, go a step further and order that the Shinnecock Hills campus be restored “to its full operational status” by the spring 2011 semester.

Stony Brook University will have an opportunity to file its own proposed judgment by Friday, September 17. At that time, Judge Baisley can choose to sign either of the proposed judgments, or write his own, according to Russell L. Penzer, an attorney with the Melville firm Lazer, Aptheker, Rosella & Yedid, P.C., which is representing the students.

“The judge is going to sign a judgment,” Mr. Penzer said on Friday. “The process now is, we submitted a judgment that we think closely mirrors what the judge granted in his decision.”

When reached this week, Stony Brook University spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said the university will respond in court. “The judge’s ruling speaks for itself; we will continue to address the matter in court, which is the appropriate forum,” Mr. Sheprow wrote in an e-mail on Friday.

When asked if it was feasible for Stony Brook University to reverse the cuts to the satellite campus by next spring, if ordered to do so, Mr. Penzer responded that the university would be in a better position to answer that question. He did say that “having been apprised of this lawsuit and the law for some time, the university should have been prepared for this decision.”

Ms. Sheprow did not immediately return an e-mail on Tuesday asking what Stony Brook University would do if ordered to essentially relaunch the satellite campus after shutting down and relocating most of the programs that had been offered there.

The group of six Stony Brook Southampton students sued Stony Brook University in May, charging that administrators did not go through the proper channels before deciding on cuts that would change the face of Stony Brook Southampton, and strip the campus of some of its core academic programs.

Stony Brook University had operated the 82-acre campus since 2007 as a small residential college geared toward environmental sustainability, but suddenly announced in April that it could no longer afford to run it that way, citing mounting cuts handed down by Albany since 2008. The university has since been seeking a new purpose for the satellite campus.

On Monday, August 30, Judge Baisley sided with the students, writing in his ruling that Stony Brook University’s decision to close the dorms and remove academic programs from the Stony Brook Southampton campus was illegal because the university failed to include its own University Council in the decision-making process. By the time of the ruling, most Stony Brook Southampton students had already started taking classes at Stony Brook University’s main campus, leading some supporters to question whether or not the decision came too late.

Stony Brook University issued a statement following Judge Baisley’s initial ruling on August 30, saying that it actually complied with state law in May when it discussed the cuts with the university council—about one month after university officials first announced them.

Mr. Penzer has rejected that argument, noting that state law mandates that the 10-member advisory council take an active role in any major decision made by the university’s administration.

“To argue that that complies with the statute writes the council’s role right out the statute,” he said of Stony Brook’s argument.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who has been mounting his own campaign to reverse the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton, said this week that he, along with State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, have set their sights on the Stony Brook University Council. The lawmakers will be contacting all members of the council in the next week, Mr. Thiele said, and urging them to consider restoring the campus to its prior form.

“I think what we would hope for is that the University Council take time to really look at this, and not rush to judgment, not rubber-stamp the [university president’s] recommendation, but take the opportunity to really examine and make a comprehensive review of all the aspects of the campus,” Mr. Thiele said last Friday.

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I think the campus needs to be opened for the spring semester and admissions efforts have to start now to get 400-500 students on campus by fall 2011. Enough with the spin, Stony Brook.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 3, 10 8:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
they had 800 students & threw them away. 3 years of right-on-target recuitment tossed aside. But I bet most of them would be back in an instant
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 3, 10 9:24 PM
Problem is, a lot of the best employees have been recruited by other colleges.

Fun Fact: Southampton College is the only college in the country to be opened and closed TWICE.

But, yes, most of the original students would return to Southampton. Then, Southampton should add some more traditional majors for the East End locals, such as Business, English, Education and Psychology.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 4, 10 9:13 AM
That's not entirely true. All of the faculty advisors for the Sustainability majors are still with Stony Brook as are most of the professors. In fact, the only person I know of that is NOT with Stony Brook this semester is Dean Mary Pearl. And she hasn't been recruited by another college- she is working for the Garrison Institute in upstate New York.
And yes- I guarantee that all of the Southampton students that have been relocated to Main Campus would return to Southampton in the spring.
And ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 4, 10 3:41 PM
Most of those faculty are just riding out non-renewed contracts. They had no choice but to stay. Few tops admins are still in the Stony Brook system.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 4, 10 8:26 PM
I believe there was a business major there. A new nutritionist major program was about to begin and other majors were in development. Remember the college was right on track in its 5-yr plan. There was more to come still in the works when it got shot down in year 3.
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 5, 10 8:51 AM
back in april, wasn't it the politicians who called the newspapers to announce the changes at southampton?
By naal12 (5), Smithtown on Sep 4, 10 11:08 AM
Yes- the politicians were informed of the decision and immediately notified the public. The university did not intend to make a public announcement regarding the closure for at least another week (they wanted to announce it around April 14th). It is lucky we were able to gain this week. At least some students were able to make arrangements to transfer instead of attend a campus they did not choose. Many schools do not accept transfer applications past February 1st.
The rest of us, who are further ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 4, 10 3:48 PM
what gets me is that the president repeatedly reminds the world that so many of you have "already moved to the main campus" - as if you it was your choice
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 5, 10 8:53 AM
Oh, maybe the university had planned to discuss with the council and other people the same way they discussed with the politicians in advance of making the announcement, but when the politicians notified the public the university didn't really have the chance to communicate it like maybe it planned to?
By naal12 (5), Smithtown on Sep 4, 10 5:14 PM
oh please.... dont delude yourself
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 5, 10 8:54 AM
oh please.... dont delude yourself
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 5, 10 8:54 AM
I wonder why the politicians didnt check with the council back in april . they could haev got right to the bottom of all this and maybe helped the sutdents then instead of having to go thru all this.
By naal12 (5), Smithtown on Sep 4, 10 5:25 PM
re: "they could haev got right to the bottom of all this and maybe helped the sutdents then instead of having to go thru all this". really dont know what youre referring to. They did get to the bottom of it -- immediately & have been ontop of it with the students since day 1. BTW, on day 1 (announcement day) the decision had already been made without the involvement of the council and without following state law. Thats the whole point. Talking to the council after the president has already made ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 5, 10 10:06 PM
The council has to APPROVE the decisions BEFORE they are made. In this case, and obviously the judge agrees, the decision was made and THEN the council was "informed" of the decision. And the politicians did check to see if the council had supported this decision. When it was made clear that they had not even been approached is when the decision was made to take legal action.
The council exists to prohibit autonomous decision-making by the administration. The University is a PUBLIC institution ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 4, 10 7:35 PM
You seem very knowledgable and so I did some research. I read that it is the suny board of trustees that has authority to approve plans, and that the council is advisory. i wish the politicians would have talked to the univeristy and the university council members when they thought this was a violation of state law. students may not be going through this right now if they had.
By naal12 (5), Smithtown on Sep 5, 10 11:24 AM
could be the reason why the the whole SUNY Board of Trustees was sued right along with Stony Brook University, its president and council.
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 5, 10 10:01 PM
It's good to see that Southampton College is close to being back in business. I refuse to call it Stony Brook Southampton anymore.

So what next? Southampton businesses need to pony up in this PR effort to, once again, save the College.

The Publick House, for example, after the College closed the first time, lost more lost $90,000 a year. They and the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, in general, should pony up some cash to help hire a top-flight PR firm to keep the college in town.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 5, 10 9:54 AM
1 member liked this comment
<---- Yes we can
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Sep 6, 10 10:53 PM
The public and students received the ROYAL screw here. The amount of FUNDING from taxpayers that went into this campus for its renovations/ present day ready state to be closed down is a crime. Any commuting students who were displaced to the main campus are incurring additional travel costs, let alone the time and environmental issues. Impacts to the local economy and more are prevalent.
I know of 11 prospective freshman in just 1 community well outside of Southampton who's #1 choice ...more
By semi local (19), southampton on Oct 7, 10 8:03 PM