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Oct 13, 2010 11:05 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Cuts At Campus Still Called Illegal

Editor's Note:
Oct 13, 2010 11:05 AM

SHINNECOCK HILLS—Elected officials gathered at the desolate Stony Brook Southampton campus on Tuesday to make a statement: that the cuts Stony Brook University leveled on the fledgling satellite campus are still illegal, despite the university’s recent attempt to comply with the law.

A judge ruled in August that the cuts, which stripped the campus of most of its academic programs and facilities, violated state education law because the university bypassed the Stony Brook University Council, an advisory board, during the decision-making process. State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor said that a resolution passed by the Stony Brook University Council on October 4, which was intended to satisfy an order by the judge and make the cuts legal, fell short.

“The action part of the resolution basically said that they express support to the decision made by [University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.] to close the college,” Mr. Thiele said. “That would be great, except that the judge already annulled President Stanley’s decision. There is no decision. What the judge said was that you have to start from scratch.”

Mr. Thiele was joined by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle of Port Jefferson, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach. The elected officials signed a letter that will be sent to the State University of New York Board of Trustees, urging it to reject the council’s resolution, which backed university administrators in their April decision to slash spending on Stony Brook Southampton.

The Stony Brook University Council is a 10-member advisory board made up mostly of Long Island residents appointed by the governor. Caroline Dwyer, 30, a former Stony Brook Southampton student from Quogue, said the council is charged with providing oversight for university officials, and its recent resolution represents “nothing short of collusion” and “a carefully crafted event to draw attention away from the true facts of the matter.”

“Are we meant to be satisfied with a vote that was taken after a decision was made?” Ms. Dwyer said. “How can we be assured that these council members made a decision based on facts, and not based on what has transpired. Are we meant to be satisfied by a council that is not even composed of the same members as it was when the decision was made?”

A smattering of students and supporters of the campus also attended Tuesday’s press conference, which was held in front of Stony Brook Southampton’s signature windmill.

A statement issued by Stony Brook University spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow in response to the press conference did not directly address any of the criticism leveled by the officials and Ms. Dwyer. “The president is doing everything he can to mitigate current economic circumstances and preserve the academic mission and programs for the entire Stony Brook University student population of 25,000,” she stated. “At the same time, the university’s academic advising staff is undertaking extraordinary efforts on behalf of the 308 students who transferred from Southampton so they can continue on the path to graduation in the sustainability program on main campus.”

The response by the elected officials marks yet another jab in a six-month fight to restore Stony Brook Southampton, which was devastated by sweeping budget cuts that took effect at the end of August. Most of the 373 undergraduates who once attended the satellite campus are now attending the main campus, and most of the facilities at Stony Brook Southampton, including the dormitories, have been closed.

Stony Brook University has said the cuts were made to help close a multimillion-dollar budget gap brought on by a steep drop in state funding since 2008. The university ran Stony Brook Southampton since 2007 as a small residential campus geared toward environmental sustainability. Now, only a graduate writing program and a marine sciences research center operate there, and the university is looking for new educational uses for the 82-acre site.

State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley Jr. declared the cuts illegal in a decision in August, after a group of Stony Brook Southampton students and supporters sued the university. Mr. Thiele said the plaintiffs in that lawsuit may soon file a motion in court requesting that Justice Baisley enforce the order he handed down.

“I think we’ve got to go back and Judge Baisley really has to make it clear that process and law were scooted around and that’s not what our system of government is all about,” Mr. LaValle said.

Mr. Thiele also said the University Council resolution “doesn’t pass muster” because it failed to make any recommendations regarding the cuts, as Mr. Thiele said the council is legally required to do. Additionally, he said the council broke the open meetings law when it discussed the cuts during a lengthy executive session before casting votes last week. The legislator, who was not present at the executive session meeting, said the council was required to have that discussion in public.

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oh boy here we go...
"still illegal"..."nothing short of collusion"..."scooted around"..."doesn't pass muster"
these three great leaders forgot to look around....the school is still closed.
if it wern't for election time they would'nt even be there for the photo-op.
Hey three amigos...go away!
By uncleronk (136), southold on Oct 14, 10 3:21 PM
They were here 6 months ago and are still here--where were you? Sen. La Valle called our empty campus a travesty and so it is. The people fighting this thing are in it for the long haul. It is an uphill battle and if you knew how tired my students are trying to get justice you wouldn't criticize the only real voice they have in the legislature. It's not an easy task to reopen a college, but with the help of our elected officials and the brave students of Southampton it will happen--sooner than later. ...more
By heatherdune (12), Hampton Bays on Oct 15, 10 11:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
You have to understand, heatherdune, that uncleronk is not a serious commenter. Unc is a joke. Ignore him.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 19, 10 2:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Extraordinary efforts, yes, like canceling the BS in Business Management with a Specialization in Business Sustainability major! What I find extraordinary is that publically, Stony Brook has stated they were transferring all the majors, but when the students went to enroll in their classes, they did not exist!!

Assemblymember Fred Thiele has given up weekends and countless hours, just after the educationally, criminal decision, to "gut" the undergraduate programs at Southampton on April ...more
By WarriorMom (61), Southampton on Oct 14, 10 4:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
I agree -- while it is political season, these three pols have been working on this project a long time. They are sincere. I'm sure they will keep working on this after Nov. 2.

Man, SB Southampton was such an idyllic campus -- that's why the students are so upset about this.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Oct 14, 10 9:46 PM
First, may it please the court for Senator Lavalle to kindly remove his hat!

Second, 'Tis the season of politicians and Fred "what's in it for me" Thiele is grandstanding. Of course he is, he needs to, it's in his blood. The only person Thiele is working hard for is for himself....

True that it's sad that the university is closing the campus, but the writing in on the wall and the standard for economic support to continue on is simply not there....
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Oct 14, 10 10:34 PM
simply not there? we beg to differ:

"Overall, the University plans on saving roughly $6 million on the closure over two to three years, a number that has been tweaked several times since the announcement was made last spring. What is $6 million in the larger University operating budget of roughly $1.9 BILLION? And of that larger operating budget, the $6 million figure that has been thrown out as the "projected savings" is just a mere 1.95 percent of the the $332 million Stony Brook receives ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Oct 15, 10 12:02 AM
2 members liked this comment
If Stony Brook needs to close the Southampton Campus as part of an overall plan to cut spending to continue to be able to offer a financially viable alternative for higher education at its other campuses then so be it. You need to take your anger and put it where it belongs: at the feet of the state government whose loose spending, risky investments, and huge overblown salaries and pension plans for government workers caused the state to go broke. See the bigger picture. You should be glad Stony ...more
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Oct 15, 10 12:54 PM