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Dec 21, 2010 3:24 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Legislators: Plans For Stony Brook Southampton Solidifying Behind The Scenes

Dec 21, 2010 3:24 PM

While the Stony Brook Southampton campus gathers dust, negotiations that could determine the future of the 82-acre site in Shinnecock Hills are continuing behind the scenes, according to local lawmakers involved in the discussions.

State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.—both of whom helped negotiate Stony Brook University’s takeover of the school from a retrenching Long Island University five years ago—said this week that the campus may return as a center for fine arts, marine sciences or, possibly, a new home for Southampton Hospital. More importantly, they said, the university is entertaining the idea of returning student housing to the site in some capacity—an issue that has been a sticking point for the lawmakers, who have insisted that the state needs to maintain a residential college campus on the East End.

“I think the university is trying to work on a plan that will work for [Stony Brook Southampton], and will have residential students living on the campus,” Mr. LaValle said in an interview last week. “I’ve gotten a feeling that they understand that is critically important to myself, to Mr. Thiele and [U.S. Representative Tim] Bishop.”

On Tuesday, Lauren Sheprow, a Stony Brook University spokeswoman, confirmed in an e-mail that student housing was a possibility.

“The university is considering a number of plans for the campus, including those with a residential component; however, at this time, no decisions have been made,” she wrote.

Stony Brook University pulled the plug on most of the operations at the satellite campus in August, in the face of mounting deficits caused by steep cuts in state funding. As the university mulls what to do with the site—and remains largely mum about its plans—local elected officials have been pushing to steer the decisions and impose their visions for the campus for the second time in a decade.

The return of student housing to the campus would be a significant reversal for university officials, who have said since April that Stony Brook Southampton was not financially viable in its prior form, as a small residential college geared toward environmental sustainabilty. The university announced the cuts in April, and they went into effect in August, forcing some 400 undergraduates to continue their studies at the university’s main campus in Stony Brook.

Both lawmakers said the university could go public with plans for the campus early next year.

The negotiations between the lawmakers and university officials continue even as a battle over the cuts continue to unfold on another front—in the courts. Stony Brook University has filed an appeal in a lawsuit brought by a group of former Stony Brook Southampton students, according to Mr. Thiele. The plaintiffs, meanwhile, have asked a State Supreme Court justice to determine whether or not the university has complied with one of his previous orders, the assemblyman said.

The justice, Paul J. Baisley Jr., ruled last summer in favor of the students, stating that the university did not follow proper procedure before making the cuts, and ordered the university to correct its errors—though he never required the reopening of the campus. The university took actions this fall to put itself in compliance with the law.

In the interim, the court order blocked the university from allowing its Stony Brook Southampton Advisory Committee to meet, but that restriction was lifted when the university filed for an appeal, Mr. Thiele said. The committee is charged with helping to determine the future of the satellite campus, but has met only once, in July; a second meeting is now tentatively scheduled for sometime in January, according to Diana Weir, a Wainscott resident who co-chairs the committee.

This summer, the committee discussed adding fine arts programs to the Shinnecock Hills campus, to complement the existing graduate program in writing, as well as continuing a tradition of marine sciences research at the site. A State University of New York official earlier this fall said Stony Brook University may partner with SUNY Farmingdale and Suffolk County Community College, respectively, to add horticultural and culinary programs there.

Mr. Thiele said this week that Southampton Hospital has also expressed an interest in discussing the possible relocation to a 15-acre section of the campus and partnering with Stony Brook University. “Their plan has been a desire to build a new hospital and sell the property in the village,” he said. “They’ve expressed that in the past.”

Mr. LaValle declined to say whether or not he would return to his post as chairman of the State Senate’s Higher Education Committee next year. He also declined to say if that prospect has played a role in his negotiations with Stony Brook University. The chairmanship gave Mr. LaValle, a Republican, leverage with the university until he lost the position when the Democratic majority took power in 2009. Republicans won back control during the November elections.

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Reason and sanity, over Board hubris, arrogance and ignorance, return to Tuckahoe. Now how to undo Mr. Grisnik's 27 year grip on Tuckahoe that has seen its academic standards and test scores descend to some of the lowest levels on Long Island.

Bad leadership always has consequences and Tuckahoe has paid a too steep a price with our children the sacrificial lambs to personal addiction to power.. It's time for term limits. Mr. Grisnik, you've done enough damage!
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Dec 22, 10 12:41 AM

Sorry, the above was posted on the wrong article but has since been corrected
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Dec 22, 10 12:52 AM
Returning the displaced sustainability students & a SUNY Institute for Sustainability Studies could easily co-exist with a fine arts programs, graduate program in writing, as well as SUNY Farmingdale and Suffolk County Community College's horticultural and culinary programs that may be renting space there.
By ts (71), southampton on Jan 17, 11 11:16 PM