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Story - Education

May 5, 2010 11:10 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Stony Brook University officials to meet with lawmakers but offer no comment on initiative to save Southampton campus

May 5, 2010 11:10 AM

University officials will meet with local lawmakers this week to discuss the fate of Stony Brook Southampton, though school representatives have not stated whether or not they would ever agree to sell the development rights to the 81-acre Shinnecock Hills campus.

A letter from State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley was sent on April 29 in response to a proposal by local politicians that Southampton Town buy the development rights to the satellite campus in order to secure its future as a four-year residential college.

“We fully intend to continue to use the campus and are engaged in discussion about how to best utilize Southampton’s facilities,” the two university officials wrote. “Accordingly, we welcome ideas for the Southampton site that are beneficial and will maximize taxpayer investment. In fact, this is at the top of every meeting agenda concerning Southampton.”

In early April, Stony Brook University announced that it would close the dorms at the campus and cease all but two academic programs there due to mounting cuts in state funding. The university has said that all of the sustainability-themed academic programs will be moved to the much-larger main campus in Stony Brook after August 31, leaving only the graduate writing program and marine sciences research facility. The university has estimated that it can save $6.7 million per year by making the cuts.

At a press conference on April 22, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. unveiled a plan in which Southampton Town would tap its Community Preservation Fund to purchase the development rights to the campus from SUNY. Such a deal would include certain conditions including: SUNY would commit to continuing the campus as a four-year residential college and that, after two years, the campus would become its own SUNY school, separate from Stony Brook University.

The plan—the cost of which is still unknown but is expected to cost millions—was supported by members of the Southampton Town Board, who would have to approve spending CPF money to purchase the development rights to the campus. Also, New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, along with other local officials, also supported the plan.

Both SUNY and Stony Brook University would have to sign on in order for the plan to have legs.

In the April 29 letter, Ms. Zimpher and Dr. Stanley said they would meet with Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle in order to discuss the proposal. No date for the meeting was set as of Tuesday, according to Becky Molinaro, a spokeswoman for Mr. Thiele.

In a statement released on the same day as the letter, Stony Brook University reiterated its argument that Stony Brook Southampton, as it is currently operated, is an inefficient business model, and that the cuts would save millions while affecting a relatively small number of students.

Last week, Mr. Thiele also requested that the 2010 New York State budget, which is still tied up in the State Legislature, contain language that would reverse Stony Brook University’s decision to cut the Southampton campus. His April 28 letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was backed by five other Assembly members from Long Island: Robert Sweeney, Ginny Fields, Marc Alessi, James Conte and Dean Murray, according to a press release issued by Mr. Thiele last week.

Stony Brook Southampton students, meanwhile, are continuing to raise funds in order to mount a legal battle against Stony Brook University. Students raised about $2,000 during a fund-raiser at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on April 28, according to student leader Caroline Dwyer.

To date, students have raised approximately $25,000, including $20,000 in just two days last month, for a legal retainer fee. Additional fund-raisers will be taking place in the coming weeks, Ms. Dwyer said.

She and other organizers of a non-profit that is raising funds for the litigation, Save the College at Southampton Inc., declined to offer details about the potential lawsuit this week. They also declined to say whether or not a law firm has been hired yet.

Ms. Dwyer said this week that, in her opinion, Mr. Thiele’s plan to broker a deal with Stony Brook University and SUNY would be more favorable than a lawsuit. “Obviously, I think everyone would like to avoid litigation if that’s possible,” she said.

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“We fully intend to continue to use the campus and are engaged in discussion about how to best utilize Southampton’s facilities,” - SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimper & Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley. (Say what??)

If SUNY has a plan that would continue to use the acreage for higher education, why didn't they say so when they announced the closure?

Sounds fishy to me. I think that SUNY's plans for the campus is to sell it to the highest bidder to cut their deficit ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 5, 10 3:09 PM
"I think that SUNY's plans for the campus is to sell it to the highest bidder to cut their deficit or to use its buildings for storage."

Those are pretty big extremes highhat....

I believe the hoops the state would need to jump through to sell this place are many (as they just spent $78 million on it) and in this economy it would be questionable if a developer would pay more than $78 million to buy the property (no vacant lots are selling more $1,000,000/acre in this area of Southampton). ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 5, 10 9:49 PM
The Southampton closure, with oil creeping up the coast, says a lot about the failure of green industries to support environmental and marine science education. I graduated from LIU Southampton in 2001with hopes to work on saving the environment of the east end. Lack of work opportunities forced me out of environmental sciences; I now work in healthcare sciences to pay the bills. I hope Southampton wakes up and smells the oil off the coast and remembers why it was a bad idea to let these programs ...more
By lacey (5), New Milford on May 5, 10 4:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Agreed, Highhatsize.
SUNY already said it wants to use the site for "research facilities in collaboration with private corporations". Stanley has a background in doing this sort of thing with Monsanto & Pfizer chemical companies. Since they also say they have plans to expand the campus' use with other SUNY colleges, did they have to throw these students out? Isnt there room for the 800 environemtnal students expected in the fall AND expanded SUNY use? Unless of course the expanded use ...more
By js (44), NY on May 5, 10 4:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
"expanded use" means gambling, new restratuants, hotels and golf course
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 5, 10 4:29 PM
Clearly this is going to be an uphill battle for the students to keep the college open and for members of the community to assure that the college site is not sold off for development.
By eastender32 (4), Brookhaven on May 5, 10 9:32 PM
This idea of setting up a new SUNY when the state can't fund those it already has is absurd.

Are there other cutbacks that could be made, such as in administration? Probably. And they probably will be made before long.
By Steve7 (1), Wynnewood on May 5, 10 9:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
and don't forget a ski mountain too....
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 6, 10 7:24 AM
as an expanded use opportunity...there is a nice little slope there..
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 6, 10 7:27 AM
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Keynote speaker: GORDIAN RAACKE
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Price of Tickets is a Tax-deductible charitable donation!
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By js (44), NY on May 7, 10 1:06 PM
What if everyone agreed that the campus housing (the carrot) was a bigger asset than the full time educational programs (the stick)? What if everyone agreed that the Dormitory Authority could redo the dorms as apartments for PART-TIME students living and working in the Hamptons? Then maybe we'd have a revenue center that just might save the place!
By plannersteve (1), Bayport on May 17, 10 9:46 PM