Hilton Garden Inn - Stony Brook

Southampton suffers SBU budget cuts

$75M investment to be nearly mothballed

SBU President Dr. Samuel Stanley File photo (click for larger version)
April 07, 2010 | 01:35 PM
Just before 11 am Wednesday, Stony Brook University announced plans to largely shut down its recently acquired Southampton campus.

Angry politicians had already reacted with fighting words, promising to convince SBU to reverse its decision.

"I was in shock," said state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). The senator said he received a call from SBU President Dr. Samuel Stanley April 1. "It was like a member of the family died," LaValle said. "Most disturbing," he said, "the state of New York has invested about $75 million" at the campus.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (R-Sag Harbor), a graduate of the former Long Island University campus purchased by SBU in 2006, released a statement in which he said Dr. Stanley hosted a meeting with Thiele, Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and LaValle on Tuesday. All three had been strong proponents of the plan for SBU to buy the 80-acre campus when LIU, weighed down by fiscal woes, revealed in 2004 its plan to close the school.

"I was informed by Stony Brook University that they will be closing the residential college at Southampton," stated Thiele. "This decision is wrong on every level." In September of 2005 the New York State Legislature approved the purchase of LIU's Southampton campus for $35 million.

After praising former SBU President Shirley Strum Kenny for her "commitment to maintain and expand opportunities for higher education" on eastern Long Island, Thiele said, "The new administration has decided to kill the baby while it is still in the crib. Apparently, the new President of Stony Brook has forgotten the Hippocratic Oath: 'First, do no harm.'"

The statement from SBU Wednesday said in part: "Faced with a 20 percent reduction, amounting to nearly $55 million, in New York State financial support over the past two years, Stony Brook University announced today that it has been forced to make strategic cuts and streamline operations at its various locations."

"With no apparent relief from Albany, we must be fiscally responsible and live within our means," stated Dr. Stanley. "We have to be extremely diligent and prudent, and not stray from the core elements of our missions of research and teaching." He went on to state the need to "target programmatic reductions, eliminate those that are relatively expensive and impact a small number of students, and can be made in the framework of tenure and unionization constraints." The statement said closing Southampton as a residential student site will save $6 million annually.

The SBU statement said Stony Brook has already cut its budget by $20 million but still faces a $34 million deficit. In addition to the Southampton cuts, Dr. Stanley announced the closing of one of SBU's Manhattan sites and "reductions in administrative support and academic programs" at the main campus in Stony Brook. "There will also be some still-to-be-determined job losses," the statement said.

"I am more sad than angry," said Bishop, the longtime provost at Southampton while it was still part of LIU. "I have been fighting much of my adult life to promote higher education on eastern Long Island." Saying he understands the "untenable" circumstances SBU and Dr. Stanley face, Bishop added, "I hope this is a very, very temporary decision."

Published reports indicated SBU plans to close the dormitories, library and student center at Southampton, all recently upgraded with taxpayer money. In addition, all but one of nine undergraduate programs there — marine science — would be moved to the Stony Brook campus. The graduate writing program and writers workshop would remain housed at Southampton.

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    Amputation Is Not Cutting the Fat
    April 09, 2010 | 11:13 AM

    Stony Brook University says that it must make "strategic cuts and streamline operations at its various locations." Trimming expenses to the amount of $55 million can be a harrowing task. However, it would behoove the university as a whole to spread those cutbacks out over the expanse of its holdings; rather than focus the reduction in one area. It is like an overweight man cutting off his leg to lose weight, rather than dieting to benefit the body as a whole. The man may weigh less, but he has lost a major part of his body and is now off balance. President Stanley argues that "we must be fiscally responsible and live within our means," but how can the students of Southampton, who have called this campus home for the last two years, be expected to live without any of the "means" necessary? How does shutting down a facility that houses many programs which are unavailable anywhere else, adhere to President Stanley's assertion that we must "not stray from the core elements of our missions of research and teaching;" especially when those programs are vital in the "research and teaching" of sustainable practices that may very well save our planet. This may only, as Stanley says, "impact a small number of students," only 500 or so (not to mention staff and faculty), but it seems such a large impact on such a "small number" is grotesquely disproportionate.

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