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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Students Raise Money for Legal Action to Fight Campus Closure

Students, parents and faculty not only filled the streets of local towns but also of elected officials’ offices in the last few weeks to fight to keep the Southampton campus open.

Students raised thousands of dollars for legal action, contacted their local officials to make important announcements and even planned a trip to the state capitol, after feeling as though they had been giving a raw deal and lied to by Stony Brook University.

“I specifically asked about the security of the school’s future since it was new, innovative, but a part of the state university system in a state that was facing budget cuts all around,” said Julie Semente, a parent of a Southampton freshman. “I was repeatedly assured that the state and SUNY had a ‘huge commitment invested’ and the school’s future was ‘secure.’ New construction was pointed out to prove it.”

Now, however, the campus is being cut out of the university’s budget, which means students will have to transfer out or move to West campus.

Students are attempting to raise thousands of dollars for legal action, and did so by having people match large amounts of donations. Money was raised through fundraisers, including petitioning done on Facebook, to begin the process of a lawsuit against the SUNY system. Students and professors alike, along with other supporters, donated hundreds of dollars of their own money to continue the fight financially.

“My daughter was promised the opportunity to ‘get in on the ground floor, helping to shape the curriculum and develop the school’s direction,’” said Semente, who  donated $1,000. “She could have studied marine biology anywhere – even at the West campus – but she turned down acceptance to other colleges specifically for all these other promises. She did not go to Southampton for the major or for a Stony Brook degree. She went for everything else Southampton offered. Stanley needs to honor those promises.”

Elected officials, including Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Kenneth LaValle, also joined the fight and went to the historic windmill on their campus to hold a press conference on Thursday in order to present a proposal to keep the school functioning.

The property, which is valued at $15-$20 million, is saving the university $6.5 million. Local legislators suggested buying the development rights using the Community Preservation Fund, or CPF, which is a one-time two percent tax on real estate transfers. About $250 million have been generated from this tax over the past 10 years, according to Thiele.

Ultimately, no additional expense would be imposed upon taxpayers and Southampton would still be a part of the SUNY system, he said.

The legislators sent an email and formal letter to Stony Brook administration last week and has yet to hear back.

Assemblyman Thiele and Senator LaValle also signed a letter sent to New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo about “deceptive practices in dealing with Stony Brook Southampton students,” Thiele said. “The Senator and I asked to review Stony Brook University and what promises were made to incoming students.”

Stony Brook administration had not heard of the investigation as of Friday.

When news of the campus closure did break, students were not informed of the decision by President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

According to Lauren Sheprow, director of Media Relations at Stony Brook, they found out about the school being cut “in a way not planned by the president.”

“There was a plan to notify students and staff at Southampton,” she said. “This was the elected officials deciding how the community should be made aware.”

There are 373 full- and part-time undergraduate students currently taking classes at Southampton, 61 of which are enrolled in one of the five sustainability majors and 70 percent enrolled in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Of the Southampton students, 70 percent have been settled into programs on West campus for the fall semester – 286 have registered and 14 are expected to graduate in the spring or summer. There are 137 Southampton students who have selected rooms on West campus, and 114 of them are moving into the New Kelly/Roosevelt Residence Hall.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to cause the least disruption as possible,” Sheprow said.



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