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Southampton looks to go solo

Assembly man Thiele at a press conference held at the Southampton campus in April. (Photo Credit: Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.)

The Stony Brook Southampton campus may be virtually closed as far as classes and dorming, but the discussions certainly aren’t.

After an unsatisfactory ending for students, parents and professors alike, local legislators such as Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. and Senator Kenneth LaValle are looking to find an alternative to using the resourceful location at Southampton. After all, New York State did spend $78 million for it, Thiele said.

“I think this semester is going to be a lost semester there,” said Thiele. “My goal is to see that it returns to a productive use as fast as possible.”

In order to do that, he and LaValle, who is also the namesake for the university’s stadium, have sent legislation to the state, asking that a study be done to evaluate the possibility of a new SUNY college at the 82-acre property in Southampton.

“The only way that campus can succeed is if it is community-driven and the decisions of that campus are made not on how they’d help another institution but how they would help Southampton and the East End community,” the assemblyman said.

After learning in April that the state would cut funding up to about $34 million, Stony Brook University administration decided they would close the campus. To educate a student at Southampton campus costs about two and a half times more than a student at west campus.

Current students and parents are also feeling the pain, afterlosing their desired school.

“As a parent of a student who searched for a year to find a college perfectly suited to her,” said Julie Semente, a parent from Staten Island “I am sickened by the action Stony Brook’s administration has taken in killing the college at Southampton just as it was thriving.”

Of the 477 students at Southampton, 373 were full- or part-time undergraduate students, whereas the rest were either at the graduate level or west campus undergraduates. According to Lauren Sheprow, director of media relations, the campus had received a 54 percent increase in admissions applications this past year, along with SAT scores that rose by 100 points.

Because residency is no longer offered, which is saving the university $6.7 million per year, students had the options of dorming at west campus or commuting.

“My child is reluctantly moving to Stony Brook’s campus because the timing of the announcement to eliminate her college at Southampton left her with no other alternative,” Semente said. “I am packing my daughter up to move to a school that she did not choose to attend. And I had to pay for it as well.”

According to Lauren Sheprow, as of July 27, there were 305 Southampton students registered for Fall 2010. Room assignments were selected by 159 of the students.

Professors were also affected by the closing of the campus. Of the 147 faculty and staff members at Southampton, 28 percent were unaffected by the campus’s demise. The remainder, which included 33 faculty members, 67 non-teaching staff, five west campus employees and one Research Foundation employee, were able to meet with the department of Human Resource Services to find job opportunities and provide tips.

Some criticize Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. for the suspension of the campus.

“I think he’s done a lousy job,” said Thiele. “I think in the year that he has been the president of the university, the university has taken a major step backwards. It’s true certainly with Southampton.”

Others feel he is doing the best he can.

“I think he’s a good president,” said Assemblyman Steve Engelbright, who, along with his two daughters, graduated from Stony Brook University. “I think he’s faced with some terrible realities, and he’s doing everything he can given the cards he’s been dealt.”

Engelbright was the Curator of Geologic Collections earlier on in his career, as well as being the founding director of the Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences, which is located at the university.

According to Sheprow, Stony Brook has created an advisory committee in order to develop a business plan for the use of the Southampton campus. Some ideas for consideration include developing the campus as a center for creative arts, maintaining and building programs in the Marine Sciences and providing graduate programs. Another feasible option is having a different SUNY campus use it.

The independent SUNY campus that the legislators would like to make would include programs for the arts and possibly a joint collaboration with Southampton Hospital.

This isn’t the first time the campus has been closed. When Long Island University shut down the school in 2005, Thiele and LaValle urged the state university to make the campus a part of it. Now they’re looking to make the space its own entity entirely.

“Our main goal here is to maximize the use of that campus,” Thiele said.

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  • S

    SOS Undergraduate ProgramsSep 1, 2010 at 3:33 am

    I second the comment about the types of programs that should be offered for residents of the East End, as well as any other state resident or nonresident. There was also a B.S. in Business Management with a Specialization in Sustainable Business that should be restored. The articulation agreements that Suffolk Community College has with “Stony Brook” should be extended to the Southampton campus undergraduate programs, because there are graduates of SCC in Riverhead (4,000 students) who wish they had a 4 year undergraduate commuter college to attend. Southampton is only 20 -25 minutes away from the Riverhead campus and it provides very easy access from the parking lot to classes.
    It should be noted that Southampton offered a 5 year fast track MBA program and it should be better promoted to the community. Few people knew it existed! I did and I was looking forward to taking classes this fall.
    According to the University Senate Meeting of November 2, 2009 the state of NY was giving the Southampton campus 7.4 million dollars of support, ( just google it) totally separate from the Stony Brook budget. So there is no way the Southampton campus was costing Stony Brook much money if any.
    With 800 students scheduled to attend this week, they would have generated more than 5 million additional dollars to support their campus, so it would seem no money was needed from Stony Brook. Don’t forget it was Governor Pataki who gave Stony Brook 35 million dollars to buy the Southampton campus. The Southampton campus belongs to the State of New York. It was not purchased with private funds from the Stony Brook Foundation, or from the Stony Brook Real Estate Foundation/Organization or the 8 million plus Stony Brook gets in royalties a year.
    The Southampton campus provides a choice of a different atmosphere and philosophy compared to Stony Brook. The smaller class sizes are more attractive to some students, who find 350 students and one professor, does not work for their learning style. Indeed, the Southampton campus is what the Middle States Commission approved, when it evaluated Stony Brook, for being too research focused and not focused enough on the education of students, so Stony Brook could keep it’s accreditation.
    And yes there was a very well thought out 5 year plan for the Southampton campus by a Stony Brook Committee and the Southampton campus was following that plan.
    What is valuable is the setting and the type of education that was offered at the Southampton campus, not the land that is a “very valuable asset” to design to maximize profits for Stony Brook.

    Reply
  • S

    SOS SouthamptonAug 31, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    An independent SUNY at Southampton should first & foremest be focused on environmental sustainability & conservation – with re-instatement & expansion of those environmental programs that were there. To maximize the poetntial of the campus, additional liberal arts and conversationist programs could be developed, as well as expanding the current fine arts program into areas related to sustainability. Southampton had just developed a nutritionist program before it the college was terminated. That could be re-instated too. Considering the area it’s located in, the college could offer programs for historic building preseveration along with the architecture programs that it had, or even add tourism and hospitality programs to its Sustainable Business programs. There is so much that could be done. But not with the hell-bent science/research obsessed SBU president in charge of it. The students and community have better plans.

    Reply