Stony Brook University's announcement in April that it would close most of its Southampton campus due to budget constraints seems headed back to the courts. Meanwhile, three local politicians are pressing SUNY trustees to rescind the university's action.
The attorney representing six students and a nonprofit that sued Stony Brook said Tuesday he plans to file a motion seeking to enforce State Supreme Court rulings from August and September that found the university erred in not getting prior approval from its advisory council before announcing its closure plan, which since has taken effect.
Russell Penzer, the attorney, said the Stony Brook Council's Oct. 4 resolution supporting the university's decision does not satisfy the court's ruling and merely ratified a decision the court had annulled, and he also criticized the way that meeting was conducted.
University spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said, "We'll respond appropriately in court."
Penzer's concerns were echoed by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), and Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) in a letter dated Tuesday they said was sent to SUNY's Board of Trustees.
Thiele said the Council's meeting violated open meetings law, and that published comments from Council members indicated discussions in executive session went beyond litigation and included the merits of the closure proposal, which he said should have been debated in open session. "The real focus of this is what the students will be pursuing in court," he said.
In their letter, the politicians asked SUNY to "refuse to take any action approving the actions of Stony Brook University in this matter. Rather, we request that you return this matter to the President with instructions to follow the law."
They said in interviews that they hoped for discussion about ways to preserve the campus' future. Bishop said he was "committed to resurrecting a residential component to the Southampton campus."
LaValle said seeing the campus "lie fallow like it was today is a slap at the taxpayers who have made that $78 million investment" after SUNY bought Southampton College from Long Island University four years ago.
SUNY officials did not respond to requests for comment yesterdayTuesday.
Sheprow said in a statement that university President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. was "doing everything he can to mitigate current economic circumstances to preserve the academic mission and programs" for the university's 25,000 students. At the same time, she said, university staff were "undertaking extraordinary efforts on behalf of 308 students who transferred from Southampton" to the main campus, and that the university would work through its Southampton advisory committee to "find uses to make the Southampton campus economically sound."
All three politicians have long and close ties to the Southampton campus. Thiele graduated from the college when it was owned by LIU, Bishop is a former provost of Southampton College, and LaValle helped broker the sale of the college to SUNY.