Stony Brook Council votes on Southampton campus

Students and former students rally in front of Students and former students rally in front of the administration building at Stony Brook University in protest to closing the Southampton campus. (Sept. 29, 2010) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

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The Stony Brook Council voted Monday to scale back the school's Southampton campus, ratifying after the fact a decision made by the university president last spring.

Stony Brook's relocation of residential services and an undergraduate sustainability program from Southampton to its main campus took effect this fall, but hit a roadblock last month when a State Supreme Court justice ruled that the university violated state education law by closing much of the East End campus without prior approval from its 10-member advisory board.

Russell Penzer, a Melville attorney representing Southampton campus students in the lawsuit against the university, said he was seeking a copy of the resolution to determine whether it satisfied the court's ruling.

University officials have said state budget cuts made the undergraduate program at Southampton, which Stony Brook acquired from Long Island University in 2007, financially unsustainable.

Near the end of a four-hour meeting - including 50 minutes of public comment - the council voted 7-2 supporting both the move and the creation of a committee to explore new academic and residential uses for the campus.

Council member Diana Weir left before the vote to testify before the Suffolk County Legislature, board chairman Kevin Law said.

Southampton's marine science station will be preserved, as will its master of fine arts program and its writers workshop, the university said.

Among new ideas under consideration for Southampton are a campus for the arts, including creative writing, theater and visual arts; an enhanced marine sciences program; and a Semester at the Sea program, in which students from across the country could live on the campus and conduct research there, according to Provost Eric Kaler, who Monday presented the recommendations of a committee convened by university president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

"This council will support all efforts to see those things in the future," Law said before introducing a resolution he said satisfied the court directive.

One of the plaintiffs, Katie Osiecki, a sophomore studying environmental design, policy and planning, said after the vote that she has not given up.

"It was definitely disappointing, but I still think there's hope," she said. "It's not over yet."

In a break from protocol Monday, Law allowed public speakers - most preapproved - including students, faculty, parents and a state lawmaker.

While Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) urged the council "not to rush to judgment" and two undergraduate student government presidents - one past, one present - somberly voiced their support after saying they initially opposed the move, several students who had been relocated from Southampton made emotional pleas to the board.

After the vote, students filed out, some crying. One council member, too, had tears in her eyes.

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