Students protest Stony Brook University's plan to close much of...

Students protest Stony Brook University's plan to close much of their Southampton campus. (April 7, 2010) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Stony Brook University acted illegally when it closed most of its Southampton campus this year, a state judge has ruled, and a university spokeswoman said Monday the school's governing council would call a special session to review the closure.

In an Aug. 27 decision, State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. ruled in favor of six Stony Brook Southampton students and Save the College at Southampton, a nonprofit they founded to fight the closure announced in April. Expecting tens of millions of dollars in state funding cuts, the university said closing the Southampton campus and moving classes to the main Stony Brook campus would save $6.7 million a year.

Baisley ruled that Stony Brook officials erred by closing the campus without approval from the 10-member Stony Brook Council, nine of them appointed by the governor and one elected by students. The closure was a "major plan" that required council approval, the judge ruled.

Baisley's decision technically reverses the campus closure, but its practical effect remains to be seen. Monday, Southampton students began the first day of classes on the main campus.

In a statement, Stony Brook spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said: "As soon as schedules permit, the Stony Brook Council will convene to further discuss the decision to relocate the undergraduate and residential programs from Southampton to the Main Campus."

Katherine Osiecki, 18, a sophomore majoring in environmental design policy and planning who was a lead plaintiff, said she cried when she heard about the ruling. "We still don't know what it all means, but just that we put all this effort into it and it paid off is awesome," she said.

Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who helped the students, said the students scored a major victory.

The university "tried to do it behind closed doors and tried to do it in secret," Thiele said.

LaValle, the top Republican on the higher education committee, said, "This is the time . . . to make sure Southampton stays viable." With James T. Madore

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