The president of Stony Brook University must apologize to students displaced after the school closed the Southampton campus last year and maintain an environmental degree program they had enrolled in, according to a settlement reached this week.
"Of course the students wanted the university to do what they felt is the right thing," said Russell Penzer, the Melville lawyer representing the six students and a nonprofit that had sued the university for illegally closing the Southampton campus. "Through the lawsuit, we held the university's feet to the fire. We made them go through the process correctly and we called them on it when we saw they did something improper."
Stony Brook officials said in a statement Thursday that "we are gratified that an agreement has been reached," and the university's president, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., "looks forward to the opportunity to meet with the students in the coming month."
The stipulation of settlement signed Wednesday by State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley Jr. also orders the president to reiterate the university's commitment to the school's Sustainability Studies Program -- a group of majors that prepares students for careers developing sustainable solutions to environmental problems. It had been offered at the Southampton campus and now is only available at the main campus.
Baisley had ruled last year that Stony Brook officials erred by closing the campus without approval from the 10-member Stony Brook Council, an advisory board. The closure was a "major plan" that required council approval, the judge had ruled.
After the suit had been filed, the council voted in October 2010 to scale back the school's Southampton campus, ratifying after the fact a decision that had been made by the university.
The settlement, in which the university will pay $30,000 in legal fees, represents the end of the legal battle.
Senior Kathleen Furey, one of the plaintiffs who lives on the South Fork and is enrolled in the sustainability program, said the settlement only guarantees the program until 2014 and she's fearful the university will shut it down after that. A Stony Brook spokeswoman said, however, that there are no plans to discontinue the program.
Furey said, "We won nothing, our campus was closed. The young people on the East End of Long Island -- that was the only campus that served them."
University officials have said state budget cuts made the undergraduate program at Southampton, which Stony Brook acquired from Long Island University in 2007, financially unviable.