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's embattled Southampton campus has a high-profile advocate: Alec Baldwin.

The actor lashed out at SUNY leadership Wednesday, saying the campus was targeted for sharp cutbacks in part because it is on the East End of Long Island, often seen as a playground for the wealthy.

"People in Albany don't understand the Hamptons - the state government views the area as if it's Siberia," Baldwin said in a phone interview. "They don't care what goes on out there."

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said Tuesday all 64 campuses will suffer as the system absorbs an expected $210-million cut in state funding.

Baldwin said he has been trying to think of ways politicians and SUNY officials can preserve what he called a "unique" program - Southampton's environmental-sustainability majors.

But he dismissed student suggestions that prominent entertainers and businesspeople save the campus by holding fundraisers to restore the $6.7 million per year Stony Brook will save by shuttering most of the Southampton campus.

"There are only a few institutions entrenched enough in the psyche of that community that can rely on well-heeled summer people and year-round residents to become their stewards," Baldwin said.

Many East End homeowners, he said, live in the city and are already committed to "212-based giving" to charities in the Manhattan area code. "You're going to have a really serious shortage for a campus out there, barring some billionaire who wants to have the whole place named after him."

Students have wondered whether Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Sean Combs or other well-known residents and visitors would contribute money and clout to halt the closure in August. But Mary Pearl, dean of students, said Wednesday she hasn't heard from any of them.

Baldwin, who went to high school in Massapequa and has a house in East Hampton, says he taught acting at the Southampton campus for several years when it was run by Long Island University. His mother established the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Center at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Baldwin, who stars in NBC's "30 Rock," is preparing for rehearsals for a one-month run of "Equus" at East Hampton's Guild Hall, starting in June.

Baldwin said he was "elated" when Stony Brook bought the 82-acre campus four years ago and started to invest $78 million. He said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), former provost of LIU's Southampton campus, should have done more. "Wasn't he able to pick up the phone and say where else are cuts being made, and are the cuts excessive in our area?"

Bishop said in an interview that he is pressing the federal energy and education departments to support the campus.

"If anybody wants to finger me as the villain here, I guess that's their right," he said.

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