Stony Brook University's president met Monday with students protesting his decision to close most of the Southampton campus and emphatically told them he would not change his mind.
The students asked Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. to give them time to hold fundraisers and lobby politicians for the $6.7 million to continue running dorms and holding environmental classes on campus, but he urged them to focus on making plans to move away from Southampton before dorms and almost all classrooms shutter in August.
"As far as we're concerned, this is a done deal," Stanley said later in a news conference.
He added that he is considering proposals for other educational uses for the 82-acre campus, which Stony Brook purchased from Long Island University. "It's not up for sale right now," he said. "It's not up for sale, period."
Stanley told the students that the administration is hardly done announcing bad news; he has to find about $26 million in reductions this year because of cutbacks expected from Albany.
The afternoon meeting with Stanley followed a 15-mile march during which more than 150 students walked from a parking lot in Rocky Point to the main campus, where they were greeted with scattered cheers from onlookers while they chanted, "Save our school." They carried placards with sayings like, "Education cuts never heal," and "Hey, Stanley, close your mansion, not Southampton."
Stanley, holding a bullhorn, greeted the protesters outside the administration building and thanked everyone for their commitment to Southampton, which focuses on environmental education. He took five representatives to his office to meet. They presented him with a sheaf of letters from parents as well as prospective students who have been accepted to attend Southampton next year.
An undergraduate leader, junior Caroline Dwyer, told a disappointed crowd that the protesters were at an impasse with the president. She echoed his advice: "The most important thing we can do is stay on track, go to our classes."
Stanley warned the students not to have false hopes as they contacted politicians because extra funding for SUNY is almost impossible at a time when the state has a $9 billion deficit. He urged them to register for fall classes on the main campus or seek help transferring to another college.
Another student who met with the president, sophomore Kathleen Furey, of Hampton Bays, said she was heartbroken. "This isn't a liberal arts school that's shutting down, it's a school with sustainability as its mission, and that's something that matters to the region and the world."