The State University of New York Tuesday unveiled a strategic plan that calls for boosting scientific research, improving health care in the state, and expanding teacher training programs, but Chancellor Nancy Zimpher acknowledged those goals will be difficult because the state is cutting $210 million in funding to the 64 campuses.
The plan - after nearly a year of meetings across the state - directs campuses to train students for "green" jobs, conserve energy and join forces with local businesses to provide internships as well as economic development.
In an interview, Zimpher praised Stony Brook's main campus for moving to improve health care, work with private companies and prepare students for a global economy.
"All of the things we talked about in this plan are exemplified on the Stony Brook campus," she said.
Zimpher defended the decision by Stony Brook president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley to close Southampton's dorms and shut most buildings to save $6.7 million. "The sad thing is that we have to make tough choices," she said, adding that other campuses are bracing for deep cuts unless the State Legislature restores millions of dollars.
In her first public comments on the controversial Southampton cutbacks, Zimpher appeared to question Stony Brook's purchase of the 82-acre campus from Long Island University four years ago, before she and Stanley moved to the SUNY system. Buying and upgrading the property has cost $78 million so far.
"There is some evidence that we didn't really have a very good business plan," Zimpher said. "We should get smarter about how we allocate and use property."
Still, she said SUNY intends to keep the land.
"It's going to stay a SUNY campus," she said, adding that if the Legislature grants SUNY permission to negotiate contracts and make deals with companies, the Southampton campus could become a research center or a small business incubator, or find some other educational use that makes money.
Student leaders at Southampton were skeptical about the plan. "I would question SUNY's commitment to sustainability in light of the fact that they have chosen to shut down the only campus dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of environmental problems in SUNY, and one of the few in the nation," said junior Caroline Dwyer.
Tuesday, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) asked the state attorney general's and comptroller's offices to investigate "deceptive acts and practices," saying some students declined scholarships from other universities, thinking Southampton programs were "safe."
A SUNY spokesman said the state system will "fully cooperate" with any probe, as did a spokeswoman for Stony Brook.