The relentless logic of the academic calendar and state budget cuts have moved the new president of Stony Brook University to make a painful choice: closing the dorms at its Southampton campus. But cutting back on one of the university's bright dreams may not be the best way to save.

The state spent more than $70 million to buy the campus from Long Island University and upgrade its buildings, to make it a college of environmental sustainability. But Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. and his budget working group say keeping the dorms open is fiscally unsustainable, when Stony Brook has cut $25 million and must cut another $30 million-plus.

Only 150 students live in the dorms, and Stanley says Stony Brook can save $6.7 million a year by moving them to the main campus while still maintaining the dorms, in case they can be reopened. The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and the writing programs will still use the Southampton facilities.

Stanley was right to move now, to be honest with prospective students considering the school. But some legislators suspect it's an easy target for those on the main campus who never liked the expansion - and a pawn in the battle over tuition policy and state funding. They also question the savings estimates and doubt whether the dorms will ever reopen once they're closed.

Whatever the budgetary pressures of the moment, Stony Brook must not give up the admirable goal of making its Southampton campus an environmental jewel. hN