Additional reporting by Katie Watt
Facing yet another round of state budget cuts, Stony Brook University took the drastic step of announcing that by summer’s end, the Stony Brook Southampton campus would no longer operate as a semi-independent college, leaving the school’s 500 students to find a new university by the fall.
“Everything will continue until August 31,” said University President Samuel Stanley. “But after that time, this won’t be a residential campus any further.”
The news was met with anger, sadness and frustration from the campus community, a close-knit group of students and faculty. Students were given no notice of the university’s decision until an article was published on the hyper local online news site 27east.com the night before the official announcement. President Stanley began his remarks by apologizing for the way the campus found out about the news, saying that it was the intention of the administration to make the announcement themselves on Thursday.
That did little to quiet students though. Many in the audience demanded to know why the decision-making process was kept a secret. The administration has been aware of the budget cuts for many months, and the discussions about possible cuts at Southampton had been ongoing for weeks.
“It just happened so quickly, I really don’t know how I was supposed to react,” said Elliott Kurtz, a freshman at Southampton.
“I found out about this at 9 o clock last night. I thought it was a joke,” said Amanda Sylvester, a sophomore. “We were never asked. We were never given the opportunity to try and change this.”
The effective closure of the 81-acre campus will save an estimated $6.7 million per year, or approximately 20% of the total amount of the most recent cuts to Stony Brook, according to Stanley. Administration officials also made it clear that Southampton cuts were a last resort, having already trimmed the budget elsewhere. The main campus has endured numerous cuts since the current state budget crisis began in 2008, and the Manhattan campus was cut in half as well, from two floors to one.
None of this was any comfort to students, who charged that the salaries of the administrators on the stage could make a serious dent in the $6.7 million needed annually to keep Southampton open. President Stanley alone makes $650,000 a year, and the combined salaries of those on stage totaled over $1.4 million based on 2008 figures.
There was also animosity over the number of visits paid to Southampton by President Stanley. He estimated that he had made the hour-long trip between three and five times since he began at Stony Brook in July, but students didn’t sound convinced with those estimates.
“Its hard to say how much he actually fought for us because we didn’t see any of that process,” said Kurtz.
The timing of the administration’s decision is particularly tricky for students who are not graduating this year. All Southampton students will be welcomed at the main campus, but transferring to another university will be difficult, especially since many deadlines have already passed. At NYU, Penn State and Cornell for example, deadlines for transfer students passed as long ago as February 1. Other universities, like Hofstra, accept transfer applications on a rolling basis but encourage early applications. Albany and Binghamton, both fellow SUNY campuses, are still accepting transfer applications.