The situation at Southampton is indeed a tragic one. The campus, which represented an ideal in sustainability, is an enlightened haven of fresh ideas on energy and the environment. The smaller campus meant more intimate classes and a better learning atmosphere. The campus itself is also a picturesque escape from the doldrums of Long Island strip mall life. Its students are a small but passionate bunch, ardently fighting (and rightfully so) for their right to continue to learn at such a wonderful place. The school represents an ideal that Stony Brook may one day hope to attain at its own campus.
But what’s happening at Southampton right now is also the necessary evil that comes when the state dramatically reduces funding for the school. Given the current budgetary conditions that Stony Brook, and all of SUNY, is facing, it is infeasible to think that they can continue running the campus at Southampton and educating the more than 25,000 students at the main campus of Stony Brook.
We would agree with President Stanley on this, but his Southampton opponents question his motives in doing this. According to an April 14 article in The East Hampton Star:
“Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle have said that the move to close the Southampton campus, which has been supported by the state university system’s chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, is part of a political effort to support the Public Higher Education Innovation and Empowerment Act. It would, among other things, allow the university system to charge different tuition rates for different programs and at different campuses.”
LaValle and Thiele aren’t really trustable, and we didn’t have time to follow up on this with Stanley. Regardless, Stanley’s firm insistence that PHEEIA is the way to make up for SUNY’s budget shortfalls is the wrong sort of thinking that does not need to be reinforced with legislators.
This crisis is indicative of more than a failure of Stony Brook’s administration; it’s a failure on the state’s legislators and governor. Senator LaValle, Assemblyman Thiele and the rest of New York’s legislators were responsible for this when they allowed the tens of millions in cuts to Stony Brook over the last two years. We’re seeing for the first time—and probably not the last—a clash of actions and desire. LaValle and Thiele want to drastically cut funding for SUNY (or not to reverse it) and to keep their constituents happy.
One thing is for certain, though; Stony Brook and the rest of SUNY need more money than they’re getting. If the crisis at Southampton shows legislators anything, it should be that they need to restore the years of slashed funding to SUNY’s budget, they need to make the education of New York’s citizens a higher priority and they need to stop pushing the burden for driving New York’s economy onto the students.