A judge’s recent decision that Stony Brook administrators illegally bypassed its legislative oversight board has startling implications. Whether Stanley and the council were truly ignorant of the role the oversight council is supposed to have, or whether the council just quietly accepted his brazen bypass can be debated. The fact is the university’s administration is a government agency with the ability to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer and tuition dollars, and this council was instituted as an independent board to act as a check on big changes and developments at Stony Brook. In this instance it has failed miserably.
Facing a financial crisis, cuts to academics should be made absolutely last, but it’s one of the very first Stanley and his administration pursued. Months before hiring a consulting firm to explore where money could be saved, the administration went forth with slashing programs, cutting staff and virtually closed an entire campus full of classrooms. This last act left hundreds of students turned away in disappointment upon learning of the abrupt closure.
The mere fact that the university points to a council meeting that came months after the decision came down is flat out deplorable; both far too little, and too late. The judge ruled that Stanley made a hasty move and if the university’s checkbook was bleeding so badly, the council should have been made fully aware earlier. Having conducted interviews with a few councilmembers, it appears that the council is so out of the loop that it casts doubt over their ability to make informed decisions.
Back in May, council members sat in quiet acceptance as Stanley glossed over his decision not a single objection was raised. It appears either the council is uninformed and wholly removed from university operations or that they simply have failed to weigh the outcome of shutting down Southampton. Stanley said at the time that while it was too early tell, he thought they would grow to embrace the vast academic opportunities at main campus. But it’s a campus they didn’t apply to, and many of the students who made the switch have expressed thick resentment to the forced adjustment.
These developments have serious implications for the future of the university: without oversight, university administrators can slash and spend as they see fit. Imagine tomorrow Stanley announces your major will be scrapped, and if you want to get your degree you can move 50 miles west to New York City to graduate, and many of your favorite professors won’t be around anymore. It may seem farfetched but apparently, it could happen to you.