When Southampton closed down last summer, students had to go through the process of moving to the larger, busier main campus. Since then they’ve adjusted to life here; quite well based on how our two former Hamptonites on staff are doing. Their plight has gotten a lot of attention, but their campus hasn’t. We decided to visit the campus, to check on the state of the facilities and to try to gain some understanding as to what the future holds for these empty buildings.
Burke Irwin, the assistant director of facilities at Southampton, showed us which buildings were currently operational. “I’ll circle them for you” he said. He gave us a map of the campus and took out his pen. He made two small circles on a map that contained more than thirty buildings. Those were Chancellor’s Hall and two small classrooms by the water.
Chancellor’s Hall, the most used building on campus, looked like it was out of shape. The whiteboard that listed upcoming events last updated before November 17th, almost two weeks ago. Local newspapers from the 15th and 25th sat next to a bench where students could sit and read them. It was November 30th. Two out of the four vending machines were completely empty, as were the majority of the offices and classrooms.
The other operational classrooms were in small, gray buildings on the water, part of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. After crossing Montauk highway, we saw four of Stony Brook’s boats floating on the water. The other ten were sitting between the classrooms and the highway with a ‘For Sale’ sign standing in front of them.
Irwin said that the buildings that were not in use were still being tended to and heated. We saw evidence of that on the side of the theater where a heating system was spewing steam into the cold air. This is done to prevent pipes from bursting, which causes costly damage. He said that the theater sees occasional use, but according to the schedule of events it wasn’t going to be opened again for three days.
The abandoned, locked buildings all had at least a few hallway lights on in them that were constantly running. This is in sharp contrast to the eco-friendly motion sensor lights that operated in the buildings still in use.
Litter was scattered around the dorms, gathering next to the dug-out basement windows. Green rust residue coated the sidewalks and the walls around the drainpipes. An empty beer bottle was lying beneath one of the building’s outdoor staircases next to some broken glass.
While the police may have missed one drinker, they do their best to keep the campus safe. The Southampton police force has been cut from 12 to 9 officers. Police Chief Robert Lenahan denied rumors of increased police presence on campus. “It might look like there are more police on campus,” he said, “because there are so few people.”
Police are now responsible for making sure that no one is occupying the abandoned dorm buildings or classrooms. There were some signs of graffiti on the empty campus, but it all appeared to have been washed away by either police or weather. In fact, the police said that vandalism hasn’t been a problem lately.
Each of the dorms has a basement lounge, and each is still furnished with a large TV and places to sit. Overhead, the dorm rooms still had two beds complete with mattresses. The hallways were stocked with garbage cans and fire extinguishers. Currently, a group associated with the university is looking into repurposing some of the facilities for alternative or community uses.
The dorms undergoing renovation had been boarded up or ignored for a long period of time. The motel-like rooms toward the back of campus, which were closed even during the time Stony Brook Southampton was operational, had a fully furnished office inside, complete with a phone and some old papers
A look into the basement of the Student Center, the Southampton equivalent of the SAC, revealed black mold growing along the bottom of a hallway wall. In the next room there is a fallen ceiling tile broken into three pieces. It was surrounded by stains that are characteristic of water damage. Both could represent a health hazard to anyone in the building.
The Student Center was locked and uninhabitable, but an air conditioner was still running loudly in a second floor window. Once again, the date was November 30th and the heat was on.
Besides a police or facilities vehicle every half hour or so, we had been completely alone for our entire walk around the campus. Our peace and quiet ended when got back on the bus to go home. We didn’t ask the students about their experience at Southampton. We didn’t need to. They complained loudly amongst themselves about how they were left on the campus for hours at a time.
After the closing of Southampton, all majors and classes were brought to the main campus, with the exception of the Marine Sciences program. Students can get to those classes via an hour long bus ride.
Students riding the bus had to write their names and IDs on a clipboard. Instead of their names, many students left a message to the university. “Stop leaving us here for hours. We get very lonely,” wrote one. “I don’t get why President Stanley has a job,” wrote another. Just like their campus, these Southampton students are in limbo, and are suffering as a result.