Vice President of Student Affairs Peter Baigent assured the student body that school officials would do everything in their power to help them relocate to the school of their choice, whether or not that school is Stony Brook. Baigent seemed to state that Stony Brook was prepared to reach out to other colleges on behalf of Southampton students to explain the special circumstances in the event that a deadline has passed.
Students who do wish to transfer to the main campus would be guaranteed a place on campus and given priority in room selection. Their credits would also be fully recognized by Stony Brook, and many of the programs currently offered at Southampton would be relocated to the main campus, including the popular sustainability majors.
What won’t transfer to the main campus is the atmosphere, argue students. Southampton was known for its close-knit community, and on several occasions Wednesday, students referred to one another as family. That is a stark contrast to the main campus’ 20,000 strong student body. The main campus was criticized on multiple occasions as being cold and unfriendly, “a concrete jungle” said one student.
“Nobody smiles on the main campus,” said one student during President Stanley’s remarks, an observation that elicited a brief moment of levity among the campus community.
Despite unanswered questions about next fall, the focus on Wednesday was on saving Southampton. Students were urging Stanley to let them try and fight the cuts or raise the money themselves to continue to operate, even if it were for only another year. Even a year, they argue, will give them enough time to make arrangements.
Students and faculty were visibly distraught over the news. Several left the auditorium in tears, clinging to friends for support. But equally many students left determined to remedy the situation. A group of roughly 15 students met after the event to begin laying the foundations for fighting the university’s decision.
According to one of the student leaders, a 501 (c) 3 that was created back in 2005 to try and fight Long Island University’s decision to close the campus was reactivated. The same student alluded to possible legal challenges as well, which would include a motion to stay the decision past Stanley’s August 31 deadline.
Others took to some usual outlets for support as well. A Facebook page created Tuesday night already has over 4000 members, more than eight times the number of students who actually attend Southampton.
The students also have the support of local politicians. State Senator Fred Thiele lobbed heavy criticism at the administration for their decision, as did Congressman Tim Bishop, who served as the provost at Southampton before he was elected to the House of Representatives.
Stony Brook will keep two of the buildings operational at Southampton. They will be used for SoMAS laboratory and field research courses and the graduate program for writing and literature, long a staple of the Southampton campus. Many of the remaining academic programs will be relocated to the main campus and reorganized as either an interdisciplinary major or within their own department. Some offerings though will be discontinued. Provost Eric Kaler guaranteed students that the courses they need to finish their degrees will be available to them at the main campus
The popular sustainability program, one of the few in the world, will be reorganized under Mary Pearl.
Southampton was purchased by Stony Brook University for $35 million in 2006 after Long Island University threatened to close the campus for good. State Senator Thiele estimates that Stony Brook invested a further $43 million into the campus since then, most recently by opening an environmentally friendly library in October 2009, barely six months ago.
The campus was heavily marketed as one of the most sustainable, “green” colleges in the country. NBC Nightly News profiled the school for it’s commitment to the environment as well, and the number of applications this year was up 54% according to university officials.
Passion for the environment is a common attribute among Southampton students as well. Many see the main campus as the exact opposite of Southampton, an energy-inefficient behemoth with little concern for the environment. And the thought of studying there is off-putting to some students.
“I have qualms about living on an unsustainable campus when I’m studying sustainability,” said Chelsea Holmes, a freshman at Southampton. “I have a problem being a hypocrite.”
Sophomore Juliann Navarra argues that this decision sends the wrong message about Stony Brook’s commitment to sustainability.
“We should have been their number one priority, especially in this day and age,” she said.
In the meantime, students have to find a way to finish the remaining few weeks of class.
“I feel like I’m not as determined,” said Navarra. “I have a Calc B midterm tomorrow at 9:20 in the morning. You think I want to take that right now?”