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Feb 11, 2015 10:45 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

After Nearly Closing In 2010, Stony Brook Southampton Has Grown And Prospered

Feb 11, 2015 11:43 AM

In 2010, the life of Stony Brook Southampton student Gabrielle Andersen changed dramatically—due to budget cuts affecting the school, she was forced to take her Environmental Design, Policy and Planning classes at Stony Brook’s main campus instead, not knowing if she would ever return to the school she had already attended for two years.“It was miserable,” Ms. Andersen said last week. “It’s hard to explain, but our campus was very small and tight-knit, and we all knew each other. It was literally a family. We were all terrified of what we had worked so hard on being thrown away.”

That year, Stony Brook officials slashed spending at the Southampton campus, eliminating student housing, reducing operations and leaving the 82-acre grounds in Shinnecock Hills in trouble once again, just four years after purchasing the campus for $35 million from Long Island University, which had shut it down.

While some marine science classes and writing programs survived the cuts, Stony Brook Southampton appeared on the brink of closing for a second time. Local lawmakers, especially State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., aggressively encouraged university officials not to pull the plug. Six of the more than 300 students who were displaced due to the cuts even brought a lawsuit against Stony Brook’s president, Dr. Samuel Stanley, declaring that he essentially closed the campus unjustly and bypassed the university’s own 10-member council when making the decision to cut spending.

Stony Brook eventually signed a settlement to end the lawsuit—and Dr. Stanley agreed to personally meet with the affected students to apologize. Ms. Andersen never did get back to the Shinnecock Hills campus: She graduated from Stony Brook in December 2011, completing her studies at the main campus.

Fast-forward five years, and Stony Brook Southampton has seen growth and change, with the help of new academic programs and funding.

Its future became even more promising last month, when the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York approved a long-awaited partnership agreement between Southampton and Stony Brook University hospitals that will ultimately result in a new Southampton Hospital on the Shinnecock Hills campus—a move that likely will bring the most activity those grounds have ever seen.

“We have very, very positive thoughts about the potential that a hospital could bring to the campus and the community,” said Dr. Matt Whelan, Stony Brook’s vice president for strategic initiatives, who facilitates planning and enrollment at the Southampton campus. “It would coordinate and certainly pair well with some of our programs. There are some nice synergies there, including things that would benefit the East End.”

Physical and occupational therapies, as well as applied health informatics, are the already-existing medical-based programs offered at Stony Brook Southampton, introduced in 2013. Dr. Whelan said there are currently plans to add more, such as speech pathology in 2016. And a hospital on campus will bring even more opportunities to students.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the dean of the Stony Brook School of Medicine, has said the new hospital would not only help that campus grow, but will benefit students who have the opportunity to learn there. “In order for us to train outstanding physicians, they need to train in more settings other than a university hospital,” he said.

The first step toward Stony Brook Southampton’s revitalization came at a rather moderate pace. In 2011, seven months after the cuts were made, university officials announced plans to roll out more arts and marine science programs for that fall, as well as to reopen some dormitories. Dr. Whelan said that money the university received from the SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program in 2011 helped a great deal in allowing the university to set aside funds to reboot the campus. “As we got through some of the recession, we were able to receive approvals for new programs out there,” he said.

Once new programs were added, the number of students on campus boomed. According to Dr. Whelan, enrollment increased from about 175 students after the cuts were made to about 400 over the following three years. And it’s expected to increase to nearly 500 students by next year.

“The growth has been good. Anytime you can do that type of growth in a short amount of time, it’s a positive thing,” Dr. Whelan said.

Programs like the Semester at Sea, as well as the new Marine Sciences Center that opened in 2013, strengthened the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. The medical-based programs also brought in a bulk of the new students, a total of more than 100 since 2013. The physical therapy program alone is expected to bring in 90 more in the fall, Dr. Whelan said.

Additionally, more graduate programs in the arts are being introduced—Stony Brook Southampton is currently accepting applications for new students to enroll in its Master of Fine Arts in Film program, led by Christine Vachon, co-founder of the independent production company Killer Films. As of now, Dr. Whelan said the program is slated to bring in two dozen students, but the number could increase as more applications come in.

In light of Stony Brook Southampton’s growth over the last few years, Mr. Thiele commended the university, and Dr. Whelan in particular, for making the efforts to bring it back to life. And with the new hospital in the picture, he said, the campus’s troubled days are well behind it.

“I don’t think we’ll ever have to deal with a day again … that somebody talks about, ‘Well it’s a satellite campus—let’s close it and sell it,’” Mr. Thiele said. “Compared to where we were in 2010, we have made really significant progress.”

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Not really. What percent of the dorms are open? Is that beautiful library open? The student union? Is there any student life on campus? Is there any administration on that campus? Can a student apply to Southampton College? Five years since the closure and lots of posturing and missteps.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Feb 14, 15 5:52 AM