Stony Brook University officials will slash spending on Stony Brook Southampton, eliminate student housing, reduce operations at the 81-acre Shinnecock Hills campus to just two buildings, and pull the plug on most programs now offered there starting this fall.
The stunning cost-cutting proposal, confirmed Wednesday by Stony Brook officials, comes just four years after the university purchased the campus for $35 million from Long Island University, and invested tens of millions of dollars in an effort to transform it into a center for sustainability and environmental studies.
In a closed-door meeting at the Stony Brook University main campus on Tuesday afternoon, Stony Brook President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. discussed the proposal with New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and U.S. Representative Tim Bishop. The legislators pledged to seek a way to preserve the full-time campus for the second time in less than a decade.
Representatives from Stony Brook University, as well as Mary Pearl, the dean and administrative vice president of Stony Brook Southampton, did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
But in a press release issued on Wednesday morning, the university confirmed that it would be making deep cuts to Stony Brook Southampton, as well as the university’s Manhattan campus, in response to a steep drop in state aid over the last two years. The release stated that the university would be shutting down the residential program and new undergraduate admissions at Stony Brook Southampton, but did not offer further details.
Dr. Stanley is quoted in the release as saying that, despite the cuts, the university will “remain steadfast in our commitment to research and teaching at the site.”
In the same release, Stony Brook officials said they have lost nearly $55 million in state aid over the last two years and that, in addition to the cuts at Stony Brook Southampton, they will be cutting jobs in the future.
As per the proposal, which would take effect this fall, the Shinnecock Hills campus will remain open but will no longer house students, and the academic programs offered there would be reduced to marine science classes and the graduate degree program in writing, according to Mr. Thiele. The campus currently offers nine undergraduate majors, along with a graduate degree in writing.
The 500 students who currently attend the satellite campus would probably be absorbed into the main campus, according to Mr. Thiele. He also said that most of the facilities at the campus, including the library, student center and dormitories, would be shuttered under the current plan. Chancellor’s Hall, a building that contains classrooms and administrative offices, and the college’s marine sciences research center would remain open, Mr. Thiele said.
Mr. Thiele, who along with Mr. LaValle was instrumental in convincing the state to provide the money to acquire the college, described Stony Brook’s announcement as a “breach of faith.” In the same press release issued Tuesday evening, Mr. Thiele said Stony Brook University officials “are taking the substantial goodwill created by Stony Brook on the East End in the last five years and flushing it down the toilet.”
When reached immediately after the Tuesday afternoon meeting, Mr. LaValle also decried the plan.
“First, let me say that as the father of the Southampton campus, I am extremely angry at their proposal,” said Mr. LaValle, a former chairman of the New York State Senate Higher Education Committee, a key player in the effort to save the college, and for whom Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium is named. “I can only liken this to hearing that you lost a family member,” he said later.
Stony Brook officials stated Wednesday morning that the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton will save them about $6 million a year. In the last 18 months, New York State has handed down more than $500 million in cuts to the State University of New York system, $33 million of which have been passed on to Stony Brook University, according to Mr. LaValle.
Mr. Bishop, a former provost of the campus when it was run by LIU, said that he understands that the university is in a difficult position, but that he will work to ensure that the cuts are a “temporary delay” rather than a permanent loss. “I just think it would be criminal to have those investments go to waste,” he added.
Stony Brook Southampton is currently operated as a quasi-separate entity from Stony Brook University, with a partially separate application process, its own faculty members and some degree of autonomy in academic and fiscal decisions. It appears likely that all of that would change, as per the description of the cuts offered by Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle.
Stony Brook University underwent a change of leadership this summer, when Dr. Stanley, formerly the vice chancellor for research and a professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University in St. Louis, took the reins from Shirley Strum Kenny, who retired after 15 years of service. Stony Brook Southampton was purchased under Dr. Kenny’s leadership.