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Story - Education

Apr 20, 2010 5:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Efforts to save campus continue, as many students prepare to ship off

Apr 20, 2010 5:54 PM

By Will James

SHINNECOCK HILLS—Stony Brook Southampton students have raised tens of thousands of dollars toward a lawsuit against Stony Brook University, which announced earlier this month that it will pull the plug on most of the programs at the fledgling Shinnecock Hills campus because of cuts in state funding.

Student leaders said that they will continue to raise funds and fight the cuts, despite the fact that more than half of the campus’s approximately 500 students have already registered for classes at Stony Brook University’s main campus.

Meanwhile, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has charged that “the books were cooked” on the part of Stony Brook University in order to show that it would save an estimated $6.7 million per year by shutting down the satellite campus. Mr. Thiele asserted that the savings will likely be much less, and is continuing his own fight to keep the campus open, in partership with New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and a coalition of alumni, community members, parents and students.

Late last week, 264 students had already registered for classes at the main campus, according to Lauren Sheprow, a spokeswoman for Stony Brook University. About 30 students are seeking to transfer to other schools, and Stony Brook University is placing calls to those schools on the students’ behalf, Ms. Sheprow said. Another 13 students are expected to graduate this spring or summer, before Stony Brook Southampton closes on August 31.

In interviews this week, several students said they had already signed up for courses at the main campus, or were planning to in the near future, although few said they were happy about it.

“I really like it here,” said Joe Baillargeon, 19, a freshman from Rochester who is studying marine vertebrate biology. “As you can see by walking outside, it’s really open. We’ve got a wild meadow we could walk to class through. You’re not going to find that at main campus or anywhere else.”

Like all of the students interviewed last week, Mr. Baillargeon said he applied specifically to go to Stony Brook Southampton over the main campus, because of its more intimite learning environment and its focus on sustainability.

Amber Vissichelli, 18, a freshman who commutes from Mastic and studies environmental design, policy and planning, said that she was drawn to Southampton after Stony Brook University pitched the satellite campus during a presentation while she was attending William Floyd High School last year. “I didn’t even know about this school,” she said. “I went to Stony Brook on a trip from my high school and they gave a lecture to all the high school students about the school trying to promote people to come here.”

Shortly after the cuts were announced, a group of alumni, community members, politicians and faculty members revived Save the College at Southampton, Inc., a non-profit that was originally founded in 2005, after Long Island University announced that it would be closing Southampton College.

By Friday, students had raised $10,000, which they say will be matched by an anonymous donor and used to hire a law firm to sue Stony Brook. A Facebook page to advocate for the college had 18,000 fans by Tuesday, students said.

Students said they are planning a benefit at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on Wednesday, April 28 at 7 p.m. in order to raise more money for legal fees.

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