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Story - Education

May 25, 2010 5:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Stony Brook Southampton students file suit

May 25, 2010 5:49 PM

A group of Stony Brook Southampton students and a nonprofit filed a lawsuit on Tuesday that claims cuts to the campus are illegal and seeks an injunction to keep the school running in its current form for the time being.

The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, is in response to an announcement last month that Stony Brook University would be closing the dorms at the small satellite campus and relocating most of the academic programs to the main campus at the end of the summer session. The document names Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the president of Stony Brook University as a defendant, along with Stony Brook University itself, the State University of New York Board of Trustees and the Stony Brook University Council.

Students Katherine Osiecki, Nicole Altimari, Tara Linton, Dean Tarulli, Kathleen Furey and Martha Weller are named as plaintiffs, along with Save the College at Southampton, Inc., a nonprofit that advocates for the school.

Stony Brook University representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

The lawsuit claims the decision to close programs at the satellite campus should have been approved by the Stony Brook University Council, under state education law. The Stony Brook University Council is a 10-member board that advises and oversees university administration, according to the university’s website. The plaintiffs claim there is no indication the council ruled on the decision to make cuts to Stony Brook Southampton.

The plaintiffs allege Dr. Stanley “made the decision behind closed doors in order to bypass the students, public and the press and to shield an improper process from public scrutiny.”

The lawsuit also contends that students will be irreparably harmed if the cuts to the campus go forward.

“First, petitioners will be ejected from the college of their choice, a college they picked over other institutions that also accepted them as students,” the lawsuit reads. “Their college is undeniably a unique institution.”

While Stony Brook Southampton, an environmental studies campus located in Shinnecock Hills, is technically an arm of Stony Brook University, it is operates as an independent institution, according to the lawsuit.

“Each petitioner was influenced by Southampton’s promotional materials and attracted to its specialized mission, course offerings and as well as by its small size and rural, beach-front surroundings. Petitioners deliberately chose Southampton, not the main SBU campus at Stony Brook, and, in the process, passed on opportunities to attend other institutions,” the lawsuit reads.

In recent weeks, Stony Brook University has stated that more than half of Stony Brook Southampton’s approximately 500 students have signed up for fall classes at the much-larger main campus. The plaintiffs contend that the main campus is not a suitable replacement.

“It is as if respondents are sending a person from a small hamlet in upstate New York to midtown Manhattan and asking ‘What’s the problem? What’s the difference?’ when that persons objects,” the lawsuit reads.

The plaintiffs are seeking a court decision that would stay Stony Brook University’s hand until a judge rules on the legality of the cuts.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who has been speaking out against the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton, said he supported the legal action. He said he was told the case is returnable to court on June 14.

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can some one say who the "nonprofit" IS???
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 25, 10 8:49 PM
The non-profit is named "Save the College at Southampton, Inc." as the article states. It was initially formed when LIU-Southampton was closing and was re-activated to support the students of Stony Brook Southampton.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on May 25, 10 9:03 PM
the article says who the nonprofit is:
"...Save the College at Southampton, Inc., a nonprofit that advocates for the school."
By js (44), NY on May 25, 10 11:59 PM
Correct me if I am wrong but initially Fred said he was going to file suit..what happened Fred? You really knew all along it will go nowhere..right? Sadly, you have turned into 100% politician.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 25, 10 10:04 PM
Happy to correct you, Nellie. You're sliming Fred as usual. All I can find is an April 16 piece here on 27east reporting that Ken Lavalle and Fred Thiele were going to explore the possibility of a lawsuit. That's it -- no commitment to sue, just consideration.

Of course, Fred could join the students' suit at this time, or it could be that he and Ken Lavalle, having considered legal action, decided against it. In my opinion, this would be the wise choice, not wasting time and money ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 26, 10 10:51 AM
My congratulations and support to these brave, young adults who are fighting a battle that so many of us believe in but do not have the stamina to pursue. It is easy to criticize one another and turn this into political bashing, etc.---but the story is really about these students who believe strongly in something and are going to fight for it. I am proud of them and their families. Their fight and time could really benefit our community, children and grandchildren.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on May 26, 10 12:08 PM
Fred Thiele has worked tirelessly to work with the students, parents, and alumi of Southampton LIU. He is an alum of this campus. His interest is genuine. I am thankful he quickly figured out that the 6.7 million dollar annual savings reported by Dr. Stanley, to justify closing the campus, was questionable. Sure enough a new statement came out by a Stony Brook University VP to report that savings could be realized in 2 -3 years, (So how questionable is the new estimate?) because they still have ...more
By VenecianWaters (6), southampton on May 26, 10 5:45 PM
Taking another page from the commission’s report, Mr. Paterson’s proposal would also give colleges and universities the freedom to move more quickly in making purchases and signing contracts. The plan would do away with the advance approval of contracts by the Office of the State Comptroller but would provide for “post-audits” instead.

And the governor’s plan would enable institutions to generate money by using one of their greatest assets: land. If a developer wanted to lease land from ...more
By VenecianWaters (6), southampton on May 27, 10 5:17 AM
Senator Stavisky questioned the idea of using public colleges’ land for private ends, along with the educational mission of some recent land-use proposals, from building a wind farm to housing for the elderly

“I have a major problem permitting the lease of SUNY property,” she said, “because it’s not SUNY property; it’s taxpayer property.”

Right on Senator! The way these 800 students were kicked off the property and their college is being put out of existence for the sole purpose ...more
By js (44), NY on May 27, 10 6:27 PM