The Stony Brook Press
Dealing a devastating blow to theStony Brook Southampton studentsseeking the revitalization of their satel-lite school, the Stony Brook Council(which oversees the President) votedlast week to support President SamuelStanley’s April decision to largely closethe campus. Despite the setback, stu-dents and local lawmakers say they haven’t abandoned hope and havepledged to continue the battle for theirschool.At the conclusion of a drama-packed October 4 meeting, members of the oversight council voted 7-2 to adopta resolution proclaiming their supportof Stanley’s decision, saying it is now“fiscally impossible” to reverse cuts toSouthampton. The council’s belated vote came in response to NY SupremeCourt Justice Paul Baisley’s Septemberruling that the council should have beeninvolved in the decision making processfrom the start, and a May 11 after-the-fact council discussion of Southamptonwas insufficient.The October 4 council meeting inthe Wang Center played out over fourhours—twice as long as a typical coun-cil session. It included a public forumwhere pre-determined speakers took tothe podium, with a three-minute limit,to voice their support for either side of the issue.Several former Southampton stu-dents stood before the crowd and coun-cil to plead for the reopening of theirschool and to complain about the uni- versity’s lack of transparency. StudentKatie Osieki, one of the plaintiffs in thelawsuit, called for an independent auditinto the university.Faculty members and a couple of students also spoke to support Stanley and advise the council to do so as well,including University Senate PresidentFred Walters. Walters said that while hehadn’t yet discussed Southampton withthe full senate, his view is that“Southampton is simply an extrava-gance we cannot afford at this time.”One of the students who expressedsupport of scrapping the school wasMatthew Graham, president of the Un-dergraduate Student Government andcurrently the only student member of the council.“I’ve heard the facts and I’ve seenthe numbers,” he said. “I’ve come to theconclusion, after all that, that the deci-sion to close Southampton is in the bestinterest of the Stony Brook community.No matter how tough it is to hear it, andno matter how tough it is for me to say it, it’s a decision that had to be [made].”Graham’s stance contrasts starkly with a USG resolution that was passedlast April, which condemned Stanley’s“callous” move and called for the ad-ministration to rescind the decision.Graham was not president at the time;Jasper Wilson was. Wilson also ap-peared at the council meeting to say hehad changed his mind and now sup-ported the cuts.After viewing budgetary presenta-tions and listening to the public speak-ers, President Stanley and the tencouncil members holed up in a confer-ence room guarded by university policefor an executive session. When they re-turned, over an hour later, they quickly voted 7-2 to stand behind Stanley (council member Diana Weir left beforethe vote, citing a scheduling conflict).As soon as the council had voted,one Southampton student sobbed as thedisplaced bunch filed angrily out of theroom. A single student stuck arounduntil the meeting’s conclusion to say tothe council members, in a voice waver-ing with emotion, “You guys have failedall of us in your role today.” The councilmembers did not make eye contact withthe student and did not respond.The meeting appeared to be anemotional one for some council mem-bers as well. As the audience was leav-ing, President Stanley shook hands withand thanked council members. LouHoward, one of the dissenting mem-bers, was overheard apologizing toStanley, saying, “I just couldn’t do it.”Council member Jeanne Garant re-ceived hugs from Stanley and Law andas she walked out of the conferenceroom, she was crying.“I’m sorry, now’s not a good time,”Garant said, brushing away tears, whenasked to comment. She did not respondto requests for comment later in theweek.In an interview after the meeting,Law said the undocumented session in-cluded a “heartfelt discussion” amongcouncil members on both sides of theissue. “I had no idea how it was going togo. But this is about what’s in the bestinterest of the university.”“Everyone was lobbying everyoneand everyone spoke very passionately during the executive session,” said Gra-ham in an interview. “The whole thinghas gotten very political. But I think thatat the end of the day, people voted to re-flect how they feel, and they did theright thing.”In a defiant response to the coun-cil’s resolution, Assemblyman FredThiele (I-Sag Harbor) and other localelected officials held a press conferencea week after the council meeting belowthe landmark windmill that sits at thecenter of the Southampton campus.“This campus should not be sittinghere vacant like it is today,” Assembly-man Fred Thiele proclaimed from apodium before a small, solemn crowdof students and community members.“We want to reach out to Stony Brook University to basically stop the mad-ness, to sit down with us and come upwith a concrete timetable and a concreteplan for the reopening of this campusand the return of the students.”Thiele said that the council’s reso-lution is meaningless because they voted to support a decision that had al-ready been annulled by a supreme court justice.“Eastern Long Island needs a fouryear residential college and we knowthat one can be viable here,” said Con-gressman Tim Bishop (D-Southamp-ton), who worked for 29 years atSouthampton College, when it wasunder the previous administration of Long Island University. “We were on apath to having it really, really work andthat path was cut short. I believe we canget back on that path.”“As I walked here to the windmilltoday, I was a little choked up becausethis is just an incredible place,” saidState Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-PortJefferson). “This place should be mov-ing and shaking and it’s not. Processesand laws were scooted around, andthat’s not what our system of govern-ment is all about.”“To think that every elected officialat every level that represent the taxpay-ers of the state of New York have spo-ken out against the action that’s beentaken, and have been ignored and de-fied is a very, very troublesome reality,”said Southampton Town SupervisorAnna Throne-Holst. “I encourage all of us to stay united in fighting this.”The legislators signed a letter to besent to SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zim-pher and the SUNY Board of Trustees,who are poised to give their final ap-proval to the council’s resolution and fi-nalize the move to mostly scrap thecampus. Zimpher has previously ex-pressed her support of the cuts, and oneof her top aides sits on the Southamp-ton task force that’s supposed to explorenew uses for the campus.Asked to comment on the lawmak-ers’ press conference, Stony Brook Spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow wouldonly say, “Nothing has changed. TheSUNY system and each campus mustaddress drastic cuts, and we continue totry to manage them without cutting ac-ademic programs.”
Heartbreak and Grandstanding; Southampton Stays Closed
By Colleen Harrington
President Stanley (left) and Kevin Law (right) after the meeting.