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Story - Education

Apr 21, 2010 11:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fight to save college continues to unfold

Apr 21, 2010 11:27 AM

SHINNECOCK HILLS—Angered Stony Brook Southampton students have raised more than $20,000 to sue Stony Brook University, which announced two weeks ago that it will pull the plug on most of the programs at the fledgeling Shinnecock Hills campus due to drastic cuts in state funding.

Student leaders said they will continue to raise funds to mount a legal battle against Stony Brook University, despite the fact that more than half of Stony Brook Southampton’s approximately 500 students have already registered for classes this fall at Stony Brook University’s much larger main campus. Student leaders this week declined to divulge the basis of their threatened lawsuit, or identify which law firm they would be hiring.

Additionally, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. this week charged that “the books were cooked” on the part of Stony Brook University in order to show that it will 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 81-acre campus open, in partnership with New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and a coalition of alumni, community members, parents and students.

A call placed to Lauren Sheprow, a spokeswoman for Stony Brook University, regarding the allegations raised by Mr. Thiele, was not immediately returned.

By the end of last week, 264 Stony Brook Southampton students had already registered for classes at the main campus, Ms. Sheprow said during an earlier interview. About 30 students are looking to transfer to another school, and Stony Brook University is placing calls to those schools on the students’ behalf, she said. Another 13 students are expected to graduate this spring or summer, before Stony Brook Southampton stops funding most of the programs there on August 31, according to Ms. Sheprow.

On Tuesday, April 6, news reports revealed that Stony Brook University would be shuttering most of the buildings at the satellite campus, and moving most of the academic programs to the main campus in Stony Brook on August 31, as a cost-saving measure. Stony Brook University purchased the campus from Long Island University in 2006 for $35 million, and invested tens of millions of dollars more since then in an effort to transform it into a hub for sustainability and environmental studies.

In interviews this week, several students said they had already signed up for courses at the main campus, or were planning to do so 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 intimate learning environment and its focus on sustainability.

On Saturday night, Amber Vissichelli, 18, a freshman who commutes from Mastic and studies environmental design, policy and planning, said she was drawn to Stony Brook 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.”

Ms. Vissichelli said she had signed up for classes at the main campus the night before, on Friday. She said that transferring is not an option because Stony Brook is the only nearby school that is affordable to her.

Florencia Franzini, 20, a junior from Bethesda, Maryland, who is studying marine vertebrate biology, said she registered for classes at the main campus on Tuesday, April 6—the same night that the news that Stony Brook University was planning to withdraw most funding for the campus was first reported.

Ms. Franzini said she met with an advisor on Friday to explore transferring to another school. However, the advisor told her that, as a junior, transferring would probably set her back academically and push back her graduation date. “We basically cannot transfer,” she said.

Victor Yin, 18, a freshman from Staten Island who is also studying marine vertebrate biology, said he has registered for classes at the main campus, but still has hope that the Shinnecock Hills campus can be saved. “I mean, it’s just a backup as of now,” he said of his registering for classes at Stony Brook’s main campus. “But I still believe this school can still exist for more years to come.”

Shortly after the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton 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, according to Mr. Thiele.

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Make no mistake when you read that the "evicted" Southampton students are registering for classes at the main campus. They have no choice. Either they register st Stony Brook or they dont go to school in September. Conducting a college search takes time - these students are currently gearing up for finals and do not have the time now to research other schools that might fit their needs. Besides that, transfer applicantion deadlines have long since passed, and students who are juniors and seniors ...more
By js (44), NY on Apr 22, 10 1:28 AM
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What I find incredible is that current and prospective students, the local economy and especially the taxpayer have all been screwed on this deal. The fact of this matter too is that some the degree programs that are offerred here are unique to the school and pursuit elsewhere is difficult at best!

With what's happening here why isn't anyone also targeting the possible misuse of taxpayer funds in the campus expansion that ends in the campus demise?

What is the actual cost ...more
By semi local (19), hampton bays on Apr 25, 10 8:49 AM
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