The dorms at could reopen in the fall of 2012 and the satellite campus of will vastly increase its academic offerings before then under a plan the university announced Monday.
Stony Brook intends to expand its graduate creative arts and undergraduate marine science programs at the Shinnecock Hills campus, a move the cash-strapped university described as revenue neutral. The plan also includes “Semester by the Shore” residencies for visiting undergraduates.
“We are very excited because this expansion of existing programs at Southampton is fiscally responsible — all related expenses are covered by tuition and fees — while maintaining Stony Brook University’s commitment to academic excellence,” university Provost Eric Kaler was quoted as saying in a press release.
"We have made excellent progress and plan to roll out expanded programs this year,” said university President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD.
University officials announced in April last year they would be shuttering the dorms at the campus and relocating the undergraduate sustainability program to the main campus.
A group of students responded with a lawsuit and a state judge ruled in the students’ favor in August, deciding that Stony Brook violated state law when it excluded the university council from the decision to shut down most of the campus. However, the court decision was not enough to force Stony Brook to restore the campus and reinstate the sustainability program there.
Stony Brook claimed the university came into compliance with the law in May when the council signed off on the plan to shrink operations at the Southampton campus, and asked the judge to amend the judgment. The council passed a similiar resolution in October to affirm the university's decision.
The students, with the backing of state and federal elected officials, continued to seek restoration of the campus as it once was — a small residential school dedicated to environmental sustainability.
But last week it was announced that the university and the students had come to an agreement to put litigation on the back burner for 30 days.
“The students agreed to put their motion on hold and Stony Brook agreed to put their appeal on hold,” state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said Monday.
Thiele said the agreement came because the forces that want to see the campus reestablished as a four-year residential college have seen changes in recent months that have improved their position.
For instance, Thiele said, state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, a fervent supporter of Stony Brook Southampton, is once again chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, a position he had temporarily lost at the time the cuts to the school were made.
Additionally, Stony Brook is facing cuts under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget, and Thiele said the university will be looking to the state legislature for help.
“Stony Brook University, like all the SUNY campuses, is facing another 10 percent cut — about $12 million — to its direct state support in this budget cycle,” university spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow wrote in an e-mail Monday. “Stony Brook has been cut $75 million over the past three years.”
Thiele said LaValle would not be satisfied with a budget amendment to restore funding to SUNY schools that does not include reopening Stony Brook Southampton.
“As a well-known champion for higher education, Senator LaValle brings a great deal of experience and insight to the role of chair of the Higher Education Committee,” Sheprow said. “It is unclear how that will impact Stony Brook's efforts to expand already existing programs on the Southampton campus.”
Thiele said he is optimistic open the campus' future. “I certainly feel that things are now headed in the right direction”
“Stony Brook has proposals for the Southampton college which I think we find to be interesting,” he said, giving theater, film, visual arts and visiting programs as examples.
Undergraduate visiting programs would attract students from all over SUNY and the country for a semester, Thiele explained.
“We’re looking for a little bit more than that, but it’s a start,” he said. “There are a lot of thorny issues that still remain.”
“I would say the major stumbling block is still over the future of the sustainability program — and the future of students who were in that program.”
Most of the students who were displaced when cuts were made to the campus followed the sustainability program to the university’s main campus.
“Senator LaValle and myself and Congressman [Tim] Bishop have always said that any settlement has to involve the restoration of a residential campus, so that means reopening the dorms,” Thiele said.