A lawsuit initiated by a group of students after officials announced the undergraduate program at their campus would be shut down and moved to the university’s main campus was settled this week, but the deal is a far cry from what the students wanted: the restoration of the four-year sustainability degree program at its original campus.
Under the deal, Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley will apologize to students affected by the closure, the sustainability program that was transplanted from Southampton to the main campus will remain intact through 2014, the university will fund a sustainability conference at the Southampton campus, and the university will pick up the students’ outstanding attorney’s fees. A student said the fees amount to $30,000.
“We are gratified that an agreement has been reached, and President Stanley looks forward to the opportunity to meet with the students in the coming month,” university spokesperson Lauren Sheprow said Friday.
But for at least one of the six students who initiated the lawsuit, Kathleen Furey, the deal is a big disappointment. Furey, now a senior, said Friday that they had to settle because they could no longer afford the costs of litigation. “We’re students,” she said. “We don’t have the money to sue a gigantic university.”
A state Supreme Court judge had , declaring that the move to shut down the undergraduate program at the campus was unlawful, but the ruling fell short of ordering the university to restore Stony Brook Southampton to what it was.
“By that time, the university had completely shut everything down and moved everything off campus,” Furey said.
Under the settlement, all court decisions made against Stony Brook University are now vacated, she said.
Furey said the plaintiffs argued consistently and fervently for a four-year undergraduate degree-bearing program to be reestablished at the Southampton campus, but the university would not budge.
In March, the university revealed , but only for semester-long programs. The plan includes expanded programs in graduate creative arts and new undergraduate marine sciences programs through the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
Furey said taxpayers should be outraged that they spent $70 million on the Southampton campus only to have no degree-bearing undergraduate program there, while Stony Brook University plans a new campus in South Korea.
In a statement Friday from New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., I-Sag Harbor, and state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, the legislators said the recently enacted 2011 state budget had re-appropriated funding for a new $6.9 million marine sciences building at Stony Brook Southampton and a $7.5 million student center. The lawmakers are calling for the creation of a not-for-profit Peconic Bay Region Sustainability Institute “to sponsor research, education programs, and policy discussions, and to encourage a sustainable future for the East End.”
Additionally, talks are underway between Stony Brook University and about siting a new hospital on 15 acres of the 82-acre campus, and the addition of health-care related academic programs to the campus’ offerings.