March 29, 2006

SUNY To Purchase LIU's Southampton Campus

Echoing the words spoken to students at countless graduations, Shirley Strum Kenny looked at her panel of colleagues beside her and said, "You did it!"

The president of Stony Brook University was, of course, referring to the agreement penned moments before, transferring Long Island University's Southampton campus to the State University of New York.

The $35 million purchase will return to the East End its undergraduate educational facility, one year after LIU transferred its classes to its C.W. Post campus in Brookville. In 2004, the school announced it would close Southampton College's undergraduate program due to mounting financial debts.

During a press conference in Chancellor's Hall at Southampton College last Friday, Kenny was flanked by school administrators and local politicians, including Dr. David Steinberg, President of LIU; John Ryan, SUNY Chancellor; and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick Heaney.

"Long Island University bequeaths something far more valuable than bricks and mortar to Stony Brook University, a tradition of teaching excellence," Steinberg began.

The school has kept its promise of providing a smooth transition in these turbulent times, he said, including the transfer of the school's marine science program to Stony Brook, relocating Southampton's faculty to other LIU campuses, and transferring students over to C.W. Post. "And now, the physical assets of this campus are to be moved to the state university, thus fulfilling our pledge to preserve undergraduate education in the Hamptons."

To Kenny he said, "I think you have a very proud tradition from which to build."

SUNY at Southampton will offer primarily undergraduate programs, strengthening studies on the environment with a focus on ecological sustainability, Kenny explained. They will also "move very strongly in the area of the arts."

There will be "a small contingent of students" in the start of the 2006-07 school year, Kenny said — about 200 will attend the first semester. But enrollment is expected to rise up to 2000 over the next five years.

As part of the agreement, LIU will continue to hold graduate classes on the 82-acre campus in teacher education, homeland security management, and continuing education for the next three years. The university's Public Radio Network WLIU 88.3 FM will also maintain operations on the campus for the same period of time. Broadcast space on the campus cell tower will be available for up to 18 years.

"If there ever were a win for the community, a win for LIU, [and] a win for Stony Brook, this is it," said Ryan.

Good timing and the "right" people played no small role in the success of this deal, said LaValle, who secured the $35 million from the State Legislature for this purchase. "Today we have witnessed the passing of the baton from one great university to another," he added.

"A lot of people didn't think this would happen but it did," said Thiele, a Southampton College alumnus. The assemblyman choked up while thanking a former professor for his guidance.

Heaney, another alumnus, stressed the significance of the opportunities afforded to students at the small, intimate school. "I loved my time at the Southampton campus of Long Island University," he said.

Once approved by State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, the deal will be official. The closing date for the agreement will be on or before August 31.

This experience is "very real, very deeply ingrained in us and very exciting," said Kenny.

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