(Editor's Note: From time to time, we hear about projects and initiatives that we feel are better discussed and written about by those directly involved. In this instance, we've asked Adam Ehmer, who in addition to his duties at Roanoke Vineyards, also works as an instructor at Stony Brook Southampton, to write about his efforts to save the Southampton campus)
By Adam Ehmer, Guest Contributor
This spring, students at Stony Brook Southampton learned that they would not be returning to their campus at the start of the next school year. The president, Dr. Samuel Stanley, made an executive decision to close the dorms and the unique programs focused on sustainability, leaving open just the marine field station and the writing center. Dr. Stanley stated that budget cuts in Albany forced the university to trim and that he’d rather affect the few hundred students at the satellite campus than the thousands at the main campus. As a consolation to accommodate the displaced students, some of the unique major degree programs will be transferred to the main campus. You can read his reasoning to close the campus in the Op-Ed section of the Sag Harbor Express.
Dr. Stanley’s argument also focuses on the fact that Stony Brook doesn’t have the ability to independently adjust tuition as do more successful public research institutions in other stats. He suggests that the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA) is a solution to the problem, as it allows the tuition increases and private partnerships that will bankroll growth at Stony Brook.
Essentially, Stanley has chosen to make Southampton the victim of this political ploy.
This was made more clear as local politicians from the Town of Southampton, state legislators Fred Thiele and Ken Lavalle, and the office of congressman Tim Bishop offered Stanley a solution that uses Southampton community preservation funds to keep the campus open. It would also set Southampton on track to shed the Stony Brook name to become an independent part of the SUNY system.
Stanley flatly rejected the offer with little consideration. Most recently, the students of Southampton have formed a non-profit organization, Save the College at Southampton, Inc., and responded to Dr. Stanley by filing suit in the New York State Supreme Court.
As an adjunct instructor at the Southampton campus, I’ve seen the damage done to the spirit and livelihood of the faculty, staff, and students at the campus. I’m among 33 employees whose position will not be renewed. I support the students and the local legislators in their goal to block Stanley’s actions and reclaim the direction of the campus to the goal of sustainability. The incredible community that supports and promotes our local wine and food culture should empathize with these goals.
As an employee of Roanoke Vineyards, I’m supporting the students’ cause by offering a promotion of local agritourism.
I’m conducting private tastings at our vineyard (that's me on the left), which include a guided tour, a local hors d’oeuvres platter, discussion of our wines, and the history of Roanoke Vineyards in the context of the North Fork wine region.
For every private tasting ($25/person) I will donate ten dollars to Save the College at Southampton, Inc. Individual contributions can also be made directly at www.savethecollege.org.
The private tastings can be reserved during normal business hours between Friday and Monday.
I hope that in addition to raising some funds for the students, these tastings will engender discussion about our vision for sustaining the East End, of which higher education should be an integral component.