President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. and other top administrators met with the University Senate Monday to discuss a plan to balance Stony Brook University’s nearly $35 million deficit over the next two to three years.

Aside from divulging details about the budget, Stanley was forced to address grievances from various faculty members, many of whom complained that the impending cuts would contradict the university’s alleged commitment to diversity in education.

“I think one thing that we know, that every educational institution knows, is that almost no place can be excellent in all areas,” Stanley said. “We really have to make decisions and set priorities of where we’re going to invest.”

One of the changes being made is a cut to personnel spending, which will likely result in terminations. The plan calls for a three percent decrease in personnel for academic programs and a six percent decrease for administrative units. There will also be a 10 percent reduction across other spending areas.

Stanley stressed the fact that administration would be facing the brunt of the cuts. A broad variety of jobs, including positions in operations and maintenance as well as clerical work, fall under the umbrella of administrative units. 

The president urged faculty to use the unfortunate situation as an opportunity to reassess their academic programs. “What are programs that are high quality, that have high demand from students, or are good and can become great? Those are programs we can be invested in. And there may be other programs we can no longer be invested in,” he said.

Various faculty members’ comments drew an emotional response from the crowd of nearly 200. But the standout moment of the afternoon came from Mireille Rebeiz, an assistant professor in the department of world literature, which was formed following the recent downsizing of humanities programs at Stony Brook.

“The most vulnerable among us are from the underrepresented groups,” she said, referring to programs in fine arts and humanities. “If you look at the rate of lecturers, it’s mostly women or people of color… the higher in administration we go, the more white males we have.” Rebeiz’s comments reflected concerns from faculty that those in lower-level teaching positions would be hit the hardest since tenured professors are legally protected against termination.

The audience began to cheer and clap, but Rebeiz was far from finished. “The way I hear it, you used your savings on a swimming pool, on raising your own salary, on ‘Far Beyond.’ Far Beyond what?” she asked, mocking the university’s newest branding campaign.

Rebeiz stood up and left the room in frustration after the president failed to respond to her comment, which was met with thunderous applause from the audience.

Stanley kept his head down for the majority of the meeting, both literally and figuratively, standing on the far left side of the room, his hands tightly clasped. Although he often deferred to Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Robert Megna and Provost Michael Bernstein, one of Stanley’s most direct answers came in response to a criticism that cuts to faculty teaching various topics in world literature was counterintuitive to other measures being made to promote diversity, including the appointment of a chief diversity officer.

“It’s difficult when one gets down to the areas of teaching, to me, to say that we’re going to keep one area and not another area just based purely on content. I think we really have to make decisions based on enrollment, based on scholarly impact,” Stanley said, immediately after reiterating the university’s commitment to diversity.

Although Megna identified several causes behind Stony Brook’s current budget woes, the primary reason seemed to be the end of the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program. The plan, passed by the state legislature in 2011, provided $140 million in grants across four SUNY schools, including Stony Brook. This allowed the university to hire around 240 new faculty members, and make sizable investments in infrastructure and student advising.

“The challenge when you invest in any situation is that you face the possibility that revenue will decline,” Stanley said. In Stony Brook’s case, this is exactly what happened.

The approval of a five-year predictable tuition plan following the end of SUNY 2020 capped tuition hikes at $200 per year, $100 less than the years prior, according to a presentation distributed to Senate members. This amounts to a loss of around $2.6 million for the first year, Stanley said. Additionally, an agreement between the legislature and the SUNY system will ensure that tuition rates remain flat for the 2017-18 school year, further decreasing revenue.

Mandatory pay increases for state employees will also pose a threat to the the budget, since these raises are no longer factored into the state’s annual allocation for SUNY schools. “Stony Brook now has to pay that increase,” Stanley said. “So a two percent increase, which is about what they’ve been over the past few years, translates to about eight to nine million dollars in additional costs.”

Despite his attempts to frame the issue in the best possible light, this was not enough to win over the sympathies of much of the audience.

As Rebeiz wrapped up her final statement before exiting the room, the faculty’s collective exasperation became abundantly clear. “I moved my family here from Ohio and the only thing you have to tell me is that I’m not essential to the mission of the university? That I have no role to play and you have no commitment to me and your reputation will be fine? That is shameful.”

Update: An earlier version of this story did not define the terms “underrepresented groups” or “administrative units.” This article has since been updated to better explain these terms as well as provide greater context regarding tenure rules.

  • R.Parks

    If the Undergraduate Student Government (“USG”) was more “TRANSPARENT”, you would know exactly how much of your student activity fee money was handed over to the ” SB Administration” for campus renovations. Who approved that allocation (misappropriation) of student funds? Dr. Peter Baigent. What you don’t know and what USG is failing to tell you, is costing you! USG is not an ATM for SBU and the students should not be responsible for renovations to state owned property. Enough is enough!

  • Deniz Erezyilmaz

    In the department where I work, we have a vital administrative assistant who makes ~30K/year. Every year it is difficult to provide her with a minimal raise. We need more like her but fewer top administrators- that was my point. If she were to go then it would place further strain on research in my center. We also need more grants administrators.

  • Wack Messiah

    Please, none of the 200 administrators who make more than the Governor are going to get cut. The culling will come from the 1,000+ administrators who make under 50K/yr and are barely scraping by.

    People hear “administration” and they think it only means Executive Vice Presidents. It’s merely a catch-all category for everyone that doesn’t fit into others. That includes office assistants, middle managers and the like. And don’t think that the word “manager” in a title means anything. Most middle management positions pay less after ten years than first-year full-time faculty get. And they often work twice as many hours, and most have no job security or union protection.

    Percentage-wise, very few cuts are going to come from people making six figures.

  • Pantrycias Kitchen

    I am an administrative state employee of the union CSEA who’s salary after almost 28 years in the state is laughable to anyone who is privy to it. They want to terminate ALL CSEA Administration support for years now and keep only the maintenance, grounds workers and housekeepers so that it is all a UUP world with in regard to administration. Very Very sad..I use to work on the hospital side and wish I still did. There was never this prejudiced hierarchy that exists on this side for our secretaries, clerks etc as they are here..its all politics and no humanity!

  • Deniz Erezyilmaz

    There are over 200 administrators at SBU who make more than Governor Cuomo. At the same time lecturers are making slave wages, and the cost of food on campus for students is comparable to airport prices. Something has gotta change.

  • Aigoual

    Kudo to Professor Rebeiz and her courageous stand against the war on the Humanities at Stony Brook. Stony Brook’s reputation as a top university is going down by the minutes.