Logo for Stony Brook University
directions to stony brook

February, 2011
Message to the Campus Community from President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD

To All Faculty, Staff and Students,

Governor Andrew Cuomo has now presented his first Executive Budget for consideration to the New York State Assembly and Legislature.  New York faces many fiscal challenges, culminating in a deficit of approximately $10 billion. This budget proposal was created to address those challenges and close the budget gap over time.

It is not news to anyone at Stony Brook University that we are living in an environment that calls for extreme fiscal responsibility — an environment we have been operating under for the past three years.  We have made and continue to make very difficult, highly strategic decisions to accommodate these fiscal challenges and we have cut back our operating budget while protecting the core academic mission of the institution. We have undertaken a University-wide initiative called Project 50 Forward under which we are developing a strategic plan, a facilities master plan and are working to streamline and improve our administrative performance, so that we can manage for excellence and growth in a time of extreme fiscal challenges, now and for years to come.

We know that compared to peer institutions we have a very lean operation on both the administrative and academic side. So at this point we cannot simply cut our budget and maintain excellence. We must find ways to increase revenue, and a rational tuition policy — an initiative proposed in last year’s Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act — has been the cornerstone of that opportunity. The other components of PHEEIA, greater ability for public private partnerships, coupled with regulatory relief on procurement, are also vital, but are much longer term in their potential impact on generating revenue. The good news is, the executive budget includes language that would help in the procurement and public/private partnership areas — we are grateful for these proposals and we hope these changes become law.  But rather than providing any revenue relief in the form of rational tuition or restoration of funds, the proposed budget delivers an unprecedented budget cut to Stony Brook University, 30% of our State allocation, one that far exceeds that delivered to any other SUNY University center.  

Central to this cut is the proposed elimination of all direct State support — $54.8 million in operating expenses — for Stony Brook University Hospital. This is coupled with the complete elimination of the $300 million capital request for the three SUNY hospitals.  Stony Brook University Hospital is the region’s safety net hospital providing services that are simply not available anywhere else in this area.  It is the major teaching hospital for the University, helping us train thousands of health professionals in the medical, nursing, and ancillary health services. Stony Brook University Hospital is the major provider of trauma care for the people of Suffolk County — in fact it is the only Level 1 trauma center in Suffolk County, taking care of the sickest, most critically injured patients — and the biggest provider of care for the underserved and uninsured in this community  Together with its sister SUNY institutions, Upstate Medical Center and Downstate Medical Center, Stony Brook University Medical Center provides care for more than 1 million New Yorkers across the State.  It is an extraordinary asset for this region. 

Another troubling element of this proposal is an almost $5 million cut to the spending authority of the Long Island State Veteran’s Home on the Medical Center Campus. The LISVH, whose mission it is to care for the veterans (and their family members) who selflessly served our country, does not receive a dime of direct state support.  The combination of a cut to Stony Brook University Hospital, which provides much of their residents care, and the reduction of the LISVH spending authority, puts significant pressure on our ability to provide the best care for Long Island’s veterans.

Unfortunately, funds for our academic enterprise have been slashed as well. The 10% cut for SUNY proposed in the new Executive Budget will bring the total cuts to our academic enterprise to 75 million dollars over three years.  Our cost per student has not changed — in fact due to mandatory faculty and staff wage increases over the past five years it has risen — so without some form of revenue relief in the form of increased tuition, we cannot hope to maintain the same level of educational quality, unless we significantly reduce the number of students we serve. 

At this stage the Executive Budget is a proposal, not law, so we will work diligently over the next several weeks to try and ameliorate its effects on Stony Brook and SUNY. We will not be alone, as SUNY Central Administration and the other 64 campuses in the system share our concerns and will do the same.  We have already heard from the SUNY Student Assembly leadership (see the message) which supports a predictable and rational tuition increase. These student leaders recognize that the cumulative reductions in the state allocation, without any tuition increase, must ultimately compromise their education. I applaud their wisdom, and their commitment to a quality education. I hope our elected officials in Albany will listen to our students and our faculty, and take the actions necessary to help us manage this extraordinary fiscal crisis.

On the hospital side we will work to educate our elected officials and the public on the absolutely vital role Stony Brook University Hospital and our academic medical center play in the quality of life and economic vitality of Long Island.  We need to be clear — a cut of this magnitude will have an enormous impact on our region. Critical programs are at risk, and unless these funds are restored, we may be forced to lay off hundreds of skilled workers. No one disputes the need for cost controls in health care, but the complete elimination of State support to Stony Brook University Hospital, and the service reductions, program eliminations, and lay-offs that must follow, would be a severe blow to the people of Suffolk County and Long Island.  We need all of our constituencies — faculty, staff, students, patients, and families — to speak out on this critical issue. 

At times like this, it is often worthwhile to stop and take stock of where we are today. Stony Brook University is a strong and vibrant institution. Our core is our human capital, the outstanding students, dedicated staff, and one of the best faculties in the world, and it remains strong. Our campus is beautiful and vital, with an ever improving student experience. Our peers recognize this — Stony Brook University was named the 78th best university in the world in the Times Higher Education World Ranking, and 50th best among U.S. universities, the only public university in New York to achieve Top 50 status.  In the recent National Research Council evaluation of doctoral programs, released in September 2010, thirty two of Stony Brook's Ph.D. programs were analyzed and 20 programs ranked either in the Top 25 for their discipline or the Top 25% for disciplines that included more than 100 programs.   This is a remarkable accomplishment, as in the last NRC evaluation in 1995 only nine programs reached this level. 

And Stony Brook University is fortunate to have an outstanding leadership team, at the Departmental, Decanal, and Vice Presidential level. Our new Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences, Ken Kaushansky, has imbued the Medical Center with a new sense of purpose founded on a commitment to excellence in its three core missions, education, research, and patient care.  Our hospital, under CEO Steven Strongwater, continues to make great strides in improving patient care, with outstanding state of the art technology, and innovative and award winning new programs in patient safety.  And our Provost and Senior Vice President, Eric Kaler, provides strong and far-sighted leadership for our academic mission in the schools and colleges.

So when I reflect on Stony Brook, and where we stand today, I am absolutely confident in our future, and therefore, absolutely committed to maintaining our quality during these tough times. Stony Brook University has seen extraordinarily difficult economic times before, but it survived, ultimately regained its positive trajectory, and emerged better and stronger than before.  This is our nature: we are still young and resilient, and with your help and advocacy, we will weather the current storm, and will emerge stronger and better than before.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.

See also: Statement from Stony Brook University on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Executive Budget



Stony Brook University News