Going into Wednesday, Long Island University-Brooklyn’s faculty and the administration were set to head back to the bargaining table for a new contract.
Long Island University Faculty Federation members (230 full time and several hundred adjuncts) were locked out of LIU-Brooklyn since last week after their contract expired Aug. 31. According to the union, the proposed contract slashes adjunct professor pay and lowers faculty salaries when compared with the salaries of colleagues at LIU-Post in Brookville, N.Y. LIUFF is part of the American Federation of Teachers.
It’s one of the few times in American history that a university locked out professors after a contract expired.
After LIU President Kimberly Cline told students that classes would start on time, students got replacement teachers who have no experience in the subjects they’re teaching. Students and unionized faculty alike took to Twitter under the hashtag #LIULockout to air grievances.
Gale Haynes, vice president, chief operating officer and university counsel at LIU said the contract the university offered before Wednesday was more than enough.
“It’s disappointing that the LIUFF has rejected a contract offer that the university believes is generous and highly competitive,” said Haynes in a statement. “The university will continue to bargain in good faith, with the goal of welcoming its valued faculty back to the classroom upon timely resolution of the contract. During this timeframe, we will remain laser focused on our students beginning the fall semester with little or no disruption to their academic studies.”
In a letter addressed to students, LIU’s Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jeffrey Kane wrote that faculty pay is in direct correlation to student amenities.
“With the understanding that every additional dollar spent on faculty salaries and benefits is a dollar not spent on student scholarships, new labs and facilities or campus safety, we’ve offered the faculty a generous proposal that recognizes their accomplishments and importance,” wrote Kane. “Average salaries for faculty at LIU-Brooklyn already exceed those at 80 percent of peer colleges and universities across the region and the country.”
Before Wednesday, LIU made its offer to LIUFF available to the public. The deal includes a 1.75 to 2.25 percent increase for fiscal years beginning Sept. 1 in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, depending on whether a faculty member’s salary is at, below or above the “2016 Post minima at the beginning of the fiscal year.” The union rejected the offer in a 226 to 10 vote.
The developments have drawn the ire of not only faculty members but also students.
“The university seeks to eliminate a parity clause, despite a long history of greater resources and compensation for suburban LIU-Post; continues to offer Brooklyn a lower salary increase; seeks onerous changes such as post-tenure review; and aims to impose harsh new exploitative conditions on part-time adjunct faculty, including elimination of its benefit trust fund,” read a statement by the LIUFF.
In a letter submitted to Chairman Eric Krasnof and the board of trustees of Long Island University, LIU-Brooklyn’s psychology doctoral students expressed worry about learning without their teachers present.
“As students of Long Island University-Brooklyn, we are deeply concerned at the locking out of our mentors and professors from the university,” read the letter. “We would like to express to the board of trustees our deep concerns with the current administration, particularly President Dr. Kimberly R. Cline and Vice President Dr. Jeffrey Kane, who have been vocal in advocating for the lockout as the best course of action.”
The letter continued, “We wholeheartedly disagree with this view, as we cannot imagine moving forward without our professors and mentors, who have given (and continue to give) so much to us. Our professors are the lifeblood of the university, and without them, many specialized programs would cease to exist.”
But LIU-Brooklyn’s faculty and staff isn’t just getting support from its students. Faculty at other colleges and universities have shown support as well. The University of San Francisco Faculty Association (AFL-CIO Local 4269) expressed solidarity with LIUFF members in a letter addressed to them.
“We are dismayed by the strong-arm tactics of the administration and hope that the Long Island Union Faculty Federation can relay to its administrators that unions across the country are keeping a careful eye on what is happening to you,” read the letter.
The San Francisco Faculty Association also offered any assistance should LIUFF members seek it.
Marymount Manhattan College Faculty Council passed a resolution that called for the administration of LIU to end the lockout and resume good-faith negotiations with the faculty union and called their actions “a grave disservice to faculty, students and staff alike …”
Another group calling for resuming negotiations is the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association. In a statement, ALAAPA President Julie Todaro said the lockout threatens the quality of education provided to students at LIU-Brooklyn.
“We urge the LIU-Brooklyn administration to reconsider this assault on both the union and on the open and collegial traditions of higher education,” said Todaro in a statement. “With student learning in mind, it is incumbent on both the administration and the union to pursue good-faith negotiations, without fear of reprisal. The ALA-Allied Professional Association works within a policy framework that recognizes voluntary participation in collective bargaining; the intellectual contributions of faculty, including library faculty, to the teaching, research and service missions of their institutions; and the value of employment security within the guidelines for acceptable performance, as well as salary administration, which offers comparable rewards for positions having similar requirements.”
With LIU-Brooklyn serving mostly Black, Latino and immigrant students, the faculty has found another ally in Barbara Bowen, the president of the Professional Staff Congress (the union that represents City University of New York’s faculty and staff).
“The lockout is an attempt to destroy the union by coercing its members to accept a contract that fails to meet legitimate demands for full-time faculty and further degrades the conditions of part-time faculty,” read Bowen’s statement. “Nearly half of the faculty members at the Brooklyn campus of LIU are paid significantly less than their counterparts at LIU’s suburban Nassau County campus (LIU-Post), where the student body is less racially diverse than the student body at the Brooklyn campus.”