BY AARON BARLOW
10:00 AM. I’ve just returned from the start of the rally and picketing going on (until 1:00 PM this afternoon) at the Long Island University branch in Brooklyn at Flatbush and DeKalb–in front of what once was the Paramount Theater. There are, perhaps, 150 people protesting right now, which isn’t bad, given that LIU consists of about 250 full-timers and a somewhat smaller contingent of adjuncts.
Among those present are a few LIU students supporting the faculty and a contingent from CUNY’s Hunter College. A smattering of CUNY faculty (including me) also attended or are attending or are planning to (people are still showing up: initially, the rally was scheduled to begin at ten).
This isn’t a strike action, of course, but is a response to the lockout of faculty by the administration that began last Saturday. Classes begin today, but they will be taught by substitutes. The regular faculty not only are denied access to their classrooms, but email has been cut off–as has been healthcare.
The AAUP statement in response to the lockout includes this:
The American Association of University Professors deplores this action and supports the right of the LIU Brooklyn faculty to collectively bargain in good faith with its administration.
We all should. The administration’s action is based on a vision of the institution (of all colleges and universities) centered on control of facilities. Control of the physical classrooms means control of the activities of the college. The teachers, like the students, are simply items chosen for filling them–and can be swapped out at will. Allowing faculty self-governance, in this vision, is akin to letting your stove and toaster set your menu.
But faculty are not appliances (no more than students are customers). Their interactions with students are what keep higher education alive: These are its heartbeat (moving to a more appropriate metaphor). The administration and the facilities it controls aren’t even part of the living body, but are a set of clothing, sometimes more constrictive than others, that dress up the being so that it can be easily recognized within the larger society.
If the LIU lockout–unprecedented, as far as I can tell–succeeds, the entire structure of governance in higher education will be imperiled. What is happening in Brooklyn will start happening elsewhere.
If you are in New York City and can, please join the LIU faculty, at least for a minute or two. The B, Q and R trains stop right there, the 2,3,4 and five just a block or so away–and many more subways stop just a hop farther down, at Atlantic/Barclay.