Lockout of Faculty at LIU: Looking Down into the Abyss

BY GAIL STYGALL

Guest blogger Gail Stygall is a Professor of English at the University of Washington-Seattle. This is crossposted on Daily Kos.

What is a university? What is a college? Fundamentally, a university is its faculty and students. At its heart, a university’s fundamental task is for its faculty to provide an education, as they see fit, for their students.

Though administrators may make the wheels turn, administrators are basically extraneous to the fundamental task: education. They may help acquire funds, hire staff, process paperwork of all kinds, maintain the physical university or college and its monetary needs, but only the faculty and the students are absolutely necessary. See various statements about what the faculty do and how they participate in governing colleges and universities here: www.aaup.org/… 

Three days ago, President of Long Island University Kimberly R. Cline and the Board of Trustees locked out the faculty of the LIU Brooklyn Campus. After contract negotiations on a new contract failed, the administration simply ended negotiations. Such a lockout has never happened before in higher education in the United States. The administration not only locked out the faculty, but they also cut off their pay, their benefits, their health care, and even their university email.

If the administration of this university is able to overturn the fundamental structure of faculty shared governance, then we are all in danger of seeing the destruction of the colleges and universities into customers and faculty-free curriculum.

They need our help and I list at the end of this diary the various ways in which outsiders can assist the faculty caught in a neoliberal fit of anger.

What about the students?

And what do the students get as fall classes begin? Administrators and other nonprofessionals masquerading as faculty. Many administrators and “temporary” hires were learning to teach through “onboarding” training sessions, said LIU English professor Deborah Mutnick. Apparently, through the summer, the LIU administration was preparing for this radical move. Just how the administration “prepared” for the education of its students by administrators is reported by the www.nytimes.com/…

The university has been preparing to staff its classes with replacement teachers, advertising on job websites and through its alumni network.

Ms. Haynes said that about 140 replacement teachers had been hired, and that they all had the proper accreditation and licensing.

At one point, Ms. Haynes was scheduled to teach a yoga class. The dean of students for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, David Cohen, a botanist, was going to teach ballet.

As reported by Liz Robbins in the NYT on September 6, 2016.

The administration claims that these “errors” have been corrected, but the university searched for people to “staff” classes in a variety of very non-academic ways, including advertising positions on Monster.com. Hires in academic departments at colleges and universities are thoroughly vetted before actual hiring by the academic department in which the faculty member will teach, research, and contribute to the community. While administrators and boards of trustees may make the last official move, they almost never assess and evaluate a potential faculty member’s qualifications to be a faculty member. What’s happening at LIU is nearly the antithesis of an academic hiring process.  Atlantic reporter Alana Semuels interviewed one adjunct professor and advisor at LIU who was solicited for fall classes and assigned English courses during the summer.

Sam Scheiber, an adjunct professor at New York University who also serves as a student advisor at LIU, was asked to replace the striking professors. He says that as early as July, the university was reaching out to him to get proposed syllabi for a class he hadn’t been hired to teach. Then, on August 22, at a weekly meeting, he was assigned a handful of English classes to teach, as a contingency. He was told he couldn’t discuss these classes with students or other faculty members. Rather than serve as a scab, he quit. “It seemed like an ethical line that I couldn’t cross,” he told me.  www.theatlantic.com/…

As labor expert and Cornell Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner observed:

Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, is an expert on lockouts. She said that while they hurt union members economically, they pose a great risk to the reputation of employers, especially in the education sector. “If you have faculty members showing up who want to teach,” it “looks very bad” for the employer to be turning them away, she said.

As reported by Scott Jaschik in www.insidehighered.com/…

Professor Bronfenbrenner was also interviewed by the Atlantic and confirmed her historical view of lockouts:

Labor historians say they can’t recall an example of a university using a lockout against faculty members. Kate Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell professor of labor relations, says they’re particularly unwise in the service sector, or any sector where a company has clients such as students and donors to placate. More typically, she says, lockouts are used in the industrial sector, where customers are removed from labor practices.

So LIU-Brooklyn’s students—primarily women and primarily people of color—are getting the new, discount, neoliberal version of a college and graduate level education at the full cost of this private university’s tuition, but without the actual faculty.

The faculty definitively rejected the administration’s contract offer 226-10. And the Faculty Senate, separate from the union itself, voted “no confidence” in Long Island University President Kimberly R. Cline. The contract issues were multiple:

  • cuts to wages for new full-time faculty;
  • cuts to wages of already poorly paid adjuncts;
  • an imbalance between faculty pay on the LIU-Post campus and the LIU-Brooklyn campus;
  • changes to post-tenure review;
  • class size;
  • online curriculum;

and reducing funding of an innovative fund for additional services by adjuncts. www.thenation.com/…

As LUIFF President Jessica Rosenberg said:

“We’ve been bargaining in good faith and we continue to bargain,” said LIUFF president Jessica Rosenberg. “We had planned to bring their last best final offer to the membership for a ratifying vote on the 31st and they preempted that by informing us we were going to be locked out, and immediately after they locked us out they cut healthcare, salary, and access to e-mail and students.” www.thenation.com/…

Positions of various organizations are listed below (including the administrative position):

AAUP Statement on LIU faculty lockout

The union’s statements can be found on its website.

Administration’s position

What you can do as a friend of higher education–

I will save for another diary an analysis of how this lockout embodies the result of neoliberalism in higher education. But there are some very real things that each of us can do, even if we don’t live in New York, even if we are not in higher education even if we are not concerned teachers at other levels, and even if we are just the concerned citizens who think students should learn to be critical thinkers.

DONATE TO THE STRIKE FUND

www.aft.org/…

EMAIL OR CALL THE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT

President Cline President (516) 299-2501 Office of the President UniversityCenter liu.edu
Kim Cline President (516)-299-2501 Office of the President UniversityCenter Kim.Cline@liu.edu

QUERY THE ACCREDITING ASSOCIATION ABOUT THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE REPLACEMENT FACULTY

www.4icu.org/…

There are good reasons why the model of the university and college has remained based in the concepts of faculty and students since the earliest universities in Western Europe (University of Bologna, University of Paris, and Oxford University) and North Africa (University of Al-Karaouine and Al-Azhar University). Help stop the masquerade at LIU-Brooklyn.

[Many thanks to Deborah Mutnick, Professor of English, LIU-Brooklyn, for locating key information for me.]

7 thoughts on “Lockout of Faculty at LIU: Looking Down into the Abyss

  1. Thank you, Gail Stygall, for supporting the locked out faculty at LIU Brooklyn. One correction: negotiations never stopped. The union and administration teams return to the table early this morning while students organize protests internally and faculty apply en masse for employment benefits. We hope the administration will begin to understand the enormous error it made and end the lockout, let us back to work to meet our students, and sit down to bargain a fair contract in good faith.

    • I’m glad to know that negotiations are ongoing with some room for hope of settlement. I also called the support fund a strike fund, which it clearly is not, although every bit as necessary for all the faculty affected. Apologies for my errors, all mine alone.

  2. Pingback: Faculty Associations’ Letter to the President of Long Island University |

  3. Pingback: Letter to LIU | UC Santa Barbara Faculty Association

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