On the weekend traditionally reserved to honor workers' rights, faculty at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University have been locked out of their jobs and barred from campus by an administration that is fighting them over salary, job security and adjunct faculty rights. As part of the lockout, faculty also lose their salaries and health insurance. The move is highly unusual in higher education, and may be unprecedented.
Despite that, classes will start without several hundred LIU faculty members on Sept. 7. Administrators have hired "strikebreakers" to replace them, and have assigned staff from within their own ranks to teach from syllabi that were posted on Blackboard over the summer.
Faculty are outraged, says Jessica Rosenberg, president of the campus chapter of the Long Island University Faculty Federation. But they're also fearful, facing what amounts to unemployment until the contract can be resolved. For Gloria Wilsson, a health science librarian and a single mother of three, losing health insurance is especially scary; she depends on it to care for a daughter with a neurological disorder. She was shocked when she found out about the lockout. "I didn't think it would get this bad," she says.
"The administration is leveraging all this pressure on people so that they'll vote their contract up and bust the union," says Rosenberg. The campus, which once had five unions, is down to just three, and all of them are working without a contract. LIUFF, a New York State United Teachers/AFT affiliate, represents full-time and adjunct faculty there.
The Brooklyn Faculty Senate has submitted an official complaint to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, according to LIUFF, alleging noncompliance with accreditation standards around shared governance, integrity and academic practices. Several elected officials from Brooklyn urged the college administration to work with the union last spring. And students on an online forum have protested that at a college with a substantial reputation and a relatively high tuition, they want experienced, prepared faculty in class—the faculty who have been locked out—not substitutes.
The union is seeking to address a historical salary disparity between faculty at the Brooklyn campus of LIU who are, overall, paid far less than their counterparts at LIU Long Island.
Coincidentally, Brooklyn serves a more diverse student body, whose tuition is the same as tuition on Long Island. Other disputed contract issues include "onerous changes" to post-tenure review and draconian proposals that would further exploit part-time adjunct faculty, including the elimination of a trust fund for healthcare and a seniority fund that makes modest payments to long-serving adjuncts.
Contract negotiations have been underway since spring, but movement has been minimal. Another session is scheduled for Sept. 8.
"We are going to seek resolution," says Rosenberg. "That's our charge, and that's what we're trying to do. But we're not going to allow ourselves to be bullied and intimidated by an administration that has shown no respect for the work that we do."