Long Island University unions say stop the war on students

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Despite soggy weather, hundreds of faculty, staff, students and community members gathered April 6 to say "no more" to the destructive actions of Long Island University administrators. They rallied to insist that the university community be included in crucial policymaking in the future and that the administration sign fair contracts with all LIU unions before commencement May 11.

Randi Weingarten with protestorsThis fight surfaced last September when faculty were locked out, banned from campus the first week of class. The move, by administrators who would not negotiate over the union contract, shut down the school for 12 days at the start of classes and worried students who wondered whether they'd be able to continue to earn the credits they needed to graduate.

Finally, the Long Island University Faculty Federation secured an extension of the contract and classes resumed, but administrators have been uncooperative in mediation, refused lockout pay, and began to unilaterally slash courses and majors with little, if any, faculty input. Most troubling, the administration has filed notice to either impose a contract or lock the faculty out again on May 31, 2017, the expiration of the contract extension.

Faculty are focusing on LIU President Kimberly Cline, who has repeatedly refused to cooperate during mediation. She has steered the university toward a more corporate operating model, emphasizing money-making and lucrative courses and neglecting the liberal arts.

"I am happy to stand in the rain for as long as it takes for Kim Cline to understand that the students and workers at LIU Brooklyn see what she is doing to this university—undermining organized labor, targeting our essential part-time faculty and attacking the liberal arts, while trying to turn our campus into a cash machine," says Emily Drabinski, a coordinator of library instruction and faculty member at LIU's Brooklyn campus, and secretary of the LIUFF. "We will not stand by idly while she destroys the fabric of the institution we all call home."

(Read a post on "Voices on Campus" from LIU English professor and union activist Deborah Mutnick and her message to Cline.)

The conflict has worsened since administrators announced a hold on and possible elimination of dozens of majors, including mainstays such as math, economics, visual arts and sociology-anthropology. In addition, a comprehensive revision of the core curriculum requirements for students is moving ahead with little or no faculty input.

"Colleges that care about students don't lock out faculty," says AFT President Randi Weingarten, who attended the rally along with a phalanx of other union leaders. "Colleges that care about students don't ignore mediation; colleges that care about students don't refuse lockout pay; colleges that care about students don't slash courses; and colleges that care about students don't try and rip off the adjunct faculty who do so much of the work on this campus!"

Wet protestors at LIU

She points out that tens of millions of dollars were spent on a new facility on campus, while adjunct faculty's low compensation and lack of job security went unaddressed. "We won't let them get away with it," says Weingarten. "Together we will stand and fight for a fair contract and for high-quality teaching at LIU Brooklyn. We will stare down this administration, and we will win."

"Today we showed that, despite the rain, the LIUFF stands united alongside our students and the labor community," says LIUFF President Jessica Rosenberg. "We are strong because our fight is a fight for fairness. Today we showed that we will not give up, that our allies stand with us and that our national president, Randi Weingarten, has our back. I am hopeful the administration hears us and will do the right thing, and negotiate a fair contract for full- and part-time faculty."

[Virginia Myers]