BROOKLYN—Just three months after it locked out its own faculty, Long Island University administrators have again failed to meaningfully engage with faculty on the terms of a new labor contract, leading an impartial mediator to withdraw, throwing negotiations back into limbo and placing student learning at risk.
After several rounds of talks, mediation was terminated this week when the mediator formally notified the parties that efforts at forging a resolution were unsuccessful. The Long Island University Faculty Federation, which represents the professors, hoped mediation would end the stalemate and deliver dignity, certainty and security for the 400 Brooklyn faculty members hoping to negotiate a fair agreement.
The current faculty contract runs through May 31, 2017, and the parties are free to resume discussions until then. Sticking points include a management proposal that would cut pay for new adjunct hires by up to 30 percent—unacceptable for a workforce that already makes so little and enjoys limited stability.
On Labor Day weekend, in an unprecedented move, LIU locked out Brooklyn faculty for 12 days, disrupting classes for more than 8,000 students just as the fall semester commenced. The administration was forced to end the assault after students, the Brooklyn community and the broader American labor movement rallied to the professors' cause. Compulsory third-party mediation was part of the agreement to end the lockout.
Professor Srividhya Swaminathan, chair of the English department, said: "The union negotiators proceeded with mediation, thinking that management was actually prepared to negotiate. They were not. The breakdown of mediation is a sign that management insists its version of equitable compensation is the only version. It's a form of 'my way or the highway' that involves one side conceding, and the union will not concede. The union did its job but management did not."
Jessica Rosenberg, president of the Long Island University Faculty Federation, said: "The indefensible lockout of professors in September by LIU President Kim Cline sent shock waves throughout LIU Brooklyn and the academic community. The lockout was widely condemned as undermining the integrity of higher education. The union sought out mediation to bring peace to the campus and assure the students, faculty and community that LIU could resolve its attack on the faculty. Unfortunately the administration did not appear to share our hopeful view of mediation."
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said: "Once again, the LIU administration has failed to seriously engage with the issues that matter to faculty and students. Its disregard for the mediation process is just as contemptible as its unprecedented lockout of its professors. What Kim Cline needs to remember is that students and the community won't tolerate these intransigent tactics; treating faculty this way hurts students and jeopardizes their education. If the administration wants a peaceful resolution, it will have to commit to a fair contract that restores dignity and security for the professors who've devoted their lives to helping students realize their dreams."