By SOPHIE DWECK
Classes at LIU Brooklyn resumed Thursday, ending a 12-day lockout after the administration and faculty agreed to extend the existing contract to May, providing a timeframe to continue negotiations without the threat of a strike.
The deal, reached Wednesday night, was painted on campus as a victory for faculty.
However, in some quarters it was viewed as a win for the administration whose use of the lockout, unprecedented at a higher learning institution in American history, forced the faculty’s hand to renounce a vote over the summer to authorize a strike, a common union negotiating ploy.
A meeting was held Thursday on campus where faculty heard members of the negotiating team, officials of American Federation of Teachers, and their lawyers discuss what would come next.
Faculty reps struck an upbeat note.
“With the world watching, the LIU faculty and students showed the world what we are made of,” Jessica Rosenberg, the president of the Long Island University Faculty Federation said. “The students and faculty stood together in solidarity and said, ‘No way (president) Kim Cline.’ We are strong and united, and today is a victory for all of us because of all of us. It is because of our collective bravery and courage that we are here today in our campus.”
Together, in a series of protests, student sit-ins and walkouts, students supported the faculty.
Carlos Calzadilla, a freshman from Florida majoring in political science and the leader of these organized protests, played a big role in the demostrations.
“I got a message from a couple of professors saying the lockout had happened and what the implications were,” he said. “I looked up the situation and I knew what I was going to do when I came here. I knew I was going to be out there with the teachers.”
The freshman, who has previously worked on the Tim Canova and Bernie Sanders campaigns, said he saw this as an opportunity for students to come together, make a stance against injustice.
“We, the students, are the ones that have the power to change things,” he said. “So we needed to do something in the campus.”
During the lockout administrators and substitutes filled in for professors, often trying to teach subjects in which they had little or no expertise, angering tuition-paying students;
The future of the institution, however, was still cloudy.
“There is just so much more we need to fight for,” said Calzadilla. “The administration’s move has really shown their true colors and they really did not appreciate much of the education of the students.”
Engelman expressed the hope that by May, the new contracts would improve the lot of adjunct professors, whose salaries and benefits were cut, and also remove the pay disparity between LIU Brooklyn and LIU Post whose faculty is better recompensed.
“We somewhat have the status of being a colony of Long Island,” Engelman said. “They [board members] all live out there and the suburban campus is very different from the urban campus and the culture. They don’t fully understand who we are.”
But for now, professors and students are happy to finally get back into the swing of things, especially Caldzadilla, who didn’t attend classes during the lockout.
“It was a great feeling to be teaching again,” Engelman said. “I was so happy to see my students. To lock us out was so ugly and nasty.”
In addition, students and faculty scheduled a “victory rally” Friday morning outside the school where AFT President Randi Weingarten was scheduled to speak.
As for Calzadilla, he will continue to advocate for faculty rights .
“Change never comes from the top down, it’s from the bottom up,” Calzadilla said. “And whether or not you lose, I think it’s important to be on the right side of history.”