By ISAAC MONTEROSE
Several LIU-Brooklyn faculty members and labor union representatives rallied near the campus on Thursday demanding a new contract for both part-time and full-time faculty of the 110-year-old university.
“If the administration has $4.2 million to spend on a racquet ball facility on Long Island,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, “then it has enough money to make sure that the backbone of what happens in Brooklyn gets funded.”
In a speech that got the crowd of dozens cheering, Weingarten praised and thanked the LIU students who supported the faculty’s efforts and mentioned off-handedly how she described university president Kimberly Cline as “Trumpian”.
The Long Island University Faculty Federation, a union representing campus faculty, has demanded equal pay for both LIU-Brooklyn and LIU Post (a satellite campus in Brookville, New York), an end to benefits cuts and better treatment of adjunct professors. A report showed that the minimum salaries at the Brooklyn campus averaged $10, 000 to $15,000 less than the Post campus.
Many of the faculty and students condemned the university’s actions in the negotiations. The administration’s stance was called “a war on education” by Professor Michael Pelias, who teaches philosophy at the university.
Carlos Jesus Calzadilla, an LIU freshman and president of the Young Progressives of America campus organization, announced a boycott of all LIU merchandise until the administration agreed to the contract that the faculty wanted.
Emily Drabinski, coordinator of library instruction and secretary of the union said that the current contract “represents an attack on our part-time employees, the most vulnerable section of our faculty.” Drabinski also said that Cline wanted to cut a benefit trust fund for the health insurance costs for a group of part-time faculty and also wanted the right to videotape the lectures of full-time faculty.
“When we came back to work in September, we came back to work very unsure of our contract, very unsure of our future,” said Jessica Rosenberg, an LIU professor and president of their union. “We still don’t have a contract. Fourteen months of bargaining has gone basically nowhere. We stand united and we stand strong and we need a future.”
Rosenberg is referring to a lockout the administration committed back in September that barred the 400-member faculty union from campus.
Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY and English professor at the CUNY Graduate Center said that “the idea of further impoverishing adjuncts is an abomination.”
However, the administration asserted that their current proposal was beneficial for the faculty and it was described as a “fair offer” in a statement from LIU spokesman Jon Schneider.
According to the statement, with the university’s current proposal, full-time faculty members currently receive an average compensation package of $133,951 and, with the university’s double-digit increase proposal, the package would increase to $155,664 by the end of the contract.
The statement also said that the offer allows the university to remain at an “affordable” price for its students and included “an unprecedented capping of tuition increases at two percent or less through 2020.”
Their proposal would also preserve the benefits package, includes an 11 percent pension match, a “Cadillac” value health plan with low levels of contributions and full tuition remission.
“We hope the union will carefully consider and vote on the contract that will give them double-digit raises while ensuring the University has the resources to provide an affordable, world-class education to students,” the statement said. “In the meantime, current contract remains in place for the next two months and we remain available to meet anytime.”
Additionally, the statement said: “Adjuncts at LIU Brooklyn currently are amongst the highest-compensated in the New York area, with rates that exceed not only those at LIU Post, but also at St. John’s, Pace and Hofstra. These rates would be increased for existing adjuncts under the proposed contract. The University’s proposals also reaffirm the commitment to adjuncts by offering, for the first time, the opportunity for multi-year appointments, providing additional job security and guaranteed salary increases for adjunct faculty. The fund you refer to is not used by the majority of adjuncts, and that is something we are looking to discontinue as part of a contract which features double-digit raises for faculty.”
The contract extension that was agreed to between both sides in August ends on May 31st.
Photo of Randi Weingarten by Isaac Monterose