Last updated on Oct 25, 2016
By Maxime Devillaz
Faculty representatives from LIU Brooklyn and Post sat in at the University Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Jennifer Solomon, communication strategist at the university, said the meeting was not planned specifically to address post-lockout concerns, but confirmed negotiations with the faculty was one topic of discussion.
The meeting, originally scheduled to take place at the Post campus, was moved off-site to the Cornell Club, a midtown city-location, late last week. Solomon explained that it is not unusual for the Board to meet at various locations on Manhattan.
Eric Krasnoff, chair of the Board of Trustees, recently sent out an email addressed to LIU stakeholders, urging the community to “work collectively and in good faith to form a better mutual understanding of our history,” to avoid further disputes among faculty, students and higher administration.
But Michelle Fernandez, a LIU Brooklyn Student Coalition representative, was not convinced. “This act [moving the meeting] serves as a means to keep student voices out of reach from the Board of Trustees,” she said. “We see that she [Dr. Cline] is feeling the pressure from the student body and views the relocation of the meeting as a major victory in our struggle against her hostile policies.
The Student Coalition organized free busing from Brooklyn to the meeting location. Using Eventbrite.com, the coalition urged LIU Brooklyn students to join the student-led “Action at the Board of Trustees Meeting.”
Ralph Engelmann, Vice President of the LIU Faculty Federation (LIUFF), and chair the LIU Labor Council—a consortium of unions on the Brooklyn campus—didn’t want to call it a protest. “It’s the college community voicing their thoughts and concerns with those who are ultimately responsible,” he said.
While LIUFF only addresses these concerns in bargaining, Engelmann said the federation supports its colleagues and the Student Coalition in their approach to seeking answers to their academic concerns.
Board Chairperson Krasnoff, however, wrote in his email that no one side is fully responsible for recent measures. “Whenever someone tells me it is all the faculty or union’s fault, I know that is nonsense. It is also nonsense when we hear it is only the Board or administration that is to blame,” he wrote. “There are no simplistic stereotypes of good and bad people.”
Rebecca States, president of the Brooklyn Faculty Senate, addressed the Brooklyn faculty’s position following the lockout of the Brooklyn faculty before fall classes began, and the subsequent no-confidence vote taken by the Brooklyn faculty. A similar vote of no confidence in the university leadership was taken by the Post faculty at the beginning of the fall semester. The Board allocated a total of 45 minutes to faculty concerns.
States emphasized the faculty senate’s main goal was to “get the trustees to see the extent of mismanagement throughout the university, and to understand the university cannot survive if this trend continues.”
She believes the recent positive numbers presented by the university are “macro-level financial gains” occurring as a result of “unsustainable cuts,” which has led to “widespread distress” among students, faculty and staff.
“Enrollments are down substantially, there is major turnover in the university leadership and staff, maintaining the physical plant remains a huge problem, and promises to students are being broken,” States said.
In connection with classes being taught by substitute professors at the beginning of the semester, during the lockout, Fernandez said, “The University agreed to provide certain amount of hours for a certain amount of cost. LIU breached that agreement when it failed to produce what was advertised.”
She described students’ anger of paying tuition money and being taught by replacements. “In many cases, classrooms were unattended, and administrators would come for the sole purpose of collecting attendance. This was immediately followed by dismissing the students.”
The university’s communications strategist did not respond to The Pioneer’s request for comment about the replacement teachers.
The Student Coalition is preparing a class action lawsuit against the university, which is expected to be filed within a matter of weeks. It demands such things as refunds of tuition money and lost scholarships as a consequence of the lockout, and the removal of President Kimberly Cline, according to its Facebook site.
The Post Faculty Council prepared its monthly report to be discussed at the meeting, too. The document, written by various faculty members on and off the council, concerned Middle State Standards, for which the Post campus is “currently out of compliance with several,” according to the document. Particularly, the council addressed standards II-VII, which all fall under the category of institutional context, according to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s website.
“We have generally seen this [the monthly report] as a request for a statement that captures the sentiment, activity, goals, or shared vision on campus,” the document reads. ”We have tried to get a pulse on the feelings and reactions of over 200 faculty members. We know that many feel anger and frustration, and, perhaps even more feel a sense of fear.”
The areas discussed include institutional policies, planning and budgeting, organizational structure, and assessment of administration. The Post council underlined that the lockout, and “the ripple effects those events have had on the functioning at Post,” was only another example of the council’s concerns.
In an attempt to improve communication, Cline and the deans of the respective colleges want to establish, together with the faculty senates, “more formal and robust mechanisms to address faculty and university issues in an effective, open and meaningful way and with Board oversight,” according to Krasnoff’s email.
But the Brooklyn faculty senate has no interest in putting together one more “mechanism” to enhance communication, according to States.
“We have tried collaborating, devoting countless hours and hard work to all manner of joint projects such as Strategic Planning, Outcomes Assessment, the Brooklyn Leadership Council, Academic Round Tables, and many other venues,” she said. “None of them seem to matter in terms of actually getting the leadership team to be transparent about resources, discuss how to prioritize the resources with us, or provide funding for student support, academic budgets, maintenance of the physical plant, replacement faculty lines, and of course, a reasonable contract!
States alleged that the higher administration is transferring students’ tuition money to better its endowment–$10 million in 2014, $20 million in 2015 and $25 million in 2016, according to her own statistics.
Solomon was unable to respond to The Pioneer’s request for a comment on the endowment, or whether States’ numbers reflect the university’s actual figures.
Krasnoff wrote, “Long Island University has seen its stature and health rising. Let’s add to that list our labor relations.”
University communication strategist Solomon further ensured “the best interests of our students [remains] our first priority.” She said that the university currently has “a comprehensive outreach plan in place to gather student feedback and to be responsive to their needs.”
But Fernandez disagrees. “The lockout signified a direct attack towards higher education, students, and unions,” she said, hoping to serve as “an inspiration for students nationwide to resist the corporate takeover of higher education and restore integrity to academia.”
Many Universities have student representation within the Board of Trustees, according to Fernandez. A representative would give the student body its “true voice,” necessary as decisions on the Board “greatly affect the Student Population.”
She added that the representative should be voted on by the entire student population.
Late on Tuesday evening, following the meeting, Board Chairperson Krasnoff sent out a statement that read, “After carefully listening to the faculty representatives, the board unanimously voted a motion expressing full confidence in the leadership of Dr. Kimberly Cline and her team.”
For more updates on the events and post-lockout negotiations, visit liupostpioneer.com.