By Jada Butler
Dr. Harvey W. Kushner, professor of criminal justice, director of the Homeland Security and Terrorism Institute at LIU Riverhead, and the former president of the LIU Post faculty union, was appointed to the newly created position of vice president for faculty affairs, according to an email to faculty sent by Dr. Randy Burd, senior vice president for academic affairs, on Jan. 28.
This appointment came after “much consideration,” Burd wrote in the email. It is also several months after faculty members voted Kushner out of the presidency of the faculty union, a position he held for over a decade. Kushner was replaced by Dr. Michael Soupios, professor of political science, as union president.
“Dr. Kushner will focus on forging improved communication with faculty departments and individuals to ensure that our forward progress continues at a steady rate. He will Chair the Campus Leadership Group and report to me directly on faculty matters,” Burd wrote in the Jan. 28 email.
Kushner agreed to speak with the Pioneer about his new position, provided that Burd was also present, but he cancelled the scheduled Feb. 1 interview by email, 15 minutes prior to the appointed time. Kushner did not reschedule the interview, nor did he or Burd respond to the Pioneer’s specific questions about the newly created position. Instead, they both provided statements via email.
“I am honored to assume these additional responsibilities as the Vice President for Faculty Affairs at LIU Post. Serving as a liaison between the faculty and the administration, it is my aim to strengthen and deepen conversations among LIU Post communities. Establishing a culture of open dialogue and engagement is especially important as the University continues to make strides forward in academics and research across our many campuses and programs,” Kushner wrote. Kushner did not confirm whether or not he will continue teaching alongside his new administrative responsibilities. He did not explain how his role will combat or compliment the faculty union and faculty council, the two already existing faculty governing bodies.
“Dr. Kushner is uniquely qualified for this role, given his skills and experience, his long standing tenure with the University, and his relationships with other faculty and staff members. Given its focus on internal communications, it was clear that the best match for this role would be an internal candidate, and we are fortunate that Dr. Kushner agreed to assume these additional responsibilities. We look forward to sharing with the LIU Post community our developing plans for deeper engagement, in partnership with Dr. Kushner and the Campus Leadership Committee,” Burd wrote.
Burd did not respond to the Pioneer’s inquiries about which administrators and faculty members made up the search committee or what other candidates were considered for the new position. He did not provide a job description for the position, nor did he explain what the Campus Leadership Committee was, who was on the committee, or its function. Information on the campus leader- ship committee cannot be found on liu.edu.
The roles of faculty union president and faculty council co-chairs held by Soupios, Dr. Heather Parrott, professor of sociology, and Katherine Hill-Miller, professor of English, respectively, are to bridge communication between faculty and the administration.
Soupios believes the creation of VPFA was a political gesture, that Kushner was given a position to “counter” his own. He has no intention of reporting to Kushner, other than as a professor who is a member of the union. While he is still president of the faculty union, he will “continue to represent and protect the faculty. Period.”
“I can’t be bought, and I can’t be silenced. So when they play games with the faculty, I grieve, and I bring arbitrations and I make it difficult. Harvey did none of that,” Soupios said.
The position of VPFA did not exist at the university before, according to Soupios. “For you to be removed as the head of the faculty union by recall vote by your colleagues, I mean, you must have been doing some really egregious stuff. And that’s the reason why he’s no longer president because he was in bed with the administration, and the faculty knew it and they had enough of it,” he said.
Because Kushner cancelled his interview with The Pioneer, The Pioneer was unable to ask Kushner to respond about his former position.
Parrott believes creating a role to “improve faculty-administration relations,” and then filling that role with the recently recalled faculty union president is an odd decision. “Faculty democratically decided that we do not want/trust Dr. Kushner to represent us in communication with administration, and then the administration unilaterally appoints him to be a liaison between faculty and administration? I hope they recognize what a potentially divisive decision this is,” she wrote in an email to The Pioneer.
Withholding the specifics, Soupios detailed improprieties that Kushner engaged in his role as president of the union. “He’s representing Harvey, not us,” Soupios said.
The Pioneer made multiple attempts to contact Kushner, Burd, and Gordon Tepper, director of university public relations after they canceled the initial meeting. Kushner and Burd did not respond to the specific allegations, and Tepper refused to comment.
Soupios believes this appointment will have a negative impact on the faculty. “It’s further isolating the faculty from the administration. It’s going to be received in the manner in which it was sent, which is essentially the administration telling the faculty union ‘go screw yourself,’” he said.
Faculty members contacted by The Pioneer know very little about the VPFA position, other than what was in the email announcement, according to Parrott. “We don’t know what the job description includes, how the VP of Faculty Affairs differs from the VP of Academic Affairs, how much of our communication with administration will go through this new position, etc. Faculty were never consulted about the position or who would fill it,” she said.