Faculty Lockout

UVenus Responds

September 15, 2016


Hitting the headlines last week:

At The Nation: Starting September 7, the first day of the fall semester at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, classes will be taught entirely by non-faculty members—not because the faculty are on strike, but because on the Friday before Labor Day the administration officially locked out all 400 members of the Long Island University Faculty Federation (LIUFF), which represents full-time and adjunct faculty.

At Gothamist: Students accused the university of attempting to pit them against their teachers. They staged a sit-in on Wednesday and circulated flyers urging their fellow students to walk out of classes. "We've gotten so close to these people," said Stephanie Fermin, 24, a graduate student studying speech therapy. "They do so much more than just teach, and you're going to send someone else in here?"

At The Atlantic: Locking out a university’s faculty right before the start of classes seems like a drastic step, but that is just what Long Island University (LIU) did this weekend, when it barred all 400 members of its faculty union from its Brooklyn campus, cut off their email accounts and health insurance, and told them they would be replaced.

Do you remember a time when all faculty were locked out of a university? Is a university still a university without faculty? How does a university differ from a factory? Will this impact LIU Brooklyn’s accreditation? How does this impact our vision for shared governance?

If you were a faculty member at LIU, how would you react?

Lee Skallerup Bessette, University of Mary Washington, Fredricksburg, VA, USA

This is perhaps unprecedented here in the States, but this has happened on more than one occasion in Canada (as I was reminded in the comments of a facebook post last week), often in reaction to the faculty union striking. This has happened at St. Thomas University and University of New Brunswick, to name two. It’s interesting, to me, to see this happening at small(er), teaching-intensive institutions; I can’t ever see a large, R1 university locking out its faculty as so much of the work done by faculty there is research (read: grant) driven, with many of the classes being taught by TAs (who, in Canada, are a part of a different union than faculty). I think that speaks to what a university values and what it thinks it is for, and it certainly isn’t the students. Or rather, the universities thinks it can hold the students hostage as a negotiating ploy to get faculty to accept whatever conditions the administration wishes to impose. The research machine must grind on. The teaching and learning? Well…

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

This type of action is possible only at private universities (I have never heard of anything similar in modern times in Europe, where most of the big players in the higher ed world are public). While it is very depressing to read about the behaviour of the university leadership, I think the students’ reactions are reasons for optimism. If students stand by their teachers, the school will have to heed attention. As a private, for-profit institution, its income depends on the number of students attending. And if these students find it unattractive to study/get a diploma from an university with such questionable values and practices, then ultimately the LIU business model will suffer. So I hope that students and unionized faculty will stand side by side and see that their interests are pointing towards solidarity rather than the antagonism the LIU leadership promotes.

Mary Churchill, Salem State University, Salem, MA, USA

I admit to being stunned by LIU Brooklyn’s actions. I can’t imagine a situation where things have gotten so bad that an institution would feel the only (or the best) solution was to lockout the faculty. This just makes my job - and the jobs of administrators who truly value the work of faculty and who think of faculty as the lifeblood of the university(!) - so much more difficult. The level of mistrust on campuses across the US is already to a point where collaborative work can be incredibly challenging. It seems that there is usually some pocket of anti-faculty sentiment on campus - usually on the non-academic side of the house but sometimes on the academic side as well - but LIU Brooklyn’s extreme and unprecedented move has created a new world order where the anti-faculty sentiment has been normalized and taken as a given.

The lockout ended on September 15, 2016 after students staged a walkout in protest.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the lockout?



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