A victory has been achieved by the students and faculty of Long Island University - Brooklyn (LIU Brooklyn). As the students, professors and administrators at LIU Brooklyn settle into the rhythm of the Fall semester, the lockout crisis of the past two weeks remains fresh in the minds of all. The lockout barred the professors from campus. It also locked them out of their university emails; and canceled their salaries, their health insurance,and other benefits. With the faculty locked out of work, the university hired “scab” instructors to tend to classes. The lockout was a response to the failed contract negotiations between the faculty union (LIUFF) and President Cline’s team of lawyers. Never before has a university locked out its faculty--the backbone of every institution of learning-- as a means of trying to gain the upper hand in contract negotiations. This was the first time in U.S. history.
Overnight, all parties involved were forced into precarious circumstances: professors were unemployed, students did not receive the education for which they paid, and the lower administrative staff were under threat of losing their jobs had they refused to teach the classes in which they were assigned - an act which many of them detested.
The response, however, was epic. Student and faculty organizations worked independently to coordinate an onslaught of demonstrations, petitions, social media campaigns, marches, walk-outs and sit-ins to protest the lockout. Their voices were heard across the country as the eyes of the higher education community were positioned steadfast on the developments at LIU-Brooklyn.
The lockout ended with a declarative statement posted on LIUFF’s facebook account stating: “As of 11:59, Wednesday, September 14th, the lockout is over. We will see you in the classroom tomorrow!” The news quickly spread as the Long Island University Student Coalition (LIUSC) - an independently run student group that arose in response to the lockout - picked up the story and blasted it on social media.
According to the LIUFF, the faculty received an extension on their collective bargaining agreement until May 31, 2017 and “the administration agreed to [the] condition that [both parties] engage [with] a professional mediator to facilitate a fair contract.” Professors were thus able to return to their classrooms under their old contract. The administrators who filled in as substitutes returned to their original jobs, and the student-body returned to class with their original professors.
As the ruckus caused by the lockout subsides, a certain sensation remains. It is the intermingling of shock, relief and the palpable silence of a renewed esprit de corps - a phenomena often experienced by those who have struggled together. The air on campus is charged with a restlessness that resulted from an abrupt end to an engagement that many were prepared to tussle with for a significantly longer period of time.
The way in which President Cline instituted the lockout is a reflection of her pattern of governance: release damning news that threatens the integrity of the students’ education before the semester begins. Releasing crucial information in this manner does two things: (1) pressure students to remain enrolled, since the opportunities to transfer to other institutions are severely limited by that time (2)Cline bets on students being too distracted by their classes to engage and confront the implementation of egregious policies. Cline made a similar move at the start of the Fall 2015 semester when she decided to cut a large chunk of “Yellow Ribbon” funding-- an award that assists veterans in paying tuition.
President Cline’s policies shine a light on an individual who chooses profits over academics. A future in which students invest was toyed with and treated as her retirement fund. She is intent on continuing the systematic disenfranchisement of the LIU-Brooklyn campus, and the lockout showed this resolve.
The campus is rife with the angst of upperclassmen who fear for the future of the institution in which they have invested significant amounts of time, energy and money. Incoming freshmen are filled with uncertainty as they vacillate between switching schools. The administrative staff were forced into a morally compromising decision between standing in as a replacement, or facing termination.
And of course, the professors will not soon forget the actions taken against them.
Students are organizing and taking preventive measures to ensure an incident like this never occurs again. There are small engagements between friends and strangers alike, meetings to discuss how to prevent a second lockout. Cline’s actions have watered the seeds of activism on campus as the LIU-Brooklyn student body positions itself as a force to be reckoned with come May 2017 - the next faculty contract negotiation cycle. The students have won a battle against Cline, but they are not so disillusioned as to believe they have achieved full victory. They are fully aware that as long as Cline remains in office, their education at LIU-Brooklyn remains threatened.