Thursday, September 8, 2016

Losing their grip

Photograph by The Nation, which also has some great coverage.
A labor story that doesn't seem to be getting a lot of play outside of New York City is the epic of the contract dispute at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus, whose 400 AFT faculty members have been ordered off campus, cut off from their classrooms and email accounts, and stripped of their salaries and health insurance, as the semester begins, and students find their classes being taught, or not, by "replacement workers". Rumor had it that ballet courses would be taught by Dean David Cohen, an elderly biology professor who specialized in plant morphogenesis.

The issues are gross inequities in salary between the faculty in Brooklyn and at the school's Post campus in Brookville, Nassau County, and the treatment of adjuncts, in the new cost-cutting contract the administration offered. Alana Semuels writes in a great piece in The Atlantic:
Arthur Kimmel has been an adjunct at LIU’s Brooklyn campus for more than 20 years. Under the terms of the proposed contract, he would have his income cut by 30 to 35 percent, he said. That’s because, in addition to the $1,800 or so per course he teaches, he has received pay for having office hours and money from an adjunct-benefits trust fund to help defray the cost of health insurance. Kimmel says the university’s proposal would eliminate the adjunct- benefits trust fund and payments for office hours, among other cuts. The new proposal would also decrease the number of credit hours he could teach, and establishes a two-tier system for adjuncts so that new employees would receive less than Kimmel does.
When the faculty overwhelmingly rejected the contract on Tuesday and the faculty senate overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the president, the administration made its move.

It's not completely surprising, in these times of increasing corporatization, when academic institutions come more and more to be run by business-administration types with little or no teaching experience of their own (LIU president Kimberly Cline has "experience as a president of a multicampus institution, as a CFO of a university system and as a university attorney, bringing a rare trifecta of managerial, financial and legal expertise to her new role" but clearly hasn't taught a class since she was a grad student, Doctor in Educational Administration, at Hofstra), to see teachers treated with such contempt, though it is distressing.

The contempt for the customers, fee-paying students, on the other hand, and their parents, as the academic year begins and the administration refuses them the education they've paid for (tuition is $34,000 a year), is just astonishing and anything but corporate. It's people who are supposed to be hard-headed and focused on the bottom line succumbing to emotionalism, dominated by rage and spite, against its own economic interests. It shows, I think, a CEO class that is losing its grip, in much the way the Donald Trump phenomenon does, doing terrible damage as it thrashes and fails.

Wrote this up partly because I didn't notice that Erik Loomis had done so, but he has. Loomis also notes how you can donate to the LIU Lockout Solidarity Fund.

No comments:

Post a Comment