NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s the first day of the fall semester at Long Island University Brooklyn, but the school’s unionized faculty are not in the classroom.
Metal barricades were set up Wednesday on both sides of the door at the school’s main entrance to allow students in while their professors picketed outside, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
“It’s an attempt to intimidate us by keeping us away from our students,” said Dr. Ralph Engelman, vice president of the faculty union. “This is, from what we can tell, the first time in American history that a higher education faculty has been locked out.”
The union, the Long Island University Faculty Federation, voted to strike in May, but called it a bargaining tactic as they tried to negotiate salaries in line with professors at the main LIU campus of C.W. Post, Diamond reported.
The union did not authorize a strike, its leaders said they were locked out of their offices and email accounts over the weekend after their contract expired on Aug. 31.
“A contract expiring is normal. What’s abnormal is the administration’s decision to lock out the faculty,” English Professor Deborah Mutnick told 1010 WINS.
As a negotiator explained the lockout was preemptive.
“It was a preemptive move on their part. We think it’s going to backfire. They have told us we cannot give our services to our students,” Michael, a union negotiator explained.
John Sannuto is a speech and theater professor.
“We cannot go on campus,” he said. “We have no access to our emails, we have no health benefits at this point, which is very dangerous.”
This week, the LIUFF overwhelmingly rejected the administration’s latest offer, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.
Faculty members claim they are paid less than their counterparts at other LIU campuses.
LIU says faculty members are fairly compensated and the most recent offer included salary increases, health benefits and more.
Gale Haynes, a vice president and university counsel at LIU, said in a statement it was “disappointing” that the union rejected the contract offer that “the university believes is generous and highly competitive.”
“The university will continue to bargain in good faith, with the goal of welcoming its valued faculty back to the classroom upon timely resolution of the contract,” Haynes said. “We will remain laser focused on our students beginning to the Fall semester with little or no disruption to their academic studies.”
The union also said in a statement that it is continuing to negotiate in good faith.
Replacement teachers were brought in, but some students say they are not comfortable with that, Carlin reported. Student Giovanni Como joined the protest instead of staying inside.
“I’m paying for an education. I’m a pre-pharm major, it’s a lot of money so hopefully by tomorrow, everything will be resolved and we can get back to our normal routine,” he said.
Another student named Jenn said there was lots of confusion on the first day of the semester because of lockout.
“We’re getting stuck in different classrooms, everything is changing, we don’t have clinical professors,” she said.
One professor added that the lockout was to the detriment of the students and staff.
“Essentially all of our students are without qualified professors, and all of us professors are without work,” adjunct photography professor Jan Pamboukes said.
On Thursday, locked out teachers said they plan to march together as a group from the campus to the unemployment office where they will sign up for benefits.
The next negotiating meeting is set for Thursday.