Students and professors celebrated in front of Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus on Friday morning after the university’s administration ended a twelve-day lockout where replacement instructors taught half-empty classrooms filled with frustrated students.
“There was a lot of hugging between professors and students, which, you know, for a cold New Yorker like myself, is a pretty rare thing,” said Emily Drabinski, library coordinator at LIU-Brooklyn.
The administration and union decided on Wednesday evening to agree on an extension that would last until the end of the spring semester, while also engaging a mediator during the year to hammer out a longer deal. The administration had locked out professors on September 6th after failing to gain concessions in a new union contract that would have reduced adjunct pay and left a huge pay gap between professors at the university’s Brooklyn and Long Island campuses.
“Without a doubt, they’re trying to break the union,” Rebecca States, a professor of Physical Therapy, told the Voice outside of the university’s campus last week. On Thursday, professors met to approve the contract extension, in a room filled with supportive and cheering students.
Still, tensions between the administration and instructors remain as the semester truly begins. On Thursday, replacement instructors were still showing up to teach classes, only to find the no-longer-locked-out professors already in their classrooms.
“The union’s commitment not to strike during this academic year provides us enough runway to reach a reasonable and fair agreement, while providing our students the ability to continue their studies uninterrupted,” Gale Haynes, vice president, chief operating officer and university counsel, told the Voice in a statement. “That has always been our intention. Mediation is a positive step to that end.”
Professors have seen their health care coverage restored, and are hopeful that during mediation the college will agree to pay them for the days that they were locked out.
“There’s a real sense that we’ve gotten a win here,” Drabinski told the Voice. “It’s a temporary feeling because the contract isn’t settled. But it’s so important to see this as a victory right now, because when was the last time you heard of a labor victory? You never hear about one. We got one here.”