As students returned to C.W. Post for the first day of school, many were shocked when they arrived to their classes. Post’s full time teachers were on strike. When people hear that teachers are on strike, most assume it is all about money, and while it is part of the reason, there are also many underlining issues as well.
Teacher strikes have been occurring more frequently in the last 10 years, but it is hard to know exactly how many nationwide. However, historically, when teachers in Universities and colleges strike, the outcome is unsuccessful. Examples of this include St. Johns University in 1966-67 and Oakland University in 1994 and 2007. Statistically, teacher strikes are only successful if they have the support of the student body.
In the case of C.W. Post, the administration and faculty agreed on a five-year contract with a zero percent pay increase in wages, small pay bonuses, and a renegotiated health insurance plan. There is also an opportunity for the faculty to receive a 1% pay raise, which is dependent upon enrollment in upcoming school years.
Both the Administration and Faculty feel as though the strike could have been avoided. However, members of the faculty believe the administration was not willing, initially, to meet them in the middle. “The Union had not been posturing for a strike; we were playing fair,” said Professor Anke Grosskopf, “Negotiations are supposed to be fluid, but it seems that administration and faculty have different interests. The conversations were very rigid on the administration’s side, and the overall tones of the talks were bad.”
With so many perceiving strikes to be all about money, students are wondering: If the money isn’t going to the faculty, where is it going? Post student Stephanie E., who chose to withhold her last name, responded to that question, saying, “I wish I knew. Pell and Humanities Hall[s] haven’t been updated.” When asked where she thought the money should go, she answered, “I would like to see the money spent on the availability of classes, better food at Winnick, and better equipping the school to handle the volume of people pouring into Winnick and Hillwood during common hour. I understand why teachers are striking; they are on the front lines and are part of the back-bone of this University. I’m in a class where my teacher doesn’t have enough desks to seat all of her students in her classroom. That’s her problem that she has to deal with on a regular basis, not the administration’s.”
Provost Paul H. Forestell explained that the faculty receives benefits that are not in the form of a check at the end of the year. “The University puts money into their retirement, tuition remission, and healthcare,” said Forestell.
Administration maintains that many of the financial problems the University faces are due to a lack of endowment. University President Dr. David Steinberg has held his position for 25 years. When asked why such a vital life-line for the Long Island University campuses is so low, his response was: “The University purchased the estate from Marjorie Post, and when they named the University after her father, they didn’t receive any large or substantial gifts from the Post family that many other schools who are named after well-noted and economically elite people receive – like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Chicago (John D. Rockefeller).”
Despite days of empty classrooms and seemingly tense negotiations, both sides have come to an agreement that they can live with, and school again is back in session.