The faculty union at Long Island University announced an agreement to end a 12-day lockout of professors at the university’s Brooklyn campus.  The agreement comes nearly two weeks after the administration took the unprecedented step of barring them from campus after their contract expired.

As part of the lockout, LIU cut off 400 professors’ email accounts and health insurance and told them they would be replaced. The lockout sparked a wave of protests by both faculty and students, who arrived for the beginning of the school year to find their classes being taught by administrators with no experience in the fields.

On Wednesday, the administration agreed to end the lockout, restore faculty members’ health insurance and permit them to return to their classrooms. Contract negotiations remain ongoing.  A statement from the Long Island Faculty Federation, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, said the lockout is over and a mediator will be used to resolve disputes over a new contract. While that process plays out, the expired contract will be in effect, until the end of May, if necessary. The agreement is similar to one proposed earlier by the union and rejected by the administration. The difference is that the contract extension is for a longer period of time and covers the academic year that just started.

The key issue in the contract negotiations is over how quickly to close a pay gap for faculty members at the two main LIU campuses. The union says the gap is unfair to those who teach in Brooklyn, and the administration says that it can’t afford to close the gap at the speed the union is proposing.

The lockout ended after a day on which students held a mass walkout to protest the lockout of 400 regular faculty members. Students have used social media to share dissatisfaction with last-minute instructor replacements and class cancellations since the lockout began earlier this month over stalled contract negotiations between the university and its faculty union. They shared similar complaints during the walkout. Video footage of the protest shows students exiting the campus via a gate to join their picketing professors on the other side. Long Island University students were joined by student supporters from nearby City University of New York campuses.

After the lockout ended, the university issued a statement from Gale Haynes, vice president, chief operating officer and university counsel, that said the longer time period of the contract extension enabled the administration to support the deal. “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. That has always been our intention. Mediation is a positive step to that end,” Haynes said.

While contract negotiations between faculty unions and administrators are nothing new, the way this was handled is unprecedented in the history of academic labor unions in the United States.  Never before have we seen an administration dismiss all faculty members , replacing them with temporary workers and have administrators teach classes.

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