NCC to adjuncts: Get back to work or you may be fired

Adjunct Faculty Association members, on strike, picket outside

Adjunct Faculty Association members, on strike, picket outside the Administrative Building at Nassau Community College in Garden City. (Sept. 12, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)

Striking adjunct faculty members could lose their jobs at Nassau Community College if they do not resume teaching on Monday, acting president Kenneth Saunders said Thursday.

Saunders -- invoking the state's labor law prohibiting strikes by public employees -- gave the back-to-work order in a letter to adjunct faculty on the fourth day of their strike, the union's first in 31 years.

"I strongly urge you to refrain from participating in the strike so that you can avoid being discharged and the assessment of other penalties required under the Taylor Law," Saunders' letter said. "Your continued participation in the strike is significantly harming the students at Nassau Community College assigned to your care."


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The community college's leader, in a separate memo, said NCC is advertising for local educators at other Long Island institutions to teach the classes of adjunct professors striking over their contract. The substitutes will be paid on a per-diem basis at $60 per credit hour. That memo went to administrators at area colleges as well as to NCC professors who don't belong to the Adjunct Faculty Association.

The college also is buying advertisements in publications including Newsday, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education.com, administrators said."If we are successful in this effort, there will be no impact of the illegal strike on a student's financial aid, on state aid, and there will not be any need to consider refunding tuition," Saunders said in a statement.

NCC receives more than $40 million from the state. While state officials said they would defer to the college, state money cannot be claimed for a class that is not taught regardless of the reason, such as inadequate enrollment, lack of classroom space or lack of an instructor, said David Doyle, spokesman for SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.As Saunders' missives were released, members of the Adjunct Faculty Association were again walking a picket line outside the Administrative Tower on the Garden City campus.

"Give us what we deserve," said Joe Caracci, 72, of Astoria, Queens, an adjunct who teaches criminal justice. He noted, however, that students were justified in complaining about lost classes.

Deonna Maddox, an 18-year-old education major from Elmont, did just that. Students missing classes are "wasting their gas, their money, their time when they could be working," she said.

The union, which represents some 3,000 untenured, part-time faculty, has been on strike since Monday, when the college's board of trustees rejected an eight-year contract proposal that the union said would have raised their pay by 4.9 percent annually in a plan that would have a nearly $64 million cumulative cost to the college.

Under the Taylor Law, adjuncts are fined two days' pay for every day they do not work.

Saunders said Thursday that more than 90 percent of classes were in session. NCC, with 24,000 students, is the largest single-campus community college in the state. The college's data show that 125 adjuncts out of the total number of 1,231 adjuncts who are teaching in the fall semester are participating in the strike.

Charles Loiacono, union president, said the Adjunct Faculty Association would take legal action against Saunders and the college should he fire adjuncts for striking. "We will sue him immediately for making an unlawful threat," Loiacono said. Regular NCC adjuncts are paid between $1,090 and $1,750 per credit hour. The average adjunct teaches six credit hours per semester.

Loiacono questioned whether any substitutes would come forward.

"Are they going to get anyone? Are they going to get people with master's degrees and more than 30 years of classroom experience? I don't know," he said.

With Joan Gralla

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