Nassau Community College's food vendor had two years left on...

Nassau Community College's food vendor had two years left on its current contract and was able to terminate it early. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

NCC union turns to Blakeman 

Nassau Community College, as a public organization, is known to be a highly contentious and political place — not over protests about the Gaza war but over its internal operations.

Now NCC’s union is looking to draw County Executive Bruce Blakeman into its push for regime change at the school, and he seems far from amenable.

The issue is the abrupt news last week of a late-in-the-semester closing of food and dining services at the school. Faren Siminoff, president of the NCC Federation of Teachers, tells Blakeman in a letter dated April 23: “Last Tuesday, with little warning to students and faculty and no alternative or temporary solutions at the ready, NCC administrators shuttered the college’s on-campus dining program, leaving more than 11,000 students without access to healthy foods and beverages.”

Citing that and other financial issues, including a plan for consolidating classes and programs, Siminoff states: “We respectfully request your office to direct an emergency allocation of County funding to NCC for the sole purposes of restoring on campus dining or implement a stopgap solution for the remainder of the semester.

“Moreover, we believe that this crisis is only the latest example of what can only be described either as incompetence or malfeasance by those entrusted to lead this institution. It is past time that serious consideration is given to bringing in new leadership both on the Board of Trustees and in the college’s administration.”

Blakeman, Siminoff said, has the authority “to submit to the County legislature the names of new qualified individuals to serve on NCC’s Board of Trustees and the platform to publicly demand the resignation of the incumbent administrators …”

But a spokesperson for Blakeman contacted Wednesday by The Point offered no comment on the union missive.

The Compass Group food service company on March 12 submitted a termination letter to NCC officials saying it was “no longer financially possible to provide food services under our agreement” and ended its services. The office of the dean of students issued a notice that said “we are actively exploring several options for temporary food services for the remainder of the spring semester, including food trucks and outside catering services. Then requests for proposals will be issued for the next academic year and beyond.”

The histrionics are bound to continue in the weeks ahead, with vending machines an on-campus option for students. What’s still unclear is just who cleans up after the food fight.

— Dan Janison

Pencil Point

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Reference Point

Human Race > Space Race 

Newsday’s editorial board was an unabashed American cheerleader throughout the Space Race, the decades-old competition with the Soviet Union to be the first nation into space and on the moon.

In 1959, when the Russians launched the Luna 3 satellite to orbit the moon, the board wrote that it was “a huge accomplishment, and one that should frighten us” in a piece called “Skunked Again.”

The “again” in that title was a riff back to 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, simultaneously launching a Western crisis about what seemed like a yawning technology gap favoring the Russians.

But the board’s tone changed in 1967, beginning with the Jan. 27 fire during a launch rehearsal for Apollo 1 that killed the three crew members — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chafee. Two weeks after the board wrote about the release of a report on the fire that found many design, engineering and manufacturing problems in the Apollo program, the world of space exploration was rocked again by the death of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, an experienced pilot and engineer who became the first human to die during a space flight when a parachute failure led his Soyuz capsule to crash after reentry on April 24.

“He gave his life not to Russia but to the space effort, to the pursuit of science and to the increase of man’s knowledge of the universe,” the board wrote in an April 25, 1967 piece called “A Spaceman’s Death.”

“This sad accident, following on the deaths of three American astronauts, emphasizes the importance of the human aspect of space ventures, as against the competitive character of the space effort,” the board wrote. “The question must again be asked whether the U.S. and the USSR, in their race to the moon, are doing everything possible to protect human life.”

The board’s lament was punctuated by a cartoon called “Reaching for the Stars” which depicted an astronaut named “MANKIND” stretching his arm toward the moon, with a patch on the sleeve of his uniform bearing the last names of the four dead astronauts. The board also referenced remarks by Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of the late Russian dictator Josef Stalin, that the world cannot be divided into capitalists and Communists, only good people and bad people.

“The Russian astronaut, like the Americans who died before him, was one of the people dedicated to progress for all mankind,” the board wrote. “How much better it would be for the two nations to work together in space, rather than to compete and, possibly through haste, to sacrifice more brave men.”

— Michael Dobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells

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