He added that the administration should be blamed for precipitating the strike. Questions students had about losing financial aid dollars or wasting tuition dollars were “terrific reasons for them to be upset with the Board of Trustees, who for three years sat on their hands and refused to negotiate,” Loiacono said.
Thomas Jackson, a 23-year-old sophomore, Wyandanch resident and president of NCC’s Student Government Association, said he appreciated “people have to make a living,” but he considered the tactic of striking “extreme.”
“I think the adjuncts are counting on the inconvenience to students of showing up to find out there is no class, to use that as ammunition,” Jackson said on Sept. 12.
But NCC’s administration also instructed students to report to their regularly scheduled classes, including those in which the professors were striking. “Students should report to their classes as usual,” stated an email the administration sent to students on Sept. 10. “If there is no instructor present in your classroom, you must remain in the room until you are dismissed by a college official who will be taking attendance.”
Jackson said he believed the exercise of requiring students to report to class, marking them present and then dismissing them was for the students’ benefit. “I think it’s about making sure students who do receive aid from the government don’t lose it,” he said.
Steven Abreu, a 24-year-old sophomore from Plainview, strongly disagreed. He joined the adjuncts on the picket line on Sept. 11 and held up a handmade sign that read, “Stand in solidarity with the AFA.”
“My last two classes are taught by adjuncts so they’re not meeting, so I figured I’d spend that time here instead of … crossing the picket line so they can take our attendance,” Abreu said. “I don’t appreciate that they asked us to do such a thing. That’s immoral in my eyes.”
The dollars breakdown
Adjuncts teach 55 percent of the courses at Nassau Community College, according to Charles Loiacono, president of the Adjunct Faculty Association. He said the AFA has 3,303 members. Saunders said there are 1,231 adjuncts scheduled to teach at NCC this fall. Some of this number are full-time faculty who teach an extra course as an “adjunct.” Saunders asserted last week that just 125 adjuncts were participating in the strike. There were about 40 strikers on the picket line around 4 p.m. on Sept 11 and 12.
Professor Joseph Gray, an adjunct professor of accounting and business who participated in the strike, said the average adjunct was paid between $1,100 and $1,800 per credit hour they teach. Most courses are three credit hours, and adjuncts typically teach one or two courses per semester.
Nancy Garbowski, an adjunct professor of math who participated in the strike, said that increases of 4.9 percent per year are a reasonable request given the modest amount adjuncts make.
“People who hear 4.9 [percent] have to understand the math involved,” Garbowski said. “Four percent of a large amount of money is different than 4 percent of a small amount of money. And the adjuncts make on average about one-third of the salary of what full-time teachers make … Every year we work, the gap between full-time and part-time staff grows wider.”
The adjunct faculty and the NCC administration disputed how much exactly the AFA was asking for and the economic impact this would have on NCC.
According to administration officials, approving the union’s sought-after eight-year deal would cost NCC $63 million.
AFA members said that number was tens of millions of dollars higher than the reality. On the picket line on Sept. 12, Loiacono said he did not have the “actual” number at hand, but he claimed that the administration had committed the mathematical error of figuring the raises’ total cost as of the end of each year of the deal and then totaling these figures, thereby adding all but the final year’s raise multiple times, even though each year’s raise is paid but once.
Loiacono said the cost of the raises the AFA is demanding must be considered in light of NCC’s total buget. NCC’s budget for the current fiscal year is $214 million. Even if NCC’s budget does not increase for five years, over which time the AFA is demanding raises, the college would have $1.07 billion to spend in that time.