LIU faculty union says administration is ‘operating in a bubble’

Teri West
The student union on the LIU Brooklyn campus. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Long Island University faculty union condemned the university’s self-congratulations for a credit upgrade as evidence the administration is “operating in a bubble” in an email sent to colleagues as well as Blank Slate Media.

Union President Michael Soupios and Vice President Willia Hiatt wrote that announcements such as the progression from a BBB to a BBB+ Standard & Poor’s credit rating ignore what faculty are seeing: “empty classrooms, crippling cuts, and disinvestment.”

Such complaints come as enrollment has dropped in recent years. LIU’s enrollment went from 2009 in 21,682 to 16,079 in 2017, according to Newsday.

There was a 7.35 percent enrollment decline nationwide from the fall of 2012 to fall 2017, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center statistics.

Christopher Fevola, the university’s vice president for finance and treasurer, disputed claims Soupios made that the administration is distant and unresponsive.

He said that LIU’s financial improvements, particularly in a time when universities nationwide are struggling, are indicators of real progress.

“Despite a small group that has a very loud voice, particularly in certain parts of the campus as far as the strategic direction of the university, the fact of the matter is that the great strides we’ve made financially have really come at a time when our industry has been subject to a lot of scrutiny,” Fevola said.

One factor considered in the S&P’s rating process was the endowment, which grew from $80 million to $230 million in the last five years, he said.

The endowment has primarily been growing because the administration has cut the university’s operating budget, according to Soupios.

Fevola disputed that and said that fundraising, market returns and operating performance have all “had a notable contribution to the growth in the endowment.”

While enrollment has dropped, the average SAT score of students has increased along with retention rates, Fevola said.

“If we don’t keep the high academic standard we wind up recruiting and enrolling students that are unable to complete their education on time,” he said. “They often run into financial difficulties when their financial aid runs out. They leave without being able to get a transcript.”

Soupios’ and Hiatt’s letter said that the administration has not shared test score data with the faculty and argued that such academic performance should not be considered a success when overall enrollment is down.

Another dent in enrollment has resulted from the university’s decision to move LIU Post athletics from NCAA’s Division II Northeast Conference to Division I this coming fall, Soupios said.

While student athletes did not lose scholarships, many lost the opportunity to play, he said.

Soupios, a political science professor, said he signed off on six to eight transfer passes last semester.

The faculty union has told the administration it would be happy to open a dialogue but has found the university uninterested in doing so diplomatically, he said.

“Their idea of a discussion is a complete one-way street,” Soupios said. “Their idea of a discussion is you give 100 percent on your end and we give you in response absolutely nothing.”

Still, the union will continue pointing out holes it notices, he said.

“We’re not going to stop pointing out truth in this matter,” Soupios said. “The truth is the truth.”

Fevola said the administration has met with about 300 faculty members since the beginning of December “where we’ve had very constructive dialogue.”

Faculty members have also been key consultants as the university moves to introduce new academic programs and are on board of trustee subcommittees, he said.

About the author

Teri West

Teri West is a reporter for Blank Slate Media covering Roslyn and Manhasset.
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