Thirty years ago today, I was fired by President Reagan for striking with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) after massive picketing to bring attention to the plight of beleaguered workers. Ironically, the FAA workers are back in the news today being used as political pawns. Anyhow, here I find myself picketing once again, this time at Nassau Community College to bring that same message of the beleaguered worker. The NCCFT is supporting and sponsoring small informational picketing along with leaflet distribution explaining to the students the issues facing this campus because of the administration’s dismissive response to faculty initiatives to participate in the governance of the campus. We have had a long history and culture of collegial discourse within the shared governance structure of this institution. You have already received emails from the Chairs, Senate and NCCFT discussing the demise of this culture at the hands of Dr. Astrab. Today’s informational picketing was held on the Plaza in front of the Tower. Upon arrival, both Dr. Jim Hoyt and myself noticed that fencing was set up to corral the faculty into a small area. I asked the Director of Public Safety, Mr. Roddini, on what authority were we being corralled. This is what I was handed:
Section 4(f) of County Ordinance 238-1984 states that “No person shall, at any facility: Interfere with, encumber or obstruct passage to any entranceway or exit of a facility.” Section 2 (a) of County Ordinance 238-1984 defines “facility” to include Nassau Community College. Section 4(k) of County Ordinance 238-1984 states “Any person who remains on the premises of any facility and refuses to leave upon the lawful request of any duly authorized representative of the facility or a police officer shall be guilty of trespass.”
Pursuant to the above sections of County Ordinance 238-1984 and reflecting the intention, as stated on the website of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, of individuals to engage in collective activity in the proximity of the Nassau Community College Tower Building, an area has been designated for such a gathering on the Plaza proximate to the Tower Building that will not interfere with, encumber or obstruct passage to any entranceway or exit to or from the Tower Building or adjoining buildings.
Wow! That is clear. On the other hand, is it? I asked Chief Roddini who determined the location of that specific corralled area and was told it came from College Counsel. I believe that is Ms. Donna Haugen. I explained to Chief Roddini that the corral was exposing the members to the unrelenting heat of the sun and was placing them in a potentially dangerous situation. I attempted to call Donna Haugen’s office, but had to be satisfied to leave a message on her answering machine. After some further conversation with Chief Roddini, the corral was moved to the shade.
Nevertheless, this gets more interesting. I was told that the faculty were free to walk outside the corral to distribute leaflets as long as they did not carry signs. I pointed out that the faculty were all wearing NCCFT t-shirts and asked if those t-shirts qualified as a sign. I was assured they did not. I asked if the faculty wore the signs rather than carried them, if the signs qualified as garments rather than signs. I was assured the wearing of the signs did not qualify as garments. I asked who determined what qualified as a sign or a garment. I was assured that Chief Roddini would make that decision as Director of Public Safety.
This is the latest example of the new culture at Nassau Community College as determined by Dr. Astrab. Confrontation! If you recall, in the past when we had informational picketing, we were free to walk anywhere on campus delivering our message, holding our signs and expressing ourselves. Who, in this administration, believes that a small group of dedicated faculty, trying to express our concerns for the future of this campus, would pose a risk to “interfere, encumber or obstruct passage” to anything? Who, in this administration, (unless not on campus to witness the hot sun) would be so insensitive to place the faculty in such a dangerous and uncomfortable situation?
Chief Roddini is an honorable and dedicated professional who has brought much needed security to this campus. This article is not about him. This article demonstrates the pressure the administration, faculty and staff are under to deal with the confrontational attitude of Dr. Astrab. Many of the administrators that work here have been here for a very long time. We have worked with them through the shared governance structure to create the “best possible” (to borrow Dr. Astrab’s phrase) model of a Community College. Now, we seem to be at odds with many of these same administrators. Is it fair to ask, were these administrators always willing to be confrontational and Dr. Fanelli held them at bay, or were they always willing to work in a collegial setting and Dr. Astrab has forced them into this new relationship? You already know the answer. If you don’t know, talk amongst yourselves and find out.
I am so proud to be associated with this group of faculty. You are remarkable individuals. The NCCFT learns from you everyday and we will continue to serve you to the best of our ability.
The next informational picket will take place Wednesday, August 17th from 12-2. Location to be announced. For now, be careful what you wear. The wrong clothing could get you corralled.
Frank Frisenda, VP Classroom Faculty
And now, for a little music…