1 Education Drive

Room F-3293 Garden City, New York 11530

Speaking Of(f) The Record: Geoffrey Prime’s Empty Invitation

It wasn’t his fault it was empty. He’d known ahead of time that three trustees were not going to be at the March 14th BOT meeting. Yet there was hope for a quorum. All Mr. Prime needed was for three more trustees to appear and they could attend to the College’s business. It was important business too: there were the tenure and promotion recommendations to vote on, and the resolutions concerning allncc and free speech. In addition, we, the faculty, had made it known that we were angry, that we intended to show up in large numbers to let the trustees know precisely and in great detail what we were thinking. It was important business, but we can’t blame Mr. Prime for the fact that none of it got done. There is no way he could have known that three additional trustees would be absent, which meant that the Board did not have a quorum, which meant that there could be no official meeting.

Still, if we were angry when we sat down in our chairs on the 11th floor of the Tower at around 8:00 PM, waiting either for the chance to speak our minds–if we’d signed up to speak–or for the opportunity to bear witness both to what our colleagues would say and to the Board’s response, when Chair Prime announced that there would be no meeting, we were furious. Many of us stormed out; others stayed behind while discussion ensued about what to do. No one wanted us to leave as angry as we were and so Mr. Prime, President Astrab, Gul Berktas and Anthony W. Cornachio agreed to stay and hear our statements anyway though, as Mr. Prime explained, since the Board was not actually meeting, nothing we had to say would be read into the official record. This gesture, generous though it appeared, was empty. Our words disappeared into thin air when we finished, while the trustees were under no obligation to treat them as anything other than mere sound bites interesting to listen to, but without consequence.

This, of course, obviated the whole point of speaking at a Board of Trustees meeting, which is to place one’s words into the public record. Our colleagues, as they were called to speak by Mr. Prime, either declined to do so or spoke extemporaneously about the fact that there wasn’t a quorum and how it made us feel. Some pointed out that we’d chosen to spend time away from our families so that we could speak; others asked why, even at the last minute, no one had thought to place a notice on the newly restored ALLNCC list that the meeting had been canceled. One colleague pointed out that if we were to treat our students as we’d just been treated, we would be disciplined, while others pointed out that instructors from the LINCC program had, for the first time, come to speak out and that the absence of six of the nine sitting trustees, especially when morale at the college is so low, represented a lack of leadership on their part. The words and tenor of the faculty present at that “unofficial” meeting made it clear that this “perfect storm” of absences felt like one more instance of the type of disrespect to the faculty we could add to the growing list penned by the college leadership over the past two years.

So what did we walk away with? An apology from Mr. Prime. An apology he subsequently posted to the ALLCAMPUS on Friday, but which rings a bit hollow as he chose to mix it with a veiled attack on our Union and a reminder our faculty would face harsh consequences if we failed to come to heel once contract negotiations begin. Apology indeed?