Numerous faculty members in about 14 State Universities in Pennsylvania have gone on strike since Wednesday morning, according to Fox News. Affecting more than 100,000 students, the strike occurred as a result of contract negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the faculty union disagreeing.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties announced that their members went on strike at five in the morning as a result of no agreement being reached. Without the union representing more than 5,000 coaches and faculty across the state, a walkout is likely to halt a large amount of classes mid-semester.
Late Tuesday night, the union was done trying to negotiate as the state had handed its last offer.
APSCUF President Kenneth M. Mash said in a statement:
“We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn't want to abandon its students.”
According to the state, its latest proposal would provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and a health care package identical to what other system employees have. The state also withdrew several proposals. One included the requirement for full-time temporary faculty to teach an additional class each semester.
State System spokesman Kenn Marshall says:
“Removing many of the more contentious issues from the table, we have demonstrated our willingness to participate in the normal give-and-take of negotiations. We believed it also would show APSCUF our eagerness to achieve a new contract. It is clear from their actions, however, that health care and salaries are the real issues in these negotiations.”
While the two sides reached tentative agreements on more than a dozen significant issues, the union refused both the system’s salary offer and the health care changes that were proposed.
“ These are difficult times for our universities. It is unfortunate — especially for our students — that we have gotten to this point,” Marshall told Fox News.
With the last faculty contract expiring on June 30, 2015, APSCUF is on its 478th day working under an expired contract.
Fresh U asked several students in the Pennsylvania area their opinions on the strike.
“As a student at Edinboro University, we fully support the professors and their fight for a fair contract,” a sophomore Wildlife Biology student, Hannah Derry said.
“It’s not just unfair to the faculty, it’s unfair to the student as well,” said Sarah Albolino, a sophomore Early Childhood/Special Education student at Edinboro.
Edinboro sophomore PR/Journalism major Jenna Granatire gave Fresh U her opinion about the attendance that is still required:
“The University sends us emails to tell us to still attend class. My education should not be measured by my name on an attendance sheet.”
Edinboro students have also expressed their support for the faculty by building a unity statue.
Slippery Rock University freshman Maria Veltre explained the situation at her college:
“What bothers me is that:
1. They’re not even negotiating right now because the administration isn’t being cooperative. SRU president Cheryl Norton tried giving a speech about the strike, but ended up rolling her eyes and walking away from our faculty!
2. They’re sending administration members to SOME classrooms to take attendance and they’re telling students that they’re ‘sorry your professors just left you like this.’ I’m sorry, but we support our faculty! We understand that they have families to support!”
The music therapy major also expressed her concern with the strike.
“Of course we’re a little nervous about how long the strike may last because some seniors are trying to graduate this semester, but we will keep fighting for this contract. Every single one of my classes are ‘temporarily suspended’ and it's like president Norton doesn't even care that we are paying for an education that we're not even getting. I just hope someone in the administration decides to cooperate ASAP.”
Indiana University of Pennsylvania freshman Shelby Smith is concerned about the semester not counting if the strike goes on for a long time. While the undecided major expresses her empathy for the people graduating in December, she is also proud of the number of students showing support for the teachers by bringing them food and also standing with signs to support them.
Our best wishes go out to these colleges.
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