Throughout this semester, WCU’s faculty has endured an ongoing process of negotiating a contract to meet the needs for both the APSCUF (the teachers and coaches Union for all 14 Pennsylvania state universities) and PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education). The staff has been working without contract for 18 months and counting. In the most recent talks of negotiations, it appears a strike next semester is possible.
“Last week, faculty in the 14 state universities across Pennsylvania overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote. Over 86 percent of faculty across the state voted, and 95 percent of them approved the strike vote,” English Professor Dr. Cheryl Wanko commented in a mass email to WCU English majors. With how involved she has been with keeping everyone informed, Dr. Wanko can be described as the informal PR representative for the union with this struggle.
The teachers have expressed that this does not indicate that they definitely will be going on strike. There likely will not be a strike until next semester if things are still unresolved, and it will not be at the beginning of the semester.
“They will have more power over the PASSHE system once the semester starts,” commented Mr. Bauerlein, advisor for journalism minors. Wanko was simply stating the numbers for our current situation, and of course preparing us for the worst. Unfortunately, even though students need answers because a strike could greatly affect students’ anticipated graduation, this article does not have any concrete news of a decision one way or another.
The faculty is trying to get a contract that is fair for everyone. They invest a great deal of their time and energy into education, so in turn, they deserve a solid contract. As all WCU students know, many teachers here specifically offer devotion to education above and beyond the average by taking the time for each and every individual student with their issues, whether it is academic or personal matters. This is a definite reason why the faculty should get what they truly deserve.
On Nov. 27, APSCUF issued an open letter explaining everything to the students across the 14 state schools involved. It states that there is definitely no chance of a strike this semester. It thoroughly explained the issues the faculty has with the Chancellor, some of which must be noted to give the students perspective: the Chancellor wants a different pay scale for temporary faculty. He is still proposing to increase payments for faculty on reduced health care benefits.
“He wants to cut our retirement healthcare and stop offering it to new faculty,” stated Steve Hicks, APSCUF President.
What the union simply wants is what is fair, and at all costs faculty wants to avoid a strike because of the detriment it can have on the students’ education. On the other side of things, the Chancellor is making very different proposals. Faculty in the APSCUF is making a strong and must-needed stand. Hicks mentioned in the letter that they did not even mention the idea of a strike for over a year because of several attempts to put the ball in the Chancellor’s court and give him the opportunity to draw up a fair contract. Hicks emphasized that on the staff’s side of this dispute, they have been more than willing to compromise.
“We have done our best to try to avoid a strike. We gave the Chancellor several opportunities to settle a fair contract, including a two-year extension proposal and the offer of binding arbitration. We offered to pay more for health care and suggested ways for Chancellor to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs. He rejected them all,” Hicks explained.
Most importantly, what does a strike mean for students? It appears a strike will really make the campus quite stagnant. Dr. Wanko expanded on this, spelling out specifically what will be stopped during a strike.
“Since a strike is a work stoppage, your teachers do not teach classes. You may see them outside on picket lines. If someone is teaching in your classroom, that means that either s/he has crossed the picket line and is not supporting the strike, or has been put there by the administration. Usually, classes simply will not occur: you will not be supervised in student teaching or other internships; no advising happens; no grades get posted; no graduation clearances are processed; no clubs or other activities have faculty involvement. Faculty work stops, and faculty are not paid,” Wanko explained via mass e-mail to all English majors.
The staff clearly has demands that must be met, and the Chancellor of the school system is limiting a resource that students need: an education. Tuition dollars go towards a bigger entity than just that diploma to be framed at Dynamic Books. Students need the tools to go out and excel in this world, and it appears on an administrative level that the PASSHE system is potentially holding students back. The ability to get these skills needed is going to be hampered by ‘cutting costs’. Readers should send an email to the Chancellor, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and share thoughts with him on this process, such as why he should finally cut a deal with faculty.
Nicholas Devoe is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ND626335@wcupa.edu.