West Chester faculty met in Main Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 27 to discuss the future of the ongoing contract negotiations. Considering the icy road conditions, there was a surprising turnout for the meeting, packing the large lecture room. While the meeting was closed, some professors were eager to discuss the meeting with students and members of the press afterwards.Dr. Charles Hardy, professor of history and Co-Chair of the Faculty Strike Committee, explained that the last negotiation meeting was held Dec. 19, 2003. Since then, no meetings have been scheduled and negotiations have broken down. According to Hardy, the reason for the closed meeting and information lockdown is to avoid rumors and “pressures from the outside.”
At this point in the negotiations, “SSHE is out of the picture,” said Hardy. SSHE is no longer involved and all negotiations are going through back channels, which serve as a last resort. When asked if he thought Governor Edward Rendell would step in to aide negotiations, Hardy said, “I would hope.” According to Hardy, it would be irresponsible of him not to.
Hardy compared the situation with negotiations that took place in 1999. The faculty was within hours of striking, when a deal was made. According to Hardy, that deal “was not as loathsome” as the current one.
According to both Hardy and Dr. Linda Myrsiades, president of the WCU faculty union and English professor, the contract proposed by SSHE would increase class sizes as well as centralize control of all 14 schools in the system. This would take away local policies and make all of the universities uniform.
Myrsiades added that there are 900 faculty members across the system who are ready to retire. If they were to retire before the new contract is enacted, they would receive better benefits and would result in the loss of 18 percent of the system’s most experienced faculty.
The president of APSCUF is expected to make an announcement on Wednesday concerning the negotiations and the possibility of a strike. February 4, according to communication professor, Dr. Edward Lordan, is the “day that makes a difference.” The days leading up to this announcement will involve intense efforts to “exhaust all possibilities in order not to strike,” explained Myrsiades.
Professors also showed concern at the loss of respect for the profession through the negotiations. “We deserve to be respected and treated like grown-ups,” said Professor Seth Kahn of the English department.
Myrsiades asserted, “It’s no longer just a question of money; it’s what it’s doing to the profession.” She went on to explain that the contract proposed is a blue collar or industrial contract, as opposed to a professional contract.
Many professors stressed the faculty’s care for the students. Kahn stated, “The faculty’s comitment to the students should never, ever be questioned.” Lordan said that “student welfare came up more than once” throughout the meeting.
Hardy stated that, while professors are not supposed to discuss the negotiations during class, students are welcome to approach faculty members during their office hours to ask questions or express concerns. In the case of a strike, all classes would cease and faculty would be banned from the University property. Kahn also recommended that students speak with the deans of their departments about questions concerning a possible strike.