As the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) strike date draws closer, negotiations between the faculty union and state system continue to yield little progress.
Following the announcement on Friday, Sept. 23 that union members will be holding a strike on Wednesday, Oct. 19, representatives from APSCUF and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) continued to meet in Harrisburg to negotiate a new contract.
The decision came after two different solutions were proposed by each party, with APSCUF asking for binding arbitration and PASSHE asking for a fact-finding session.
Binding arbitration would have seen members from each side state their cases to a legal third party, who would then draw up a contract that both sides would have to agree with. Fact-finding would have involved a 40-day long investigation on the issue. Both ideas were rejected by the opposing side.
Edward Lordan, WCU professor communication studies and spokesperson for the West Chester chapter of APSCUF, said that the union viewed the fact-finding proposal as a technique to delay negotiations.
“The union objected to the fact-finding because this has been going on for 15 months. Pretty much all the facts are known. APSCUF saw the fact-finding as the administration’s way to stop the strike and extend the problem,” stated Lordan, who feels the two deals say a lot about both sides.
“This looks better for the union. One side says they’re willing to settle this and the other declines. It really says something,” Lordan said.
Both sides are planning to meet regularly leading up to the strike date, though Lordan says little progress has been made so far. With the possibility of a strike seeming more of a reality than ever, details of what is to come are being revealed. The strike will see APSCUF members picketing that Wednesday instead of attending class and organizing sports practices.
Lordan said that picket locations are currently planned for the corner of High Street and Rosedale Avenue, in front of Philips Memorial Hall and various locations on south campus.
“The plan is to be as visible as possible. We will be talking to the media to get our point across,” Lordan said.
Along with classes not being held, all other duties of professors and coaches will be put on hold during the strike. This includes student and club advising, writing letters of recommendations and holding department meetings. Professors will also be unable to access their university emails and D2L. Other facilities on campus, such as the library and counseling, are still up in the air regarding their availability during the strike.
To further inform students on the contract issues, APSCUF members Seth Kahn, Cheryl Wanko and Michael Malcolm, all WCU professors, held an open forum in Main Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29. About a dozen students attended to ask questions about how the strike will affect their semester. Regarding students with field placements and work study obligations, Kahn said that students should continue to go unless told otherwise.
Kahn also clarified that the salary package portion of the contract is “pretty much a done deal,” but issues such as health care and the workload of adjunct faculty are not.
Regarding what will happen with the class days that are lost due to the strike, Kahn said that there are a few different ways that the time could be made up if need be.
“The university might tack on days at the end of the semester or we might have to open up weekends for classes. It all depends on how long this lasts,” Kahn said.
Wanko, who has worked for the university since 1993, said that this contract dispute is the worst she has ever seen.
When it comes to understanding what it is students want, Kahn said that PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan and other state system administrators do not understand what is really needed to maintain a top notch education environment.
“We as professors see you every day. We know your names and your interests. There are 15 people in Harrisburg who think they know you and what you want despite never meeting you. Their proposals will undo the values this place is built on,” Kahn said.
Malcolm, Wanko and Kahn encouraged students to contact Chancellor Brogan’s office and voice their opinions.
Faculty of the 14 PASSHE universities, including professors on the tenure track, adjunct professors, coaches and the state system have been stuck in negotiation issues since the old contract expired in June 2015. The first contract proposal from PASSHE came in June 2016, which, according to APSCUF delegates, had 249 changes from the prior contract.
Among the changes was the proposal to increase adjunct faculty workloads from four classes to five with no pay raise. APSCUF representatives rejected the deal, and in response held a vote on all 14 campuses from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9 to authorize a strike. Of the 82 percent of APSCUF members who voted, 93 percent voted in favor of authorizing a strike.
Dylan Messerschmidt is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ? DM837837@wcupa.edu. His Twitter is? @DylanMesh.