Faculty, coaches fire back as possibility of strike continues
APSCUF sets strike date of October 19 if no agreement reached
September 28, 2016
Many faculty members and coaches are fed up as contract negotiations with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are at a stalemate. After working with no contract for more than 440 days, a strike seems imminent.
These negotiations affect not only California University of Pennsylvania faculty and students, but also the 13 other public universities in Pennsylvania. A strike will affect approximately 107,000 students and 5,500 faculty statewide.
“Yes, I will strike,” says Barbara Hess, president of the Cal U chapter of APSCUF, mathematics and computer science professor. “I don’t want to but when the State System has settled with all other unions and not mine I feel disrespected. If it were not for faculty, there would be no universities.”
Among the major sticking points, APSCUF union leaders say they object to proposals such as increasing the temporary faculty in lieu of permanent faculty, having students with few graduate credits teach courses, cutting funding for faculty research and professional development, forcing on campus student into distance education sections, university presidents unilateral authority to transfer faculty members to other departments, and lastly, cutting the wages of the lowest paid faculty members’ salaries by 20 percent.
“The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education did not meet with faculty for four months and it waited nearly a year before proposing 249 contractual changes,” said Dr. Lisa Kovalchick, professor, Mathematics and Computer Science and APSCUF delegate.
“It has never offered faculty what other statewide unions have received from the Commonwealth. However we continue to negotiate. We do not want to strike, but we will, if we must. I am a Cal U APSCUF delegate and I will strike,” she said.
Meanwhile, as the threat of a strike looms, Cal U issued the following statement.
“California University is hopeful that the faculty union and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education can reach a settlement and avert a strike.
The education of Cal U students is the University’s top priority. Even if the faculty union decides to strike, Cal U will remain open.
Even if a strike should occur, not all faculty members will walk off the job. Students should plan to attend their scheduled classes each and every day. (If a professor does not arrive to teach the class, students will be asked to sign in to register their attendance.) University housing and dining facilities will stay open, and the student center, the Herron recreation center and other campus locations will continue to provide services for students.
If a strike does occur, students will be kept informed. The University website will be your best source of accurate, up-to-date information.”
Professor Hess adds, “While management may say for you to report for class, why will you go? The person in the classroom doesn’t have the skills to teach the class. ”
Dr. Arcides Gonzales, chairperson of the Modern Languages and Cultures department, says he voted to and will strike.
“I will be in solidarity with the other 13 universities in the system,” Gonzales said. “We voted unanimously to strike if we don’t get a decent contract and to provide students with a quality education. There can be considerable effects from a strike. Students lose out on their education. Some students may want to leave Cal U.”
“The university may have to reimburse students for those days/weeks that they are not getting an education,” Gonzales said. “Faculty cannot teach, which is something the majority of faculty like to do. They also do not get paid while on strike, which can have detrimental consequences for them. Good faculty at Cal might also decide to leave.”
According to the APSCUF’S website, the 14 public universities involved in these negotiations contribute billions of dollars to the economy. For every one dollar invested in State System universities, six dollars are returned in economic impact.
With about 107,000 students, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. A prolonged strike would be a huge hit at the state’s economy.
Of those 82 percent of APSCUF faculty members who voted to authorize a strike, 93 percent were in favor of hitting the picket line.
On Sept. 21 the PA System of Higher Education released a statement.
“The State System has just concluded five days of marathon negotiating that we requested with the union (APSCUF) representing faculty at your university. On the last day of those meetings, APSCUF informed us that it may initiate a strike no later than October 30th. Clearly, such an action could have a significant impact on you and your classmates.”
How a strike will affect the students’ semester is not clear. Kindl, university spokesperson, stated, “The duration of a strike, should one occur, would determine how classes would be handled. It’s too soon to discuss specifics.”