Faculty at 14 Pennsylvania Universities Vote to Authorize a Strike

A union representing about 5,500 faculty members and coaches at state-owned universities like West Chester, Kutztown, and Shippensburg is discussing a possible strike.

Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities could soon go on strike.

More than 80 percent of faculty members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) took part in a vote last week, and 93 percent of those who participated voted to authorize a strike. Contract negotiations predating the June 2015 expiration of the union’s pact with the state system have failed to produce any results.

The APSCUF represents about 5,500 faculty members and coaches at state-owned universities like West Chester, Kutztown, Millersville, and Shippensburg, among others. The union’s coaches will vote hold a strike authorization vote this Wednesday and Thursday. According to PennLive, this could be the first strike in the system’s 33-year history.

A strike date has not yet been set. Union president Kenneth Mash said in a statement that a possible strike date could be discussed at the next negotiation meeting, which is set for this Friday.

“We will not set a date until we have at least one more chance to go to the negotiations table to ensure that we are doing everything we can do,” Mash said. “A strike remains the last resort.”

The union has opposed proposals from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE) that would increase the use of temporary faculty (graduate students), stop funding faculty research, cut some salaries by 20 percent, and charge more for medical benefits, according to a statement from the union.

Many students at the affected universities have expressed concern at the idea of a strike, according to PennLive – especially seniors who are counting on the completion of classes to graduate.

In the event of a strike, administrators across the PSSHE and the 14 universities would have to roll out plans to best accommodate affected students. According to APSCUF, students would not be able to communicate with participating professors via campus phones or email.

Shippensburg president George “Jody” Harpster told the university’s student newspaper, The Slate, that the university is preparing a strike response plan. The plan would include finding a way for students to complete classes disrupted by a strike, which could include cutting fall break, extending the semester, and adding evening classes. A strike could lead to the cancellation of classes for more than 100,000 students across the state system, according to The Slate.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

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