CLARION, Pa.- “It was a very frustrating experience for us,” APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth Mash told The Clarion Call.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) has been in negotiations with the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education (PASSHE) for a new contract for two years.
Since recent developments have led to a standstill that has persuaded APSCUF to call a faculty strike on Oct. 19 if further negotiations are not successful, Mash came Tuesday to address concerned students and faculty.
Marathon negotiations resulted in what PASSHE proposes as a 12 percent pay raise for full-time faculty and a system that would theoretically increase the workload of adjunct staff without a pay raise.
Mash says this is what angered APSCUF, that PASSHE would threaten the quality of academia in the fourteen state schools in some faculty’s eyes. “A contract is always a matter of negotiations as far as package of salaries and benefits. We’ve been surprised and shocked by the degree to which they’re will to go over those kinds of things that will impact academic quality,” added Mash, who believes that because such a comprise on education is at stake, has caused faculty to unite and stand together. APSCUF has solidified their stance on the issue, said Mash, and they are willing to strike to stand up for educational quality, faculty benefits and the retention of the current university experiences for students.
“You have to be willing to stand up for yourself sometimes,” said Mash, who thinks the strike might be a symbolic message to students not to give up on something you want.
APSCUF is concerned about the emphasis Mash said PASSHE would like to place on distance learning, especially when students are regulated to taking online classes while on campus.
Mash and APSCUF are also worried how adjunct professors’ workloads would be increased from four to five classes with no pay raise. If they do not raise the number of classes these temporary faculty teach, Mash said, then their pay would theoretically be cut by 20 percent.
“We all need to get this resolved and then what we all need to, and I’m talking about the administrations, the students, the faculty, everyone involved in the university, need to make a case to the legislature that we need more funds to run our universities,” said Mash, referring to the constant debate and possibility of increasing teaching salaries.
“Salaries is a part of the quality,” said Mash relating professors’ satisfaction with their jobs to the overall experience of the student. APSCUF wants PASSHE to compete in the national market.
“We will strike until we get a contract that maintains academic quality and is fair to the faculty,” Mash added, “But our faculty are resentful of this whole thing.” Mash mentioned that APSCUF would prefer to avoid the possible strike. “We’re committed to do whatever we can do to avoid [the strike.]”
“There’s got to be a lot more seriousness up front,” Mash said. He hopes that as new faces appear on the board of governors, a changed attitude toward the endless cycle of negotiation contracts will ensue. “It’s not good to create this kind of strife,” he added, “we should be paying more attention to our students and what is important to our universities.”
A contract proposal was submitted to the State System Wednesday night, including a proposal on wage and healthcare. A response to the submitted proposal on Monday, Oct. 3 when the negotiation teams reconvene.
APSCUF is hoping for improved results to avoid sending a message through a strike.