HARRISBURG, Pa.- As the potential strike date of Oct. 19 draws nearer, faculty from the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools are continuing to fight for what they call a fair contract. In an effort to speed up the contract talks, faculty and students rallied in Harrisburg at the Dixon University Center Oct. 6.
More than 350 faculty members and students, including 10 Clarion University professors, marched and picketed outside the Dixon University Center from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Their signs expressed their concerns including the perceived lack of PASSHE funding, but reaffirmed the faculty’s commitment to higher education.
Clarion English professor Ellen Foster said that they were certainly loud enough to be heard. The state system board of directors made no interactions with faculty during the rally.
According to Kathryn Morton, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) associate director of communications, the decision to rally began in early September with the strike authorization vote.
By rallying, the faculty wanted to prove to the board and PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan how unified they were in their desire for a “fair” contract. They described the sought agreement as one that preserves their ability to deliver quality education to students and protects the quality of public education in Pennsylvania. PASSHE contends their desired contract changes would not jeopardize the quality of its schools’ education.
Foster has been an APSCUF member since 2001 and has chaired the local chapter’s Nominations and Elections Committee for six years. She believes that the rally was a positive experience for the faculty to publically express their concerns and commitment in a way that could not be ignored.
“It is truly not about the money. This situation is about quality education for our current and future students,” said Foster.
Philosophy professor Jamie Phillips chose to attend the rally because he was inspired by how effective rallies can be in creating political change. In his six years as local union president, he has dealt with two sets each of contract negotiations and major budget cuts.
Raymond Feroz, Clarion University’s APSCUF chapter president, wanted students to know that “sometimes in life, you just have to take a stand.”
He believes that the state is proposing contracts that would erase gains of previous faculty members and destroy shared governance.
“We will not let that happen,” Ferroz said. “If the State System of Higher Education does not wake up and truly hear us, and negotiate in good faith, there will be a strike on Oct. 19.”
Philosophy professor Julia Aaron is fighting because she believes that PASSHE administrators would never be willing to agree on the contract under its current offer. “I think a part of this is just about treating faculty and students with respect, using the golden rule.”
All faculty who attended were pleased by the support from students who joined them, other unions and passersby. Most say they do not want to strike, but faculty is in agreement that without a contract before Oct. 19, a strike will occur.