APSCUF members rally in Harrisburg

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 at 6:30 PM
APSCUF members rally in Harrisburg by Macala Leigey
APSCUF members gathered in Harrisburg to rally outside the Board of Governors meeting Oct. 6.

Nearly 300 members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College Union Faculties (APSCUF) rallied outside a Board of Governors meeting, held at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg, Oct. 6, to protest for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to propose what they consider a fair contract.

Faculty members began rallying at 8:30 a.m., carrying “I don’t want to strike, but I will” signs and chanting “two, four, six, eight, don’t play games, negotiate.”

Some faculty members also took part in the Board of Governors meeting, voicing their concerns and personal testimonies as to why the state system should reach an agreement and a fair contract.

APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash was also present at the meeting and the rally.

“We are asking for a fair contract. It’s hard to understand why they would be putting up the fight they are putting. I think they [PASSHE] need to understand that our faculty are real people, our students are real people, and when they are suggesting these hypothetical things [and] ways to cut money, they need to understand what the impact of that is on our students and our faculty,” Mash said.

Mash also addressed the proposed pay raises the state system has offered the faculty union.

“They [PASSHE] need to understand that the numbers need to make sense. We can’t say they offered us $159 million in salary; that’s just dishonest. Anybody can do the simple math. You take 159 million and divide it by 5,300, which is the number of faculty, and you wind up with something like $34,000 a faculty member. They’re not offering us $34,000 per faculty member. They’re calculating something wrong there. They need to think about what they’re actually saying.”

Mash also commented on faculty attendance at the rally. “I’ve got great colleagues [and] we’ve got so many of them here today. I’m very proud. I think students should know that this is how much the faculty care about them. That in the middle of a semester, with all the work that they’ve been doing, [they] got up at 4:30 in the morning to make the trip here.”

Along with Mash, several other APSCUF members shared why they were rallying and their concerns regarding the contract negotiations.

“Right now, it’s about the students and making sure they’re able to get a good quality education, so that’s why I’m here. It comes down to money, eventually, but not right now,” said West Chester University of Pennsylvania temporary faculty member Maryann Beaver.

Beaver continued, “All of us want to be teaching; we don’t want to go on strike. We’re all here fighting together, not just for temporary faculty rights, or what’s going to be in the contract, but for everybody.”

Edinboro University’s APSCUF Chapter President Dr. Michael Bucell also commented on why faculty decided to rally.

“We’re here rallying because we want a fair contract and we want students to be able to have a quality education. We’ve not been able to get the chancellor [of PASSHE] to negotiate a fair contract, so we’re taking our voices to the Board of Governors to get them to put some pressure on this chancellor. So that we can put this negotiation behind us [and] students can finish their semester.”

Bucell continued, “I think they [Board of Governors and PASSHE] heard that faculty are very upset about the contract negotiations, [and] that we’re concerned about the quality of education for our students and for citizens of the commonwealth. This is about the future of education.”

However, faculty members were not the only ones rallying outside the state system building.

“We’re here because we deserve quality education and we’re only going to get that if our faculty receive a quality contract,” said Bloomsburg University student Kelly Barko, who, along with several other Bloomsburg students, traveled to Harrisburg to rally with their professors.

Barko continued, “We’re here because, for all of us chemistry majors, we’ve gotten to work with our faculty in the lab, so we’ve gotten to know them pretty well, and they definitely go well above the 17 hour mark that’s been quoted by the state. If we expect faculty to do their jobs, and to do their jobs well, we have to give them the time to do their jobs and do them well.”

Barko also voiced her biggest concern if the faculty union does strike. “Definitely graduating. I’m supposed to graduate in December, so it’s near, but this is a good cause. If it has to come to the point where I won’t graduate this December, then at least my voice was heard.”

In addition to the various faculty members and students rallying outside, multiple state system members, including chancellor Frank Brogan and university presidents, were inside attending the Board of Governors meeting.

Edinboro University’s president Dr. H. Fred Walker was one of the members in attendance.

“My reaction to what we saw this morning was that it was a group of faculty that came in to express their desires, concerns and their perspectives, and that’s what the university is all about. We’re trying to do the best that we can to meet the needs of our students and I think those faculty members are trying to do the same thing,” said Walker.

Walker also commented on the progress of the Board of Governors meeting, noting that contract negotiations between the state system and the union were not addressed after APSCUF members left the meeting.

“The meeting dramatically changed tone and tenor when the faculty left because the agenda changed. So now we aren’t talking about collective bargaining issues at all.”

From the state system, PASSHE’s Media Relations Manager Kenn Marshall addressed the contract negotiations and potential strike, by saying, “The state system has no control over whether a strike occurs. We are committed to continuing to bargain in good faith in an effort to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone, especially our students.”

Marshall also shared that if a strike does occur, “universities would make every effort to ensure the semester can be completed and to ensure that students receive full credit for their work,” and “if, in a worst case scenario, the semester had to be canceled, students would receive refunds.”

Regarding the replacement of faculty, Marshall said, “Replacing faculty is not something that we [PASSHE] have plans to do at this time.”

However, depending on the length of the strike, the school year may be extended and students may need to make up classes.

“If it were only a day or two, the missed class time possibly could be made up without the need to have make up days. A longer strike could require some time to be made up,” said Marshall.

APSCUF and PASSHE head back to the negotiating table Friday, with the impending strike only five days away after negotiations starting back up. If a contract is reached before Oct. 19, faculty members will not strike.

For more information regarding contract negotiations, or the potential strike, visit edinboronow.com. 

Macala Leigey is the News Editor for the Spectator and can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com

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