Union and State System’s fact sheets don’t match up, students want real answers

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 at 10:30 PM
Union and State System’s fact sheets don’t match up, students want real answers by Macala Leigey
APSCUF members protested a Board of Governors meeting in Harrisburg on Oct. 6. The possible faculty strike was 13 days away at this time.

“This is such a joke.”

“You keep saying best interests of students, but here we are.”

“You should read the comments. Not one is positive. It says a lot about your character.”

“You are ignoring all our questions. You just made this more clear to students that you do not care.”

These statements were all comments directed towards Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s [PASSHE] Chancellor Frank Brogan, during PASSHE’s Facebook Live webcast Tuesday. The webcast was accompanied by “Facebook Reactions,” a system allowing viewers to weigh in without directly commenting. The results included 301 registering as angry, while 50 added a “Like.”

With 13 days until the potential faculty strike, and no contract agreement reached, The Spectator conducted a survey electronically, through social media, and via paper and pen, to get students’ feedback on the situation.

Over 250 Edinboro University students took the survey, expressing their concerns regarding the potential strike, asking questions such as, “Will our credits still count?”; “Will students be refunded if the strike occurs?”; “How long will the strike last?”; and “Why aren’t our professors allowed to discuss this in class?”

Students Respond: Biggest Concern

However, when these issues were brought up during PASSHE’s Facebook Live webcast, Brogan stressed questions not discussed in
the comments and said other concerns would be answered at a later time.

“We intend to answer all of these questions, whether it’s today into this camera or in the future in writing — to make sure every question that is asked gets an answer,” said Brogan.

Brogan also commented on how the state system plans to address students’ questions, stating, “I deal in fact; I do not deal in spin. The answers you’re going to get from the system over time will be the same way. We deal with you directly, [and] factually.”

Throughout the live webcast, Brogan continually stated that both organizations, APSCUF and PASSHE, are not in favor of a strike occurring.

“Whether a strike happens or not is out of my control. It’s out of the Board of Governors control. I’ve never seen a strike in 38 years in professional public education.”

Brogan continued, “We do not want a strike. I don’t as Chancellor. The Board of Governors does not. Your presidents don’t. The vast majority of your faculty members do not want a strike to become a reality. Regardless of what it might sound like, they [faculty members] are in this business for you, and we are too.”

Brogan also vaguely touched on what would happen if a strike does occur.

“Should a strike occur, you have our commitment that we will do everything possible to make sure you have an uninterrupted opportunity to finish your semester, collect a grade, and ultimately, the credits that go along with that grade for the hard work you’ve put in.”

During the live webcast, current students were not the only ones voicing their concerns.

“Just enter into a contract for the faculty. This isn’t Florida where you [Brogan] came from. We respect the rights of organized labor in this state,” said one alumnus from Slippery Rock University.

One concerned parent also voiced her concern during the webcast, by saying, “How will this impact my daughter this semester? I know about negotiating. I want to know how this affects my child and her tuition money.”

On top of losing tuition money, Edinboro University students who participated in the strike survey voiced their biggest concerns as not graduating and losing credits.

“This [the strike] is what happens when people at the top of the chain don’t care about anyone below them. All it does is cause extra stress for the students and staff for literally no reason. I’m just sick of wondering whether or not my education is going to be thrown off track from events that I have no part in,” said an anonymous Edinboro University student.

Students were also surveyed on whether or not they knew the official strike date, and if professors have talked about the strike in class. Of the 275 students surveyed, 73 percent are aware that the strike date is Oct. 19, while 27 percent were unaware. Also, 40 percent of students said that their professors have discussed the strike in class, with 60 percent confirming that professors have not discussed the strike during class time.

According to PASSHE’s website, faculty members are “generally” not allowed to address the ongoing contract negotiations or the potential strike.

“Unless the curriculum is related to these topics, it is not appropriate for a faculty member to discuss labor negotiations and the potential of a strike in class. Students should contact the Dean or Provost if this occurs,” states the PASSHE’s website.

Additionally, the student fact sheets published last week by both APSCUF and PASSHE add to students’ confusion, as both documents contradict each other multiple times, possibly leaving students without direct answers or reassurance in regards to their education.

“Could the state system’s proposals require me to take more online classes? Yes. The current contract contains an agreement between the faculty and the state system that asserts that online classes provide valuable access. It also says that the parties agree there is a preference for traditional courses,” stated APSCUF in their student fact sheet publication.

However, when posed with the same question, PASSHE responded in their student fact sheet, by saying, “No. Nothing in the state system’s proposals would require any student to take a course online (via distance education); nor would it require any faculty member to teach a course via distance education, unless he/she was hired specifically to do so.”

APSCUF and PASSHE are scheduled to meet again at the negotiation table Oct. 14, just five days before the set strike date. APSCUF is scheduled to rally at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg today, where PASSHE’s Board of Governors is set to meet.

For more information about the ongoing contract negotiations, or for past news releases, including the complete student fact sheets, visit apscuf.org or passhe.edu. 

Macala Leigey is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

Whose Side Are You On?

Additional Photos:

APSCUF members protested a Board of Governors meeting in Harrisburg on Oct. 6. The possible faculty strike was 13 days away at this time.
Tags: passhe, apscuf, strike

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