Faculty on brink of striking at state universities in Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
VIDEO: Faculty may strike at state universities
More than a dozen state universities are on the brink of a faculty strike.

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (WPVI) -- What will Wednesday morning bring?

That is the question as more than a dozen state universities are on the brink of a faculty strike.

Students, however, say answers are hard to come by.

"They've been sending e-mails, but there's not a lot of concrete detail that's been communicated with us which I think is part of the frustration," West Chester University student Katie Coyle of Blue Bell, Pa. said.

There is now a formal news embargo as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and its faculty union negotiate.

The union has countdown clock on its website set for a Wednesday morning strike deadline at all 14 universities.

Two schools in our area are in the state system: Cheyney University and West Chester University, which is the largest in the system with some 16,000 students.

At West Chester, the lack of information is triggering angst and uncertainty.

"People are really confused. I think a lot of students are angry, pretty frustrated," student Megan Cara of Allentown, Pa. said.

West Chester University officials say if there is a strike, students should report to their classes, saying some professors may not walk out and, at least suggesting, there may be an alternate professor.

"They've kind of been keeping us in the dark. If we do have any substitutes, it will be interesting to see who they are or what they do because a lot of these classes are specialized," student Tyler Rutherford of Honey Brook, Pa. said.

Currently, full professors start at about $46,000 a year and top off at about $112,000 plus benefits.

The State System of Higher Education says it is offering a 7.25% to 17.25% hike in pay over a three-year deal depending on years of service.

It wants staff to pay more for medical insurance and wants more part-timers.

There are also sticking points over the workload for part-time professors.

If there is a walkout and it goes on for more than a week or two, some students worry as to how make-up classes will be structured.

"We also heard there's a chance that they can make us come in longer of our Thanksgiving break, or have night and weekend classes," student Mike Hartman of Pennsville, N.J. said.

For some, the worry is just about graduating in December.

"I am a little worried. I do want to graduate. I love college, but I can't be here forever," student Owen Moore of Dayton, N.J. said.

There has never been a faculty walkout in the state system.

There was a strike deadline set in 2007, but it was averted.

Everyone is hoping that will happen this time, as well.

This story has been corrected from an earlier version which stated 17% of employees, rather than 17% in pay hike.