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Faculty strike shakes Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

By Ian Gallagher

Students join in solidarity pickets!

West Chester, PA – The sun was just rising on Oct. 19 when West Chester University (WCU) faculty and students discovered that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) broke off negotiations with the faculty union the previous night. The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculty (APSCUF) has been negotiating for over one year, beginning back on June 30, 2015. The union represents nearly 5500 educators and coaches. The PASSHE covers 14 state universities and colleges and educates over 100,000 students.

The head of PASSHE, Chancellor Brogan, receives a salary of $345,758, while faculty across the state are negotiating to stop cutbacks, maintain good health care, and even out wages for the lowest paid faculty. Every year administrators require faculty to do more work, while demanding cuts. The faculty union, APSCUF, is also trying to maintain standards by having qualified faculty, not graduate assistants, teach 75% or more of classes and labs.

Immediately when news broke of the strike, faculty at 14 state universities grabbed their signs and went to the picket lines. Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., students coming to campus at WCU joined the picket lines in solidarity with the faculty union.

At 11 a.m., the WCU student “Walk Out in Support of Faculty!” began. 500 students on campus shouted, “Students for faculty!” “Brogan is broken!” and “When unions are under attack what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!”

The student solidarity march lasted nearly two hours crisscrossing campus. When the march ended, students remained at the lines with faculty, picketing and chanting.

A student coalition issued a statement of support for APSCUF and those on strike. Students also supported educators with water and food on the picket lines.

Sabina Sister, a student organizer said, “I stood in solidarity with my professors today because when they hurt, we all hurt. I stood in solidarity to show that bureaucratic cowardly measures don’t have a place in our school.”

Many classes were cancelled and scab professors will be difficult to find. Students say they will continue to build support for the faculty strike until fair a contract is negotiated.

The mood on some campuses was celebratory with students playing music and dancing. Brogan’s negotiating team withdrew the proposal that faculty teach five classes instead of four, but are stonewalling on other issues.

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