If a collective bargaining agreement is not reached between the body governing Pennsylvania’s 14 state owned universities and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities by 5:00 tomorrow morning, 5,500 college professors are set to walk off the job and go on strike. PASSHE professors have been working over 476 days without a contract, and talks have been at a standstill going into the summer. According to APSCUF members, the main contract issues revolve around teaching conditions that would fundamentally change how classes are taught within the State System of Higher Education. To name a few, they include: increasing the number of non-tenured adjunct faculty, increasing the workloads for adjunct faculty, decreasing their compensation, the usage of massive online courses for students living on campus, allowing graduate students to teach courses and allow professors to teach classes outside of their professions.
Both PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan and APSCUF President Ken Mash have used Facebook live to reach out to students and faculty in the 14 state universities over the past month. While addressing students on Facebook Live, Chancellor Frank Brogan told students that they must attend classes in the event of a strike, but as the strike deadline gets closer, hundreds of students from most of the PASSHE universities have promised to hold walk-outs or some sort of demonstrations as a show of solidarity their professors.
While APSCUF members have been moving to mobilize members through strike authorization votes, students have also be organizing and mobilizing each other throughout the 14 campuses. Two weeks ago outside of PASSHE’s main Harrisburg offices, roughly 500 professors were picketing and chanting outside of the Board of Governor’s quarterly meeting at the Dixon Center. A brick wall was all that was between the professors and Chancellor Brogan and the Board of Governors meeting, but the professors’ message was heard loud and clear throughout the duration of the meeting. Dozens of students came from the surrounding universities and as far as Indiana University to walk the line with their teachers.
The students came to the rally with a petition in tow. They were able to gather over 1,200 signatures in under two weeks from students at all 14 universities showing support for their faculty and a fair contract. A handful of students went in to the Board of Governors meeting as it was winding down to deliver the petition to Chancellor Brogan. They were standing in the back of the room with the petition and solidarity fists in the air. At the end of the meeting they yelled at Chancellor Brogan – Pennsylvania’s highest paid public official – why was he taking pay increases as he was proposing 20 percent pay cuts for adjunct faculty.
The organizing and mobilizing of students that has not been reported on is about to reach a boiling point. Hundreds of students from most of the PASSHE universities have promised to hold walkouts and other demonstrations to show support for their professors if a strike occurs tomorrow. Demonstrations such as “Marauders March Out in Solidarity” or “LHU Eagles Protect the Nest – Student Strike” or “No Faculty, No Students” at Millersville, Lock Haven and Edinboro universities have been circulating on social media networks for the past week.
Conor McCracken, a Sociology Major at Edinboro University, is helping to organize actions at his university because he sees the Chancellor’s and Board of Governor’s actions as an attack on Pennsylvania’s working class. McCracken told the Raging Chicken Press that his involvement with organizing students extends from watching some of his college professors being retrenched – or laid off – due to budgetary reasons during his first semester at Edinboro and his actions as an ally within the local Black Lives Matter movement. He explains that he sees the State System’s attempt to “streamline” the teaching process with adjunct faculty, massive online courses and lowering teaching standards as a disservice for Pennsylvania’s working class because it could devalue one of the only affordable educational opportunities students have in this state.