Students Come Out Strong for Striking Professors Across Pennsylvania

At 5 AM this morning, professors from Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities went on strike for the first time in the 34 year history of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, but PASSHE officials and Chancellor Brogan may have a bigger problem on their hands as student turnouts were higher than anticipated.

Early last night, the union representing the faculty, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities, broke the media embargo by tweeting and posting to their Facebook page that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education handed the union their last best offer and walked away from the negotiating table.  As APSCUF President Ken Mash was speaking to faculty, students and other onlookers via Facebook Live, PASSHE posted a statement telling students they must go to class regardless of APSCUF’s decision to strike.

Well.

That’s not how things went at Kutztown University – where I spent my day – or the 13 other universities.  The second wave of professors hitting the picket line were checking in to the local union’s off-campus staging area by the time I arrived at 7:30 AM.  Faculty turnout was higher than expected.  Many professors signed up for picket assignments heading into Wednesday, but a lot more showed up looking for assignments when the strike became official.

By 8:30 AM a handful of students were standing with professors on the picket lines outside of Old Main.  Liv Sun, a sophomore Art Education major and student organizer, was one of the students standing there with a marker board and sheets of lamented paper so students could share messages supporting their professors.  A sampling of those messages can be found below:

 

According to Sun, student turnout exceeded expectations.  Two dozen students kicked off the actions at 11 AM when they gathered outside of Old Main’s front doors.  Shortly after talking to themselves they began picketing with their professors.  Organizers expected 150 students to show, but estimated that as many as 300 showed up throughout the day.  There was no large rally to guess how many students might have shown, but several groups of students were marching and picketing throughout the university.

The faculty also benefited from students material help by the students.  Students were seen by the dozens throughout the day meeting at the local union’s staging point making signs to distribute on campus.  Others were dropping off cases of water and passing snacks around to those at the picket points.

Sun told the Raging Chicken Press that the support between students and faculty “really emphasized not only the level of appreciation our student body has for its faculty, but also the interest students have in being involved in these affairs.”  The support between the two parties was not a phenomena that only occurred at Kutztown University. Photos and videos of student led walk-outs and picketing at universities around the state were posted throughout the day on Twitter and Facebook.  One in particular occurred at West Chester University.

 

The strong student support and turnout for faculty may be a surprise to some of those sitting in Harrisburg, but it shouldn’t for everyone else.  Students and faculty played important roles in beating back Governor Corbett’s budget cuts and students were there for professors when retrenchments and layoffs hit their campuses.  It will be interesting to see where this wave of organizing goes next.

About Sean Kitchen 615 Articles
Contributor and Assistant Editor for the Raging Chicken Press. Stationed in Harrisburg covering politics in the capitol. You can send tips to sean@rcpress.org or reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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