Universities in Pennsylvania State System Brace for Possible Faculty Strike

Faculty members in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education plan to go on strike Wednesday morning if contract negotiations do not yield a new contract, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

System officials and union representatives continued their talks on Tuesday in hopes of averting a strike. An embargo on the negotiations has kept students, staff members, and the public in the dark, but an agreement seems possible. The union signaled in a statement on Friday that it would stay at the table past Sunday if there was progress.

The deadline for a deal is 5 a.m. Wednesday. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties represents 5,500 professors who work in the 14-campus system. If they walk out, it would be a first in the system’s 34-year history.

What would happen next if the faculty members went out on strike is uncertain. Would there be a tuition refund? Should students go to class? What would happen to the sports teams whose trainers are in the union? How would the December graduation be affected?

Right now, the system does not have all the answers. The campuses will remain open for the students, and online classes will continue. The state system has advised them to go to class even if there is a strike.

“Some teachers have told us that ‘I’m not going to go, so I don’t expect you to go,’” Issac Gillette, a freshman at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, told the Post-Gazette. “But we also hear rumors that there are going to be people taking attendance. I don’t know yet. Do I go or not go?”

Kenn Marshall, the state system’s spokesman, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that there are no plans to bring in replacement faculty members. He also suggested that evening or weekend classes, and cutting into breaks, would help make up lost class time.

“Weekend classes, I would be extremely furious if that was even a possibility,” David Argust, a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, told the Inquirer. “The only people who are really getting hurt are the students.”

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