By Andrew Kutzer
KU APSCUF faculty made their way to campus in the dawning hours of Oct. 19 after the union had declared a strike. The decision was made after four days of negotiations between PASSHE and APSCUF broke down the night of Oct. 18.
“We started the strike at 5 a.m. this morning,” said Michael Gambone, a history professor, who has been a tenured faculty member at KU since 2004. “Basically, because the state walked away from the table after making a very, very unreasonable last offer.”
Faculty congregated at the designated meeting place, located on Normal St. and traveled to their picketing locations. Groups were posted down Main St. and at crosswalks.
Gambone was following the negotiations until hearing word they broke down. “Nobody really slept last night. In the best of every world, I would be teaching a class today. Instead of doing that, I’m working on picket shifts at home,” said Gambone.
“I’m really worried about how they’re handling things like sabbatical leave and research. Things that are kind of like the life-blood of what we do,” said Gambone, who had taken a sabbatical two years ago.
For three days, striking faculty held signs and chanted at their stations. They rotated on three-hour shifts as the day went on until a tentative agreement had been reached around 5 p.m. on Oct. 21.
Assistant English professor Kristina Fennelly and other faculty stood with signs along Baldy St. and Trexler Ave.
According to Fennelly, two-thirds of faculty nationwide are temporary faculty and the same ratio is seen in Pa. “Rather than see those numbers continue to go up, I think it’s important that they are made more permanent, they have more job security or job security equal to what tenure-track and tenure have,” said Fennelly, who has taught at KU for five years.
She stayed up through the night, checking social media and communicating to the union president. “It seemed like both sides had come together on really important issues and had reached some common ground. It was disappointing to see that the state got up and walked away,” said Fennelly.
Two tenured business professors, speaking anonymously, said they were continuing to hold classes during the strike. They sent out emails telling students that classes would continue. According to the professors, a majority of students arrived to classes during the first day of striking.
“A strike at a university would hurt the students the most,” said one tenured business professor. “The students cannot go to another university in the middle of the semester… if there is a strike by a company, a customer will by the product of another company. So, they’re not going to get hurt.”
Another tenured business professor said that he respects all faculty members for the choices they made, but as long as he was being paid, he would continue to work.
The striking union accounted for around 5,500 faculty members in the State System. KU is one of 14 PASSHE universities that teach around 100,000 students.