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Faculty strikes as APSCUF union and PASSHE fail to come to terms

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Professors are out on the picket lines at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.

The strike comes after negotiations failed between the state faculty union APSCUF and the State System of Higher Education.

Both sides went their separate ways Tuesday night since they couldn't come to terms on an agreement.

Faculty aren't just striking at the state's universities, they're also making their voices heard at PASSHE headquarters.

For the first time in the 33-year history of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, professors are on strike.

APSCUF Shippensburg University spokesperson Dr. Kim Garris said "we absolutely did not want to be here. Even as late as 9 o'clock, when I left here last night, we all felt like that this would work out."

It was at that time officials with PASSHE made its last, best offer.

PASSHE communications director Kenn Marshall said "we've been negotiating for nearly two years. We've made numerous offers during that time. We put together what we felt was the best we could do, and we presented it to the faculty union."

Talks started with nearly 250 contract issues on the table to be resolved between the faculty union and the staff.

"Regular, full-time faculty are going to get an increase, but in the process, they want to take our adjunct faculty and basically give them nothing, or less than nothing. That's not fair, it's not equitable, and that's not how we want to run our system," Garris said.

Some may wonder if strikers are holding out for frivolous perks.

"There are no perks. I mean, our perks are that we get to have a relationship with our students that enhances the quality of their education. Our students aren't just numbers, they're students,"'Garris said.

Besides questions of salary and benefits, and a loss of professional development, the union wants faculty to have more control over job security, as well as when, where, and what they teach.

"If you reduce compensation, and if you reduce the control that someone has over when they choose to leave their job or who's around in their job, then they're going to feel less secure about that and they'll likely take a job where they'll feel more secure," Garris said.

"So if the administrators can decide, where you teach, and when you teach, as opposed to based on what your qualifications are, and what you're hired to do, then it becomes a quality issue because then, folks that we want to come and teach, they're of high-quality, are going to go somewhere else," Garris added.

Those on strike say those issues, along with a push for online classes, threaten the quality of education the schools provide to students.

"They're no more concerned about the quality of education than we are. I think we both have that as a primary focus," Marshall said.

Garris said faculty are concerned about the value of the degree that students receive from the state-owned schools.

"We're not an online, quick, slap it together, get yourself a degree. We're a high-level quality institution, and we're going to keep it that way. That is why we are walking this picket line today," Garris said.

Since negotiations ended between the two sides late Tuesday night, joint talks have come to a halt.

There has been no determination yet, as to when they will meet again at the bargaining table.