State universities make plans to handle potential strike

Protesters demand a contract from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education during a march on West Chester University’s campus Sept. 7. If the union goes on strike, it will be the first in the state system’s history.

WEST CHESTER >> With the threat of a potential strike looming over students in the Pennsylvania’s public universities, many have questioned what would happen if negotiations continue to stall and a strike does occur.

“We’re hopeful an agreement will come soon,” said West Chester University spokeswoman Nancy Gainer. “The university will remain open if the faculty union chooses to strike.”

According to Gainer, most of the consequences of a strike would largely be determined by the length of it.

If a strike does occur and end up being what the university termed a “protracted strike,” students affected could potentially see changes to their billing if West Chester University cannot fulfill obligations set forward by the United States Department of Education, Gainer said.

However, she reiterated several times that the university will make every effort to fulfill those obligations, and stressed that a strike is still not yet certain.

According to the university’s website, the December graduation and the semester could be extended in the case of an extended strike, and counseling services for students might be referred to other agencies available in the area since the faculty offering those services might also be on strike.

Gainer said if some faculty decide to continue classes despite a strike, grading for those classes will continue as scheduled.

West Chester University, along with other 13 universities in the state system, are making similar preparations if the state system of higher education and the faculty union cannot come to an agreement by Oct. 19 — the day the faculty union designated to strike.

Both the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) have been negotiating for several months to reach an agreement without success.

“Each university has a strike contingency plan,” said PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall. “We’re attempting to negotiate in good faith.”

Marshall also said the state system has a FAQ page on its website pertaining to the strike, and encouraged faculty and students to examine them, as well as their proposals they have offered the union.

Likewise, APSCUF officials have also posted news releases and statements pertaining to the state of negotiations and the impending strike to their website as well.

Across the state system, APSCUF represents approximately 5,500 faculty members. In addition to West Chester University, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, and Slippery Rock universities, are part of PASSHE.

If the union does go on strike, this will be the first one in the history of PASSHE.

Both APSCUF and PASSHE officials have repeatedly stated they are keeping students’ best interests in mind.

To contact Daily Local News staff writer Adam Farence, email afarence@dailylocal.com, or call 610-235-2647.

Read more:State college and university union sets strike date.

State universities and union pursue 3rd-party solutions.

APSCUF members march at West Chester University campus.

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