BY VICTORIA KRUKENKAMPO
Concerns of a possible ESU faculty strike can be nearly put to rest, after Monday evening’s unanimous vote by the negotiations committee of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and
University Faculties (APSCUF) to approve a tentative contract agreement with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
This vote comes after APSCUF and PASSHE both announced that a framework for a new contract had been reached early Sunday morning.
According to the APSCUF press release from Monday evening, “APSCUF delegates will vote on the tentative agreement at a Legislative Assembly scheduled for later this week.” Should this vote approve the draft of the contract, the full APSCUF membership will then be able to vote for ratification.
APSCUF members have been working without a contract during this unprecedented debate that began in June 2011. Student concerns rose after the vote by APSCUF members to allow a strike came on November 15, 2012. On November 27, 2012, APSCUF leaders announced through their blog that strike consideration would be postponed until the current spring semester, resting those early concerns.
In Monday evening’s press release, APSCUF president Dr. Steve Hicks described the negotiations as difficult, but praised the ability of the parties to reach a fair settlement.
“It has been a long, often difficult process, but in the end, we were able to reach a settlement that maintains quality public higher education,” said Hicks, adding that the tentative agreement is “fair to both faculty and students.”
ESU student, Hunter Fogel, also expressed his support for the faculty Monday afternoon.
“I’m close to many members of the faculty, and I know how hard they work for us,” said Fogel. “I know the faculty would stand by us in whatever we do, and I felt I needed to support the faculty for that reason.”
Fogel went on to express that while the APSCUF and PASSHE negotiations were primarily focused on the financial aspects of the contract, he “approached the issue from a morality aspect.”
Specific details of the agreement are being withheld during the ratification process, however, APSCUF did outline a few points in Monday evening’s press release.
“The four-year deal mirrors the agreements reached by Governor Corbett and the other statewide unions. In addition to a compensation package that is similar to the statewide pattern, the tentative agreement contains changes to the health care plan, including increased co-pays for office visits, emergency room visits, and prescription medications.”
Faculty has also conceded to allow the elimination of the extra compensation for course development in distance education programs that was previously standard.
In a victory for faculty, APSCUF did announce in the Monday press release that class size would be a determining factor in future considerations.
“For the first time, class size will be included in the collective bargaining agreement as an issue subject to curriculum committee recommendations.”
Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, English Department Chair and President of ESU’s APSCUF chapter, reflected on her participation in the negotiations in a statement made early Tuesday morning.
“On Monday, February 4, I participated in a conference call with the 14 APSCUF Chapter Presidents. We unanimously approved the tentative agreement. Now our members must vote.”
Dr. VanArsdale continued with more personal reflections on the process and results.
“Never before has it taken so long to get a contract,” said VanArsdale. “I am pleased it finally got done.”
Dr. VanArsdale also expressed her satisfaction with the APSCUF victory over class size considerations.
“This agreement has a new provision about class size. Faculty and students have worried about how ever-increasing class sizes prevent our students from having the best possible college education,” said Dr. VanArsdale.
“We must be smart about tight resources, and our ESU students today and tomorrow deserve a great public university system.”
ESU students began their first week of classes on January 28, 2013, under a cloud of uncertainty and worried about a possible strike affecting their education.
On Sunday afternoon, ESU student Regan Hoerl expressed relief when she heard about the possible agreement.
“Well, I’m certainly proud that the professors stood up for themselves. That’s what this country is all about,” said Hoerl. “But we’re also about unity, and the fact that they’ve come to an almost agreement makes me happier.”
When asked if she felt reassured by the pending agreement between PASSHE and APSCUF, student Sarah Borys also expressed her relief and support.
“I’m definitely reassured,” said Borys. “The staff and teachers work so hard; you don’t want to see them get the short end of the stick.”
After Sunday morning’s announcement of a framework agreement, the relief of both faculty and students was apparent all over campus.
A final and ratified contract between PASSHE and APSCUF will settle any remaining concerns for good, and allow faculty and students to resume a focus on education without undue political influence.
Email Victoria at: