By Colin O’Connell
Approximately 60 students and faculty members attended the open forum with ESU President Marcia Welsh on Oct. 4.
The forum, arranged by the Student Senate in Abeloff Center, was held in response to the ongoing negotiations between the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
President Welsh came out to a round of applause before diving into her opening statements.
“You’re here to get an education. And in the event of a strike, classes will be held. I think you have to appreciate the fact that not all faculty will go on strike. There will be faculty in the classroom so you will be expected to attend class,” Welsh said.
She continued by saying that the residence halls, Kemp Library, Dansbury Commons, the health center, the fitness center, Stony Acres and all other university offices will still be open in the event of a strike.
Welsh said she also reached out to the faculty, reminding them that they can remain at work during the strike and still receive their salary and benefits.
“We do hope, we all hope very much, that APSCUF and the State System do come to some successful collective bargaining agreement soon. However, neither I nor my administration, has any control over that,” Welsh said.
It was also pointed out that while the frequently asked questions to both APSCUF and the State System have been virtually the same, the answers have been different.
One such question regarded whether more online classes will be required for students under the new possible collective bargaining agreement.
Welsh replied, “There is not one thing in [the state’s proposal] that requires you ever to take an online course,” Welsh replied.
She also stated that faculty would never be forced into teaching an online course if they did not want to.
Interim Dean Shala Davis of the College of Health Sciences then addressed possible confusion with internships and nursing students.
Davis urged students with internships to go to their internship locations as regularly scheduled and for nursing students to contact the dean’s office for the College of Health Sciences.
Associate Dean Jeffery Weber from the College of Arts and Sciences also confirmed that arts and science students with internships will continue with supervision reverting to the dean’s office.
Dean Terry Barry of the College of Education then clarified that student teaching will continue as planned.
Weber then promised to students, “Not one person here is going to let this mess up your education. Everyone here is committed to taking care of you and to take care of every single student here to make sure things go well for you.”
Welsh went on to note that while coaches are a part of APSCUF, negotiations between them and the State System are closer to a resolution. No strike date has been set for coaches.
It was also revealed that faculty members will not be able to be in contact with students using their ESU email, classrooms or offices while on strike.
Welsh also shot down the rumor that if the faculty is on strike for 14 days or longer, the semester would be cancelled.
“Absolutely not. We will make up the courses. Remember some of the classes will continue to run,” Welsh said.
Student organizations are also planned to continue even if the faculty advisors for organizations strike.
Welsh said there is no plan to shorten Thanksgiving break.
The open house scheduled the weekend after Oct. 19, the day faculty is set to strike, is also set to run as planned according to Welsh.
“The offer from the System was $159 million,” Welsh explained regarding the State System’s offer to the faculty.
She continued, “Every union thus far except APSCUF, has given givebacks on health care.”
As the forum began to come to an end, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Joanne Bruno addressed the crowd.
“You have my pledge as well as all my colleagues’ here that we’ll work with you to make up the time if [the strike] should happen,” Bruno said.
“We have really good faculty. Our faculty don’t want to go on strike. This isn’t a faculty thing. It really is a union leadership issue from my perspective,” said Welsh.
The faculty is set to go on strike Oct. 19 at 5 a.m. if a deal is not reached between APSCUF and PASSHE.
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