Even though the fall semester never seems to end soon enough, it looks like students should get ready for the possibility of having the start of winter break feel even farther out of reach than it already is, due to the chance of a faculty strike.
In last week’s issue of The Rider News, we wrote about the contract negotiations between the administration and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents professors, librarians and coaches. A contract extension for the union expires today. There’s a chance for a second extension, but if a compromise isn’t found, a faculty strike could occur, something that hasn’t happened at Rider since 1974.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Halpern, contract administrator and chief grievance officer for AAUP and associate sociology professor here at Rider, the outlook on a decision being reached today does not look good. The four-year contract for the union expired on Aug. 31, and due to an extension, it had until today to agree on terms of a new contract. Fortunately, a second extension seems likely no matter how the negotiations go. If progress is not made, a strike vote could be called, according to Halpern.
The last time a strike happened, it lasted about eight days before an agreement was reached. If another strike was to occur and last this long, the week of classes missed might have to be made up. We’ve gone so long without a strike, we should take cues from past negotiations to resolve the matter quickly.
If Rider faculty members did strike, they would not be alone in choosing to picket. Cincinnati State University professors, another AAUP union, went on strike last Friday, but because the faculty felt the strike was doing more harm than good, they chose to return to work today whether or not a decision was made.
Both sides need to remember that whatever happens, this debate should be ultimately about the students.
According to Rob Stoto, associate vice president for human resources and chief negotiator, Rider’s enrollment rates for this year have declined, so the university has less tuition money coming in. But it has increased the amount of financial aid given to incoming students. Yet Rider, like most institutions, is still facing hard times when it comes to finances, so both sides need to realize that they can’t get everything that they are asking for.
The faculty has every right to ask for better compensation, which includes salary, and medical and retirement benefits, as well as nonmonetary issues. Professors, coaches and librarians work extremely hard to make sure that students here get the best education and experiences they can. It’s understandable for them to want to be recognized for that and have the effort they put in to be acknowledged.
However, we are in the midst of an economic crisis, one that isn’t looking like it will be solved in the near future. Faculty should get rewarded for their hard work, but it may not be possible to pay them what they deserve.
If faculty do go on strike, what would happen? Yes, we would have off from classes for however long professors picket. But we would probably still have to make up the class time that is missed. Any missed class days would most likely be added to the end of the semester, when we’re already cutting it close to Christmas holidays and the start of winter break. A strike could cause the semester to end later, and perhaps push back finals, which start on Monday, Dec. 12, and go until Tuesday, Dec. 20, cutting into time we could be with our families.
These negotiations are still in the beginning stages and compensation has yet to be discussed. Who knows how long it will take to reach a compromise? If the faculty wants to strike, it will. But if that happens, the campus would essentially shut down. Professors wouldn’t teach, coaches wouldn’t hold practices and the professional librarians wouldn’t help you find anything in the library. In the end, both sides need to see the bigger picture. For the sake of the Rider community, a compromise must be reached — and quickly. A strike won’t do anyone any good.
This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.