Negotiations between the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the administration have gone down to the wire, leaving all of us biting our nails. The current contract extension is due to expire on Sept. 30, and if a deal is not reached or another extension is not accepted by both parties to provide more time to negotiate, then members of the faculty union could do as they recently authorized — strike. History seems to have an odd way of repeating itself, and not for the better. Professors took to the picket line in 1974 after negotiations broke down and a new contract was not agreed upon. In 1994, a walkout was narrowly avoided. And now in 2007, we find ourselves in the same place with students once again being unfairly caught in the crosshairs.
Thanks to progress made at last Friday’s talks, a strike does not seem as imminent as it once did. But the possibility is enough to create a vibe of anxiety and even fear among students. Having to worry about exams, papers and projects provides enough stress, let alone having to think about coming to class on Monday and seeing your professor picketing along Route 206 or Walnut Lane. The unpredictable timetable of a walkout is a source of troubling concern that mounts as the deadline gets closer. Students are undoubtedly thinking, “How long would the strike last?” “Will I graduate on time?” and “Will the semester continue into January to make up for the lost time?” These are all questions none of us should have to think about when we fork over more than $35,000 a year to come to Rider.
That being said, there is enough blame to go around for the current set of circumstances. Let it be said, unequivocally, the negotiations should never have reached this point. The administration had months to negotiate a new contract with a union that was ready to bargain in good faith, and administrators squandered the vast amount of time they had. Understandably, the issues are complex, and from the students’ perspective it is hard to fathom what could be causing so much tension. To put into perspective the intricacy of reaching such an agreement, one should take into account the 2002-2007 agreement. Its 40 articles fill a book of nearly 200 pages.
“Paper cuts, whiny students and actual teaching,” are not what have professors riled up, as an editorial in The Trentonian erroneously insisted on Sept. 19. The article took great joy in trivializing a matter that has implications for the University for years to come.
Academic governance, promotion and tenure, and authority over curriculum changes are subjects generating a contentious negotiating atmosphere as the balance of power is at stake with neither side wanting to come out the loser. The administration has made a strong attempt to have greater control over promotion and tenure of professors and to increase its supremacy in academic affairs. We should also keep an eye on discussions of health-care benefits, salary and capital improvements. Rider is a tuition-driven school that will ultimately leave current students and future generations to pick up the tab.
Still, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Some issues moved closer to resolution at the Sept. 21 meeting. As the negotiations continue, the union and the administration should bear in mind that they owe it to all of us to negotiate in good faith before they lose credibility in the eyes of their most important audiences — the students and our parents.
Written By Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros