Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Faculty in Pennsylvania go on strike for the first time in state history

Universities belonging to the state system of higher education have now gone on strike for the first in PA's history. "Local campuses include West Chester, the largest in the system with about 17,000 students, and Cheyney University. Other affected campuses include Bloomsburg, Clarion, California, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, East Stroudsburg, Lock Haven, Millersville, Mansfield, Slippery Rock and Shippensburg." Among the universities that I have connection to are East Stroudsburg University - where I taught as VAP for a year; and West Chester University - where I taught as a Full-time Instructor for three years (this while also teaching part-time to full-time for Immaculata University, a private Catholic institution).

Steven Hales from Bloomsburg University gives a comment on Leiter's blog HERE.  There is an article which explains specifics HERE.

This is big news, as much as it is disturbing.  But also, in the article it discusses that at West Chester University students have apparently staged (and executed) a walk-out to protest the way faculty are being treated, especially adjuncts.

In my personal experience with West Chester University the political climate for adjuncts (one was considered an "adjunct" even if working full-time, therefore the "tier" was self-imposed) was certainly not good. What struck me as odd was the blatant staging of personal politics involved with hires and how adjuncts were generally treated poorly. As I experienced it, adjuncts were used as work-horses and often outperformed the tenure-track faculty, yet were punished for their successes and (perhaps intentionally, or so it seemed) passed over during searches for full-time tenure track hires.  My own personal experience teaching there involved an administration that failed to recognize the ability or worth of adjuncts and simply did whatever they wanted to do when it came to hiring.

On the other hand, salaries and benefits were overblown for tenure-track professors who had a *very* comfortable existence: as in the level of insurance and health care was, at that time, impeccable.  So add that to the politicized and seemingly preferential hires that took place with a department which was, to quote a fellow "adjunct" at that time, a "conspiracy of mediocrity."

In my opinion, by contrast to East Stroudsburg University who actually deserves what they are asking for in this strike, West Chester University had a level of comfort with benefits, salary, and bizarre ability to hire whoever they wanted on whatever basis, which was beyond anything that I've ever seen. That is why I am not so sure about the nature of their complaints.  Unless things have gotten suitably worse for West Chester and the comfortable conditions that I saw tenure-track professors "forced to endure" disappear, then at this point I cannot understand their argument.

But East Stroudsburg (as I see it now) does have an arguable case for strike. I am just not so sure about West Chester.  For them the analogy would be similar to complaining that your brand new Mercedes lacks the latest and greatest brand of GPS while it has a perfectly good (or even perfectly great) navigation system.  But this is just my humble opinion, subject to change as I read various arguments and reports appear and develop.