Wright State University faculty members say they are willing to go on strike if a fair contract can’t be negotiated.
Several hundred teachers, represented by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and supportive students gathered in Millet Hall for a rally before marching across campus to a scheduled community forum where Wright State president Cheryl Schrader and trustees addressed budget concerns.
Noeleen Mcilvenna, a Professor of History at Wright State, says the administration has placed an unfair burden on its teaching professionals - putting their job security and tenure positions at risk.
“What has driven us to sort of contemplate striking is that this seems a full frontal attack on education. This is not just some fight about raises, this has gone way beyond that now, and somewhere, somebody has to make a stand and we believe the faculty of Wright State University are ready to finally say ‘Enough.’”
In mid-2017, Wright State announced it would have to cut more than $30 million from its budget. Then, in December of last year, they announced possible furloughs for some faculty.
In late 2017, the AAUP amended their bylaws to allow for a possible strike, and today they say they are still frustrated by the university administration’s response to their concerns.
Some students say they are frustrated too. Sophomore, Jordan Buffington, studies biological sciences and anthropology. She says some students “just don’t want to believe this is happening,” while others are “trying to stand up, are really supportive and trying to be understanding to both sides.”
Buffington sported a badge stating “Full Time Faculty Cost 17 Cents Of Your Tuition.” The student explained the badge begged the question, "Where does the other 83 cents of each tuition dollar go?”
That’s a big question among AAUP member, including Rudy Fichtenbaum. The retired Wright State economics professor now serves as the national AAUP president. Fichtenbaum fired up the rally crowd with a speech detailing many of the sticking points that were preventing an agreement in the contract negotiations.
“Our negotiations are not just about money,” he told them. “They are about power and about weather faculty will be treated as professionals, which is a necessary condition for Wright State University to remain a real university.”
Fichtenbaum called the university’s priorities “misplaced” and pointed to the school’s intercollegiate athletics program, which he says was $1.8 million dollars over budget in 2017. The union leader also stated there had been no cuts to top-level administration staff making six-figure salaries.
Wright State University has so far declined to comment while contract negotiations continue. Their last proposal to the union included, among other proposals, a three-year contract in which faculty would receive no raises. Teachers would also face a reduction in health benefits and higher premiums.