To Strike or Not to Strike

The faculty union and the Youngstown State University administration are approaching an agreement over Article V, which concerns health care benefits, of the proposed contract. When a tentative agreement is reached on Article V, then a tentative agreement for the whole contract is reached.

And there was much rejoicing, right?

Unfortunately, a tentative agreement, though it sounds wonderful, does not remove the threat of a strike. The contract must still be ratified by the Board of Trustees and members of the faculty union. Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, the chief negotiator for the faculty union, said the faculty is unlikely to vote to ratify the contract.

It isn’t time to give up on your major and embrace your budding alcohol addiction just yet though, as there are several other options outside of striking that are left up to the union. But these signs are nothing if not foreboding, and they definitely confirm the dangerous and rapid deterioration of faculty and administrative relations at this university.

As a result of these tumultuous events, we have heard — be it from anecdotal stories, Twitter or Yik Yak — that some students are somewhat perturbed at the professors who would have the gumption to potentially ruin their semester with a strike, which could fall close to finals.

We fully expect that the number of students complaining is low, probably even less than 10 percent of the student body, but the exact number doesn’t matter; it is natural to think this way. You are a customer of this school, how dare the person whose check you contribute to screw you over after all the hard work you may or may not have put into their class? It is an outrage; it takes some audacity to spit in our faces like that, right?

Wrong.

We are, of course, not prepared to come down on either side of this issue. First off, there is simply not enough information floating around to properly comment on an ever-evolving issue whose direction is largely directed behind closed doors and through private communications.

Second, as with so much of life, there is no right or wrong answer to the conflict at hand. No black and white dichotomies to ease the process of allegiance selection, no obvious paragon to rally behind or malevolent force to defeat. Instead, the intricacies and fragilities of human relationships blur the lines, allowing some observers to draw crude caricatures of the involved players.

At the outset, let us be clear: The Jambar does not endorse a faculty strike. Neither does The Jambar endorse an administration-faculty relationship where one half feels disrespected, disenfranchised and that the other has outright abandoned their charge to uphold YSU as a bastion of academic pursuits.

The Jambar endorses the involved parties utilizing empirical data and tempered human reasoning to reach an agreement that allows for the best living and working conditions for all, including students.

Such an agreement, while ideal, may not come to fruition. In the event that it does not, and a strike is called, it is important for students to realize that our faculty members are not sitting on thrones of silver wringing their hands and cackling at the thought of you missing your graduation deadline simply because they weren’t willing to concede on some obscure issue.

They are fighting battles for health care benefits and against a possible, real decrease in salary.

The warzone known as The Vindicator comments section is not to be believed; the faculty are not fat cat union thugs trying to shake down the current administration for more money.

As simple a plea for understanding as this may be, keep in mind the faculty are people too. They have families to care for. They have aspirations. The god of Higher Education did not form them from clay and send them to Earth to teach you, and the faculty’s relationship with the administration did not begin the day you began college.

The faculty do not want to strike. Why would they? They are knowledge seekers who are paid to continue to seek knowledge and to pass it along to impressionable youth. In addition, they lose salary and create even more tension between the administration and themselves during strikes. They certainly don’t desire to derail an entire semester, a move which would likely result in transfers and some students who simply never return following their strike-induced hiatus.

Yet, as of this moment, a strike is still a very real possibility.

Think about the implications of that fact. There are clearly deep-rooted issues playing out between the ruling factions of our institution. Enough to push both sides to the brink of allowing a total shut down of the institute they, ideally, seek to continually uplift.

The fog of war still obscures the final decision, to strike or not to strike. While that certainly is the question on the mind of all concerned, in the mean time we should all take a moment to consider the humans behind the factions. The administration is trying to spin the plates of institutional management and keep a purportedly ailing university under control by constantly trying to cut. A faculty that is afraid that they are quickly losing their shared section of governance and the administration is taking the university down a path that will ultimately end in destruction, at least for the academic sphere.

Unions and strikes, contentious though they may be, exist for a reason, and even though many feel the golden days of unions standing strong for the overworked and underpaid are far behind us, they are wrong. The scales of power are not balanced between the faculty and the administration naturally, even though the faculty is, of course, one of the most important cogs in this machine.

Unions and threats of strike work to counterbalance this; they are a check on the administration. A strike is always ugly, but this does not mean it is not necessary and sometimes, yes, even beneficial in the long run.

Share this: