Students Show Support in Faculty Strike; Negotiations Progress

By Abigail Cloutier

At 2 a.m. Thursday,  Youngstown State University and YSU-OEA announced the strike ended during the 9 p.m. negotiations session the previous day. The union and administration resolved issues related to shared governance rights, including the rights to meaningfully participate in academic program development, determine class sizes and elect department chairs, according to the union. The union also received retention of intellectual property rights and a final pay package of 4% over the next three years, with no raise the first year. 

Below is the Jambar’s day-by-day coverage of the strike. 

Faculty and supporters lined Wick Avenue and Lincoln Avenue Oct. 12 to early Oct. 15. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

Oct. 14, 11 p.m.:

Negotiations ended once again Wednesday afternoon without a resolution. An additional negotiations session began at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Though neither party released an official statement as of Wednesday evening, YSU-OEA spokesperson Mark Vopat said the union still planned to strike Thursday.

The newest contract proposal offered a 4% raise to faculty over the course of their three-year contract, according to the university.

In the release Wednesday, YSU President Jim Tressel said, “The terms of this offer, we believe, are such that we hope to resolve this contract today.”

In a news release on Tuesday, provost Brien Smith said, “We are very disappointed that the faculty union leadership is choosing to remain on strike while classes are in session, especially considering how few outstanding issues remain.”

Director of university communications Ron Cole could not comment on what those outstanding issues were. 

YSU-OEA president Steven Reale said, “In every news release from Administration since the strike began Monday, Administration has told the public that faculty are striking solely over money and benefits. This is untrue.”

“The remaining two issues Administration does not discuss in its releases are equally important to the membership of YSU-OEA: Protection of our most vulnerable faculty and preservation of the decades-old principle that has been at the center of this university for as long as the YSU-OEA has existed — allowing faculty to have a meaningful say in the educational future of the university. What we are really fighting for is the soul of Youngstown State University itself,” Reale said. 

Under the latest proposal, faculty will have no input on the chairs of their departments and department operations. Full-time faculty would also have to teach “stacked” sections of classes, which would increase their class load and student-to-faculty ratio. 

After recent negotiations, the university will no longer include both the ownership of intellectual property rights clause and the “act of God” clause in the new contract.

Oct. 13, 11:05 p.m.:

YSU-OEA released a statement confirming the strike will continue into Wednesday after little progress during Tuesday’s evening meeting. Earlier Tuesday, the provost emailed students and said, “Classes will be covered by part-time faculty, full-time faculty who have chosen not to go on strike, other qualified instructors or via other educational formats. Students should continue their assigned work.”

Smith’s email also stated students would hear from their department chairs about the status of individual classes.

In a Q&A released by the faculty union Friday, the union assured students they “will not be held responsible for any coursework (for example, as assigned by a substitute) while the strike is in progress.”

This does not apply to courses taught by part-time faculty, administration or professors who did not go on strike.

Oct. 13, 5:00 p.m.:

Negotiations drag into Tuesday evening. YSU-OEA released a statement Tuesday at 4:50 p.m. and said an error resulted in the lengthening of negotiations. Both parties plan to return to the table at 9 p.m. with the hopes of closing the deal before classes resume Wednesday.

“We had left Monday’s meeting optimistic that we were much closer to finalizing a tentative agreement before classes restarted Wednesday. Unfortunately, this mistake cost both parties time, but the good news is we seem to be back on track and we are hopeful that Administration will bring us a deal this evening that all parties can agree on,” Reale said.

According to the union, the contract proposal document reviewed in Tuesday’s negotiation session was different than the one sent to YSU-OEA following Monday’s negotiations. YSU Administration states this was an internal miscommunication error.

Oct. 13, 7:30 a.m.:

Youngstown State University’s chapter of the Ohio Education Association and supporters filled Wick and Lincoln Avenues Monday in its first strike since 2005.

Vehicles on Wick Avenue honked in support as picketers stood in front of YSU President Jim Tressel’s home and academic buildings. The strike will continue today, and further negotiations are set for this afternoon. 

Faculty and students alike carried signs reading “Supporting YSU Faculty,” “YSU-OEA On Strike” and “Teachers Over Turf.” Negotiations continued Monday, and both the university and union stated they made progress on details of the contract. 

Students like Elainie Huncik, a senior astronomy and physics major, and Abby Sharpless, a sophomore forensic science major, stood in support of their faculty Monday.

“Without faculty, you can’t really have students,” Huncik said. “The faculty endlessly supported us as students so we want to give back to them. We’ve been pretty frustrated, at least in my department, with how the administration has treated the faculty since the pandemic started.”

She said several faculty in her department were laid off.

“We saw a strike happening and we know that we can make a difference,” Huncik said. “Some of the [faculty] who were laid off are really important to us, they provided us with opportunities to go to conferences, work on cool research projects, and without those faculty, we would not have the opportunities that we have here. We wouldn’t have the programs that we have.”

Sharpless said she worried if the strike continues after fall break, she will struggle in classes with substitutes.

“My chemistry professor goes above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher,” she said. “He doesn’t have to be as forgiving as he is … All this talk about substitutes coming in, I’m already struggling in chemistry with this brilliant teacher that I have. If they have to bring in a substitute, I’m going to fail the class. Teachers are the reason any progress happens because we wouldn’t be here without the teachers that fought for us the way our teachers are currently fighting.”

Business economics major Daniel Naples, freshman Grayson Gruber and junior exercise science major Dylan Rendes spray-painted the rock with “Student Solidarity” in light of the strike. Other students and alumni showed support via social media, using the hashtag #SupportFacultyYSU.

According to YSU, the latest contract proposal includes a resolution towards intellectual property rights “consistent with other state universities,” a 0-1-2 pay raise scale over three years and a health care agreement consistent with the university’s other staff union. 

“We’re encouraged by the progress made today and are optimistic that YSU-OEA is moving closer to a tentative agreement on a fair contract for our members,” Reale said in a press release Monday evening. In a video message emailed to students Monday morning, President Tressel said the university will remain open if the strike continues after fall break.

“Our hope remains that over these next two days we can get this settled,” he said. “But if we can’t and the strike spills into Wednesday when classes resume, we are working on a plan that we will have in place.”

 

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