Wright State University’s administration continues to scramble to find options that will prevent further disruptions to classes and ensure students stay on track to graduate as a faculty strike hits day 18.
The university offered advising sessions to students Thursday and today where they could get direction on how to continue classes despite the strike that has left some “specialized” classes without instructors this semester.
At the same time, the Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors called on the Ohio governor’s office to intervene. To put pressure on Gov. Mike DeWine and other state leaders, unionized Wright State faculty will host a 10:30 a.m. meeting today in the ladies gallery of the Statehouse.
“At this point we think (WSU leaders) are losing touch with reality,” said Noeleen McIlvenna, an officer for the faculty union. “That’s why the state has to step in.”
Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner have said they are monitoring the ongoing labor dispute. Gardner was on campus Monday to meet with students and hear how they are being affected by the strike.
DeWine is receiving regular updates from Gardner about the strike and said he recently spoke to Schrader about it over the phone. The governor has also said he doesn’t have plans to take any action at this point.
“This is one of those areas where it is not helpful for the governor to indicate what we are going to do,” DeWine said. “Wright State is very important. I’m paying attention.”
The Dayton Daily News has received calls from parents concerned about their high school students who are taking classes at Wright State. College Credit Plus classes, which allow Ohio students to earn college and high school credit at the same time, have not been affected by the ongoing strike, WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess said.
In the coming days, students will receive more details about avenues they can take to stay on track with their degree as the strike continues, Bauguess said.
“We’re trying to put the bat signal up there and say hey if you have concerns come and visit,” Bauguess said.
The university has not provided the number of classes that have been canceled, but Baugess said students have several options.
Students who need to replace an elective may simply be able to choose a different one taught by a professor not on strike, Bauguess said. Other options students could consider include taking a class out of order or doing an independent study, he said.
Andrew Puthoff, a senior at Wright State, was trying to get some information about one of his classes on Thursday during an adviser session in the student union. Puthoff said one of the classes required for his major has not met met since the strike started Jan. 22.
“I’m concerned that the university has told me over and over again that this class is going to count but it seems like the story kind of changes every week,” Puthoff said. “I’m kind of worried that they can’t really keep that promise.”
If the university can find more replacement professors, Bauguess said students may end up being able to take courses that were canceled as part of a shortened “B-Term” later this spring.
But, the logistics of trying to schedule a “B-Term” would be “impossible,” McIlvenna said.
“We think they’ve lost their minds… They’ve put themselves in this hole that they don’t know how to get out of,” McIlvenna said.
The university has started seeking long-term adjunct instructors to fill the roles of striking faculty. A review of online job boards, such as one on the Chronicle of Higher Education, shows adjunct faculty positions at Wright State are available in close to 90 subjects, ranging in everything from motion picture history to organic chemistry.
Bauguess did not know how many inquiries the university has received about the job postings. McIlvenna said she’s doubtful the university will be able to fill any temporary posts, saying on Thursday: “they’re not going to be able to find any scabs.”
There were 273 union faculty out of the group’s 560 or so members who had crossed the picket line as of Thursday afternoon, according to the university. AAUP-WSU president Martin Kich said it’s suspect that the university posted adjunct jobs for nearly 90 disciplines but claimes that more union members are coming back to work.
“All of those things can’t be true,” Kich said. “I know that the people who have been picketing are still picketing with a very small number of defections.”
The strike has evoked protests from students throughout the last 18 days with 30 or so staging a multi-day sit-in outside President Cheryl Schrader’s office in University Hall. Schrader has offered to meet with a few of the students leading the sit-in, Bauguess said.
The administration and faculty have said that health care remains the central issue still on the negotiating table. The administration has asked that union members join a university-wide health care plan.
The terms of employment imposed by the Wright State board of trustees on Jan. 4 state that health care can be changed at the university’s discretion. The administration must give 60-days notice to the faculty union before health benefits are altered, according to the terms.
But, AAUP-WSU leaders have long said that agreeing to the administration’s terms for health care would eliminate their right to bargaining for health benefits.