The effects of Wright State University’s faculty union strike are starting to show, with the school cancelling some classes and searching for long-terms substitutes to teach.
Members of the Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors have been picketing outside the entrances to campus for 15 days. With the strike entering its third week, Wright State academic departments started emailing students to let them know some classes would be canceled and that they could “pick up alternative classes,” said spokesman Seth Bauguess.
The majority of classes canceled for spring semester are “specialized” courses in which the university has been unable to cover. Students were told to contact their department chairs and advisers about how to find options that will not hinder the completion of their degree, Bauguess said.
“Students will receive further information this week about the layered options they have to stay on track for graduation and course completion,” Bauguess said.
Before the strike began Jan. 22, Wright State president Cheryl Schrader and other school leaders said that all classes and operations would continue. But, students have complained about classes being canceled since the first day of the strike.
To cover courses, WSU planned to combine some, move others online or have them temporarily taught by a substitute. Schrader, an engineer, is teaching two classes during the strike. Some classes were also given “alternative assignments,” such as a tour of the university’s archives at the library.
“Many of these classes are mandatory for their majors once you get up to these higher courses…many are just not interchangeable,” said Noeleen McIlvenna, contract administration officer for the AAUP-WSU.
Around 181 students withdrew from the university between the first day of the semester and the day 14 of classes. That’s comparable to 183 who withdrew last year in the same time period.
But, the number of additional students who enrolled in those first 14 days of classes decreased by 31 percent from the same time period last year. Wright State had around 474 additional students pick up classes in the first two weeks of the semester as opposed to 695 students in the first 14 days of spring semester 2018, according to the university.
The last day students can withdrawal from WSU with a full refund is this Friday.
Tuition is Wright State’s biggest single source of revenue so fewer students means less money coming in. Wright State is in the midst of navigating its way out of a budget crisis during which the school decreased spending by $53 million in fiscal year 2018.
The university has started seeking long-term adjunct instructors to fill the roles of striking faculty, Bauguess said. 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 subject areas ranging from motion picture history to organic chemistry.
“We are looking forward to bringing in more, qualified instructors to provide instruction to our students as we move forward,” Bauguess said.
To apply, people who are interested must have either a doctorate or a master’s degree in the subject field being taught. WSU is also offering campus housing to applicants who don’t live outside the Dayton area, according to a job posting.
The job postings are something of a “last ditch, desperate attempt to break the strike,” McIlvenna said.
“You just can’t find 500 Ph.D’s sitting around with nothing to do,” McIlvenna said. “Especially when you need ones with specific specializations…It’s kind of a bluff really.”
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