In the three days since Wright State University’s faculty union went on strike there have been no attempts to negotiate by either side, signalling that an end to the stalemate may still be far off.
With no solution in sight, union president Martin Kich predicted Wednesday that it would be student complaints that eventually force a deal.
Though classes have continued during a strike, some have been combined, moved online or taught by a substitute. On Tuesday, it came to light that some classes were given “alternate assignments” or dismissed when faculty didn’t show up.
“What will bring them back to the table is the realization that this is creating much more damage than gutting our contract is worth,” Kich said.
Sixteen students have withdrawn since the start of the semester on Jan. 14, which is typical for the second half of the school year, a Wright State spokesman said.
The deadline for students to withdraw with a full refund is Friday, according to Wright State’s academic calender. Final enrollment numbers, including withdrawals, will be available after the 14th day of school on Feb. 1.
Staffing classes continued to be an issue on day two of the strike, with 86 percent of the classes that met Wednesday being held without any issue, according to the university. At Wright State’s Lake Campus in Celina, 99 percent of classes went on without any issue.
Around 43 percent of the 560 members of the Wright State Chapter of the American Association of University Professors have continued teaching during the strike, according to WSU. Classes offered in Wright State’s School of Professional Psychology and the Boonshoft School of Medicine were unaffected by the strike because they have no unionized faculty.
“The university is open and operating largely without issue thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our staff and faculty,” president Cheryl Schrader said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to providing our students with the high-quality and affordable education they expect from Wright State. I appreciate all of the efforts our entire community is doing to support Wright State.”
Schrader, an engineer, is in the classroom and is teaching two courses during the strike.
The strike is the union’s response to the WSU board of trustees decision on Jan. 4 to implement the final terms of employment for the union which includes moving faculty union members into a “uniform” health care plan, maintaining current rules of retrenchment, including no pay raises and allowing faculty to be furloughed as part of “cost savings days.” The union has taken issue with the furlough policy, changes to health care, new provisions for promotions and tenure appointment, workload and a merit pay system.
Wright State’s troubled finances have long caused problems for contract talks. The university reduced its spending by around $53 million in fiscal year 2018 in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending.
As the strike continues, the university’s moves are being watched closely by new governor Mike De Wine and the Ohio Department of Higher Education under newly appointed chancellor Randy Gardner. The university has shared all of its campus communications about the strike with the state department of higher education, WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess said.
“We continue to communicate with Wright State staff on a daily basis to stay informed of what’s happening on campus,” Gardner said in a prepared statement. “Our first and foremost concern is for the students and that they continue to receive a quality education.”
Gardner called WSU student body president Daniel Palmer on the first day of the strike to try to reassure him that students remain the priority.
“This is kind of their last memory of Wright State,” Palmer said of his classmates. “Their teachers weren’t in the classroom for their last semester.”
Though students are confused as to what is going on, the situation has gone “a lot smoother” than Palmer said he expected it to. But, Palmer, a senior studying business, is worried about the long term implications of the strike and how it appears to be yet another crisis facing his future alma mater.
In recent years Wright State has dealt with a federal investigation into the misuse of H-1B visas and budget overruns of a combined $131 million that drained the school’s reserve fund.
Several committee meetings for Wright State’s board of trustees scheduled for Friday have been postponed. The administration did not say if meetings were postponed because of the strike.
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