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Professors, Students Take To Picket Lines

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA


Professors, students and supporters are taking to picket lines at state universities around Pennsylvania, including dozens at Slippery Rock University.

Faculty members went on strike Wednesday at 14 Pennsylvania state universities for the first time ever, affecting more than 100,000 students.

Slippery Rock faculty said they’re concerned about the quality of education issues, including proposed increased workloads for adjunct faculty and heavier reliance on graduate students for teaching.

But the state said it took those proposals off the table early in negotiations and that the main sticking point is now health care.

Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA
Faculty and students at Slippery Rock University strike after initial contract negotiations failed on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.

“We feel devalued at this point,” said Slippery Rock Faculty Union Vice President Colleen Cooke. “I think certainly we feel that public higher education in Pennsylvania is devalued, and we believe that if some of the proposals go through, that the value of the diploma that we grant at Slippery Rock is going to go way down, and certainly the quality of the education that we’re able to give to these students is going to go way down.”

At West Chester University, outside of Philadelphia, picketers are carrying signs and chanting "2, 4, 6, 8 why don't you negotiate?"

Victoria Tischio, a full-time tenured English professor, said some 500 of the university's about 950 professors had signed up for the walkout. About 77 percent of the university's professors are full-time union members.

The school's approximately 17, 000 students received an email from administrators telling them that the university will not close.

Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA
Dozens of Slippery Rock University faculty and students took part in picket lines all over campus on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.

West Chester University spokeswoman Nancy Gainer said students are expected to attend classes because not all professors will strike.

Some professors who walked out also provided assignments in advance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.