The Student Labor Action Project plans to show its support for Temple University professors on Dec. 14 at a silent vigil.
Nearly two months after the professors’ union contracts expired, SLAP decided to take action.
No agreement has yet been reached between Temple Association of University Professionals and the administration since the professors’ union contract ended on Oct. 15. Students in the newly established organization say the deadlock could lead to a faculty strike.
“I think it is really important for students to be involved in the workers’ struggle,” says Alison Huxta, 20, a co-facilitator of the group, “because when you have a [professor] trying to bargain with the administration, they don’t have as much freedom as we do. We have a lot of power to make change.”
The faculty is attempting to implement improvements within the university to provide not only fair treatment of faculty, but also to provide quality education and scholarship, according to information given to SLAP by TAUP. Members of TAUP were unavailable for comment.
Professors want more full-time faculty, more tenure track and tenure faculty, and reasonable workloads for all full-time faculty members. Health insurance costs, domestic partner benefits, pregnancy and child-care leave, and more job security for non-tenure track faculty were also concerns.
“The student support at the vigil would really mean a lot,” says Cynthia Baughman, assistant professor of Film and Media Arts and TAUP Action Committee student liason.
Temple’s Chief Communications Officer, Mark Eyerly, explained the university’s position.
“The university’s approach to this is with greatest emphasis on negotiations that will enhance opportunities for students, Eyerly said. Citing concern with the way tenure is awarded and the time limits set on non-tenure-track faculty, Eyerly also explained that “at the moment we’re a ways apart on the economics…we just think that what they’re asking in economics is above and beyond what faculty are receiving at other unstitutions. It’s well above and beyond what other employees and staff at this university have been receiving recently.”
Eyerly added that meeting TAUP’s economic requests could lead to “significant tuition increases in order to fund it.”
SLAP feels that students should stand with their faculty, and TAUP seems to agree.
“There are so many reasons why students should be interested in the working conditions and pay of their teachers…including better options for leaves and for continuing to do research and creative work so the faculty are more engaged in their field and they are more up to date,” Baughman added.
SLAP is also concerned about university-wide changes in the curriculum, such as implementing more lecture style classes. According to SLAP, professors are fighting against such university changes.
Huxta hopes that a large student presence at the vigil will help make the administration aware that their decisions affect not only the faculty, but also the entire university. She says that Temple’s mission is changing from a community-based college to a corporate one; the quality o education, she believes, could be compromised by this.
“I hope the Board [of Trustees] knows it’s not just the professors that are complaining about their salary and tenure,” Huxta says. “Our education is also being affected because we’re going to suffer if there’s a strike, and we’re going to suffer if there are bigger classrooms.”
The vigil will be held outside Sullivan Hall from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., but students are welcome to gather earlier. The date was selected to coincide with the Board of Trustees meeting.
Signs for support are welcome. SLAP encourages students to bring along an apple as a symbol of their support for their professors. Apples that are collected will be marked with the faculty requests and presented to the members of the Board of Trustees.
“TAUP Fair Contract Now” buttons are also available in the TAUP office located on the second floor of Barton Hall. All who attend are encouraged to wear a button.
SLAP became a recognized group at Temple this year, though the group has existed nationwide since 1999. It was created in conjunction with Jobs with Justice, a campaign for workers’ rights, and the United States Students Association to “support, advise, and solidify the student-labor work that is energizing campuses and communities across the country” according to their mission statement.
In addition to labor-related activism, SLAP has trained and networked with fellow student activists. Meetings are held every Wednesday in the TUGSA office.
Sara Getz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.