Every graduation ceremony is different but remains exciting for graduates and their parents, nonetheless.
This year, winter graduations were punctuated by members in the Temple Association of University Professionals picketing outside facilities where ceremonies were held.
“We’re not here to ruin anyone’s nice day,” said Andrew Dixon, an adjunct professor, “but when an opportunity like this comes up, it’s an opportunity for people who’ve paid a lot of money to see how things really work, how Temple treats its workers.”
Dixon led the group of picketers outside the College of Science and Technology commencement in chanting, “We want graduations, not stalled negotiations.”
There were numerous non-tenure track professors on hand, but many said they were afraid to speak on the record.
The union has been without a contract since October 2008, and negotiations have been stalled since.
In a letter to TAUP, the university expressed its disappointment in the union’s decision to picket.
“The university, including its negotiating team, believes your decision to impose upon students during graduation is antagonistic and disrespectful to them and their families and belies your request that Temple take a collaborative approach in its dealings with TAUP,” the letter said.
Edmund Hunt, a representative of the American Federation of Teachers, the parent affiliate of TAUP, said the union chooses to picket at public places to draw attention because the administration wants to keep things quiet.
“The administration has all of the power and all of the money,” he said. “And the only thing the staff has is solidarity.”
TAUP had the support of some AFSCME members, the largest public employee and health care workers union. AFSCME has been without a contract since October 2007. There were also some students on hand to support the faculty.
“I’m supporting the professors because they’ve been working without a contract,” said Kevin Paris, a senior political science major. “They’re not disturbing anyone. It’s important people know what’s going on.”
Paris joined TAUP and AFSCME members in circling the entrance to the CST graduation ceremony. The picketers held signs that asked if President Ann Weaver Hart was anti-union and compared Hart’s 6 percent salary raise to an offer of 2 percent that was presented to the union.
Ray Betzner, vice president of news communications, said Hart’s 6 percent raise was based on a review of her performance.
“For FY 2007-08, the total pool available for raises for all faculty was 3.85 percent, 2.75 percent was across the board to all faculty, and an additional 1 percent was put into a merit pool to be divided up by those who were awarded merit following faculty and deans’ reviews,” Betzner said.
He added that during the 2007-2008 fiscal year, all faculty members who were promoted received a 7 percent raise.
As for whether Hart is anti-union, Betzner said she is definitely not and wants to see the contract negotiations resolved soon.
Most parents and graduates entering the ceremony ignored the picketers who were handing out fliers. One parent seemed annoyed by TAUP’s presence and said the picketers were ruining his child’s day.
Dixon said TAUP was not trying to mess up the day for graduates and their families.
“I don’t think anyone’s gonna say my graduation day was ruined,” he said. “They’re gonna say I had a great time at Temple, and it was because of the faculty.”
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.