Board of Trustees addresses strike issues

By Gus Bode

Students expressed their concern with issues that came from the strike at both the executive session and regular meeting of the SIU Board of Trustees.

At the executive session Wednesday at the Stone Center – which is the office place of SIU President Glenn Poshard – almost 200 students, faculty, staff and community members with picket signs circled where the meeting was taking place. Those who participated voiced their opinions through chants such as, “Settle,” and “Whose university? Our university.”

Through the windows of the conference room where the board met, noisemakers and loud chants could be heard.

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A motion was then made to close the public session to consider pending, probable or imminent court proceedings against or on behalf of the board and to discuss “information regarding appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of employees or officers; acquisition of real property; review of executive session minutes; and collective negotiating matters,” according to the meeting agenda.

Two students gave statements on their frustrations on how the strike was handled by the administration at the regular meeting Thursday at the Student Center.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty were on strike for seven days, and the bargaining teams for the Faculty Association and administration spent a majority of four of those days negotiating terms of a new contract. The two sides had been negotiating for a new contract since June 2010.

In his opening statement at the Thursday meeting Board Chairman Roger Herrin acknowledged the two sides came to an agreement with the strike, and there would be a healing process to go through.

He said the board is fairly new, with most members only being trustees for less than six months.

“I have had numerous forms of messages in regards to the past week’s events,” Herrin said. “You have my undivided attention to get this university back to the statute of what it once was.”

Kristi Brownfield, vice president of communications for Graduate Assistants United — one of the three Illinois Education Association unions that settled the night before the Nov. 3 strike deadline — said the administration is more interested in power than letting students voice their opinions.

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“Any policies that protect the established power of the status quo over the expressive power of a free people are policies that must be overturned,” she said.”The students here recognize that. “It was our voices inside the Student Center, outside of Anthony Hall and the Stone Center, throughout campus, on Facebook, and online — calling for accountability, fairness, and transparency. That is what we want from this university.”

Herrin said the board will have no hidden agendas and will continue to move the university forward.

“Be very assured this entire board is sensitive to this, and we couldn’t go through a strike of this magnitude that compromises the basic integrity of this university without a division of views about it,” he said. “We have to repair those and we are going to do our part.”

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the university will move on and openly discuss different opinions to begin the healing process.

Cheng said at a post-meeting press conference Thursday she does not think there will be long term effects of the strike.

“Our recruiting staff, our admissions staff and our university communications staff will continue to recruit and admit students through this,” she said. “My experience is institutions come out stronger once they have clarity and roles of responsibility and this was an unusually fiscally confusing time to have union contracts come through, and we got through that so we will be stronger.”

 

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