Wendler:Tuition will be given if classes stop

By Gus Bode

Students, community members concerned about possible strike

As the Faculty Association secured its legal right to strike Thursday, Chancellor Walter Wendler said tuition will be refunded in full to students who have their classes canceled in the case of an extended faculty walkout.

In a Thursday press conference, Wendler said students will be given tuition refunds for courses cancelled for a long period of time, but stopped short of saying how long a strike would need to last before refunds are dispersed. He said a short-term strike with students missing one or two classes would not necessarily require a tuition refund.

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Still, Wendler also stressed that if there is a walkout, the administration will make every effort to replace striking faculty. While he would not speculate what classes might be canceled, Wendler said that department heads are making plans for each college, and a list will be released early next week.

But the planning is difficult because administrators are legally prevented from asking faculty if they are planning to go on strike, Wendler said. He said students deserve a quality education – even if there is a strike.

“If they don’t have that, we should give a full refund,” he said.

Neal Young, vice president of Undergraduate Student Government, said that although many USG members support the Faculty Association, they are concerned with issues resulting from a possible strike.

‘There is a large percentage of the USG supporting the faculty’s quest for economic justice and academic freedom, and the plethora of other issues,” he said

However USG has not taken an official stance on the strike. Young expressed concern about enrollment citing that numbers are down, and the uncertainty of the future may drive students away.

“If there is a strike a lot of people are going to be looking to get their money back,” he said.

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Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he hopes a strike can be averted and that the Faculty Association and administration will reach a reasonable solution.

“Basically, our role as legislators should be to let both sides work it out,” he said. “That is what negotiations are all about. That is what they are for. A strike would be devastating to the union, to the school, and to the administration.”

Luechtefeld has been following the on-again off-again negotiations watching for a potential end to the crisis.

“Major controversy does have an effect on enrollment,” he said.

Larry Dietz, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said his department called more than 1,500 students during the first week of January to remind them of spring tuition and fees that were due. Out of that group, not a single student mentioned concerns about the possible faculty strike, he said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said a strike can only bring potential damage to a university’s reputation and urged both sides to resume talks.

“It is very important this is settled – the primary focus should be the students,” he said. “I encourage both sides to resume negotiations, but a legislator can only do that to a point.”

Jeff Doherty, Carbondale city manager, sees the University and the Carbondale community being intertwined, with a strike affecting both negatively.

“Overall, I think if there is a strike, it will be a very sad day for the University and a sad day for Carbondale,” he said. “In the long run, the strike will have an adverse impact on the community and the University as an institution, and would affect peoples’ decision to come to the University.”

Reporter Ben Botkin contributed to this story.

Reporter Moustafa Ayad can be reached at [email protected]

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