Brad Brondsema, Campus reacts to talks of faculty strike

By Gus Bode

Mixed reactions felt throughout campus

As talks of a faculty strike loom over campus, students have mixed feelings on what the administration and Faculty Association should do to iron out their differences.

While the majority of students agree there should be some form of an agreement to avert a strike, difference in opinions about salary increases and administration spending prevail.

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Neil Young, vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government, said USG supports the Faculty Association request for better salaries.

“We support them 110 percent on this,” he said.

Young’s support was recently echoed by USG senators, who voted in favor of higher salaries for faculty.

Young said he would attend the faculty union’s informational picket from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at the Free Forum Area on the south side of Anthony Hall. The event is open to anyone interested in learning more about the Faculty Association.

Recently, Young spoke with Morteza Daneshdoost, president of the Faculty Association, about the issue.

“We do understand that a strike is the last resort,” Young said. “I don’t want them to strike.”

And while the opinions vary, Young said many students have voiced support for the faculty.

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“You have a lot of people with a lot of opinions, but there’s a lot of people with no opinion,” he said. “Most of the people do have some degree of support.”

Daneshdoost also said he is concerned about students who may have upcoming graduations in December and May and noted this was one reason he wanted a new contract by the end of October.

“That’s something in the back of our mind,” he said. “These things are real priorities for us.”

SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler called a press conference Wednesday and reassured the community that students will not be deprived of an education or forced to change graduation plans because of a strike.

Still, that doesn’t keep some students slated for graduation this year from worrying about missing the date.

Nichole Dawdy, a senior in radiological sciences, hopes her May graduation date will go on as scheduled. But she worries that a strike will postpone her future plans and jeopardize the quality of her degree.

“The ‘we don’t have any money’ excuse is getting old,” she said. “I’m concerned about my degree, and that’s something we shouldn’t have to worry about.”

Dawdy said SIUC professors should be paid in accordance with what peer university professors are paid.

SIUC faculty earn 97 percent of the average salaries paid at universities nationwide that were selected as peer institutions by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. According to IBHE figures, SIUC professors in the union make an average salary of about $60,200. Those just beginning their careers earn roughly $49,258.

If the faculty does strike, Dawdy said she would picket with them.

Other students, though, disagree with the faculty’s request.

Delmar Algee, a junior in mortuary science, said the union’s requested 21 percent salary raise during three years is excessive and that the $60,200 average salary the faculty makes is sufficient.

“Asking for 21 percent is being a little too greedy,” said Algee, a Carbondale native. “I can understand an increase, but not that much.”

Algee said talks of a strike concern him, adding that if a strike does break out, he would definitely transfer, a sentiment among several students on campus Wednesday.

Imran Faizi, a junior in health care management from Peoria, is in the process of transferring out of SIUC. He said he’s upset about the cost of tuition going up and funds getting slashed in his program.

“It’s pushing my graduation date further back because there are classes they’re cutting,” he said. “I’m appalled and frustrated.”

Faizi said he’s in favor of evaluations of professors for raises rather than a definite increase, with students having a say in the process.

And while the faculty may not be around to teach during a strike, students are necessary for the University to exist, Daneshdoost said.

“Without the students being here, we are not going to be here,” he said. “We are going to talk to students.”

While a strike remains the last option, faculty may feel that it’s the only choice to make, Daneshdoost said.

“If that’s the only way we’re forced to do it, what else can we do?” he said.

Reporter Ben Botkin can be reached at [email protected]

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