On Nov. 20 at 12 p.m., a large gathering of American Federation of Teachers Union members held a march throughout the campus to protest in favor of fair contracts for William Paterson University staff. Many faculty members wore their blue AFT shirts to show their support of the protest. The group walked throughout the pathways that passed all the academic buildings on campus.
Fake tombstones with “R.I.P. fair contracts” on them were displayed by the members of the march. There was also a marching band.
Some professors have allegedly been underpaid and working without a renewed contract. Professors have not received a raise since the last contract. After hearing about the possibility of a strike, many students have expressed fear of a University shutdown.
“If this place cannot teach me, I will probably have to take the rest of the year off and then go somewhere else,” said a freshman who wished to remain anonymous.
President Richard J. Helldobler released an email on Nov. 19 to all students addressing the issue.
“Some of you may have noticed a signature line in some faculty and staff email messages that reads, ‘Working without a contract since July 1,’ ” Helldobler said in an email concerning the issue. “While, technically, their contract did expire June 30, the fact is that AFT members on campus continue to be covered under that contract until an agreement is reached for a new contract.”
The American Federation of Teachers is currently seeking to reestablish fair contracts with the state of New Jersey. During these turbulent times, AFT has asked all faculty to meet their required duties, but they may be absent from other activities not required that they be present for.
According to Pix11, “professors say they’ve been given extra work without additional pay. They also say some benefits have gone away, such as tuition reimbursement for their own continued learning. They want adjunct professors to get equal pay and they want longer contracts for work stability.”
President Helldobler’s email also reassures students that their education should not be affected in any way. Students were encouraged to reach out to faculty members if their professors are not following their duties as well.
The University was also notified that AFT had plans to take a strike authorization vote two days ago. This vote is a step to prevent a full strike, as summarized in the email sent out.
For the past week, there has been mention of a possible strike by many in the student body of William Paterson University. Many students verified that their classes were momentarily interrupted by the music and the distraction of the protest.
WPU is not the only university taking a stand. According to POLITICO, “thousands of faculty members, librarians and professional staff at nine New Jersey public colleges and universities have begun voting on whether to authorize a strike over stalled contract negotiations.”
William Paterson University is one of the two schools that have authorized a strike on campus. Students joined professors in the rally, demonstrating the strong relationships the faculty and students share.
Though the relations between faculty, the administration, and the state remain uncertain, as the situation develops, further updates will be relayed to the students.