Department Chairs voice concerns over the impact of a strike

As contract negotiations continue and a potential faculty strike looms ever closer, 25 department chairs and directors from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences decided to weigh in on the matter by submitting a statement directly to Portland State President Wim Wiewel and the administration’s bargaining team.

The statement, a copy of which was provided to the Vanguard, was sent to both PSU President Wim Wiewel and the administration’s bargaining team over the spring term period, and was not meant for public circulation. It is unclear who among the senders or recipients leaked the letter to other PSU faculty and staff.

Referencing a recent statement from the PSU administration claiming that the university will maintain classes in the event of a strike, the signatories of the statement inform the administration that they have met to discuss a realistic contingency plan and wish to summarize their concerns.

In four points, the letter underlines the importance of the teacher-student relationships and asserts that attempting to temporarily substitute the CLAS departments’ faculty would be highly disruptive to the usual quality of instruction offered.

“Based on our experience of the labor market in the Portland area, we observe that it would be very difficult, and almost impossible, to replace striking PSU-AAUP bargaining unit members with instructors capable of teaching courses in the areas of specialty required to cover classes this Spring Quarter,” states the letter.

The final point concludes that a strike would be best avoided, stating, “a PSU-AAUP bargaining unit members strike will not only disrupt student learning in the short term but also have serious effects on academic achievement in the long term, effects that will rapidly compound as any such strike continues.”

When asked to comment on the statement, Scott Gallagher of the university communications office said via email, “We agree that a strike would be disruptive for students and difficult on everyone. That is why we are committed to continue meeting with AAUP until we can come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

“What is clear from the letter is that our faculty also understand how unfortunate a strike would be and how much they are concerned about their students.”

The CLAS, composed of about 27 academic programs and 16 affiliated centers, is one of seven schools and colleges that make up PSU.

Editor’s note: It has recently come to our attention that Sara Swetzoff has been reporting on issues concerning the potential faculty strike while also maintaining personal involvement with the Portland State University Student Union—an organization that has come out in full support of the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The Vanguard recognizes this is a conflict of interest that contradicts our mission to serve as a fair and balanced news source for the PSU community. We apologize for failing to catch this problem before the stories made it to print and have since taken action to ensure it will not happen again.