The first day of classes at Oakland University (OU) did not go as planned after faculty members went on strike to protest the slow progress of labor contract negotiations.
The Oakland chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) mentioned that it has been talking with university officials and a mediator since last year to discuss pay and benefits and reach a settlement before classes start this fall.
“Faculty negotiators were seeking cost of living increases and compensation for professors who earned exemplary performance scores from the administration for teaching and research in the pandemic year,” said Karen Miller, the president of AAUP-Oakland.
However, the union’s contract expired Wednesday night with no agreement. The Detroit News reported that proposed pay cuts were among the major issues preventing a deal from moving forward.
Union chapter president Karen Miller asserted that the university must show fairness to faculty members, especially now that emergency funds have been released.
“Oakland is using the pandemic as a pretext to cut faculty compensation and exert control over academic programs,” she said in a news release. “There is no longer a financial emergency, administrative pay has been restored to pre-pandemic levels and there have been new hires at the upper levels of management. The money is there to fairly compensate faculty.”
School officials have recommended a permanent decrease in overall faculty compensation, including reduced benefits and retirement contributions. Union leaders stated that the university wanted to freeze salaries to cope financially at the beginning of the pandemic.
OU believes that its proposals have been “fair and fiscally responsible” and has voiced its disappointment over the professors’ decision to strike.
“Oakland regrets the strike action called for by the AAUP, an action that is contrary to the interests of our students. Labor contract issues should be resolved at the bargaining table and not interfere with our students’ academic objectives, the university said in an official statement.
No Class Cancellations
Allyson Kemp, a sophomore whose freshman year only had online classes, was among the students whose classes were affected by the strike Thursday.
“I was supposed to be going to my first year of in-person classes today, but it was canceled,” said Kemp. “I feel bad for what’s happening to (the faculty). I understand why they are striking. I would too if I were in their position. At the same time, I feel bad for the students because they’re ripping our education away from us. You don’t want professors who are underpaid and you don’t want students not getting a quality education.”
The university has sent an email to students regarding the issue with faculty, stating that its fall classes will not be canceled.
“Students are advised to report to classes as scheduled and wait at least 15 minutes to determine whether their instructor will be teaching. Students may also contact their instructors in advance to determine whether classes will be taking place,” the email read.
“While contract talks continue, all university classes, support services, extracurricular activities, and other operations will continue on their normal schedules,” it added.