Let’s try a little experiment.
Begin by starting a conversation with some friends around Kent State.
Just say the word “strike” in reference to the current position the administration and faculty find themselves in and watch panic enter the conversation. It doesn’t matter if your friends are students, faculty or members of the administration. The results will be similar.
Monday, the Kent State chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent out a letter to its members stating that the organization “has voted to conduct a strike authorization vote of its membership.” While this does not guarantee a strike, it brings the possibility that much closer. The faculty has been without a contract for over a year.
The administration doesn’t want it, the faulty doesn’t really want it and the students don’t want it. But at this point, it looks like a possibility. No matter what happens, it’s going to cost somebody money. We are at the point of high-stakes bargaining with each side calling each other’s bluff.
We have gotten to this point because of benefits. In the university’s proposal, there is a substantial cut from what the professors now receive. The faculty makes the argument that the administrations’ latest proposal does not include enough for benefits. The university says it cannot afford to pay any more than it has offered.
With higher education funding in Ohio declining, the university must make the most of every dollar it has. At the same time, the hard-working faculty certainly deserves to be paid well, or students may eventually be forced into a degree that means less as Kent State’s best professors leave to take jobs with better pay and benefits.
Each side has much to lose, but no one would lose more than students. The whole reason the university system is here is to provide students with a higher education. However, students have little say in this whole process. We have no union representing us and expressing our needs. The student body has been left out of much of this.
Even the possibility of a strike raises many questions, most of which cannot or will not be answered at the present moment. Will students expecting to graduate within the next few semesters be thrown off track? How will incoming freshman, already overwhelmed by the confusion of their first weeks on campus, react? Will students leave or transfer? Anything that ultimately causes students to leave the university is a disaster.
Let’s throw around some figures for a second. In-state tuition runs at about $8,000 per year. So if 100 students leave Kent State, that’s $800,000 gone. If 1,000 students leave, the university will have lost millions. Those numbers don’t even figure in room and board. Can you say potential disaster? Yeah, we thought so.
Many details are still forming, and most of the faculty probably doesn’t have a clear idea where this is going. But just when are students going to be let in? Are we just going to show up to class one day with signs on the doors?
All we can hope for is that when and if the two sides meet in the same room, the students are kept in mind. It would be a shame to think that the best interests of students were lost in a risky game of chicken.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.