September 4 was scheduled to be the first day of classes at Temple University. But for most teachers and many students, it was the beginning of a month-long faculty strike accompanied by student protest and bitterness on all sides. Temple's faculty union called for the walkout, which began September 4 and lasted 29 days, after a disagreement between teachers and administrators over a university contract offer. After three months of on-and-off negotiations, student protests and threats of a second strike, the union and the Temple administration have yet to reach a contract agreement. The contract offer called for a five percent salary increase for faculty and a co-payment of $260 per year towards their health insurance. The offer fell 2.5 percent short of the faculty's salary request, and union members were also dissatisfied with the co-payment, which they said would set a precedent for the administration to make decisions without consulting the faculty. Teachers took to the picket lines for a month, leaving over 23,000 students without at least one class and 6000 students with none. At the height of the strike, the faculty union estimated that over 70 percent of classes had been canceled. On October 3, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Samuel Lehrer ordered striking Temple faculty members back to the classroom. He issued an injunction saying that the walkout had damaged education for about 29,000 students. · During the strike, over 1800 students withdrew from the university, and Liacouras reported last month that Temple lost over $10 million in tuition revenues. But throughout the strike those students who stayed protested the walkout and harassed the administration for not offering an "acceptable" contract. Daily protests shook the North Philadelphia campus. Students and faculty members chastised Liacouras for his "lack of commitment to education" and lack of interaction with faculty. Students burned Liacouras in effigy, chanting "Peter, Peter, tuition eater." The Graduate Student Employee Association went on strike for two days during the first week of the faculty strike to call attention to the needs of the school's 750 graduate teaching and research assistants. Seven graduate students were arrested in September for blocking the entrance to Liacouras' office. In late September, over 50 students moved into Feinstein Lounge, located across from Liacouras' office, to show their support for the striking faculty and to voice there desire for classes to resume. The group, which called themselves Students United for Education, followed a daily schedule -- starting with revele and ending with a campfire chat. Wake-up was at 8:30 a.m., when students went into the hallway to "welcome" Liacouras to his office. They then met to decide on the day's events, which ranged from sit-ins on Broad Street to an open forum at the Bell Tower -- the center of the Temple campus. For the rest of the day, students either went to classes, if they had any, to work, or just stayed at the SUE headquarters. At 10 p.m. the students sat and talked about the day's events. Four students were arrested, after defying a university order to vacate the lounge. · The faculty rejected another university contract offer in November, by a ratio of over 2-to-1. The offer called for across-the-board five-percent salary increase in each of the next five years, plus an increase of one percent in January 1992 and January 1994. The contract proposal included the $260 co-payment, but stipulated that the payment will be refunded if health-care costs do not rise more than six percent per year. Faculty union president Arthur Hochner said in October that the faculty would consider walking out again next semester if no contract agreement is reached. But Temple administrators said that Judge Lehrer's injunction forcing teachers back to work forbade any discussion of another strike. The injunction prohibits the teacher's union from encouraging and promoting a strike until a hearing sometime next year. Meanwhile, Temple is unleashing a campaign to lure old students back to the school and attract new students. Liacouras announced at a Board of Trustees meeting last week that comedian Bill Cosby, Temple's "most famous graduate" and a university trustee, will participate in a series of advertisements aimed at reinforcing "what is good about Temple." Liacouras said in the speech to the trustees that he hopes the commercials will remind the administration about what it means to "have this fine institution in this region and in this country." Last month, Temple's administration extended the fall semester to January 15 to allow teachers who walked the picket lines more time to finish their courses. The spring semester, originally scheduled to begin on January 15, is now slated to begin on January 21.Comments powered by Disqus
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