HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — At the 14 universities in the state’s System of Higher Education, the 93 percent faculty vote to authorize a strike is bad news for 107,000 students..

“Nobody wants to go on strike,” says Dr. Kenneth Mash, “but if we need to go on strike, that means that our faculty will not be on the campus.”

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“So we will not be teaching classes, we will not be doing advising, we will not be doing counseling, all the things we normally do. What does it mean for them [students]?  Well, it means in essence we are closing down the universities.”

Mash is president of APSCUF, the faculty union that’s gone 450 days without a contract.

They don’t want to strike but will if university officials don’t reach an agreement with them.

“We’ve been negotiating this contract for about 2 years now,” says Mash.

A strike would affect five local universities, including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana, and Slippery Rock.

Officials say, if faculty strike,  they will try to keep the schools open.

“We would make every effort to continue to operate the universities as best we can,” Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the system told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday.

“It’s important to note if the faculty union were to call a strike it would be up to individual faculty members whether they honor that request of their union leadership or whether they remain in their classroom for their students.”

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The dispute is over a lot of issues — faculty pay, health care, distance learning, and use of adjunct faculty.

The state system says it’s strapped for cash because legislative support remains at 1999 levels.

Faculty make between $63,304 to $126,209,  while the 14 university presidents make between $222,784 and $301,945.  And the chancellor makes $345,758.

They and other employees got a two-and-a-half percent pay hike in exchange for paying more for health care, but not the faculty.

“We tried to give them the same package,” says Marshall.  “They turned it down.  That’s why we’re trying to come up with a long-term agreement.”

But so far, the union says the university is offering little.

“Over four years, what they said was 0 percent, 0 percent, 1 percent, and 1 percent,” notes Mash.

Zero pay increase is likely to lead to a strike.

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