Professors walk picket lines at U of Illinois-Springfield

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University of Illinois-Springfield administrators and a union representing professors have reached a tentative contract agreement, ending a strike that started last week. | University of Illinois Springfield via Flickr

SPRINGFIELD — Dozens of University of Illinois-Springfield protesters walked a picket line a day after their union announced a strike.

The University of Illinois Springfield United Faculty union represents nearly 170 tenured and tenure-track faculty members. They started their strike at 9 a.m. Tuesday, carrying signs that read “I’d rather be teaching,” “Fair evaluation! Contract now!” and “Faculty labor = student learning.”

The union said in a message on its website that professors won’t be available to students during the strike.

University officials said on the school’s website that students should attend classes during a strike and wait 15 minutes before leaving if their professor isn’t present.

The union and university bargained on Monday. At issue are reappointment, tenure and promotions.

The union wanted some protections written into the contract, including establishing a committee of university administrators and faculty that would examine cases where professors feel they weren’t treated fairly in a case of promotion or tenure. University officials said adding those protections in a contract would “open such decisions to grievance procedures involving outside judgments by an arbitrator who may have little or no knowledge of the university.”

It’s likely classes at the university will be wiped out all week because the union and administrators aren’t expected to meet again in a bargaining session until Friday.

“We don’t believe they’ve been bargaining in good faith over the last 20 months,” Kristi Barnwell, a UIS associate history professor and vice president of the union, said Tuesday morning. “On Friday, we were hoping the university would finally take us seriously. … We are ready to bargain whenever they want us there.”

This is the university’s final week of classes, and final exams are next week. Commencement is scheduled for May 13.

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