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Tenured Faculty Go On Strike At U Of I Springfield

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Rachel Otwell/NPR Illinois
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Asst. Prof. Richard Funderburg, right, and dozens of other UIS faculty demonstrate in front of University Hall seeking a contract.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois Springfield went on strike Tuesday, saying 20 months of negotiations with the administration have resulted in little progress.

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More than 160 tenured and tenure-track professors represented by University Professionals of Illinois have been negotiating almost two years in an effort to get personnel policies included in a contract. 

Union President Lynn Fisher, a professor of sociology and anthropology, says the University of Illinois has a history of resisting such demands.

"So what we're looking at is the third strike at the U of I,” she said, “the third faculty strike in four years: 2014 UIC, 2016 UIUC, and now UIS."

Around 40 professors, union supporters and students hit the picket line this morning, marching and chanting in front of University Hall.

The tenure process has become a sticking point in negotiations, with the administration insisting it should not be part of the contract and faculty insisting that it should.

Public Administration Assistant Prof. Richard Funderburg, white-haired and wearing a tweedy blazer, carried a hand-lettered sign that says "I'd Rather Be Teaching" as he marched with dozens of colleagues, union supporters and some students in front of University Hall. 

"I'm out here in support of the union for a fair contract,” he said. “As an assistant professor going up for tenure, we have grave concerns about job security in the future, and we're fighting for our right to be protected by the union just as other universities are."

Students are being instructed to continue reporting to class, despite the faculty strike. They were told to wait 15 minutes for an instructor in each class before leaving. 

The union says the campus administration forced the strike by “dragging its feet” at the bargaining table. 

The administration issued a statement expressing "disappointment" in the strike. Negotiations are set to resume on Friday.