After a week of forming a picket line at the entrance of the Klamath Falls campus of the Oregon Institute of Technology, Friday was a day of growing solidarity and new tactics from striking faculty to encourage a compromise on contract negotiations.
After a march across campus, students walked into Snell Hall — home to administration offices — chanting in support of faculty. Some participated in a sit-in outside of the cashier’s office.
Their goal, said graduate student Brie Landis, was disruption.
Students entered Snell saying they had business at the cashier’s office. When the students arrived chanting, the cashier’s office closed. As the students sat in the hall outside the office, not blocking the walkway or the doors, they spoke about how much they are paying for classes and how much this week is costing them while their classes are stalled.
Landis paid $5,000 for this term of graduate-level civil engineering classes. According to Landis, it’s costing them $500 for this week of classes without adjuncts assigned to any of their classes.
The students stayed for about 30 minutes.
A “phone zap” took place on Friday, as people called and emailed administrators and trustees to express support for the union.
Faculty union spokesperson Kari Lundgren said they are hopeful a May Day contract will be secured on Saturday, given the day’s connection to labor movements.
The union and the administration’s bargaining team have continued to exchange proposals throughout the week, but Lundgren said at lunchtime on Friday they are no closer to a deal than they were at the beginning of the week.
Ken Fincher, university vice president of institutional advancement, said he felt that after the week they were closer to the union when it comes to intentions to solve the dispute. Still, that hadn’t, as of presstime Friday, translated to agreements in writing.
“Everyone wants to get a contract signed,” Fincher said. “It’s not in anyone’s best interest that they stay out on strike.”
Lundgren pointed to the increase in solidarity on the picket line since the strike kicked off on a cold, snowy Monday morning. More students and other labor unions have joined the ranks as the days have drug on. The faculty also secured a win on Thursday when the Oregon Employment Relations Board dismissed a petition from the university to declare the strike unlawful.
This week has been challenging, Fincher said, full of hurdles for administration and students as they worked to continue classes without a significant portion of the faculty.
While faculty have been on the picket line, students have battled uncertainty over their classes. Oregon Tech hired interim adjunct instructors to cover classes of striking faculty, but getting the instructors assigned to classes hasn’t been easy.
Mason Wichmann, president of the Associated Students of Oregon Institute of Technology, has had some classes covered but others have been missed.
He said he’s woken up each morning this week with his fingers crossed that it will be the day a deal is reached.
Wichmann said that freshmen, like his roommate have been particularly impacted because they are not as used to college life and the rhythm of classwork. He thinks the unpredictability of classes this week has affected underclassmen more than a junior like himself, who is more familiar with budgeting his time for his coursework.
All he can do it hope that both sides will act on their messaging that they care about students. Meanwhile, he said he’s tired of seeing his education being used as leverage.
He believes that both sides care about students, but said that it “looks like a game of chicken.”
Administration and the faculty union were bargaining again on Friday, and, as of 5:30 p.m., Fincher said administration was waiting for a proposal from the union.