Boston University Faculty Threaten Strike in Spring
Faculty members at Boston University (B.U.) said yesterday they may strike this April unless the B.U. administration meets their demands for higher pay and more input into the decision-making processes.
Members of the B.U. faculty, which three years ago became the first private university faculty to unionize, focused their criticism on the way university president John R. Silber has managed the university.
The strike, if called, would include a two-day "postponement" of classes in March and an indefinite strike beginning in April.
Ted Frederickson, a spokesman for the university administration, said the faculty wage demands, if met, would bankrupt the university, and added that a strike would "have disastrous financial implications and a devastating impact upon the students."
Silber, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, told a news conference Monday that the union request included a 44-per-cent salary increase over the next three years and would lead to tuition increases of $350 next year and $100 for each of two succeeding years. These increases would "price Boston University out of the market," Silber said.
"That's just untrue," Howard Zinn, professor of political science and co-chairman of the strike committee, said yesterday. "The pay raises wouldn't cost nearly that much and the university could easily afford them by cutting in other areas or by raising tuition very slightly," he said.
Most of the university's 22,000 students side with the faculty in the dispute but are concerned that salary increases might lead to a rise in tuition, Mathew E. Silverman, student body vice president for university projects, said yesterday.
Students and faculty agreed yesterday that Silber himself--his style and the way he runs the university--were more important an issue than the demands for wage increases.
A University for All
Zinn said, "We have a general problem of dictatorship here." Zinn said faculty and students were ignored or intimidated by the administration, and added, "the sense of outrage is widespread."
Samuel Y. Edgerton, a professor of art history who opposes the strike said yesterday nearly half of the university's 900 full-time faculty members "hate Silber" and added faculty members considered the strike "as much to get back at him (Silber) as for other reasons." "The faculty knew this would get him mad and so they did it," Edgerton added.
Edgerton said he opposes a strike because "a student is not a commodity for sale, and when you drive away students, you deprive them of an education."
Ted Frederickson, B.U. spokesman, said that "there are personalities involved in this," but said that when the faculty voted to unionize, they forfeited their right to participate in management decision-making. "The faculty decided to split up the university into employees and administration, and then it's the management that runs the university," Frederickson said. "You can't have it both ways," he added.
Frederickson said the university had offered its faculty a 6.3-per-cent wage increase for next year and a 5-per-cent increase for each of the two succeeding years, but then rescinded the offer when the faculty voted Jan. 25 to consider the possibility of a strike