More than 100,000 state university students in Pennsylvania were told Thursday to stay at school, as striking professors returned to picket lines on 14 campuses for a second day and their union pleaded for a resumption of contract talks.
The state university system had informed students they should show up for class unless their individual schools indicated otherwise. With no new systemwide guidance coming on Day 2 of the walkout, the schools began providing their own instructions.
Some, like California and Cheyney universities, told students to wait up to 15 minutes before leaving empty classrooms or submit work through online portals. Others were holding information sessions or providing lists of striking faculty and postponed classes.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said professors will remain off the job until a new contract is reached. On Tuesday, the state system gave the union what it said was its final offer, and then withdrew from bargaining.
The union represents more than 5,000 faculty and coaches from Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities of Pennsylvania.
Union President Ken Mash stood outside the chancellor's office building Thursday afternoon in Harrisburg to push for a resumption of contract talks.
"If they want to come out and right now and negotiate, we're willing to go ahead and do that," Mash said. "But, I don't want to be totally unfair either, because they do have my cellphone number, so if they want to call later on and say that they're ready to negotiate, we're ready to do that too."
In a statement earlier in the day, Mash said: "For goodness' sake, Chancellor (Frank) Brogan, stop playing games."
System spokesman Kenn Marshall said earlier in the week that the administration felt it had made significant progress toward a settlement before talks broke off.
It withdrew a proposal, which drew criticism from the union, to increase adjunct professors' workload, while offering raises to all permanent and temporary faculty. A proposal to make professors pay more for their health care is identical to one other system employees have agreed to, Marshall said.
Picketers across the state said they were not striking solely for health benefits or salary, but to preserve the quality of education for students by supporting faculty at every level of pay and experience.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday he was "extremely disappointed" both sides were unable to reach agreement. He called the strike "detrimental" and warned it "will have far-reaching effects for years to come." He urged both sides to return to negotiations.
The Pennsylvania state system is one of the nation's largest public university systems. State funding for the system, at $444 million this year, is about the same as it was 17 years ago, even as full-time enrollment has risen more than 10 percent.
The last faculty contract expired June 30, 2015.