Students are being told to continue reporting to class at the University of Illinois Springfield, despite the fact that the faculty is on strike. 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.
It's easy to spot Richard Funderburg as an academic. White-haired and wearing a tweedy blazer, the public administration professor is carrying a hand-lettered sign that says "I'd Rather Be Teaching" as he marches 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 says. "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."
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.
Lynn Fisher, a professor of sociology and anthropology, and president of the union, 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 — the third faculty strike in four years. 2014 University of Illinois Chicago, 2016 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and now University of Illinois Springfield.."
Around 40 professors, union supporters and students hit the picket line this morning, marching and chanting in front of University Hall. The administration issued a statement expressing "disappointment" in the strike. Negotiations are set to resume on Friday.