Clark College will cancel classes if its faculty go on strike Monday, the interim president announced in an email to students.
It’s news that’s seemed likely for days, as full- and part-time faculty represented by the Association for Higher Education hurtle toward a planned walkout Monday morning if a tentative agreement is not reached.
“We recognize that a potential strike places stress on you, our student,” Interim President Sandra Fowler-Hill wrote in an email Wednesday night. “We are doing everything we can to find a resolution to this issue.”
In a text message, Rich Wood with the Washington Education Association said the announcement “seems premature” with additional bargaining sessions slated through the weekend. But college spokeswoman Kelly Love said it’s important to continue communicating with students and their families about the effects of a potential strike.
Fowler-Hill said other services will remain open at Clark College, including financial aid, advising, Workforce Education Services, the bookstore, the child care center, the Penguin Pantry, Cannell Library and the food court. But many employees in those departments are represented by another union: the Washington Public Employees Association. That union represents all classified hourly and salaried staff, including clerks, office workers, custodians, paraprofessionals and more.
Whether WPEA employees cross the picket lines and go to work will be up to individuals, said Sarah Thorsen, a chief shop steward for the union.
“I personally would never presume or guess how each of our members feel,” said Thorsen, who is a program specialist at the college.
Love echoed Thorsen’s comments.
“We’re trying to acknowledge all the various needs of our employees,” Love said. “The college will be open, we’ll have services for students, and if employees make their own decision, that has to be a decision they make.”
Thorsen declined to say what she’ll be doing, so as not to “add any weight” to anyone’s choice.
“I hope everyone remembers that these are union brothers and sisters, and a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.
Campus events will also continue, including public forums with two presidential candidates and Fowler-Hill’s State of the College address on Thursday.
Love couldn’t say how canceled classes could affect the rest of the winter quarter, but the college has repeatedly said it’s committed to ensuring students can complete their coursework within the term.
Faculty at Clark College, which was founded in 1933, have never gone on strike. Clark College has 9,186 students, or the equivalent of 6,614 full-time students. That’s down from the 6,908 students administrators projected this quarter, for about a 4 percent drop in full-time enrollment.