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HSSU Faculty Take Historic Step to Unionize

With the goal of building “a stellar institution of higher learning for students,” full-time faculty at Harris-Stowe State University, a historically black university in St. Louis, Missouri, voted Tuesday to unionize.

"This is a great day for Harris-Stowe State University,” says Mark Abbott, president of HSSU-NEA, a newly recognized affiliate of Missouri NEA. “A collective bargaining agreement will strengthen the university and enhance the education of our students.”

The vote on Tuesday authorizes MNEA to represent all full-time regular faculty members—there are currently 46—for the purposes of collective bargaining. The HSSU-NEA is MNEA’s first bargaining unit from a four-year institution of higher education, noted MNEA president Charles E. Smith. “We applaud them for their success,” said Smith. “The MNEA leaders at Harris-Stowe will have the assistance and resources of the 35,000 member Missouri NEA and the 3 million member NEA as they work with HSSU administrators to reach a collective bargaining agreement.”

Faculty members at HSSU, where student enrollment dropped this year and graduation rates remain low, have long wanted a stronger voice in campus issues. Their vote on Tuesday was a enthusiastic endorsement of “shared governance,” the common practice in higher education of faculty and staff participating in important decisions on campuses.

Through the practice of shared governance, faculty members can increase professional development opportunities, so that they can better serve students. They can also create and implement best-practice tenure and promotion policies, so that the most highly qualified faculty can be recruited and retained.

Faculty members also have a number of other student-centered goals: They want to improve student enrollment strategies for recruitment and retention; they want to improve student campus life; they want to own a curriculum that offers students more choices; and they want more direct involvement in student advising.

“We look forward to working with the board of regents and the administration to realize the full potential of our great institution,” said Abbott.

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