BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Claiming nearly two years without a contract, and nearly three without a raise, faculty at D’Youville University picketed during the school’s opening assembly Tuesday morning.

“Key issues, including medical insurance, paid time off, short-term disability, and intellectual property, remain points of contention in negotiations,” a statement from D’Youville’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) said.

The AAUP says D’Youville has “offered only paltry raises” to faculty members “that do not keep up with inflation and cost of living.”

“It’s frustrating that they just don’t even want to confront us,” Laura Hechtel, a retired biology professor serving as a union vice president, says. “They don’t want to take on the challenge of seeing us. They would rather avoid the whole situation, which is how they approach negotiations.”

The protest began at 7:30 a.m. in front of the Health Professions Hub at West Avenue and Connecticut Street in Buffalo. About an hour later, D’Youville University released a statement in their defense:

“D’Youville is grateful for our employees’ commitment to furthering the University’s mission. Although the faculty claim to be operating without a contract, the reality is that the University has continued to abide by the terms of the previous contract. In fact, the University has actually gone above and beyond its contractual obligations, as when it gave the faculty a bonus around the holidays. 

The University will continue to work in good faith until a new contract can be agreed upon, which we hope will happen soon. Just over a week ago, the parties appeared to have reached agreement on virtually all of the major issues. The Union now seems to be retreating from their prior position and has abruptly withdrawn from the ongoing discussions that took place over the past couple of months. Still, we trust that further negotiations will lead to a mutually satisfactory agreement. The University looks forward to the opportunity to sit down with the Union to address any remaining issues that exist.”

D’Youville University

Margaret Goodman, an organic chemistry professor serving as the lead negotiator, is ready to hear another proposal after seeing that statement from D’Youville.

“My response is that I’m sure we want that contract settled even more than the administration does and we will be happy to go back to the table and wait for a good offer from them,” Goodman said.

Dr. Fred Floss, a professor of economics and finance at Buffalo State University, says higher education is the second-largest industry in western New York.

“If we believe in western New York and our children, and we want to be able to stay in Buffalo and go to college in Buffalo and raise their families in Buffalo in the future, then we have to support the D’Youvilles, the Canisiuses, the Buffalo States and the UBs, and the whole community should be worried about this,” Floss says.

Putting the future into perspective, he says western New York will be in trouble if people in certain trades and industries aren’t here.

“These are the students that are going to take over the nursing jobs,” he says. “They’re going to take over the auto jobs. They’re going to take over the chemistry jobs and keep western New York strong.”

Eli Finnegan is an associate professor of English. He’s been at D’Youville for 13 years.

“I’m a tenured professor and I have several other part-time gigs because I don’t make enough money to pay my bills,” he says.

As of August 31, the faculty at D’Youville will be in their third academic year without a new contract.

“I hope that they would show us that they value us,” Finnegan says. “I mean, that’s the whole sort of feeling. As I said, we’re just an expense to be reduced. We’re not a value.”

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