ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Thursday night’s meeting of the St. Louis Community College board of trustees was about 15 minutes old when the agenda was suddenly disrupted by several demonstrators who threw themselves on the floor and began chanting “Justice for faculty!”
Over and over and over.
A few minutes into the protest board members gave up and filed out of the room as security guards stood by, keeping their distance from those disrupting the meeting.
No arrests were made even as the protest stretched to more than an hour long.
It led to the unusual sight of the board briefly returning to the meeting room, huddling together and trying to conduct normal business as protestors continued lying a few feet away shouting at the top of their lungs.
Then the meeting was adjourned.
But teachers’ union president Professor Robert Herter says in the next room, unbeknownst to the protestors, he was in talks with board members and SLCC Chancellor Jeff Pittman.
“We’ve reached a tentative agreement,” Herter told KMOX News moments after the meeting was abruptly adjourned. “We’re going to work out a memorandum of understanding by next Friday about moving the non-renewal date from December 15th to March 1st.”
What does that mean concerning those 70 or so teacher jobs that the board was thinking about cutting to deal with budget shortfalls?
“(SLCC) would be offering voluntary separation plans in the beginning of the year that could move through and hopefully reduce the number of faculty that would potentially have to be (laid off),” Hertel explained.
Hertel says ironically, the board was about to announce the tentative deal when the students hit the floor and the long, noisy protest took over.
The four-campus SLCC system has been hit hard in recent years by a combination of cutbacks, declining enrollment and a project $13 million budget shortfall — thus the talk about possibly laying off teachers.
The board of trustees will return in session next Friday to further discuss the issue.
“We’ll be back!”, promised protestors.