UM official denounces call for strike

November 09, 1991|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- The top academic officer of the University of Maryland at College Park said yesterday that a two-day strike by English professors planned for Monday was not officially sanctioned and suggested that the best way to protest budget cuts was to lobby officials in Annapolis.

"The university has been under duress because of the recent series of devastating budget cuts," J. Robert Dorfman, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said in a prepared statement.

"We can understand the widespread anxiety and frustration on our campus at this time; we have been forced by these cuts to make tough decisions It is our view, however, that it is best to direct our efforts toward helping our leaders in Annapolis understand the state's need of support for higher education," he said.

The English faculty voted last week to cancel classes Monday and Tuesday and to stage "teach-ins" to draw attention to the impact of $40 million in budget cuts. A second department, anthropology, also has a permit to demonstrate Monday.

University officials said the campus would be open as usual.

"Those who suffer here are the students. Of course, the students tend to be people who like to have strikes. But it could mean students lose their chance to graduate," said Richard C. Vitzthum, a 25-year veteran of the faculty and specialist in American literature. "There are at least some people like me, and probably lots of people, who have reservations about it," Dr. Vitzthum said.

Yesterday, Delegate Martin G. Madden, R-Prince Georges's and Howard, said a strike was counterproductive.

"I don't want any professor to lose their job, but I don't think [a strike] creates any sympathy," he said, explaining that everybody in the state is sharing the pain of massive budget cuts. Mr. Madden also said he called Robert A. Zarnoch, counsel to the General Assembly, and was told the strike would be illegal.

Glen Moomau, a graduate teaching assistant who is serving as spokesman for the striking faculty, said no professor would be coerced into striking. "I know of several professors who are just staying home, and we are not planning a picket line that would have to be crossed," he said. "But the things planned are so disruptive it might be difficult to teach a class."

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