Faculty at 14 public universities of Pennsylvania went on strike early Wednesday after contract negotiations between the teachers’ union and the Higher Education System of the State of Pennsylvania broke.
About 100,000 students attend schools affected, including Millersville University, West Chester University and the University of California of Pennsylvania.
Penn State University faculty are not involved in the industrial action.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty represents about 5,500 teachers and coaches.
The strike is the first public university system in the history of 34 years, according to spokesman Kenn Marshall system. The faculty union contract expired in June 2015.
The union said in a press release that the state handed negotiators “a last best offer” Tuesday evening, and union representatives tried to negotiate through back channels shortly before midnight and waited through the night for system representatives to return to the bargaining table before calling the strike at 5 a.m. ET.
Though they had made some progress in discussions about wages, union president Ken Mash said, the two sides were still far apart on health-care costs, the role of adjunct and temporary faculty, sabbaticals and online courses.
“They really went after the quality of education in the Commonwealth” with their proposals, Mr. Mash said.
Picketing activities at all 14 campuses are expected to cause upheaval in classrooms.
“Universities will all stay open to the extent that they can,” Mr. Marshall said.
The Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, a historically black college, posted an alert on its website Wednesday suggesting that students attend scheduled classes but can leave if a professor doesn’t show up after 10 to 15 minutes. The school also noted that there may be an adjustment to students’ bills—a partial tuition refund—depending on the impact of the strike.
Slippery Rock University said some classes may be temporarily suspended beginning Thursday, though it anticipates this weekend’s homecoming activities to proceed as scheduled.
Mr. Marshall and Mr. Mash said there are no additional negotiation sessions scheduled at this time.