St. Louis Community College students and teachers rally days after professor is arrested | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Community College students and teachers rally days after professor is arrested

Oct 23, 2017

St. Louis Community College’s part-time faculty continued pressuring the school administration on Monday for a new contract with a rally on its Kirkwood-based, Meramec campus.

The protest comes a few days after a professor involved in those negotiations was tackled and arrested at a Board of Trustees meeting.

About three dozen students, instructors and union organizers marched through campus to the administration building, calling for a pay increase for adjunct faculty members. Many wore bright orange T-shirts and carried signs.

Freshman Isaiah Wilson has been active in supporting the adjunct faculty’s bid for a contract and joined in the rally.

“The adjuncts are the people who are going to be teaching me, so the adjuncts should be one of my priorities,” he said.

Carol Lupardus, St. Louis Community College-Meramec’s provost,  listened to demonstrators briefly and accepted a ceremonial failing report card for her boss, Chancellor Jeff Pittman.

“I appreciate everyone coming out and showing your ideas and your thoughts. We appreciate your voice,” Lupardus said. She didn’t respond to questions asked by demonstrators.

Faculty and the SEIU labor union that represents them have been at a stalemate over a sought after 3 percent pay raise.

“In some ways, it’s about respect,” said Jeanne Smith, who is an adjunct religion instructor at St. Louis Community College. “To have what are the challenges of the job heard and to have that responded to.”

In addition to low pay, Smith said a lack of job security is a stressor for adjuncts.

Anger at professor’s arrest

The demonstrations come after Steve Taylor, an adjunct math professor who is on the negotiating team for the union, was arrested Thursday during a meeting of the St. Louis Community College Board of Trustees. He said he was upset that members of that board were trying to curtail public comment.

Taylor became disruptive and “charged” at curators, college spokeswoman Kedra Tolson said in a statement.

In a video of the meeting, Taylor is seen walking up the center aisle from the back of the room and speaking to the board. While community college trustee Rodney Gee orders Taylor to leave the room, a police officer approached Taylor from behind.

The video showed Taylor jerking forward when the officer grabbed his jacket. The officer forced Taylor to the ground in front of the trustees' table.

Taylor said he was given a no-trespassing order from the college the next day, which he considers to mean he’s been fired.

“St. Louis Community College meetings are business meetings held in a public forum,” said Tolson in a statement. “However, disruptive outbursts undermine the process of conducting business in a transparent and respectful manner. We regret that our students and members of the public had to witness this action.”

Taylor told St. Louis Public Radio Friday he “categorically denies” the college’s characterization of events.

“The police were not protecting the board from me, the police were protecting the board from any form of dissent,” he said.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney