A faculty strike at Mt. Hood Community College would produce nothing other than an alienated public and a disillusioned student body.

The faculty union and the college administration both need to take a hard look at the potential consequences of a strike before continuing down the current stalemated path.

The union and administration have been negotiating for nearly a year over a new contract to replace the one that expired last August. The two sides are scheduled to participate in a mediation session today (Wednesday, March 16) in what will be one of the last opportunities to avoid a final and potentially disastrous showdown over the contract.

The college board already has declared an impasse in its talks with the faculty. That means the next step would be unilateral imposition of the contract - which then could lead to an actual strike.

Perhaps there are people on either side of this dispute who are itching for such an outcome. If they are, they utterly lack insight into what a strike would do to the college's reputation or its support within the community.

If the faculty strikes, what will that mean for the college's longstanding goal of getting voters to approve a bond measure to upgrade the 40-year-old campus? What will it mean in terms of support for the Mt. Hood Community College Foundation? What will it mean for student enrollment? For partnerships with businesses and other educational institutions?

The answer to all those questions is the same: It will mean nothing good.

This is a dangerous game that's being played, and it's bad for the college, for East County and the students. It's time for the faculty and the administration to meet, resolve the issues and move on. Everyone will lose if there's a strike. We believe the faculty still has a lot to concede in terms of sharing benefit costs and agreeing to wages that are in tune with the current fiscal environment.

But the only way to get those concessions is for the board to engage in real negotiations. Both sides must do what's right for the college - and that requires them to do something different than what they've been doing for the past year.

They actually have to talk and they actually have to listen.

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