HARRISBURG — The union representing professors and coaches at the 14 State System of Higher Education universities, including Slippery Rock University, will not strike this semester. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties will not consider calling a strike until the spring semester. “After thoughtful deliberation and consideration about how a strike at this time would affect our students, we have decided to postpone consideration of a strike for the rest of this semester,” said APSCUF President Steve Hicks in a statement Nov. 27. APSCUF’s contract expired June 30, 2011, along with the contracts for the other six unions in the state system. APSCUF is the only union that has not settled its contract with the state system. APSCUF and the state system cannot agree on issues such as health care costs and the use of temporary faculty. The union offered binding arbitration to settle the dispute in September, and the system rejected that. The union voted to authorize a strike Nov. 16. Negotiations between the union and the state system are scheduled for December. Hicks said there is a lot of distance between what the union wants and what state system Chancellor John Cavanaugh wants. “These negotiations remain about simple fairness,” Hicks said. He said the union does not want to strike, but wants to continue to educate students. However, he said Cavanaugh is not being fair. Still, he said a strike would be a “last resort.” “If the only way we can convince the chancellor to be fair is to go on strike, then we must stand up for ourselves,” Hicks said. Patrick Burkhart, president of SRU’s APSCUF chapter, said the decision reduces anxiety for students and university employees and will give extra time for negotiations. The spring semester begins Jan. 28. “The purpose of everything we do is to avoid a strike. So, this is obviously good news,” Burkhart said. Since the strike authorization was made, Burkhart said he has heard that negotiations have been going better. “It puts pressure on the table to make progress,” Burkhart said. Kenn Marshall, state system spokesman, said the system is committed to making an agreement with APSCUF at the bargaining table. “It is certainly good news for our students that the faculty union has chosen not to disrupt the fall semester by going on strike, but we still need to reach a resolution that is fair to everyone, especially to our students,” Marshall said. The union represents more than 6,000 faculty, including about 475 at SRU. There never has been a faculty strike at state system universities.