It's too early to fully digest what's just happened. And as I've yet to fully shed my spokesperson Dave persona, I'm not going to try to step back and try anything like a full analysis. But here are a few things that I think are pretty clearly true--though I'm sure many comments will dispute the significance of these things and suggest other truths.
1. Whatever its earlier intentions may have been, by the day of the strike deadline the administration had decided that it was in its best interest to have the FA strike. By handing out major concessions to the other three unions, the administration guaranteed that those locals would settle. The administration offered the FA absolutely nothing on Wednesday of last week. It made not even the slightest superficial concession to provide the FA with a fig leaf to allow it to call off the strike, had it wished to do so. The FA was thus left with the option of abandoning the strike, which would have meant showing the strike to be a bluff, forever removing the tool of a credible strike threat and probably dooming the FA to oblivion, or striking. So we went on strike. The administration then waited 48 hours to see if the FA could pull off a strike. We could. So they called us to resume negotiations.
2. The tentative agreement in the works between the FA and BOT differs substantially from the last administrative proposal before the strike. Full analysis of just how and how much it differs will have to wait, but that it differs is I think obviously indisputable. Could the FA have gained this much without a strike? Well, we would have been happy to have done so, and had been trying to do so for 16 months. Could the administration have ceded this much ground without a strike? Ask them.
3. The strike was an existential struggle for the FA. The FA would have been in very difficult circumstances had it either failed to strike after saying it would, or lost the strike (by failing to secure meaningful concessions from the administration after the strike began). The very least that can be said, I think, is that the FA survived the strike. The FA is not out of the woods yet, of course--the FSN is still collecting petitions in order to put an end to the FA. I believe the FA is far stronger than it was before the strike began, but that is of course a matter of opinion, at least at this stage: we will have to see how things turn out.
4. Student support for the FA was not only a means that helped the FA to continue and strengthen the strike, thus gaining further concessions, but itself a constituent part of what the FA was able to achieve. The student rallies weren't simply means to some victory, but were a victory in themselves. The hundreds of students marching with faculty across campus strengthened both faculty and students here, I think, in ways that can help shift the power structure on campus, and could well result in increases in enrollment large enough to offset those students scared off by the strike itself. This is a campus where students have found their voice. While that evidently frightened and disturbed some people, for others it will (with rather more justification, in my view) instead show that SIUC is the sort of place students should consider choosing for themselves. The student support was not, precisely speaking, for the FA as an organization or for the exact positions the FA was supporting at the bargaining table. It was and is, I think, rather a more widespread vote of confidence in SIUC faculty. This seems to me to be an altogether good thing for SIUC.
5. The FA members I know feel good about what we've accomplished. This doesn't mean that we are glad that we went on strike, only that, since we were forced to go on strike (as per #1 above), we are proud of how well we held together and pursued our goals. We managed to get people to the picket lines, feed them, support them, maintain a respectable media presence, and hold the whole thing together. And we made progress at the bargaining table. We're proud of that. FA opponents may believe that we are delusional, of course, but one necessary (if insufficient) condition for FA success is the FA believing it has secured a success. That's what we believe. I think most in the FA feel better not only about the FA but about working at SIUC--thanks largely to the student support we received. We obviously do not think the administration acted wisely in provoking this strike. But the experience of the strike has inspired us to go back and serve the students who supported us with renewed energy and commitment.
6. The administration promised rather more than it could deliver. It is true that the majority of classes on campus continued to meet with their regular instructors (something that was guaranteed by settling with the NTT and GA unions, even had more TT faculty honored the strike). But "qualified substitutes" did not magically appear to cover for (i.e., against) faculty who honored the strike. By requiring students to attend classes whose sole point was attendance (so as to produce the appearance but not the reality of "business as usual"), the administration helped stoke student resentment, increasing student support for the FA.
7. Administrative attempts to stifle communication also backfired. The Facebook censorship scandal was the most egregious here, and in keeping with the old maxim that the coverup is worse than the crime, the administration's claim that only obscene FB postings were deleted was very clearly false. This story quickly gained a life of its own, and the administration eventually realized its error and reopened the Facebook page to all comments. The administration also attempted to stifle communication by locking striking faculty out of their SIUC email accounts. This action, while legal, was obviously designed to cut off communication between the FA and the faculty--and particularly to cut off communication between the FA and non-members, as the FA had made a big effort to collect non-SIUC emails for members. But of course in this day and age any faculty wanting to know the FA side of the story could simply go to the FA website (or this one). The administration had more success cutting off electronic communication between students and striking faculty--but of course this "success" did not exactly reflect positively on the administration. At any rate, administrative efforts to shut down communication brilliantly illustrated that the FA's push for transparency was justified.
8. On the whole, all the major players--FA, administration, and students, acted with restraint. This augurs well for the future. The FA chose not to picket the Open House, and FA picketers were overwhelmingly friendly, positive, and creative, rather than shrill, negative, or angry. So too the administration deserves some credit for restraint. Unless they stir up trouble by attacking faculty or students for bogus violations of some obscure & unpromulgated regulation against things like carrying signs in the student center--fears stoked by their back to work proposal--the administration will deserve a certain amount of credit for not attempting to stifle student demonstrations or push those faculty picket teams who were on campus off campus. Nor did the administration carry through on its threats to cut off health insurance and other benefits (efforts which would have cost far more in administrative costs than any costs savings to the university). Most importantly, the student protest was overwhelmingly for faculty, not against the administration.
As it stands, then, I believe that those faculty who went on strike and those students who marched in support of us believe that while it was unfortunate that a strike was necessary, the strike itself was an empowering and positive experience. I cannot speak for those who worked on campus, through choice or necessity, during the strike. There will obviously be tensions and divisions going forward. I hope that those on both sides will realize that we are better off putting those divisions behind us, treating each other professionally and with respect, and concentrating on what is in the best interest of our students and our university going forward.