Have a Merry Christmas but a worrisome New Year was the underlying message coming from state-owned university faculty this week.
In an open letter to students at the 14 state-owned universities, the union representing faculty said it won't consider striking before the Christmas break.
"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," the letter states.
That's good news for students because it means they will be able to finish the semester without interruption. The last week of classes starts Monday, with finals starting Dec. 10.
But it's only a temporary reprieve, and a strike threat remains on the table. Students could face similar worries about whether their professors and instructors will walk off the job before the spring semester winds down.
This month, members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties voted to allow leaders to call a strike because of a prolonged contract dispute. Chapter presidents of 10 of the 14 unions would have to agree to begin a strike.
Among the unresolved issues between the union and the State System of Higher Education are salaries for part-time instructors, health care and retiree benefits, and pay for teaching online courses.
The union asks students to write to SSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh to bring pressure for a deal.
There are signs that a strike still can be averted. In a sign of patience, the union has worked without a contract for 18 months, and a couple of negotiating sessions are scheduled next month.
With luck, the two sides will be able to hammer out a deal.
But without a contract, the possibility of a strike will hang over the heads of students like a sword of Damocles once again in the spring semester.