Oakland University, a public research university of 18,000 students located just north of Detroit, has been shut down by a faculty strike on the first day of the fall semester.

The campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors has been in contract talks with OU since mid-May, but the two sides remain divided on issues of pay, workload, and health benefits. Negotiations are continuing with the assistance of a state-appointed mediator.

In a statement announcing the closing, the university suggested that its “difficult economic circumstances” limited its ability to meet the AAUP’s contract demands. The union, however, claims that while the state’s “economic crisis is real, Oakland’s is not.”

Some three hundred faculty and students rallied at the campus this afternoon in support of the strikers, and negotiations are expected to continue through the holiday weekend.

Update: The Detroit News says OU student government president Kristin Dayag supports the strike.