Today the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) released a report indicating that the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has been allowing the fourteen state-owned universities to mismanage their budgets by hiding debt in affiliated corporations, funding new construction based on questionable assumptions, and misleading the public about their financial difficulties.
APSCUF commissioned Boyer & Ritter, a Harrisburg-area accounting firm, to study the finances of the seven universities that claimed they needed to lay off faculty to balance their budgets: Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Mansfield, and Slippery Rock.
In every case, the accounting firm discovered that the university created affiliated entities or used foundations to take on debt for new construction.
“We are extremely troubled by the findings. The universities and the State System are mismanaging public dollars,” said Dr. Steve Hicks, president of APSCUF. “Every university is using a scheme to transfer debt to ‘component units,’ including the university foundations and student housing associations. Money that the public believes is dedicated to academics is instead going to these affiliates to pay for buildings.”
In many cases, the affiliated entities are taking on debt to pay for new dormitories and other lavish construction.
“Tuition, fees, and state support monies are regularly being transferred to these entities, both directly and indirectly,” Hicks stated. “The universities and the State System must be good stewards of the public dollar. Instead, their poor budgetary decisions are forcing students to double pay because universities are using both their tuition dollars and their fees to pay off debt on buildings. Our students, their families, and the public deserve to know how their money is actually being spent.”
The independent analysis of seven state-owned universities also concluded that there is a lack of oversight in State System budgeting practices.
“In terms of faculty layoffs,” Hicks pointed out, referring to the original impetus for commissioning the report, “Boyer & Ritter make it clear that the university budgets are just that – plural – and, therefore, it is hard to give credence to their budgetary claims. There are pages full of charts showing the wide divergence between the universities’ budgets and their actual collections and expenditures.”
The report states: “there appears to be minimal accountability for budgeting at the University level with the PASSHE Board of Governors.”
Hicks added, “There are no common statewide budgeting practices among the universities.”
The report also indicates that there is a demonstrable lack of quality budgeting: “in common practice once an oversight board…approves a budget, changes are not made without further oversight approval. Throughout…we noted various budget versions being utilized by each University.”
“Our universities continue to be in dire need of additional state funds, and it is clear that cuts to the system have led to some very bad decisions at universities,” Hicks commented. “We are concerned that PASSHE, the State System Board of Governors, and the individual universities’ Councils of Trustees have not exercised the fiduciary responsibility to oversee how the universities spend money.”
APSCUF has commissioned Boyer & Ritter to look at the financial statements for the other seven universities, as well.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties represents more than 6,000 faculty members and coaches at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities.
By Dr. Rob Clark, Mansfield University professor and MU-APSCUF vice president
On Friday, November 8, Mansfield University faculty and students rallied for quality higher education. Dr. Clark gave the following speech at the rally.
Mansfield University is a jewel of the Endless Mountains. It is a lifeblood to Tioga County and neighboring communities. And we are a diverse lot, we Mounties. We hail from around the state, country, and world. Yet here we gather in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania to foster or pursue the common vision of a well-rounded education rooted in the liberal arts. I’ve taught at a range of institutions, ranging from an Ivy-League university to a maximum security prison. Yet never before have I seen such a close and often trusting relationship between students and faculty—relationships that often seem to defy the superficiality so prevalent in the current era. Out of these initially formal student-professor relationships develop long term friendships and reciprocal gratitude. As faculty, there is no greater reward than seeing our students succeed.
By Jamie Reese, News Editor of the Stroud Courier and student at East Stroudsburg University
East Stroudsburg University’s Theatre Department recently presented “Lord of the Flies,” an adaptation of William Golding’s famous novel about a group of boys who are stranded on an island after a plane crash and forced to set up a society.
The boys start out united; however, there are power struggles, lapses in communication, and poor planning. Eventually two factions are created.
One faction follows Jack, the boy who most strongly seeks power and created the split, while the other follows Ralph, the original leader and main protagonist.
The groups of Jack and Ralph enter a pseudo war.
Jack carries the spears and the willingness to kill, so Jack carries the power.
Last month during APSCUF’s Legislative Assembly meeting, the delegates passed a resolution calling on the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to commit to not cutting temporary faculty hours in order to avoid requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The resolution also demands that PASSHE meet the value and affordability requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Temporary faculty members across the country have been threatened by their employers’ actions as a result of the ACA requirements. Many temporary faculty members are working at or above the 30-hour threshold at which the Affordable Care Act requires businesses to pay health insurance for their employees. Some universities intend to cut adjunct faculty members’ hours to keep from providing health benefits, claiming they will save money. While many part-time temporary faculty at PASSHE universities are offered healthcare, often at a high premium share, APSCUF’s resolution is a proactive measure to ensure that temporary faculty retain their hours and that current healthcare arrangements for part-time temporary faculty members meet the minimum affordability requirements of the PPACA.
This is Campus Equity Week across the nation. In Pennsylvania, PASSHE faculty are focused on the state system's self-destructive process of mass retrenchment.
The theme of Campus Equity Week is “Stand Up. Speak Out. Organize.”
Yesterday at East Stroudsburg, hundreds of students and faculty rallied against the proposed (“planned” would sound more thoughtful than it appears to be) retrenchments there.
Last week, Edinboro students stood in the snow to rally against the faculty and program cuts there.
We are standing up and speaking out. We can still do a lot more of both and A LOT more organizing.
By Amy Lynch-Biniek, Associate Professor of English, Kutztown University
For the past two years, I've been working on a qualitative study of contingent teachers. In particular, I've been examining how temporary faculty and permanent faculty choose text books and assignments. As a former, long-time adjunct myself (the highpoint of which was having three “part-time” contacts at a single school), my intent has been to document the concrete ways in which working conditions affect classroom practices.
What I've found is that, even in departments that offer adjuncts a context better than the national norm—union protection, benefits, above-average pay—full-time faculty's behaviors and attitudes have tangible effects on the work of their contingent colleagues. That's right, fellow tenured and tenure-track folks: our attitudes matter. We need not be openly antagonistic to have a negative impact on adjuncts' teaching. When we treat these colleagues as a separate class, as something less than colleagues, we affect their teaching. Specifically, I found that when contingent faculty are excluded from the community of the department or the campus, they may be less likely to participate in professional development and to exercise academic freedoms when planning courses.
Campus Equity Week begins today and will end on Friday, November 2. This year’s theme is Stand Up. Speak Out. Organize. Around the country, faculty organizations are building awareness about the issues facing temporary faculty members. We have seen that the online conversations can often prove to be fruitful in bringing about change and striking up a necessary conversation. The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has launched a call to action. We invite you to join the conversation online by participating in any of the following:
- Sign and Share a petition
- Get tips on using social media to raise awareness
- Follow the Campus Equity Week Facebook page
- Tell your adjunct story on the Adjunct Stories blog page
- If you have a twitter account, follow CEW and tweet about it using the hashtag #cew2013
- Wear scarlet or red on Wednesday, October 30th during Campus Equity Week
- Make the CEW logo your profile picture on all social media pages
- Include Campus Equity Week in the signature line of your emails: October 28th-November 2nd is Campus Equity Week. Learn more at ww.campusequityweek.org/2013
- Send a letter to the editor of your local or campus newspaper
- Blog for CEW 2013
- Attend an event and post about it on social media (don’t forget to hashtag)
Yesterday at Edinboro University, students rallied in solidarity with faculty members facing retrenchment. Students waited outside of President Julie Wollman’s office and requested real answers on the future of their education. They pointed out that classes are already full so cutting faculty would be a disservice to the university.
Local media outlets across the state highlighted key points of the rally. Some stories include:
Students protested across Edinboro’s campus and kept the conversation going using the hash tag #eupcuts on social media sites. Edinboro University is expected to deliver the official layoff letters to faculty members by October 30, 2013.
“In 2011 the State System’s appropriation was cut by $90 million. For the past two years we’ve seen flat-funding and minimal tuition increases. Now our universities are facing financial difficulties, and they are choosing to cut programs, faculty, and staff at the expense of our students’ education,” said Dr. Steve Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF).
Seven of the state-owned universities have indicated that faculty layoffs are possible, and three have announced plans to lay off faculty and staff. It is the largest number of proposed layoffs in the 30-year history of the State System.
“Because of declining state support, our students and their families have been forced to take on significant debt to afford college. They are paying more, but getting less. The restoration of state funding will help our universities preserve and maintain quality public higher education for the Commonwealth’s students,” Hicks stated.
Tuition and average fees now make up 17 percent of the median family income in Pennsylvania and the state currently ranks 2nd in the nation in the amount of student debt.
“We are grateful that so many legislators have joined us in the call for state support,” Hicks said. “State funding is essential for our students to continue to have access to an affordable, high quality education and the faculty who provide it.”
Over the past several years the State System universities have increased class sizes, reduced course offerings, and eliminated over 130 academic programs.
“Our universities are distinct, but they share a common vision to provide Pennsylvania’s students with a comprehensive education,” Hicks noted. “Students at all fourteen deserve to have access to a variety of programs, including philosophy, music, and foreign languages. We ask the legislature to support our public universities and ensure that current and future students receive a quality education.”
By Dr. Ken Mash, APSCUF Vice President
Over the last several years, administrative leaders have implied that universities ought to emulate businesses and prioritize efficiency. In recent weeks this argument reached a high point when at one of our universities that is planning to layoff faculty, the president openly reduced herself to a “CEO,” and referred to her students as “customers.” This one president is not alone; she merely openly voiced the pervasive attitude among our university and system leaders.