Last week, California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) issued a statement announcing that six assistant coach contracts would not be renewed. Keith White, Coach Executive Leader for APSCUF, is issuing the following response:

“I am distressed and disappointed with President Jones’s and the California University leadership’s decision to non-renew six assistant coaches. While I am fully aware of the limits of financial resources on all State System schools, it is still quite a shock to have the heart of an athletic program hit so hard and with such little discussion or warning.

“Assistant coaches play an integral part in the lives of our student athletes and the athletic department. They are mentors, recruiters, fundraisers, and they steer the students to degree completion. For those students who participate in women’s soccer, men’s soccer, baseball, football, softball, and volleyball programs, this is not simply a ‘workforce adjustment.’ It changes their lives.

“It is hard to see how, exactly, this is a wise decision on the long-term health of the university, and it is difficult to see why this decision could be done so rashly and without university-wide discussion.

“Student recruitment and retention should must be a top priority at Cal U. Removing six talented individuals who make such an impact in the lives of Cal U students is shortsighted and alarming. We all need to take a hard look at how the university prioritizes its expenditures to make sure that they maximize our students’ learning experiences.”

Yesterday, the Auditor General released findings related to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in a performance audit. Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, APSCUF President, is issuing the following response:

“During yesterday’s press conference, Auditor General DePasquale began by stating that the Commonwealth contributes only 28% of the cost for a student to attend a public university in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth currently funds the state system at the same level it did in 1997-98.

“The Auditor General is absolutely correct that the State System needs the Governor and the General Assembly to allocate additional funds to stem the tide of rising tuition and overwhelming student debt. Governor Wolf’s budget is a step in the right direction. His two-year plan to fully restore funding to the State System correctly prioritizes public higher education and works to secure the future of Pennsylvania’s working families.

“In 2011, Governor Corbett cut the State System budget by 18 percent or $90 million dollars. Since then, with no additional funding, the State System has eliminated 270 full-time faculty positions and discontinued over 150 academic programs. Because the budget could not be balanced on cuts alone, the Board of Governors raised tuition in an effort to survive the drastic cut.

“A recent economic impact study concluded that for every $1 spent on the State System, $11 returns to the Commonwealth. Over 90 percent of our students are residents of the Commonwealth, and 80 percent of our graduates remain in Pennsylvania and contribute to its economy. All Pennsylvanians benefit when we properly invest in our state-owned universities.

“Our professors and coaches hope that the General Assembly will work with Governor Wolf to ensure a strong path to full restoration so that our current and future students will have access to high-quality public higher education at an affordable cost.”

Good morning, Chairman Pichini, Chancellor Brogan, Governors, University Presidents, and guests. My name is Kenneth Mash, and I am the President of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. APSCUF represents the approximately 6,000 faculty and coaches employed at our 14 great public universities.

I want to emphasize the word “public” again. The universities that comprise this System are public universities. It has gotten harder and harder to remember that. As Secretary Hanger pointed out yesterday, over the course of the last two administrations our universities have struggled with declining resources.

When this system was founded, the Commonwealth paid for 2/3 of the cost of student’s education. Today students foot 75% of the cost. After attending our public institutions, the average student graduates with $30,000 in debt. That number would have been unthinkable to the bipartisan forces that founded this system.

Of course, over the last 4 years the financial state of the majority of our universities has gotten progressively worse. Under the previous administration we had an 18% cut followed by three years of no increases.

Even as 42 states increased funding for public higher education, ours did not. Pennsylvania now ranks 49th in funding for public higher education.

Since the 2011 cut, resident undergraduate tuition has jumped 17% or over $1,000 per year and average fees have increased by 18%. This Board has approved several tuition pilot programs that could increase tuition for students 25%. How much would that be a threat to the very notion of public higher education?

Just last year, similar to patterns from the years before, the State System faced a $58 million deficit due to years of cuts. Approximately $30 million was filled with another 3% tuition increase. A $28 million hole was left unfilled by this Board.

The remaining deficit was closed by continued cuts on campus. These cuts have already placed 77 programs in moratorium including key programs, like music. It also led to major reductions in faculty and major reductions to staff.

Last year, in the face of the $28 million gap, the Board sent the university presidents on their way thanking them in advance for the hard decisions they were forced to make. There was little if any discussion about the implications of those cuts. There was no talk of needing to raise tuition further to bridge the gap.

After the previous governor announced in 2012 that he wouldn’t cut the budget further, our then Chancellor stood at a press conference with the Governor, and thanked him for that. Instructions were given by the administration to keep tuition capped at the rate of inflation.

The Board complied, and there were no public recriminations. There was no great debate about the needs of the students and the universities. There certainly was no great concern voiced about how the Board could possibly meet any salary “demands” my association might make at the negotiations table.

Last week, April 3rd marked the first night of Passover. It is tradition at the Seder – the Passover dinner ritual – for the youngest in the room to as the 4 questions – which I recited many times. The first of those questions is “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

I am certainly no longer the youngest in the room. But after the watching the committee meetings yesterday, as the sun set, I was and I am still motivated to ask, why was yesterday afternoon so different from other afternoons over the last 4 years.

The only difference I can see is that we now have a governor who genuinely wants to restore public higher education. Over two years, he has proposed fully restoring the $90 million cut. He wants no tuition increases because he foresees the Commonwealth working to meet its obligation to public higher education. It would make for a tough year, but it also makes it a lot less tough than the preceding four years.

Thank you Governor Wolf for that, and thank you Secretary Hanger for delivering that message. Thank you Representative Hannah for making the motion to try to bring that about.

I do not know what action the Board will take today or what will be discussed, but after yesterday I am still wondering, why was last night different from all other nights?

Yesterday, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (State System) came to an agreement to resolve all but one of the grievances and unfair labor practice charges. These charges were filed by the Association against administrators at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) involving multiple violations of the collective bargaining agreement and state regulations.

After the Association had presented its case in one of the grievances, the System offered its initial settlement proposal for all grievances.  That proposal was rejected by the Association, but negotiations continued to resolve all but one grievance.

To create a fair settlement, APSCUF countered the System’s initial proposal with language that addressed several other management violations of the contract, including the improper transfer of eight faculty to other departments, ignoring the curriculum process as defined by the CBA, and the local agreement on how programs are placed into moratorium. Additionally, the parties will continue to pursue one retrenchment-related grievance to arbitration.

As a result of the Association’s work, the two remaining music faculty members will remain at the university to teach general education music courses in the Theater Department, and East Stroudsburg University agreed to take various other steps to resolve grievances.   

Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, APSCUF President, is issuing the following statement:

“Yesterday’s agreement that resulted in the retention of the two music faculty is in the best interest of the students at ESU. While nothing can possibly make up for the damage that has already been done to people’s careers and their livelihoods, ESU students deserve to have music courses, and we are hopeful that this can be the beginning of a change in tone from the ESU administration.  A better atmosphere can only be initiated by the University’s president, and our students will be far better off for it.

Retaining the two music faculty members is an economically sound decision for the University because they will be primarily teaching general education courses that raise revenue.  Last year, the ESU administration publicly projected that there would be a $7.6 million deficit, but instead ended that same year with over $3 million in surplus.  None of this needed to happen.”

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) and State System negotiators met yesterday, Monday, March 23, 2015 at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg. The two sides primarily discussed the financial health of the State System. The negotiators will meet again on April 13, 2015 at the state APSCUF office in Harrisburg.

Friday, 20 March 2015 14:43

ASPCUF Negotiations Statement -- 3/20/15

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF) and State System negotiators met today, Friday, March 20, 2015 at the APSCUF office in Harrisburg. The two sides primarily discussed the financial health of the State System and briefly discussed retrenchment. The negotiators will meet again on April 10, 2015 at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg.

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