Tuesday, 27 January 2015 15:57

In Memoriam: Professor Burrell Brown

It is with great sadness that we at APSCUF wish to pay tribute to Professor Burrell Brown: educator, civil rights leader, California University Chapter President, Statewide Vice President, member of the Executive Council, negotiations team member, colleague, husband, father, grandfather, and friend.

Burrell’s contributions to California University of Pennsylvania, where he taught since 1989 as a professor of Business and Economics, are unquantifiable. He was described by his students as a down-to-earth instructor who would always do everything in his power to help, and his colleagues routinely described him as a man who cared enormously about his students. As both a professor and a Department Chair, Dr. Brown was known for his feverish work ethic and his strong sense of commitment. In every sense of the word, he was a leader.

The epitome of a union stalwart, Burrell’s tireless involvement with APSCUF included serving on four negotiation teams, chairing the Health Care Cost Containment Committee, serving as statewide Vice President, and — most recently — serving as Faculty Officer-at-Large for the Executive Committee and chair of the personnel committee. Over the last several months, he had taken on working with faculty at Cheyney University, which he visited frequently, to assist our faculty with the many complex issues on that campus.  A visit from Dr. Brown to the State APSCUF Office was always appreciated by his colleagues and APSCUF staff. Though always hard at work — often seen writing fervently before a meeting even began —he easily built a feeling of camaraderie with all who worked with him. In all he did, his caring, his devotion, and his integrity burned brightly.

“He was the kind of person you could call friend, and you’d know he’d be there to have your back at any time,” said Bill Chabala, Burrell’s friend and fellow negotiations team member. “He was extremely thoughtful and extremely optimistic. Even when faced with challenges, he could keep people calm, analyze a situation, and come up with a win-win.”

Burrell’s other achievements were just as great — if not greater — than those within academia. He was very passionate about civil rights, heavily involved with a number of organizations dedicated to the success of African-Americans. These accomplishments included serving for 20 years on the Legal Counsel to the Pennsylvania State NAACP, and being a founding member of the National Black MBA’s Pittsburgh chapter. Burrell helped found the Homer S. Brown Law Association, an organization dedicated to formulating goals for African-American lawyers, law students, and the community at large. He also served as President for all three of these organizations.

Other organizations of which he was a member included the Governor Advisory Commission on African American Affairs and the Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness, on which he served as Chair.

His ceaseless work and achievement both in the academic field and outside of it won Burrell numerous awards, some of which included the Pennsylvania NAACP President Service Award, the California University Award for Distinguished Service, and recognition in Who’s Who in America. Though these accolades were deserved, it was Dr. Brown’s tireless passion for teaching, as well as writing and speaking on diversity, which motivated him to attain such success.

Burrell’s greatest legacy, of course lies with his family — his wife, Anita Brown; his three sons, Julian, Martin, and Frederick; and his two granddaughters, Jalinn and Raiven. Though Burrell made a lasting impact on everyone he met, there is surely none more important than that which he left upon his loved ones.

The loss of a man with the character, spirit, and heart of Burrell Brown is an enormous loss to the organizations and communities of which he will always remain a part. The basis of a union is solidarity, to come together and stand strong in the face of immense hardship. Truly, this loss is the greatest hardship we at APSCUF could face. We will stand strong together, union brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends, and we will remember fondly and be motivated by the life and accomplishments of Professor Burrell Brown.

 by Jonathan Persinger, Communications Specialist 


Professor Helen Bieber, Secretary of the Executive Committee and Chairperson of Kutztown University’s Electronic Media Department, has experienced a number of turns in her career of more than 35 years. She’s worked teaching 8th and 9th grade math, producing local programming, for the Miami Herald, and teaching video production/communication law at the college level. In 2013, she even brought home a Crystal Pillar award to Kutztown.  

Not only is she secretary on the Executive Committee—which works to make sure the policies and instructions of the Legislative Assembly are carried out—but she is the longest-serving member of the EC in its history.

As Secretary of the Executive Committee, Bieber’s duties include maintaining a record of EC meetings and assemblies, along with roll call and ensuring proper and accurate counting during votes and elections. With the help of APSCUF’s Lisa Demko, she ensures accurate minutes and documents are kept.

Bieber first became associated with APSCUF when Jim Tinsman, former State President and KU faculty member, encouraged younger members of the faculty to become involved at the state level.

“He called me personally and first got me involved with an ad hoc committee,” Bieber said. “Which led me to becoming an alternate delegate, then a delegate, after which I made a decision to run for office. The rest, as they say…is history.”

Bieber hasn’t spent her entire career in education. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Mathematics from Clarion University, she taught 8th and 9th grade math. While pursing graduate education, her previous experience as a student worker in Clarion’s College of Communications led her to pursue an assistantship and a master’s in communication from her alma mater.

But even when working in cable production and at the Miami Herald, Bieber couldn’t shake the desire to teach. She became involved with a Junior Achievement program in order to teach young people about video production.

I ended up leaving my job, going to the University of Miami for a semester teaching Video Production courses, decided to stay in higher education, and never looked back,” Bieber said. “I knew I had to teach.”

These practical experiences have led Bieber to take a hands-on approach in regard to teaching.

For students to understand the intricacies, the aesthetics, the process…they have to do it themselves, get their hands-on practice, critique themselves and each other and improve,” Bieber said. “Being able to say that I’ve been there and done that lends some credibility to what I’m teaching.”

In addition to her classes and EC duties, Bieber is heavily involved with student media productions at KU. In 2013, she and her students were awarded a Crystal Pillar award by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Her students swept the nominations 

“I have been assured that the members judge our students on the same criteria as is used for judging entries of professionals,” Bieber said. “We’re not cut any slack because they were student productions. So that was a tremendous boost and a validation of our work and our students’ talent.”

Having put in more than 30 years at KU, Bieber hopes to make sure that when she leaves her department, it is left in good hands and with a solid footing. In the meantime, she offers some advice for students pursuing a career in video production.

More and more companies are looking for means to get their messages out.  Don’t feel the only doors open are the traditional ones,” Bieber said. “Students need to pursue what they’re interested in. The opportunities may not knock a second time.”

Helen Bieber currently teaches at Kutztown University. You can find more information on her courses & her work at the KU Department of Electronic Media website.

Earlier today, the Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale, released an audit of Cheyney University. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties (APSCUF) represents the over 6,000 faculty and coaches of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), including over 100 faculty and coaches at Cheyney.

APSCUF President, Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, issued the following statement about the audit:

“The 18% cut to Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities in 2011 has caused significant damage to our colleges and our students. It should come as no surprise that Cheyney University, the smallest of our universities, faces dire circumstances. This cut began a vicious cycle. It’s hard to attract and retain quality students without adequate funding. Low enrollment then leads to even less funding for the university. It is tragic that this cut would threaten the existence of the Commonwealth’s only state-owned Historically Black College and University (HBCU) – the oldest HBCU in the country.

“While the financial situation at Cheyney is indeed dire, it is not fatal.  All parties – lawmakers, the State System of Higher Education, students, faculty, and administrators – must come together to preserve a university that has an important role in the 21st century.  It is a place that is uniquely positioned to provide opportunities for students to succeed. Cheyney’s faculty are actively involved in ensuring student success.

 “Every one of our 14 universities has struggled as a result of the 2011 cuts.  Key programs have been eliminated, class sizes have grown, and student services have been reduced.  At the same time, the costs to students have escalated. At the system’s inception, the state covered 75% of the costs of college. Today, that state support has dwindled to 23%, shifting the burden to students and their families.

“The solution for Cheyney, as I see it, is two-fold: increase the state appropriation to the state system, and second, take immediate measures to increase enrollment.  APSCUF and our faculty across the system are committed to do whatever we can to see both happen. Cheyney University is a Pennsylvania jewel, and we look forward to working with the Chancellor, University officials, lawmakers, Governor-Elect Wolf, and all others who respect the university’s past, as well as its future.”

Friday, 12 December 2014 12:09

APSCUF Negotiations Statement - 12/12/14

On Friday morning, December 12, 2014, negotiators representing the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) and the State System of Higher Education met in Harrisburg. The collective bargaining agreement between the parties expires on June 30, 2015. APSCUF's negotiators focused on the Association's priorities of ensuring the availability of quality public higher education for Pennsylvania's working families and the ongoing need to attract and maintain high quality faculty to service students at Pennsylvania's 14 public universities. On Friday, APSCUF also announced that APSCUF Vice President Jamie S. Martin, Ph.D. of Indiana University of Pennsylvania will serve as the faculty negotiations team chairperson. Negotiators will next meet on March 20, 2015.

Legendary jazz artist, Phil Woods, wrote the following letter to President Welsh about keeping all music alive at East Stroudsburg University (ESU), including their choir. If you have not done so already, please consider signing the petition to Save ESU Music. Also, you can find up-to-date information on the Save ESU Facebook page





Hello Marcia,

This is an appeal for James Maroney and the American Songbook.

I know that ESU can exist without a military band marching around urging young brutes to inflict concussions on each other. And terminating the jazz department is understood – it will be extinct soon due to a lack of interest and extreme fossilization. But it seems rather short sighted to cut a program that is America’s only original art form.

And a school without songs is doomed.  Amusing aside: music schools don’t have school songs or football teams.

But a University without vocal music would be barren indeed. I cannot imagine no Gershwin, no Porgy, no Bess? No cowardly Lion? No Ellington sacred music? No Chanson d’amor? No Sondheim? No “America the Beautiful” by Irving Berlin? Just the awful “Star Bangled Banner”? No Bernstein “West Side Story”. No “Carousel” or “Oklahoma”? No Judy singing “Have Your Self a Merry Little Christmas” and “Easter Parade” is a deal-breaker. I for one need calendared reminders.

 So what is left but a bunch of hip-hoppers and rappers with guitars turned up to 11!

The bebop grapevine says you are firing all music people then re-staffing when needed. I would suggest keeping Prof James Maroney. He is one of the finest vocal teachers I have ever known and I have met many. He recently took his ESU choral group to the White House. D. C. loved it.

Please keep Jim Maroney


by Jonathan Persinger, Communications Specialist 

After serving as APSCUF President for six years, Dr. Steve Hicks has returned to teaching English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. His time with State APSCUF was an interesting one, and the acclimation process of returning to teaching has offered its own challenges & rewards.

Hicks took an interest in the field of English early on, being a voracious reader as well as editor of his high school newspaper. This led to an English degree, followed by a career in teaching. His affinity for APSCUF came from a simple place: the desire to help.

"I think it is important to help people, and that's central to APSCUF's mission," Hicks said. "I also am a big advocate for shared governance, and that's another aspect of our mission."

Hicks has been involved with APSCUF in some capacity for seventeen years. While he never expected to serve as State APSCUF President, he would go on to run three times before being succeeded by his Vice President – and the current President – Dr. Kenneth M. Mash. His tenure encompassed a number of major moments for the organization.

"Not much can beat the relief of the faculty contract settlement in February '13 after over two years of negotiating," Hicks said. "Close behind is settling the coaches contract in December '12. Both came from long sessions at the table. For faculty, it was two days of almost 15 hours each; with coaches, it was by far the longest single day of discussions."

He also fondly remembers APSCUF's organizing work in 2011, focused on Governor Corbett's proposed 50% cut to the PASSHE budget.

"The staff, faculty, and coaches did a lot of push-back, including our largest rally ever on the Capitol steps, with hundreds of attendees. That day was a big triumph and showed us we could organize and have a big visual impact on the Hill. "

Though he has left Harrisburg, Hicks's work with the organization continues. Upon returning to teaching, he began a two-year term on the Executive Council. Under the request of President Mash, he remains a liaison to CFHE (the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education) and the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in the Academy. He also serves on the local Executive Council and the local Meet & Discuss team.

Hicks has found his return to the classroom both "amazingly familiar and challengingly new." He returns to a largely-unchanged department of faculty, along with the same office and same desk he left six years before. However, not everything has remained as it was.

"The online education software, D2L, changed shortly after I left, so figuring it out has been a challenge," Hicks said of the many external changes he faces. "In fact, today, I have a voicemail, but can't get to it because the password is a mystery to me."

Hicks himself has changed, bringing with him lessons learned from his time at APSCUF.

"I learned, in a very tangible way, the value of communication, not just how but how often and in what form. I also learned something about the shifting sands of politics – you can't always be an ideologue and get things done."

He also finds himself more comfortable in front of a class, having made many public appearances during his time as President.

Hicks hopes that in the next year, APSCUF can restore some of the budget cut in 2011, as well as settle the faculty and coach collective bargaining agreements which both terminate in summer of '15.

His personal plans include recruiting students for a summer program to London. He is also co-editor of the Journal for Collective Bargaining in the Academy (JCBA), which is sponsored by the National Center, and is working on an article regarding collective bargaining agreements with faculty after the 2008 Recession. Courses taught by Hicks this semester include Composition, Introduction to Literature, English Literature Before 1800, and an independent study on Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

In his free time, Hicks loves to read, travel, and play golf. Despite his best efforts this summer, his golf game remains "nowhere near where I would like it to be." He also credits his wife, Karen, as one of the most important fixtures in his life.

"Karen is not just a great life companion and love, but one of those people who is always so positive and supportive you feel good about whatever you do," Hicks said. "Without her, my life would have been a much less full and focused thing."

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