Our guest message today is from Shippensburg University senior Olivia J. Straka. Straka appeared last month with APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash on "Behind the Headlines" to discuss the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's need for more funding and the importance of attending next week's rally.
I hope this letter finds you warm, fed, clothed, and worry-free. I am writing to you about a rally that APSCUF is holding Feb. 8 in the main rotunda of the Capitol. Why am I, a second-semester senior writing to you about a rally? It's because of students who will be reading this who aren't warm, fed, clothed, or worry-free because the price of their tuition continues to skyrocket, year after year.
I picked a state school because I was looking for an affordable education, and although three years ago that's what I had, each semester that opportunity has slipped further and further away from me. As state funding falls for our schools, tuition rises, and so do class sizes. I know of many students who can no longer afford an education from any state school, and they are being forced to drop out of college because of lack of state support.
Although this is a terrible situation, there is something I want you to know: You can make a difference. You, reading this email, getting fired up thinking about friends who are struggling to make ends meet, can do something. Come to the rally. APSCUF is sponsoring buses from every PASSHE school to Harrisburg. Show the state that we need funding and that it needs to invest in the next generation of Pennsylvanians. Be a part of this change.
Olivia J. Straka
Political Science Major
Lieutenant Governor's Intern Pi Sigma Alpha Treasurer
"If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing." -Margaret Thatcher
Remarks of Dr. Kenneth M. Mash
Before the Board of Governors
Jan. 21, 2016
Chairman Piccinni, Governors, Chancellor Brogan, university presidents,
My name is Kenneth Mash, and I am the president of APSCUF, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.
On behalf of the all the faculty and coaches at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities, I would like to extend a welcome to the newest board members and to thank you for your service.
While there are many issues I would like to raise this morning, the one I will raise is one that we are all aware of. For now, the State System is once again flat funded for this year. That means that, following the 18 percent reduction in allocation in 2011 — 23 percent, if one counts federal funds — we are one of only a couple of states in the nation that has not seen any restoration in funding since the cuts of the Great Recession.
As a result, our universities have eliminated programs by the score, cut department budgets, delayed maintenance, cut athletic programs, reduced departmental resources, delayed hiring, decreased student internships, lessened money for scholarly activities, instituted faculty and staff layoffs, etc., etc. It has gotten to the point that it is almost laughable when someone from outside the System suggests that the way to deal with budget shortfalls in the tens of millions is to reduce fat and waste. It is only laughable because it is just not at all funny.
Even with these reductions that increasingly threaten our universities’ abilities to provide the quality education that is mandated by law, our students and their families have had to endure ever-increasing tuition increases and fees. When the System was first established, the Commonwealth contributed 75 percent of the cost of a Pennsylvania student’s education. Now, that number is less than 25 percent. Should those universities that were granted permission by this Board implement the per-credit tuition plans, most students at those universities will be paying 25 percent higher tuition.
All these years of underfunding are enough. This Board recognized this when you requested an allocation that exceeds the 2011 cut in state allocation.
With this in mind, APSCUF is helping to organize a rally in the Capitol Rotunda — United We Stand, Underfunded We Fail — at noon Feb. 8. Our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of public higher education will be there to emphasize the impact of these cuts on their lives, but also how much more our universities and our students could do for the Commonwealth if they were properly funded.
I invite you all to participate in the rally and to encourage others to participate, so that we may supplement the good work that is done by the System’s Advocacy Day. We would ask that our university administrations help encourage students (who don’t have class or are excused), faculty (who are not teaching), and all others to participate.
We have already received support from several student organizations, and we are working with more. We are looking at the day not as an opportunity to point fingers or to assign blame, but rather to raise awareness to our needs and — with apologies to the Chancellor — to discuss infinite possibilities.
Thank you all in advance for your assistance. I certainly hope that this is an event for which we can all unite.
After more than five decades at Slippery Rock University, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's longest-term faculty member officially retires Jan. 8.
Wilma J. Cavill, assistant professor of safety management, began working at SRU in fall 1958. An SRU alumna herself, she graduated in 1952 and taught gym and swimming at Ben Franklin Junior High School in New Castle before returning to her alma mater.
She joined APSCUF right away.
What now is a faculty and coaches union then was a professional association for instructors at the Commonwealth’s teacher colleges. When APSCUF took on collective bargaining in the early 1970s, Cavill dove into the union’s cause, serving throughout the years in a roster of capacities, including as chapter president, on executive council, and as state vice president.
“APSCUF has made a major difference in all of our lives as faculty,” she said. “We would not be the same without APSCUF — because of the collective bargaining agreement. When you’re organized, there’s power.”
And APSCUF would not be the same without Cavill’s contributions, President Kenneth M. Mash said.
“No matter what her title, Wilma has worked tirelessly to serve APSCUF and its causes,” he said.
Before this semester wrapped, Slippery Rock University faculty members honored Cavill’s years of service at a meeting.
“She’s a legend,” said Joseph Cali, chairman of SRU’s department of safety management. “Everybody (at the meeting) had a story about how she had just touched their lives.”
His own story involved another meeting, 15 years ago, when Cali had to make a difficult announcement about his health.
Cavill sat to his right.
“She knew that I was in big-time distress,” Cali said. “All the sudden, I felt this hand go on top of my hand. It was the most calming thing I’ve ever experienced. I was able then to talk to the faculty. I’ll remember her for that as long as I live. She reached out, and she really helped me.”
Cavill, who turned 85 yesterday, said she has no big plans for retirement: a little more domestic travel, some volunteer work, and she might sit in on some classes.
“I’m happy to be able to be as healthy as I am to have served as long as I have," she said.
Photo/Slippery Rock University
Retired APSCUF members are in the Capitol today talking with legislators about a state pension proposal that undermines retirement security for public-sector employees. What can you do to help the cause? Contact your legislators and tell them to oppose any pension bill that could jeopardize the retirement security of APSCUF members and other dedicated public-sector employees.
As contract negotiations drag on between the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties and the State System, we’re especially alert to faculty-union news from elsewhere in the U.S.
And there’s been a lot of it lately. At a lot of institutions.
In the commonwealth, there’s Duquesne University’s treatment of adjunct faculty members in its English department. The university last month laid off 10 of the department’s 11 part-time instructors. (APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash sent a letter to Duquesne President Charles Dougherty urging him to rescind the firings and bargain fairly with Duquesne’s adjunct union.)
Meanwhile, University of Pittsburgh faculty members are in nascent stages of unionization.
In New Jersey, Rider University’s faculty union struck a deal that saved jobs and more than a dozen majors — in exchange for a wage freeze and other concessions.
Then there’s the City University of New York, where dozens of faculty members were arrested early this month as they demanded a salary increase. The educators have been working without a contract since 2010. Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents CUNY faculty and staff, continues negotiations this week.
On the opposite coast, more than 1,000 California Faculty Association members rallied Tuesday in support of increased wages. CFA voted in October to authorize a strike that could occur as early as January.
For updates on APSCUF’s and other universities' negotiation news, follow us on Twitter.
APSCUF issued the following response today after negotiations with the State System:
The State System today rejected the one-year compromise the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties proposed in mid-October.
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education countered with a proposal that would cost faculty members thousands of dollars more for healthcare.
APSCUF, which represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at the State System universities, could not agree to such major changes, President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said.
Neither the contract deal Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf reached with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees nor the contract the State System reached with the State College and University Professional Association contained changes to healthcare costs. Earlier this week, the State System unilaterally increased healthcare costs and changed benefits for its managers.
“It is simply unacceptable for the State System to treat its faculty differently than other state employees,” Mash said. “We believe they wanted to sabotage our concessionary one-year offer with incendiary changes to our healthcare.
“We are a democratic organization, and we will go back to our members to see how they want us to proceed. It’s nothing short of absurd that amid an atmosphere of uncertainty, the System would act so provocatively toward its faculty.”
Without a contract, it becomes more difficult for faculty and coaches to provide a quality education for the more than 100,000 students enrolled in the commonwealth’s 14 publicly owned universities, Mash said.
The deal APSCUF offered in October was in line with the one negotiated between the governor and AFSCME. The System had reached similar agreements with its other unions. The offer included a one-year interim contract and a step increase effective in January. It also called for a continuation of monies for faculty research and for monthly reporting of membership data.
The State System universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.