One point of holding a conference like this weekend’s APSCUF/PSEA Labor & Higher Ed Conference is to disseminate information. There are many venues to do so, but we thought we’d use this one to provide a snapshot into the conference from our perspective. As such, here are 10 ideas we brought from the conference, with just a brief contextual paragraph for each. Disclaimer: the author/speakers will forgive our probable misremembrance of their words.
1. “PASSHE’s budget situation is just not as dire as its leaders are making it out to be.”
Repeated over and over again in various forms by APSCUF’s good friend Howard Bunsis, AAUP’s Secretary-Treasurer. Howard, as he always does, throughly supported his position with state and PASSHE budget numbers.
This was said in a paper by Clarion faculty member Lynn Smith. The reason for its power: even politicians think of public higher education as a public good…then why do they think it should react to market forces (including inflation)?
3. Lobbying for state funding of public higher ed at 2007 levels should be admitted is a lost cause.
This line from the plenary talk on Saturday by AAUP President Cary Nelson reminded us of the difficulty of the coming years in funding. Nelson advocated new models in higher ed.
4. If you work in the public sector, you can vote for the candidate who promises you lower taxes, and you will pay lower taxes. That’s because you won’t have a job.
Heard in one form or another more than once from PSEA leadership. Although we are not fans of simplistic, jingoistic political rhetoric, this is a stark reminder of one simple aspect of the forthcoming election.
5. The three-tier master plan for public higher education needs to be reinforced and reinvigorated.
Again, from Lynn Smith’s paper. The three-tier plan has research institutions, four-year universities giving bachelors, and two-year community colleges. Pennsylvania has let this model “mission creep” to the point our largest research institution has a community college in its system. This model deterioration also decreases the power of the faculty union.
6. We have to organize more.
Heard over and over again — from Nelson’s plenary to Kurt Smith & Wendy Lee’s paper to (PSEA president) Jim Testerman’s opening remarks — it reminds us that growth and strengthening is important even as we all begin collective bargaining with the state.
7. We have ceded the authority of assessing higher education to ETS or Middle States.
Although Kurt Smith and Wendy Lee didn’t say exactly this in their paper, it became clear in the post-paper discussion that this was a possible conclusion. As stated in the discussion, APSCUF’s first CBA in 1971 memorialized authority and legitimacy of the faculty. Now it seems we need outcomes assessment, companies like the Educational Testing Service, or accrediting agencies to give us legitimacy largely through outcomes assessment.
8. We have to find ways to encourage more women and people of color to be active in the leadership of our associations.
An excellent discussion prompted during a panel with presentations by John Hinshaw, President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the AAUP, and Tim Blessing, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the AAUP.
9. We must avoid the seemingly inevitable interdisciplinary wars that can prompted by the competition for scarce resources.
Heard repeatedly, but emphasized by Cary Nelson during his plenary. We must be bound together by those things that unite us as we fight together for proper levels of funding for higher education.
10. The Chancellor’s call to “transform higher education” needs to be met with skepticism and concern.
Raised in several panels and informal discussions, there is increasing tension among the faculty about the Chancellor’s motivations and his plans for the state system.
Steve & Ken