Legislative assembly OKs TA; member voting set for Nov. 11–13

APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash listens to delegate questions during today’s conference call. Photo/Kathryn Morton

APSCUF’s legislative assembly met today via a special conference call and voted to recommend the faculty tentative agreement move forward to membership for ratification. Member faculty will vote Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 11–13, and you must be a member to vote. Members should check their campus emails for additional details. Click here to read today’s press release.

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See Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s remarks to the Board of Governors – Oct. 16, 2019

APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments were extemporaneous. Below is the transcription from the video.

I was actually hoping to … I didn’t want to steal your thunder at all … but for us it is a bit of a historic moment to have one of our colleagues sitting with the board and to be able to participate in the meetings, and I guess I’ll personally say about Dr. Phillips what a great choice he is. I’ve known him for many, many years and really respect his intellect, his drive, and his love of his university, and for the State System and for his students. I want to thank you, Madame Chair, for the initiative that you took and for making that happen as well the interim-faculty council, and in addition the commission on shared governance, so thank you for that.

And I’m not done thanking you.

Our faculty contract is not yet complete. We don’t yet have a tentative agreement. But I do want to take the opportunity to thank you, to thank the chancellor, and to thank everyone who participated from the System side in our negotiations so far. I just want to say that we want to acknowledge because after so many years that there was not an issue that was brought up that we didn’t feel was taken seriously by the State System. And we may not have gotten what we would have liked to have seen. It may not have gone as far as what we wanted to see happen. But we definitely appreciate that we had your ear, your patience, and your willingness to discuss things, so thank you very much for that.

I never talk about my family personally when I’m up here, but I do want to say that this morning I was up at 4:45 a.m. to see my daughter take her oath to join the Peace Corps in the Ukraine. My daughter is a proud graduate of West Chester University, and I’m immensely proud of her and what she accomplished right now, what she has done already, and what she is planning to do with her life.

I did also just return, too, I got here from being at a House Democratic policy committee hearing which was jointly held, bipartisan, with members of the student-debt caucus, and I was fortunate enough, and I would encourage everyone on the board, to not only talk to our students but to also talk to our alumni. And I think only by talking to our alumni, and in this case there were two Philadelphia school district teachers who talked — who had high praise about their education at West Chester — but also (talked) about the crippling debt that they now face with the relatively low wage of being a starting teacher about five years out, along the way.

And as I made a point there, and I’m going to beat this drum as long as I absolutely have to: The root cause of the student-debt problem, the reason why we are near the bottom, if not at the bottom of every single rank here with regard to student debt, the root cause is that we don’t properly fund this System. And until the System gets the support that it needs from the legislature and from the governor, student debt will continue to rise. Costs at our universities will continue to rise.

I said last time that we were kind of on board with the step of not increasing tuition this year, but that obviously creates additional fiscal pressures at our universities. We need to be able to articulate well to everyone who’s willing to listen in the Capitol building that this System needs additional dollars. I know that the chancellor has a plan, that the System, I hope, you’re going to make a budget request. I sincerely hope that it’s not just a request, that the urgency is felt throughout the Commonwealth about the fact that we are not as affordable as what we should be. I have listened to the private colleges at that hearing talking about how they are competitive or cheaper to attend than our universities are. Something is fundamentally wrong in this Commonwealth. And so we will do whatever we can to raise our voices in the Capitol, but we need to be joined by everyone who has an interest in the State System in creating the same thing.

Thank you very much.

Bloomsburg adjunct spotlights first-generation college students

Students, staff, and faculty who identify as first-generation can wear these wear distinguishing buttons to create visibility for first-generation students and pinpoint people to talk to. Photos courtesy of Rebecca L. Willoughby 

Rebecca L. Willoughby understands what many of her students are going through as they transition to college. The Bloomsburg University adjunct professor felt invisible when she was a first-generation student on that campus, she said, and during her undergraduate career, she wasn’t even aware of the term “first-generation college student” or resources available to her.

Rebecca L. Willoughby, faculty member at Bloomsburg University, wants “(to) make (first-generation) students feel comfortable and recognized on campus,” she said.

Willoughby said she sees parallels between her time as an undergraduate and the students in her classroom now. Looking over her class of freshmen, she said she thinks, “I was in your chair.” Like herself, many students are also unaware they are first-generation college students and unaware of national and campus resources.

So she decided to change that.

Since fall 2018, Willoughby has worked with TRiO Student Support Services’ Director M. Theresa Bloskey and fellow faculty member Kristin Austin of the Department of Teaching and Learning to raise awareness through tabling and button distribution. The overall goal: “(to) make (first-generation) students feel comfortable and recognized on campus,” Willoughby said.

The effort encourages students, staff, and faculty who identify as first-generation to wear distinguishing buttons. Willoughby said they create visibility for first-generation students and pinpoint people to talk to.

“(The campaign) creates avenues of communication to help navigate the landscape,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby said she is glad other faculty members have been excited about the campaign.

“Faculty are the first line of defense (for students),” Willoughby said.

The transition from student to faculty member in the English department has been interesting, Willoughby said, as she is now colleagues with some of her former professors.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with those people,” Willoughby said.

As Willoughby works to help students succeed in college, she is able to reflect on her time in higher education and at Bloomsburg — including the challenges.

“Anyone as an adjunct knows its insane,” Willoughby said. In the past, she taught at three separate universities during one semester alone. However, she said her adjunct experience has been better at Bloomsburg: She joined her union and said she feels included in the department.

Willoughby said her hope is that the first-generation button campaign expands to other State System institutions and universities across the Commonwealth. She recommended faculty visit the Council for Opportunity in Education for resources.

—Abbey Ford, APSCUF summer intern

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