In October 2020, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Chancellor Daniel Greenstein announced a plan to consolidate six currently independent universities into two “new universities.” A process to develop the plan for the consolidation followed, with key constituents forming approximately 200 working groups. The chancellor highlighted that more than 400 APSCUF members were involved in some of the working groups and stated that both faculty and students are supportive of and are excited about the consolidation. However, he did not provide any data to support this assessment.
Between March 24 and 26, APSCUF administered a survey to 1,469 faculty members at the six universities slated for consolidation. The items on the survey asked for the views and perceptions of the faculty regarding the planned consolidation of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities (northern) and of California, Clarion and Edinboro universities (western). A total of 991 faculty members completed the survey, for a response rate of 67.5%. The items were measured on a five-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree).
Faculty support of consolidation: Less than 8% of the faculty members who responded to the survey indicated that they were supportive of consolidation, while nearly 70% are not supportive.
Development of the program array: Only 11% of the faculty members believe that the final program curricular array will reflect the work they did in the consolidation sub-groups. Sixty-three percent of respondents do not believe that it will.
Transparency of the consolidation process: Only 69 respondents (7%) believe that the consolidation process has been a transparent one, while 78% (n=773) disagree with that view.
Assessment of student excitement regarding consolidation: Less than 2% of the respondents (n=19) believe that students are excited, while 60% do not believe that they are.
Faculty excitement regarding consolidation: Only 26 (3%) of the 989 respondents who answered a question about faculty excitement said they are excited about consolidation, and 83% (n=825) of the faculty said they are not.
Other areas of concern from an open-ended question: The survey captured concerns that students will have fewer options for face-to-face classes and may not have access to the program that they want to pursue on the campus of their choice. Comments noted the belief that the process has been rushed and that it will not save money for the State System — nor lower costs for students. Respondents also voiced that the overriding problem is a lack of funding for the State System and the lack of advocacy for it on the part of Chancellor Greenstein.
APSCUF’s survey results show a disconnect between the narratives that exist and are being pushed in many venues by the State System regarding the views of faculty. It would behoove the State System, including the chancellor and the Board of Governors, to listen to the concerns expressed by our faculty and to take them to heart. The support, involvement and investment of faculty in a consolidation is integral. Unfortunately, there is little faculty buy-in to the current plan.
—Dr. Jamie Martin, APSCUF president