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Watch Dr. Kenneth M. Mash's comments

Remarks of Dr. Kenneth M. Mash
Before the Board of Governors

Mr. Chairman, Governors, and Chancellor Brogan,

Today I stand before you prouder than ever to represent the approximately 5,500 faculty and coaches who are at the core of the 14 great universities comprising the State System.

Last month, your faculty and coaches watched with bewilderment and anger as Chancellor Brogan and others represented the System in front of the House and Senate. The comments and questions, particularly in the Senate hearings, we felt demonstrated a shocking ignorance of the workings of the System and displayed a palpable disdain for your faculty and coaches. On the bright side of that, we were defended at the Senate hearing by one current member of this board and afterward by one former member of this Board.

More frustrating even than several senators’ posture was the fact that these unwarranted attacks went unanswered and, in several instances, were fueled by the State System’s responses. While we empathize with the difficulties surrounding giving testimony at a legislative hearing, and I personally sympathize with those difficulties, nevertheless your faculty and your coaches deserve better. Further, our students and our alumni deserve better.

I don’t think anyone should be surprised that hearing one of our colleagues referred to as an “old dinosaur” would be viewed as hostile. I don’t think anyone should be surprised at our frustration when stories are made up about meetings that took place. I don’t think anyone should be shocked to learn that when senators say faculty work only 17 hours a week that we would be irate and that we would expect to be defended. Those comments disparaged my colleagues — Pennsylvania citizens and taxpayers — and the fact that they went unanswered is inexplicable.

The same calculus that leads to the conclusion that faculty work 17 hours a week would be the same that would lead someone to assert that a senator works only on the relatively few session days in a year. However, we know better. We know the job of a senator includes committee work, preparation, constituent service, public speaking, etc., etc., etc. Senators should know that the job of a faculty member extends well beyond the 12 hours of class time and five required office hours. Our work includes countless scholarly endeavors, committee work, advising, and overseeing extracurricular activities. It includes the type of mentoring in the sciences that everyone in this room applauded yesterday. In fact, there is a report filed each year that shows that my faculty colleagues work more than 50 hours a week.

Similarly, a point was made to “educate” a student that a coach made $400,000 last year. That was not education; it was misinformation. The System knows full well that the coach does not make $400,000 a year. That money was the result of an arbitration award spanning years, and it was a one-time award. It happened to go to a coach who runs a summer program that brings thousands of young people to campus and has made his university millions of dollars in the process. So it is that someone’s hard work is ridiculed.

More typical than this coach is the one coach who approached me last week at one of our universities in the western part of the Commonwealth. That coach told me that because of cuts to his program, he was now paying out of his pocket for recruiting trips. Coaches scrambling for money for referees, for scholarship money, for the basic needs of their sports and going the extra mile for their student athletes — these are the common and accurate stories of our system, and they were not told.

We were upset to hear, by implication, Cheyney University compared to a failing supermarket. It was a truly unfortunate analogy. But we were equally concerned by a response that pinned Cheyney’s trouble on a lack of enrollment. That Cheyney’s enrollment is too low is common knowledge. But a truer response would be that a long list of public officials and this Board are culpable for Cheyney’s woes. For decades, this Board substituted stage whispers and scorn for scrutiny. Things were allowed to occur at Cheyney that would never would have been allowed to occur to at any other university. Students at Cheyney have been deprived of the resources that would have been demanded at other universities. And, frankly, the other universities of this System benefited for years from that deprivation of resources. To hear concerns raised now about having to “subsidize” Cheyney ignores a past that was discriminatory and inexcusable.

Further, any suggestion that Cheyney should be closed proposes a disservice to the hundreds, if not thousands, of potential students in the Philadelphia area who not only could be potentially served by Cheyney, but who need the type of community and alumni network that only Cheyney can provide. The time has come to stop beating up on that university. It is time to build it up.  It is time to provide access.

Speaking of access, a question was raised about why my association opposes the per-credit tuition plans. I call them plans and not pilots because, in the academic world, they would not be considered a “pilot.” We oppose those plans — some may argue counter to our combined self interest — because we believe in public higher education. We believe in our legislatively mandated mission to provide a quality education at an affordable cost. Stripped of the false advertising, these pilots amount to substantial tuition increases.

One does not have to be a mathematician to do the simple arithmetic — it takes 120 credits minimum to graduate. Over the course of eight semesters, that is 15 credits a semester. Charging per credit means a 16, 25 or even a 50 percent tuition increase for our students. At one time, the Commonwealth subsidized 75 percent of a student’s education. Now it is less than 25 percent. What will it be after these plans? At a time when the issue of student debt is a matter of national debate, our universities will be substantially increasing that debt. How many students will be priced out of their universities? We have now heard several administrators talk about how their universities could lose students but still bring in more money. Somebody has the notion of public higher education terribly wrong, and I don’t think it is my association.

Rather than preventing students from “grazing in the academic vineyard,” these plans are likely to discourage double majors, push students to drop out, discourage them from taking difficult courses that they may not do well in, and cause them to avoid major disciplines that require additional credits.

I could continue on about the tone, the attacks, the failures to respond about issues, but I know I have already taken some time.

Next year will be the 80th anniversary of APSCUF’s existence. Throughout those years, my association has been partners with the legislators, governors, and administrators in turning normal schools into colleges and then into great universities. It seems the reward for that endeavor is now to demean our work and to ridicule our members. It seems we can expect no adequate defense from our System.

We have been working without a contract for nearly a year. We were surprised to learn of the System’s concerns with our contract expressed during the hearings — items that have never been raised during this past year of bargaining.

This weekend, delegates from each of our universities will be attending our legislative assembly. We will learn together what steps my Association may be willing to take in reaction to the lack of respect demonstrated toward our members.

Thank you for your attention.

Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties members have been working under a contract that expired in summer 2015. Despite APSCUF offering contract compromise during negotiations with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the two parties have not reached an agreement. The most recent negotiations session was Jan. 8, and the next negotiations session is slated for April 28.

Upset by rhetoric emanating from the state legislature and the prolonged negotiation, APSCUF leadership plans to discuss the possibility of a job action when delegates convene Friday, April 8, for legislative assembly in State College.