Chairwoman Shapira, Governors,
I am here because we learned that today you would be considering an exception to Board of Governors Policy 1985-01-A — specifically an exception for Cheyney University to the language in that policy that requires universities to provide an opportunity for students who are enrolled or admitted to complete a program that is put in moratorium.
While I understand the very serious looming deadlines that are quickly approaching for Cheyney University, I think it would have been in everyone’s best interest if the subject of the meeting was more broadly publicized so that those who will be affected by any change would have notice and an opportunity to speak up. While I know this is not required by the Sunshine Act, the Office of Open Records does state that it is “good practice” to include the subject of the meeting in a special-meeting notice.
That aside, I am speaking on the best knowledge I have right now, which is thirdhand information. I will not speak today about the impact on faculty. We have a contractually mandated forum to make those cogent arguments, and we certainly will.
Should you still be considering this action today, I would ask that you pause. While the deadline is nearing quickly, it is premature to make this exception. Generally, I think it unwise to make exceptions for Cheyney University. Cheyney’s problems have not come about because it has been treated differently; they exist because the expectations of that university have, historically, been different. I have made that case many times, and I won’t go into detail now. I do have concern about the optics of making this exception for this one university. I also have general concerns about this Board heading down the path of making exceptions for any particular university.
Nevertheless, taking action today would be premature. Unless there is information that has not been shared that should have been shared with us, nobody yet knows what programs may be put into moratorium. Nobody knows how many students may be affected. Should those students not be able to know that the rules may be changed for them? Should they not be given an opportunity to share their concerns before a decision is made?
If the rules are to be different for the State System’s only HBCU, has everyone fully considered the consequences? What student would want to attend a university that has a history of closing programs on the students who attend? Not that long ago, we all used to say that a university’s catalogue was its contract with students. What type of word-of-mouth will be generated among generations of families, friends, and acquaintances, should that contract be broken? While the short term presents us with the most difficult of circumstances, what good is it to damage the future for the present?
The latest that I have heard includes the prospect that any of these students will be granted admission at another State System university and that they will be able to take scholarship monies with them. Is that really sufficient? Will they be guaranteed dorm space when they transfer? Will the cost of the dorms and other fees be comparable? Will they be given additional support so that they can effectively transition? I hope all of this is part of the consideration, and that attention is paid to each individual student.
There are populations of students who need Cheyney University to succeed so that they may have a chance at the American Dream. They don’t need Cheyney to survive in skeleton form as a monument to our de jure segregationist past. They do need it, among many other reasons, because racism persists.
I applaud the Board for its determination to change what needs to be changed at Cheyney University. I applaud those at the University who are doing their best under dire circumstances. I only hope that we pay every bit of attention to current and future Cheyney students that we possibly can. Thus, we urge the Board to hear them out, to look out for their futures, and to continue efforts to transform Cheyney back to a thriving university.