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APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments as prepared:

Chairwoman Shapiro, governors, Chancellor Whitney, university presidents,

We generally do not like to talk the specifics of our salaries or our contracts to public audiences. However, after listening to the conversation at the last Board meeting, talking with some public officials, watching the House and Senate appropriations hearings, and listening to some concerns that have been raised, I feel compelled to speak. That is especially correct when it seems clear that inaccurate information is perpetuated by employees of this System. Why else would the chair of the house appropriations committee feel compelled to say that the faculty should not be greedy?

To be clear, the contract that was signed at the conclusion of the strike did not have all the pay increases that were given to other bargaining units in the Commonwealth or even to the managers in this system. The faculty, who already pay 18 percent or 28 percent of the cost of their healthcare, also took on additional deductibles and copays in their insurance. The burden borne by the faculty in this System for healthcare far exceeds the amount, for example, that is paid for the legislators in the Capitol.

While people feel free to comment, often ridiculously, about the faculty contract, we never seem to hear it reported that Highmark returned $9 million to the State System two years ago and $10 million back last year. Where are those numbers when the so-called estimates of the costs of our contract are made? Where is the conversation about how the healthcare costs will steeply decline this year? How exactly does that affect “contract estimates” that were reported here and elsewhere?

When will it be explained that when one adjusts for inflation, the average salaries of full professors, associate professors, and assistant professors is flat over the last 10 years and the salaries of adjuncts has gone down? That average is misleading, even when one understands that the universities are not hiring professors and there are fewer professors at the bottom of the pay scales, thus making the average higher while the individual’s salary is actually decreasing in value.

And they are pay scales. Some may not like the concept, but they are what they are. Comments are flippantly made about professors receiving two raises without any understanding of pay scales or any explanation that deans and provosts dangle those scales in front of job candidates with the explanation that they can move up from the original salaries that are paid. And there never is a comment that our adjuncts almost never move up the pay scale.

Real wages for faculty have decreased, and they have decreased for virtually all non-top-level managers throughout the System. Yet, if you listen to various System leaders, all fault lies with the faculty. It’s enough to make one really angry.

It’s enough to make me come here and point the finger back at our System managers and name many of the mistakes and miscalculations that have been made by our administrations and the things that we consider are a waste of money.

But enough. I won’t engage in it. I won’t perpetuate the airing of dirty laundry in public. It does not do our universities or our students any good. It doesn’t do us any good. And it doesn’t do those of you who do it any good.

When will it occur to people that it does nobody any favors to beat up on the faculty at your universities and to perpetuate myths about them? Just stop.

Stop beating up on us. Stop beating up on the universities that face difficult challenges but still serve their students. Stop dragging down the System.

Where has it gotten us? How does it help our students, our universities, our System?

We now have a major gubernatorial candidate saying that our universities should be privatized or closed, and there will likely soon be a biased study will be anything but positive.

For goodness’ sake, Pennsylvania ranks 50th according to the U.S. News and World Report when it comes to higher education. Not because of the quality of the education we provide, but because of the costs and debt burdens borne by our students.

The real culprit is the money, and everyone who is honest knows it to be true. This System operates on virtually the same allocation it received 10 years ago. Pennsylvania ranks 47 out of 50 states when it comes for funding for public higher education.

We are being starved and then being blamed for being hungry.

Who wants to fight to help us increase allocations when the stories shared about our universities are constantly about cuts, failures, blame, and predictions of gloom and doom?

All who engage in this need to stop. It isn’t even the reality.

We are being starved. But the reality on the ground is that we not only do what we have to, we go above and beyond.

Every single day on our campuses from Cheyney University to West Chester University to East Stroudsburg University to Edinboro University, students are succeeding, in and out of the classroom; faculty are doing great research despite their relatively large course loads; coaches are teaching success; and student-athletes are achieving.

This May, thousands of students will emerge from our universities ready to take on the world and make this Commonwealth a better place. And they will be prepared to do so.

This Commonwealth is failing a generation who believe they cannot afford a college education, and it is hurting itself by straddling students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

We need to all get on board with sharing the accurate story – the successes that happen every day. And we need leadership from the State System that demands we all get on board with the message and is intolerant of those who choose to focus on the negative. We need State System leadership that is demanding of itself that it modernize and make use of all the tools that are out there to spread the message.

The way we portray ourselves now does not work for anyone.

I will be leaving soon to go to join my colleagues, students, and likeminded public officials at the first Pennsylvania Promise rally at West Chester University, where we will be working on the positive and trying to secure a truly affordable public higher education for this generation.