Mr. Chairman, members of board, Chancellor Brogan,
My name is Kenneth Mash, and I am the president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents the over 5,500 faculty and coaches at the 14 universities comprising our system.
I listened carefully to yesterday’s finance committee meeting, and I found it disturbing for a number of reasons. I heard it said, after some significant anti-union rhetoric, that “we are all in this together.” I want to make it clear that our faculty and our coaches most decidedly do not feel like we are in this together.
We don’t feel like we are in it together when we consistently hear rhetoric about the rising costs of professors, when the numbers simply do not bear that out. It may fit an anti-union narrative, but it doesn’t fit the facts. The reality is that over the last five years, with only a couple of exceptions, the instructional costs at our universities have been either level or have decreased. Instructional costs, which includes salary and benefits, is not a number that we make up. It is a number that the System reports to the federal government and can be calculated with the System’s own data.
We do not feel like we are in it together when faculty are blamed for increased costs when a look at spending on non-auxiliary capital expenditures shows that at most of our universities there has been an increase in proportional use of E&G money — money that is used for instruction, spent on these non-auxiliary capital expenditures. There is a clear mythology to the notion that there is a separate capital budget. The fact that our association was ignored when we pointed out the risks associated with the type of borrowing that was done, and that this board approved with nary a question asked, does not make us feel like we are on the same page.
We do not feel like we are all in it together when amid the years of an 18 percent cut and the following years of zero increases we felt like lonely voices speaking up about the long-term damage that was being done to public higher education. When we feel alone walking the halls of the legislature speaking up for our institutions.
We do not feel like we are all in it together when we are consistently told that we need to sacrifice when it is our faculty and coaches who have to pick up the pieces when there are fewer people around to serve students because of cuts and attrition, when we are the ones who have to make up for the cuts to student support with additional individualized student attention, when we are the ones coping with larger class sizes while maintaining rigor, when we are the ones who have seen our department budgets slashed, all while we are the ones who actually deliver the quality education that you all so consistently speak about.
We do not feel like we are all in it together as shared governance continually gives way to authoritarian-style decision-making that we repeatedly demonstrate is not undergirded by rationality.
We do not feel like we are all in it together when are still told about the rising costs of healthcare when we know that those costs have decreased.
We do not feel like we are in it together when faculty and coaches are unfairly and counterfactually attacked during a legislative hearing and the administration of this System does not correct the record and in some instances abets misunderstanding. Even worse, there was not a single mention about the need for a larger state allocation, only bragging about how we can do more with less by putting everything on the table.
We do not feel like we are in it together when some of the highest-paid people in the Commonwealth take pride in proposing cuts to some of the lowest-paid members of our organization while they continue to take increases, including some double-digit increases.
We do not feel like we are in it together when we know that campus budget projections are widely exaggerated, we see that be borne out, and then we are told that we just do not understand.
We do not feel like we are in it together to try to find a resolution to a contract when after 15 months of negotiation, the State System suddenly decides to drop 249 proposed changes to our CBA.
We do not feel like we are in it together when we believe that those changes include provisions that will undercut the quality of education that we deliver and hurt our students’ prospects.
We do not feel like we are in it together when we hear officials beat up on academic disciplines without any clear understanding of the value of those disciplines.
We do not feel like we are in it together when there seems to be a consistent push to mimic the private sector, to use corporate jargon, and to downgrade the nobility of public higher education, even as private sector ventures into higher education are proven disastrous on a nearly daily basis.
I could continue on this list for the next hour, but I will resist the temptation. Needless to say that we do not feel like we are in it together when there is too often clear anti-union and anti-faculty rhetoric that is bandied about in casual and formal conversation at these meetings.
If we are to move anything close to being in it together, there is a lot of work to be done. My fear is that time for that is ticking away too quickly. We are committed to moving in the direction of working together, but that cannot occur when policy decisions are written in stone before any real conversation begins.
I am always available to any one of you to respond to questions, to discuss facts on the ground, and to enrich our mutual understandings of each other’s perspectives. And we invite each of you to come to our campuses to speak to those many faculty and coaches who would welcome the opportunity to have your ear.
Thank you for your attention.