The Sept. 22 Board of Governors meeting took place via Zoom and streamed via YouTube. Below are APSCUF President Dr. Jamie Martin’s comments as prepared.
Chairwoman Shapira, Chancellor Greenstein, governors, university presidents and guests,
Today this board will consider approving seven side-letter agreements to our collective bargaining agreement. One side letter applies to all 14 of our universities and will ensure faculty and students are provided with stability over the next few years. The remaining six are applicable to the six universities that are slated for consolidation. The APSCUF legislative assembly ratified all of the side letters at its meeting on Friday, Sept. 10, and we encourage you to approve them today.
We appreciate the spirit of cooperation that led to these agreements, but it required approximately eight months of negotiations to get to this ratification vote today. I highlight this because the side-letter agreements that pertain to California, Clarion, Edinboro, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities are just the first six side letters we have negotiated. They represent important articles in our collective bargaining agreement, and they will permit the development of the curriculum to begin, provide clarity regarding the leadership of academic departments, and specify the procedures that will be in place as faculty members progress in their careers. But, I must note that there is much still to do. By our count, there are at least 13 other articles we must bargain over because they will be affected by consolidation. We will continue to negotiate with the State System on the other affected articles in our collective bargaining agreement in the months ahead. But, in short, there is a long road ahead.
At the July Board of Governors meeting, I highlighted many issues and questions that must be addressed prior to the consolidation of these six universities — an action that is scheduled to occur in 10 months. Questions remain about Middle States accreditation and accredited programs on our campuses. We still await the decision of the NCAA permitting athletic teams to remain on all six campuses. Students and faculty remain wary of the number of online classes that may be required to complete a degree. We anticipate that work on the curriculum will soon begin, but we know that the plan is for a three-year implementation of the curriculum array, and it is our belief that it will take that long.
There remains much uncertainty and anxiety regarding consolidation on these six campuses, among the students (both current and prospective), faculty and staff. This process — coupled with the retrenchments that occurred at four of our campuses last year and the threats of retrenchment this year — has left many feeling defeated, and all of this is happening while faculty struggle to offer face-to-face classes in a safe way amidst the ongoing pandemic. The combination of these things has negatively impacted morale on a number of our universities. I can tell you from my visits to our campuses and meetings with our chapter presidents that our faculty are exhausted as they begin this new academic year: This is not typical, and that makes it alarming. I urge the university presidents here today to recognize the legitimacy of these feelings among our faculty, as you call upon them to do some heavy lifting in the coming months.
I began my comments today speaking about the spirit of cooperation, and I want to end on that note. We can all agree that the mission of our universities is to provide access to an affordable, high-quality education for the students of our Commonwealth and beyond. As faculty and coaches, we see firsthand how critical affordability is for our students and student-athletes. We know the importance of increased funding for our universities — and for the students enrolled in them. I pledge today that APSCUF will continue to work with the State System in advocating for the funding necessary to keep the promise of affordability and access to a high-quality education for students from all backgrounds.
Thank you for your time, and I wish all of you and your families continued good health.