The April 29 Board of Governors meeting took place via Zoom. Click the player above to listen to APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments, or read them below as prepared:
Chairwoman Shapira, Chancellor Greenstein, governors, and guests,
My name is Ken Mash, and I am the president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. This is the last regular meeting of the Board that I will address as APSCUF president — although the word “regular” does not seem particularly apropos. Nothing is regular in these times. For those of you who do not know, I have been addressing this Board for 10 years — four years as vice president and six years as president. APSCUF has a tradition of presidents stepping down after six years (three terms), and I am happy to abide by that norm and very proud to turn over the reins to my friend and colleague, Dr. Jamie Martin of IUP. Dr. Martin is quite simply one of the most competent, smart, and dedicated people I know. I am absolutely positive that she will be a fantastic APSCUF leader.
Madam Chair, I would like to thank you. We met under some extraordinary circumstances; you certainly were thrown into the fire at the start. Since that time, you have been more inclusive, more respectful, and more dedicated than we could have hoped. Thank you for your efforts to build a better, more appropriate relationship with the faculty and the coaches. And thank you for the courtesy you have shown me personally and your willingness to directly participate in the contract negotiations. That would have been absolutely unthinkable a few years ago.
Chancellor Greenstein, thank you for all you have done, too, to improve the relationship between the State System and its faculty and coaches. You have without a doubt been the most transparent, accessible, and competent chancellor the System has ever seen — at least for a very long time. Thank you, too, for your willingness to participate in negotiations, your openness to ideas, the energy and intellect you have brought to the position. Personally, thank you for the respect and, in your words, “the thought partnership” we have formed.
Thanks to both of you for forming a relationship where we can disagree without being disagreeable, so we could plot out a positive future in the best interest of our students.
These have been an interesting 10 years. Addressing the Board has not, to be honest, been my favorite activity. Let’s just say it has often been a cold experience. I’m glad to say that these last couple of years have been, well, less cold.
Disagreements are inevitable. That is largely because unions are, at their best, countervailing forces. It is our job to point out the human element of an enterprise. Universities are very much about people. And the job that we do is aimed at improving people’s lives. Now more than ever, it is important to remember that the stakes are high. There are always dangers to looking only at aggregate numbers, the balance sheet, the benchmarks, etc. We simply cannot forget that we are talking about communities in which our universities reside. We cannot forget the very real, dedicated people in the classroom, on the field, and in our administrations. Every one of our students is someone who deserves an opportunity to achieve a high-quality education.
It is our job — that of my APSCUF and other union colleagues — if we are doing our jobs well, to bring to the surface the human costs and opportunities. While that may cause tension or even conflict, that tension is essential. This is even more the case in higher education. We all have a burden to model behavior that is respectful of human beings: It is part of our education function.
This is especially true today. We all have an obligation to work toward truth – that’s small “t” truth. We have an obligation as a System to model the best decision-making, the most humane possible behavior, and to bring forth the best possible ideas for improving our society. As we deal with this crisis, let’s never forget the hundreds of thousands who depend upon us. Let us never forget that the Commonwealth’s future depends in large part on how we proceed.
I could not be more proud of the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by my colleagues, our administrations, and our students during this crisis. Let it never be said again that higher education institutions cannot move swiftly and do so well.
It has been an honor and the privilege of a lifetime to represent my colleagues over these past 10 years. Thank you, as always, for the opportunity to address you.