Chairwoman Dr. Shapira, Chancellor Greenstein, members of the board, university presidents, and guests,
My name is Ken Mash, and I am (again) the statewide president of APSCUF, the union that represents the coaches and faculty at the 14 campuses that comprise the State System of Higher Education.
First, I want to express my gratitude to my friend Dr. Jamie Martin for her bold leadership and her unyielding defense of our members, her work that benefitted State System students, and all that she did to try to preserve the greatness of our universities. I know that everyone wishes her the best, and I feel fortunate that I know I can pick up the phone and be the beneficiary of her sound advice.
I have spent the last two years back on the East Stroudsburg University campus during some of the most trying times for students, faculty, staff, and administrators. If anything, I think my time back on campus has renewed my fervor to do what is right by our students. My experience has renewed my focus and my desire to remind everyone that, bickering and ideology aside, there are real people: real students with real futures, real parents paying real bills, real employees with real careers and real livelihoods. The educational experience must be at the core of everything that we all do, and we must remember the people responsible for providing it.
The overwhelming majority of those who jump through the hurdles necessary to be qualified to be a college professor — or who give their all on and off the athletic field — don’t view their positions as just a job. They view it as a vocation. I would like to remind the board that we, the System, can’t afford to lose that. It is what makes a good university tick. But that could happen if people perceive that they are being treated as mere cogs in a machine or just numbers.
I have a lot to say about what has been happening these last two years, and I have dozens of questions about decisions that have been made. In fairness, before I will share my perspectives publicly, I would like to have the opportunity to speak with the chair and the chancellor directly. Based on my experience, I have no reason to doubt that I will have this opportunity. I will share now that I am very proud of the way my colleagues helped their universities get through the toughest part of the pandemic and for the care and concern they showed to students. These challenges continue because we still have students making the adjustment to a face-to-face college experience.
With regard to the funding formula, I appreciate the work that was put into it by those who constructed it. As with most things, I think the devil is in the details. And while I know the formula was shared with some of my colleagues, I am not sure they left confident that they understood how it works, the impact on the universities, and how the universities will be affected in the future, should there be changes to the state allocation.
I do think that there was room here for a more public discussion, so that the governors could benefit from a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that may differ from those who constructed the formula. That said, I am looking forward to a robust board discussion about this policy and to many questions — because I know the board appreciates how important it is to hold our System and university officials accountable and that the public counts on the board to make sure there is accountability.
Thank you for your time.