APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments were extemporaneous. Below is the transcription from the video.
I was actually hoping to … I didn’t want to steal your thunder at all … but for us it is a bit of a historic moment to have one of our colleagues sitting with the board and to be able to participate in the meetings, and I guess I’ll personally say about Dr. Phillips what a great choice he is. I’ve known him for many, many years and really respect his intellect, his drive, and his love of his university, and for the State System and for his students. I want to thank you, Madame Chair, for the initiative that you took and for making that happen as well the interim-faculty council, and in addition the commission on shared governance, so thank you for that.
And I’m not done thanking you.
Our faculty contract is not yet complete. We don’t yet have a tentative agreement. But I do want to take the opportunity to thank you, to thank the chancellor, and to thank everyone who participated from the System side in our negotiations so far. I just want to say that we want to acknowledge because after so many years that there was not an issue that was brought up that we didn’t feel was taken seriously by the State System. And we may not have gotten what we would have liked to have seen. It may not have gone as far as what we wanted to see happen. But we definitely appreciate that we had your ear, your patience, and your willingness to discuss things, so thank you very much for that.
I never talk about my family personally when I’m up here, but I do want to say that this morning I was up at 4:45 a.m. to see my daughter take her oath to join the Peace Corps in the Ukraine. My daughter is a proud graduate of West Chester University, and I’m immensely proud of her and what she accomplished right now, what she has done already, and what she is planning to do with her life.
I did also just return, too, I got here from being at a House Democratic policy committee hearing which was jointly held, bipartisan, with members of the student-debt caucus, and I was fortunate enough, and I would encourage everyone on the board, to not only talk to our students but to also talk to our alumni. And I think only by talking to our alumni, and in this case there were two Philadelphia school district teachers who talked — who had high praise about their education at West Chester — but also (talked) about the crippling debt that they now face with the relatively low wage of being a starting teacher about five years out, along the way.
And as I made a point there, and I’m going to beat this drum as long as I absolutely have to: The root cause of the student-debt problem, the reason why we are near the bottom, if not at the bottom of every single rank here with regard to student debt, the root cause is that we don’t properly fund this System. And until the System gets the support that it needs from the legislature and from the governor, student debt will continue to rise. Costs at our universities will continue to rise.
I said last time that we were kind of on board with the step of not increasing tuition this year, but that obviously creates additional fiscal pressures at our universities. We need to be able to articulate well to everyone who’s willing to listen in the Capitol building that this System needs additional dollars. I know that the chancellor has a plan, that the System, I hope, you’re going to make a budget request. I sincerely hope that it’s not just a request, that the urgency is felt throughout the Commonwealth about the fact that we are not as affordable as what we should be. I have listened to the private colleges at that hearing talking about how they are competitive or cheaper to attend than our universities are. Something is fundamentally wrong in this Commonwealth. And so we will do whatever we can to raise our voices in the Capitol, but we need to be joined by everyone who has an interest in the State System in creating the same thing.
Thank you very much.