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Perhaps you missed it over the break, but Penn State’s President Graham Spanier authored an Op-Ed piece in the Patriot News, “New Year’s Resolution: Keep PA Universities Strong.” I have never been envious of my graduate school alma mater, until now.

I assure you that I don’t have any sort of inferiority complex; I genuinely believe that our PASSHE institutions are excellent and that our universities can be the superior option for many students.  I am, however, envious of the leadership, at least in this context, that Penn State’s President exhibits for the Commonwealth, that is, his willingness to stand up for higher education, generally, and his institution, specifically.

When Penn State raised its tuition last summer, Dr. Spanier didn’t hide.  Instead, he confidently pronounced, â€œWe . . . know that our mission and success remain absolutely critical to the future of Pennsylvania.  Our vitality is part of the solution to the economic downturn. We simply cannot allow the quality and breadth of our enterprise to be diminished.” Meanwhile, our Board of Governors rejected plea after plea for a tuition level that would allow the universities to function properly at the status quo.

Now, Dr. Spanier is in the spotlight again explaining how his institution benefits to the Commonwealth in an obvious effort to push for adequate state funding.  Our institutions are equally, if not more, vital than PSU to this Commonwealth.  The universities are economic engines in their communities, more of our students stay in Pennsylvania after they graduate, and we are more able to provide affordable opportunities for the working-class citizens of this state.  But, why don’t we ever hear this said in public arena?  Rather than fight for deserved recognition, the leaders of our institutions and the PASSHE seem content to dilute the meaning of a college degree by slicing vital programs and by eliminating faculty.  Where are the leadership voices speaking up for the excellent work done by PASSHE institutions?   Do we really need to be transformed?

We could use a little less ostrich and a bit more peacock.

-Ken Mash