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Who exactly is responsible for retrenchment?  Is it the state government, whose officials have not adequately funded the state system?  Is it PASSHE’s Board of Governors who refuse to raise tuition despite evidence that tuition is needed to keep the Universities properly functioning?  Is it the fault of the Universities’ managers who seemingly have some unacademic and odd priorities and who made some rather strange decisions?  Is it the fault of PASSHE officials who encourage those managers to use budget assumptions not grounded in reality?  If you’re a PASSHE official, the answer is none of the above.  Who is the PASSHE scapegoat?  The faculty!

Perhaps you heard some of the whispers emanating from the administrator rumor mill?  The theory is that because APSCUF refused the retirement package and because APSCUF refused to defer its salary increases, it is APSCUF that is responsible.  Well, what was only rumor became accusation at last Wednesday’s special meet and discuss on retrenchment when PASSHE officials openly accused APSCUF of being responsible.  Such statements would be humorous, if only retrenchment were not so serious.  Then again, it should surprise nobody that PASSHE would take this stand, since PASSHE might otherwise have admit responsibility for the senseless retrenchment it is undertaking.  Further, this being a negotiations year, what better way to attempt to undermine our association’s credibility?

The reality is that there is no truth in either charge.  With regard to salary increases, it should be remembered that it was PASSHE that wanted salary increases in the latter years of the contract.  Further, there was NEVER any formal proposal that EVER suggested that APSCUF should defer or not take salary increases to avoid any kind of retrenchment.   There was only one mention of deferring salary increases to APSCUF, but it was general, asking only whether APSCUF would be open to the giveback.  President Hicks’s response was what we all would hope it would be under those circumstances.  “NO.”

How would this give back make sense anyway?  How would Slippery Rock professors deferring salary increases have an impact on the Mansfield or Kutztown budgets?  Would the idea be that everyone should not take their salary increase so that some senseless retrenchment not take place at Universities that, while retrenching, are hiring tenure-track faculty and even administrators?  Perhaps the biggest joke is that while these rumors swirl, PASSHE is currently budgeting for a 3% managerial merit-based INCREASE!

Equally ridiculous is the claim about the retirement package.  When APSCUF showed up ready to negotiate, PASSHE made it clear that there was to be no real negotiation.  Not only wouldn’t there be a contract extension, but there would be no promise to replace retiring faculty, and no promise not to retrench; there was nothing to discuss.  Further, APSCUF’s research uncovered expert opinion suggesting that the bonuses PASSHE propsed were an inefficient and inequitable retirement incentive.  APSCUF leadership overwhelmingly rejected participation given PASSHE’s terms.

However, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that APSCUF did go along.  Would there really have been enough retirements at Kutztown or Mansfield to prevent retrenchment?  There is absolutely NO evidence that there would have been, and PASSHE has never claimed there would be.  It is true that PASSHE officials at one time talked about a connection, but the reality is that they could not, in any way, demonstrate it might be true.  They cannot even now.

Again, does PASSHE really mean to imply that retirements at Edinboro would have stopped retrenchment at Kutztown or Mansfield?  If they were really serious about this, they would have brought it to the table.  They did not.

PASSHE needs to put a stop to this reckless nonsense now, and we need to be armed with the facts.  Do not tolerate this obvious attempt to undermine your union and to avoid responsibility.  Accountability needs to rest with those actually responsible regardless of whether or not they wish to accept that their hands are dirty, i.e., PASSHE and the college presidents.

In Solidarity,

Ken Mash