It is mid-September and seven universities in the system (Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Mansfield, & Slippery Rock) still have retrenchment letters active. If you have been paying attention the last three years, these letters, due under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by August 1, are familiar to you as they serve notice to the union that changes may take place that lead to retrenchment (to paraphrase the CBA).
One of the refinements of the process of retrenchment over the past three years is the insistence of State APSCUF, supported by an arbitrator and now conceded by the state system, that meet & discuss on retrenchment occur at BOTH the state and local levels. So, there have been a whole series of special meetings in Harrisburg with local leadership here talking about their retrenchment plans. I have been able to sit in on most of those meetings.
And I still have this question: exactly why?
All of the universities in question have invoked the “finances” clause in Article 29.B as to the reason why they need to retrench.
That invocation would seem to presume a clear picture of the university’s finances. If you would, they should provide a prima facie case that they are financially bleeding; we have made it clear that this is a threshold question on retrenchment: where have you been in the recent past (in the red?), where are you in ’13-’14, and, to some extent, where will you be in future years?
So far, I have not seen a single university make an accurate case as to their finances in 2013-14. This might be partially explained because the deadline for submitting a balanced budget to the Office of the Chancellor (representing the Board) wasn’t until yesterday, Sept. 17.
Here’s what we have seen repeatedly: universities aren’t sure of how many students they really ended up with in the fall; universities don’t know how many faculty they have on the payroll; universities aren’t sure exactly how many managers they have on the payroll. Sometimes APSCUF has found these discrepancies; sometimes management has conceded they don’t know, haven’t adjusted their budgets accordingly, or both.
Given the public announcement of the loss of 22 active faculty jobs at Clarion, 42 at Edinboro, and active discussions at five other institutions, it seems reasonable to expect that the administrations have good, accurate, reproducible budget sheets to determine that “finances” are really in the kind of shape that show there is no other possible option than cutting faculty. So far, we have not seen that.
And that is only a threshold position. We haven’t even begun to talk about priorities and the use of the resources all these universities hold (most have budgets of between $50-100 million, so you can imagine how many different ways there are to slice the pie), which is a second-level conversation.
We all hope that soon we will see real, accurate, reproducible numbers. If not, APSCUF has a responsibility to fight, through grievances and arbitration, the need for retrenchment based on financial grounds.