Harrisburg, Pa — APSCUF Vice President Ken Mash testified at a House State Government Committee hearing on Wednesday, August 15, against four pieces of legislation that would eliminate faculty sabbaticals, end tuition waivers for relatives of employees at PASSHE institutions, impose a moratorium on building projects and deferred maintenance, and allow students to opt-out of paying the mandatory student activity fee.
Mash was accompanied by Michelle Vitali, a professor of art at Edinboro University, as he presented his testimony on the four bills that are a part of Representative Brad Roae’s (R-Crawford) 10-bill “Keep Tuition Affordable” package. Mash and Vitali discussed the importance of faculty sabbaticals and how instrumental they are to providing a quality education.
“If granted, sabbaticals are used by faculty to improve professional knowledge and skills, develop new methods of teaching, and conduct intensive research in their field -all benefits they bring back to the classroom. If professors are denied the opportunity to enrich their abilities, the relevancy of the curriculum will diminish. Ultimately, the students will suffer,” Mash said in his testimony to the committee members.
Currently only two percent of faculty members across the system are on sabbatical leave, far less than the seven percent allowed by the contract. Still Rep. Roae said he felt PASSHE faculty members are not spending enough time in the classroom teaching students.
“Students are required to pay 100% of their tuition, so they should get 100% of their professors, not 93% of them,” Roae said in his opening statement.
Mash responded by explaining the rigorous application process and accountability review faculty members go through before they may be granted a sabbatical; he went on to explain only about 2 percent of faculty members are on sabbatical leave at any given time because of the process. Vitali described her current sabbatical proposal, as well as several sabbatical projects conducted by her colleagues.
PASSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh also testified at the hearing along with Nathan A. Benefield, Director of Policy Analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation and Jonathan Robe, Administrative Director for Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
No action has been taken on the legislation; however, Rep. Roae said he is open to suggestions for improvements to the bills. APSCUF will continue to monitor this legislation.