Monthly Archives: February 2012

Budget protest rallies on campus Weds & Thurs

Please encourage your students to attend and be vocal – there will be student speakers and, at the north campus event, a raffle of crucial supplies for students left in financial straits by the proposed budget! Faculty should attend to show our support for our students and the continuing health of affordable, high-quality public college education.

South Campus Rally – Wednesday 2/29
Sturzebecker 116A
9:45 – 10:15

 

North Campus Rally – Thursday 3/1
Church St & University Ave
Near bus stop & Ehinger Gym
(Rain location: Sykes Ballroom C)
12:15 – 1:15

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Alum Jen James speaks out about Corbett budget

Jen James graduated from WCU in 2011. Here are her thoughts on
the recent budget proposals:

When I was a senior in high school, I had a difficult time deciding where I wanted to go to college. I was accepted and wait-listed at several larger, private colleges, but I was also accepted at West Chester University. My older siblings had both attended private colleges and fared well in the large-scale campus environment. However, I was immediately drawn to WCU because of its smaller size. I knew that I wanted to go to a college that valued student interaction with professors through smaller class sizes.

Although finding opportunities for individualized classroom experience was my priority in selecting a college, cost of attendance was also a major factor. I came from a single-parent home; I knew that I would need additional funding just to be able to attend college. After I was accepted at West Chester, I was also offered a full-tuition Board of Governor’s Scholarship based on my high school GPA and extracurricular leadership roles. My older sister encouraged me to take advantage of the school’s in-state tuition and my scholarship opportunity. She advised me to think about these factors based on her own experience with paying off student loan debt for both private college and medical school. Based on my sister’s insight and my primary goal of having an individualized learning experience, I chose to attend West Chester University.

Now that I’ve completed my education at WCU, I’m glad that I took the time to include factors such as class size and cost.  As an English major, I had the opportunity to get individual feedback on my work from my professors and classmates in small lecture classes and workshops. My writing improved significantly through this learning environment, and I now have skills that are immediately transferrable to the real world. Additionally, thanks to the Board of Governor’s Scholarship and my reduced tuition as an in-state student, my student loan debt is significantly lower than it would’ve been in other circumstances. I now have a better handle on my finances in terms of repaying my student loans while working than most recent college graduates thanks to West Chester University.

When I heard about Governor Corbett’s state budget cuts that would reduce funding to PASSHE colleges, I immediately thought of how that would affect students like me who relied on scholarships and affordable tuition just to be able to attend college. I also became concerned that current and future students at PASSHE schools like West Chester wouldn’t have the same advantages of a smaller classroom environment that I had. I took action in writing to my PA State Representative about my concerns over the education budget cuts, but I have yet to hear back from them. I will continue to take action and stay informed on the budget process, not just for my own benefit, but for the benefit of current and future PASSHE students who may not have the same advantages of a state college education that I had.

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“Who Does That Help?” (reprised)

About a year ago (Feb 8, 2011), I wrote an entry on my personal blog called “Who Does That Help?”

The post, which you can read if you want, pushes us to challenge every management decision, initiative, policy change, etc by asking for specifics about who benefits from it. Abstractions (flexibility, potentiality, the dreaded ‘fiduciary responsibility,’ and so on) aren’t good enough. They never have been, really, but they’ve become the semantic wall behind which too much of our upper leadership hides in order to make decisions that bring actual harm to actual people.

I’m reposting and reprising that blog entry here because I think it’s incumbent on us to ask that question not just about our local university administration, or even just the Chancellor/Board of Governors, but just as importantly about the Governor’s current budget proposal for 2012-13. Who does it help to slash the PASSHE budget by 20%? Name one actual person, or even group of people, who directly benefits from that decision. I can’t. Maybe you can.

But until you can, trying to have a meaningful debate about the impacts of budget attacks, er cuts, against PASSHE is very difficult. Why? Because nobody is really on the Governor’s side except the Governor and his friends. That is, the fact that there’s nothing to debate should make it really easy to win our argument–because they have no case.

There is, to put it as directly as possible, no benefit to the huge majority of residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; students, faculty, staff, or management of the State system; residents of the towns/cities/boroughs that are our universities’ homes; or anybody but the recipients of tax breaks the Governor can afford to give away only by choking and selling off public education. 

We must push the Governor and his allies in the Legislature (and the press) to answer the question at every turn: Who does it help when you slash our system’s budget? Who benefits? Because we win the argument about who gets harmed and by how much hands down, as long as we make that argument loud and clear.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Public education, Rally, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase

Student speaks out about budget cuts

First-year student Johnny Frederick has posted a video to Youtube that explains how he and others will be affected by Corbett’s proposed budget cuts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eCZ_4xyyd4&feature=g-hist&context=G2e3f2aeAHTzykBgAAAA

If there’s even one student who will suffer in this way, that is one too many.

Please share this link!

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Everybody’s singing it!

If you haven’t heard “Hey Mr. Corbett” by our own faculty member Mark Rimple and current student Hassan Estakhrian, here’s the link: http://www.senatordinniman.com/newsroom/audio

And here’s a great article about it in this week’s Philadelphia Weekly:

http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/news/139320523.html?printView=y

Time for a state-wide sing-along!

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If you needed more evidence that our Chancellor may not be on our side…

…beyond the nearly empty letter sent from his office last week in response to the Governor’s budget proposal, read this article to see what it looks like when a Board of Regents mobilizes against even less substantive a threat then we faced last year and face again this year.

In short, the article explains a situation brewing in Florida, in which the Republican chair of the Senate Budget Committee is threatening to cut the budget for the University of South Florida by 58% if USF won’t hand off one of its branch campuses to him (essentially) to become a part of Florida’s state-owned system (which, by the way, is where our esteemed Chancellor came from, if you remember). Anyway, Senator Alexander is a well-known thug, and everybody knows it, and everybody knows he can’t possibly do what he’s threatening.

At the same time, within a couple of days after his announcement, upper administration/management across the entire USF system had mobilized, sent out angry alerts to faculty, students, alums, staff members, and so on, and begun organizing a response.

In Pennsylvania, the Governor makes an entire predictable speech promising to assault our system for the second year in a row, and our upper leadership response is to agree that the Governor’s position is generally right, but that he’s being a little mean to us.

For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, you’d better start getting this now. We can count on the Office of the Chancellor for nothing helpful to the majority of the system. He simply refuses to fight for us. His record is one of throwing us under any bus that passes by. And all while maintaining his position as the highest paid public employee in PA.

We can’t fire him, and I can’t imagine anything he could do that would make the Governor happier (so he ain’t getting fired). But the implications for students, faculty and staff, residents of PASSHE campus locations, and community members, are clear. If we’re going to keep our system from getting butchered by a bunch of thugs who couldn’t care less about it, we have to do it ourselves.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Public education, Student activism, Tom Corbett

Governor Corbett’s 2012-13 Budget Proposal

Here we go again.

If you haven’t heard the news already, this morning Gov. Corbett launched, er, presented his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Unsurprisingly, PASSHE is once again in his crosshairs.

Corbett proposed a cut of 20%, or about $86 million, for PA state universities. That’s after a cut of 18% last year (which we fought like hell to reduce from his original proposal of cutting over 50%), and a mid-school-year request from his office to freeze 5% of last year’s already reduced allocation.

Here’s the official response from State APSCUF, posted just a few minutes ago on that blog:

GOVERNOR CORBETT’S BUDGET CUTS TO PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION JEOPARDIZE PENNSYLVANIA’S FUTURE
Funding for state-owned universities is necessary to ensure that Pennsylvania students have the opportunity to go to college.

HARRISBURG – Today Governor Tom Corbett revealed his FY 2012-13 state budget proposal, which cuts funding for Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities by 20 percent, or $82.5 million. The president of the association representing 6,000 faculty members and coaches at the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) institutions expressed dismay that the governor has once again attempted to balance the budget on the backs of students and their working families.

The governor’s proposed budget allocates $330 million to PASSHE, a loss of almost $175 million since Corbett took office. His budget proposal comes just one month after he requested that the State System freeze five percent of last year’s appropriation.

“Since taking office, Governor Corbett has taken every opportunity to decrease funding for our universities,” said Dr. Steve Hicks, president of APSCUF. “We understand that these are challenging economic times, but our students and their families are already struggling to make ends meet. Additional budget cuts are going to put the college dream out of reach for many Pennsylvanians.”

In June, Governor Corbett signed a budget that reduced funding for PASSHE by 18 percent.

As a result, PASSHE was forced to raise tuition 7.5 percent.

“PASSHE has a state-mandated mission to provide accessible, affordable, ‘high quality education at the lowest possible cost to students.’ Our universities cannot continue to meet these goals without critical state support,” Dr. Hicks stated. “The governor’s proposal puts current funding for the State System below 1989-90 levels. This short-sighted budget fix will have a lasting impact on the future of the Commonwealth.”

“Our campus communities must stand together for quality education,” Hicks said. “I urge the legislature to reaffirm the promise of affordable higher education for the working families of Pennsylvania.”

The governor’s budget proposal includes cuts to higher education totaling $265.4 million. In addition to the State System reduction, three of the four state-related universities will see cuts totaling $146.9 million, community colleges, $8.8 million, and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, $27.2 million.

For understandable reasons, State APSCUF’s response is somewhat restrained in its tone. And if what I’m about to say seems unrestrained, you should see what it looked like when I first wrote it.

Understand the context:  these proposed cuts coincide with the Governor’s firm refusal to tax gas extraction companies that are volunteering to pay taxes as they begin fracking up our state; I’m not advocating fracking, but it’s doubly outrageous for the Governor to want it both ways. He can’t just let his fracking friends destroy the state and not pay a penny in taxes for doing it.  The cuts further coincide with the Governor’s refusal to make businesses and wealthy residents pay their fair share of the operating costs of our state, even as many of those businesses are benefiting from state contracts (read: taxpayer dollars), from the squeezing of public services, and so on. None of this is news.

I understand other states, especially California, have faced bigger cuts to public higher ed budgets, and other states (WI, OH, FL, MI, TX) have Governors who are more drooling, insane whackjobs.

Nonetheless, for those of us who live in PA, it’s about time to throw down the gauntlet. The reason the Governor keeps making these outrageous decisions is that nobody is stopping him. We’re not the only organization deeply harmed by the Governor’s stance, and it’s incumbent on all of us not just to defend our system and our students, but our state.

Be on the lookout for calls to act coming fast and furious now that the budget proposal is official. More important, when you see those calls, ACT!!!

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, free speech, lobbying, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Rally, Shock Doctrine, Student activism, taxes, Tom Corbett