Author Archives: lisamillhous

About lisamillhous

Lisa Millhous is a professor of organizational and intercultural communication at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

APSCUF Testifies at Weapons Policy Hearing

On and off since 2012 the PASSHE Board of Governors has been considering what a system-wide weapons policy might look like.  Although it has been difficult to find any campus stakeholders who advocate weapons on PASSHE campuses, this is part of an emotional national debate about guns on campus that has been a topic of multiple court rulings.  On Thursday, January 9, 2014 the PASSHE Public Safety and Security Task Force held a hearing that was webcast to  members of the Board of Governors (BOG) and is archived on the web.  APSCUF President Steve Hicks, Vice President Ken Mash, and WCU Chapter President Lisa Millhous made statements at the hearing.  Speaking for students, East Stroudsburg’s Student Government President Justin Amman expressed disappointment that students were excluded from the conversation and the council of SGA Presidents only received the proposed policy this week, so they were unable to formulate a response before the hearing.  At the hearing, PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan indicated that the BOG will *not* be voting on the proposed weapons policy at the January meeting because more work needs to be done to consider the feedback that has been received.  The window for providing feedback is still open (email: publicsafetytaskforce@passhe.edu).

It is APSCUF’s position that the best weapons policy would prohibit weapons in all areas of campus (except for authorized security personnel).  WCU’s Faculty Senate has made public statements opposing a more flexible weapons policy, as has the Commission of PASSHE Presidents.  At this time there are no Pennsylvania laws that address the issue of weapons on college campuses.

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I don’t want to strike, but I will — a faculty perspective

Lisa2PortraitSmall Dr. Lisa Millhous is the chapter president of WCU’s faculty union (APSCUF). She is a tenured faculty member in the Communication Studies Department and has been employed at WCU since 1999. In the following blog she offers a personal explanation for why faculty care enough to strike.

I don’t want to strike. My career is in educating students, and a work stoppage does just the opposite. But I teach my students to stand up for themselves, to know their worth, and to be bold in their leadership. At some point, I have to follow my own teaching and take a stand.

As the Spring semester starts, there are still unresolved issues on the table. These issues cut at the very foundation of my job. For me, these are strikable issues.

Class size and modality(face-to-face or distance education) impact what I do every day of the semester. Students know that when class size grows their learning decreases. More students means less time for each one of them. Students know that modality matters for their learning experience.

The administration wants to increase class size or assign a modality without involvement of the faculty. Their argument is that these are financial decisions – independent of teaching or disciplinary expertise. Certainly there are budgetary implications, but faculty are highly skilled experts at what they do. We know what classes work best face-to-face (vs. distance education) and what courses are best in larger or smaller sections.  These decisions depend on the discipline and the curricular goals. Faculty need to be involved in the decision, or class sizes will continue to increase as they have every year since I started teaching.  Faculty must take a stand on class size and distance education, because that is where students would be hurt the most: in their learning.

Health care (current and retiree) is a critical part of my salary. Over the past few decades, I have watched inflation erode my salary. My union has purposely traded salary increases to preserve my medical benefits. Now the administration wants to make me pay extra for my healthcare, eating away even more of my salary.  My health is something I care about.

The administration is blaming the faculty, but we have saved the State System money, and we continue to suggest ways more savings could occur. For the 2003 contract the union hired a healthcare consultant who has saved the System thousands of dollars because the health provider was overbilling them. In 2011 the union recommended that the State System explore self-insurance, because we believe it will save thousands of dollars, but they refused to consider it.

The blame hurts most because the System has failed to negotiate healthcare and/or retirement packages for 3 other bargaining groups.  Instead those groups agreed to take whatever the faculty got – so the faculty are put in a position of negotiating healthcare for a much larger group of employees.  The System claims the faculty refused to take the healthcare package that other state employees have (the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund, PEBTF). The truth is they never offered the PEBTF package to the faculty nor have they made a comparable offer of self-funded insurance like PEBTF. This is not a fair way to bargain.

Further, the administration wants me to trade the healthcare of future retirees to keep my own retirement benefits. I am already the beneficiary of the faculty before me, who negotiated my retirement benefits into the faculty contract before I was hired. They could have sold me out to keep their own benefits, but they didn’t. As a faculty member, I am an architect of the future. Why would I agree to a contract that purposely creates deep inequities, degrades my profession, and damages high-quality, affordable public education?

If WCU can’t attract and retain good faculty because the salary and benefits are not competitive – and because they will be teaching large classes in modalities for which they were not trained – won’t that hurt our students?

I don’t want to strike. I want to encourage and support my students to become a bright future for Pennsylvania. But if I have to strike to protect those students’ education, then it is clear to me what I have to do.

Join with me in asking that this contract be settled before my colleagues and I must take this action:  Email Chancellor Cavanaugh (jcavanaugh@passhe.edu) and Interim Chancellor Garland (pgarland@passhe.edu).

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FAQ — Tell me about a possible faculty strike at West Chester University

The following are a brief synopsis and answers to some frequently asked questions about the possible strike at WCU.  Note, APSCUF is the union that represents both faculty and coaches on our campus and is negotiating two different contracts with the Chancellor of PASSHE.  Neither is settled as of this posting, but the questions below refer to the faculty contract only.

How long has this been going on?  The faculty have have worked for 18 months since their contract expired. Part of the reason that this has taken so long is because Chancellor John Cavanaugh repeatedly sends his negotiators to the table without information.  So, although we meet to resolve our differences, the state bargaining team is typically unprepared to offer counter-proposals or even respond to proposals we have made.

What are the issues that the two sides disagree on?  Of course, both sides can change their offers at any time so the disagreement continually evolves and changes.  There has been general agreement on faculty compensation, except for the issue of pay for part-time adjunct faculty.  Faculty continue to push for conditions that will maintain quality education at the university.  Faculty are concerned that we have some say in how large our classes are; we want responsible use of distance education that gives faculty funding to develop interesting and interactive online courses; we are concerned that the Chancellor is unfairly shifting the costs of our healthcare; and we want a healthcare program that will allow us to retire (rather than work into retirement to afford healthcare).  All of these issues affect whether or not WCU can recruit and retain the best faculty for students to learn from, and whether your classroom environment will be the quality you expect from West Chester University.

What can I do?  Write to Chancellor John Cavanaugh (jcavanaugh@passhe.edu)  and let him know that it is important to you that he bargain in good faith and reach an agreement before the Spring semester begins.  Visit PAstudentsvoice.org to sign up to receive updates (there is also a Facebook page and Twitter feed).  Read the latest updates at the APSCUF blog.

What would happen if the faculty went on strike during the semester?  Classes would not meet during a strike.  All of the non-faculty employees at WCU are required to work, so buildings would be open and offices would still function.  Faculty would form picket lines to block certain campus entrances.  Once the strike was settled or called off, classes would resume and the President of the university would make a decision about whether to extend the semester or how to make up the missed days.

Would a strike prevent me from graduating?  Faculty build our careers by graduating students like you who go on to have their own careers; We are doing everything we can to avoid harming your graduation.  However, if we go on strike, we don’t entirely control the length of the strike, nor do we make the decision about how the semester will be made up.  If WCU does not honor your tuition payment by providing you with the instruction for you to earn the credits, then you would have grounds to request your tuition back (even if it is past the deadline for refunds).

But the best thing you can do is help the faculty prevent a strike by contacting the Chancellor, having your parents contact him, and asking your PA legislators to advocate on your behalf.  The faculty care about the quality of education at WCU — your education.  Will you stand with us?

PAstudentsvoice.org | APSCUF blog.

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WCU-APSCUF Sponsors Community Athletes

I have the opportunity to pass along some good news on a non-political issue, so I couldn’t pass it up. As you know our union is mainly visible when we are fighting for the respect that we deserve, given the important work that we do preparing future generations. In order to demonstrate that APSCUF is also a contributing member of our community we sponsor a variety of activities to promote goodwill and positive public relations. In the past we have sponsored conferences, inter-union activities, and also local sports teams.

This year two of the teams we sponsored have been very successful and we want to encourage them, and let them know we are proud of them—not just how they play, but how hard they work and their demonstration that solidarity and teamwork can make a difference.

First, the Senior Little League softball team we sponsored through the West Bradford Youth Association won their district championship and is raising money to go to Mansfield for the State championship this weekend. The team consists of 11 girls: most will be in 9th or 10th grade next year and several are looking at WCU for post-secondary school. (This team is one of three youth teams that we sponsored this year through West Bradford, though this team is unique in that it is both the regular season team and the all-star tournament team.) https://www.wepay.com/donations/wb-seniors-going-to-states; Photo: http://www.eteamz.com/westbradfordlittleleague/

Second, we sponsored the APSCUF Rams – a team of faculty, coaches, and some others – whose success in the hard-fought regular season of the Chester County Co-ed Softball League earned them a place in the play-offs. They won the first of two post-season playoff rounds: they beat another team in a best-of-3 series, and now go on to play the #1 seed in a best-of-5 series. They won their first game on Sunday and will play the remaining games locally if you are able to go to cheer them on. (Game 2: Thurs 7/19 7:45 p.m. Westtown Complex, upper field; Game 3: TBD; Game 4: Sun 7/22 6 p.m. upper field; Game 5: Wed 7/25 6:15 p.m. lower field) http://www.cccesl.com/stats.asp

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate our APSCUF coaches, whose efforts resulted in a very strong standing among Division II schools this year. Certainly their work promoting our institution and the demonstration of solidarity and teamwork is an inspiration – in spite of working without a contract! http://www.dailylocal.com/article/20120613/SPORTS02/120619833/wcu-among-top-d-ii-programs-in-nation

I hope this finds you enjoying your summer and doing what you need to do to prepare for the Fall. We are a strong union and I am grateful to the many efforts of all of you that build our solidarity and teamwork.

In Solidarity,
Lisa Millhous

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Contact the House Government Committee — and tell your Representative

It is critical that we contact members of the House Government Committee today (6/12/12) to stop HB 2442, 2443, 2444, and 2446.  In the coming week, we need to contact our legislators so that the bills do not continue in the process of becoming law.  Many lawmakers are trying to limit the amount of multi-recipient email messages so you will need to send some of them individual messages.  I am providing a sample letter and clickable contact names below.

Now is the time to be active!

In Solidarity,

Lisa Millhous, President of WCU APSCUF

  • House Bill 2442: Deregulates student activity fees, no longer making them mandatory for any student to pay. Students can elect not to pay by signing a form at the start of each semester.
  • House Bill 2443: Prohibits institutions from providing free or reduced tuition for spouses, children, same sex partners, or relatives of employees of the institution or any other.
  • House Bill 2444: Prohibits the System from executing any contract for construction, repair, renovation and maintenance projects, unless the System submits a written request for an exception to the Department of General Services and the department determines, in writing, that an emergency exists and failure to execute a contract would be detrimental to the health or safety of students, employees, or the public.
  • House Bill 2446: Prohibits paid sabbaticals for professors.

TO:  Members of the House Government Committee (clickable links after message)

SUBJECT:  Vote No on HB 2442, 2443, 2444, and 2446

Dear Members of the House Government Committee –

Each of these bills (HB 2442, 2443, 2444, and 2446) will independently harm the State-owned universities, whom you have been entrusted as a steward for the People of this Commonwealth.  Together with the other bills of the so-called “keep tuition affordable” legislative package they jeopardize my ability as a faculty member to help my students achieve their full potential.  Without funding and the ability to generate funding there is no way that we can maintain our quality.

These bills will have far-reaching ramifications and deserve thoughtful debate.  Please take the time to be a good steward of our public resources and consider the destructive outcome that could occur as a result of these bills.

I urge you to vote NO for HB 2442, 2443, 2444, and 2446.  These bills are not ready to leave committee.

Sincerely,
Lisa Millhous
Taxpayer in the Commonwealth of PA and Employee of West Chester University of PA

TO:  dmetcalf@pahousegop.com; eevankov@pahousegop.com; ggrell@pahousegop.com; mhahn@pahousegop.com; rkauffma@pahousegop.com; Tkrieger@pahousegop.com; mmustio@pahousegop.com; broae@pahousegop.com; jstern@pahousegop.com;

Committee Leadership:

Committee Members:

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