Given the fact that I’ve been urging faculty and students to contact you for about two months, it’s ironic that I’m only now writing to you myself. However, as I was prepping a session for my “Literature of the Enlightenment” class on the Declaration of Independence, I was struck by its characterization of oppressed people trying to free themselves from an unjust government. Even more, I was struck by how it was a last effort by a group of people to get an authority figure, George III of England, to come to a fair agreement with them.
Though I don’t want to push the analogy between the colonists and our current contract negotiations too far (analogies are always tricky), I think parts of it are apt here. The colonists considered themselves on the same team as King George: they thought of themselves as British. We hope that the PASSHE Chancellor and the PASSHE faculty have the same goals: success for our students. Colonists had tried to work out their differences with the government in Britain, such as asking for representation in Parliament and resenting oppressive measures from afar, but each attempt was met with inaction and disdain: “Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury.” Further, King George had stalled the colonists, “for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.” Sadly, faculty feel similarly.
They began to set deadlines, which the King ignored. Your state faculty find themselves in the same position: our contract provides deadlines, and you have ignored them, as faculty have been ready to negotiate at least a year before our contract expired. Faculty tell students they must meet deadlines all the time. Our institutions kick students out if they miss certain or too many deadlines. So the other irony of our current situation is that you are insisting that students do something that you have not done yourself. Students are suffering because those who should know better are not meeting basic professional responsibilities.
Tomorrow, a huge deadline approaches. You have the fate of our state system “nation” in your hands. Will you negotiate fairly? Will you provide a reasonable, fair contract that does not take away governance from faculty and treats them all equally, with dignity and respect?
The faculty’s declaration is clear: we are standing up for our students, our colleagues, and the future of the state system of higher education. We hope that you will do the same.
Many of you are aware that Upper Darby is cutting all elementary physical education, art, and music (they will retain 3 instrumental teachers – for 10 elementary schools). They are eliminating technology and foreign languages at higher levels. They cut 40 positions last year; next year looks even grimmer.
If you’d like to join a Harrisburg protest for this school district – and for public education at all levels – please show up on Weds 6/6 in Harrisburg – at the Capitol, at approximately 9:30 a.m. See “Harrisburg – Upper Darby Style” on Facebook.
Today is statewide Call to Action for Education! Please make certain you contact your state legislators to tell them that you support public education and are distressed at continuing attacks on it in the forms of defunding, anti-union rhetoric, and the push for charters and vouchers. See Education Voters of PA for more info.
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.
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.