Category Archives: Advocacy

Our colleague Dr. Kevin Mahoney from KU says a lot here that I would also have said. He says it somewhat more savvily than I was going to, so I’m just reposting his version of it.

APSCUF-KU xchange

This past Saturday, APSCUF posted the following negotiations update on its blog:

APSCUF and PASSHE negotiators met Friday, September 14, at the Dixon Center in Harrisburg.  The Chancellor’s team passed a proposal on retrenchment language and made suggestions for future bargaining sessions. APSCUF caucused and responded to their proposal in writing. The two sides reconvened and failed to come to agreement on the language, but agreed to session definitions for the next two times: on Oct. 5th APSCUF will present on curriculum, class size, and distance education and on Oct. 22nd the Chancellor’s team will discuss temporary workload and concessions on retiree health care.   There was neither discussion of nor progress made on the Chancellor’s team’s demand for concessions on distance education, active and retiree health care, and temporary faculty workload.

There is so much packed into this statement, but I want to focus on one issue in…

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Contingent faculty, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, Tenure, Uncategorized

On Whether University Presidents Can Afford to Take Overtly Political Stances

Kevin Kiley in today’s (May 2) Inside Higher Ed considers the firing of LSU’s President Lombardi, ostensibly for taking stances that were politically contentious–opposing Gov. Bobby Jindhal’s budget-slashing and governance-shifting maneuvers, and so on.

There’s so much I’d like to say about why this is relevant to our current situation as faculty (and students and staff and managers) at WCU, but the article says most of it.

All I’ll add is this. If upper management isn’t going to defend us from attacks by idealogues whose purpose is to denigrate (or even kill) public higher education, or from the education reform [sic] cabal the major goal of which is to privatize and commercialize public education for their own profit, then we have to do it ourselvesThe time to sit by and wait for our leadership to lead is over. 

I can understand why Inside Higher Ed wouldn’t make that argument for us.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, CFHE, Collective Bargaining, Corporate University, Education reform, Inside Higher Ed, PASSHE, Private higher education, shared governance, Tom Corbett

A non-presidential post from Steve Hicks

Sometimes even the most official officers need to say things that they prefer not to have attached to their offices. [OK, I’m done with that riff!]

Since the state APSCUF blog has rules, particularly governing length of posts, I wanted to offer this forum to Steve to say some things that aren’t within that limit. So here ya go. You can read the original version here. Or here:

Over the past week plus “at APSCUF” (which is less of a place than a state of mind — sort of), quite a bit of time has been spent looking at PASSHE’s new system of performance funding, which goes into effect this fall.  New in this system is a series of optional choices for the universities.  One of those — under “Stewardship” — is “Instructional Productivity.”

(Digressive paragraph) Several times at this weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, faculty went to the microphone to tell us “that’s a horrible term, don’t use it.”   One speaker suggested, strongly, that we use “workload” instead, because “that’s what it is.”  The problem with all this argument about terminology is that it isn’t “our” (as in faculty or APSCUF’s) language, it is PASSHE’s language, codified in PASSHE documents, approved by PASSHE’s Board of Governors (in January 2011), and used in all the documents forwarded by the Dixon Center for universities to use in determining their performance indicators.  They will continue to use it, no matter what we call it.

(Back to central point) This discussion of instructional productivity, er workload, centers on numbers from the state system showing the average CalUP faculty member generates 758 credit hours per year.  That’s #1 in the system by almost 2 standard deviations — next is Slippery Rock at 652.  Cheyney is lowest at 469.  At Assembly our most knowledgeable person said that Carnegie II.A institutions have an average of 589 — which is East Stroudsburg’s average (they rank 9th in the system, telling you how well we do; our unweighted average is 599).

Should instructional productivity be a performance indicator?  Probably not.  But our best early analysis of the options to university managers is that this is one they will all pick.  It is one that is clearly attainable (many other options seem unattainable).

This morning on *CBS Sunday Morning* they had a piece on college costs.  They interviewed the president and a student from Sarah Lawrence, amongst others — the most expensive college in the country, according to the story — and both talked about how the personalized attention from faculty was the great attraction of the university.  The president said it wasn’t faculty salaries that drove their price so high, but the fact they had to hire LOTS of faculty to keep that small class experience.

The point was made on the Assembly floor that CAL no longer can claim that kind of experience.  758 represents an average of 21 students in EVERY class CAL offers.  Of course, that would mean that EVERY faculty member teaches 12 courses, that no one has any release time to run a program, chair a department, do research…which we know isn’t true.

It means that every student sits in a class with a lot of other students — not Sarah Lawrence.  What it IS like is Penn State — a comparison made on the floor as the 758 number is almost exactly what the behemoth university in State College has as their average, too.  Although we hate it, WE ARE PENN STATE!

This is where we are in public higher education in Pennsylvania, and the US, today.  In the *New York Times* today, Frank Bruni cites an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development statement: Thirty years ago, the U.S. led the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with the equivalent of at least a two-year degree; only Canada and Israel were close.  As of 2009, the U.S. lagged behind 14 other developed countries.”  We don’t generate the number of degrees we need to stay with, let alone ahead, of the rest of the world because we make higher education both unaffordable and inaccessible.

How?  By defunding higher ed, both in Pennsylvania and across the country.  Last year PASSHE took an 18% cut in funding from the state; we’ve been asked to give back 5% more this year; and for 12-13 the current proposal from the Governor is a 20% cut.  This is after what even the State Senate  Appropriations Committee has admitted has been at least a decade of defunding.  Tuitions have risen and PASSHE’s Board and then the universities have responded with higher tuition AND a cut in their needed expenditures (it’s known in budget-tuition talk around the System as “the Gap” — the difference between the income from tuition and state appropriation and the real cost to sustain the current apparatus — and it’s been over $20 million every year I’ve been state APSCUF president).  It’s a squeeze from both ends.

This squeeze leads to more “productivity,” which, yes, means more faculty workload.  There’s no one else to squeeze in an academic institution: there are only so many copiers, paperclips, and backroom workers.  The real business is students and faculty.  Though you’d be surprised how little of an institution’s budget is actually for that part of the business (one set of numbers makes it to be in the 20-30% range and declining annually).   Classes grow, faculty have more students, the way we teach changes.

Who wants to go to college to sit in a large class, or sit in their dorm on their laptop in “distance” learning, or go to college where no one connected to the university even acts like they want to know their name?  College education is a labor intensive exercise.  As the labor economist from George Washington University said, we haven’t found a way to make it anything but labor intensive.

It serves no one to be more productive at some point: even an English professor (like me) understands the rudiments of the law of diminishing returns.  There’s a reason that all the PASSHE institutions have long advertised themselves to students (who are either the consumers or the product in the productivity model — that one can’t tell says much about how well the model applies) as familiar, know-your-name, private school model institutions.  No one has ever said “we are and want to be like (Carnegie) research (i) institutions, with large lecture halls and grad students in front of smaller classes.”

Cal has reached the point of diminished returns.  PASSHE should be careful about walking the other 13 institutions in their footsteps, given their current financial state.

Our students deserve quality education.  They deserve personalized attention.  They deserve a real opportunity to become what they want to become, not the plumber or carpenter that is the Corbett Administration concentration (which is NOT what students who choose to go to college want to do).

Using instructional productivity to distribute dollars and to show who is performing best will not have a positive outcome.

We all deserve better.

— Steve

 For what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree more–except for one thing. While Steve is certainly correct that PASSHE uses the term instructional productivity to describe, um, whatever it’s describing by using a term that means nothing, I was one of the people on the floor of the Legislative Assembly cheering the call to reject the term as often and loudly as possible.
Of course, that might be why I’m not President of anything. And that might be for the best.
–Seth

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget Cuts, CFHE, Collective Bargaining, Corporate University, deliverology, Education reform, Inside Higher Ed, Instructional Productivity, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Performance Funding, Privatization, Tom Corbett

Let’s hope this isn’t precedent setting

Not the news I wanted to wake up to on an otherwise pleasant Thurs morning. In today’s Inside Higher Ed, a story about a unionized cadre of part-time instructors (the union is an AFSCME affiliate) at the City Colleges of Chicago who have ratified a contract including merit pay for “student outcomes” (read: standardized test results); the merit pay replaces their longevity raises.

I’m willing to listen to the union’s explanation for why they accepted this, but the way it’s reported in this story isn’t very convincing. And any educational plan that Rahm Emmanuel endorses is probably horrible.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, AFSCME, Collective Bargaining, Contingent faculty, Inside Higher Ed, merit pay, Public education

The Campaign for the Future of Higher Ed issues its first report

I was going to write a post about this yesterday and didn’t. Fortunately, a new post just showed up on the State APSCUF blog that says what I would have anyway.

If you aren’t familiar with CFHE (Campaign for the Future of Higher Ed), it’s a consortium/think-tank comprised of higher ed faculty/advocates, many of whom represent the actual educator contingent of Higher Education (y’know, faculty), formed to advocate publicly for the value and importance of higher education in the face of continual, well-funded, often dishonest attacks against us.

APSCUF has been a key contributor to the organization and launching of this effort.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, CFHE, Inside Higher Ed, research

Preserving Quality Higher Education in PA: Our story so far…

[A message from APSCUF-WCU President Lisa Millhous–I just posted it!]

Preserving Quality Public Higher Education in PA: Our story so far…

[Skip ahead to find out what you can do]

On February 7 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proposed his 2012-13 state budget that cuts PASSHE (including West Chester University) by $82.5 million, cuts grants and loans for students (PHEAA) by $27.2 million, and cuts many other educational programs from pre-kindergarten to Ph.D. candidates.
Email the Governor and let him know restoring the funding matters to your family.

On February 29 the PA Senate held a budget hearing for PA State System schools (PASSHE). Senate Appropriations Chair Jake Corman was supportive of restoring funding to the State System. He has said that the State-owned universities have already shouldered their share of the cuts.
Email Senator Cormanto thank him for his support of PASSHE.

On February 29 and March 1 WCU students rallied to show their concern about the budget cuts. Over 1000 post cards were sent to the Governor and more than 500 registered PA voters signed a petition asking their legislators not to approve a budget that cuts education.
Look up your legislators and email them to let them know how important state funding is for your family.

On March 5 the PA House of Representatives held a budget hearing for PASSHE. House Appropriations Chair Bill Adolph also was supportive of the State System and suggested the House would try and reduce the cuts that the Governor had proposed.
Email Representative Adolph and thank him for his support of PASSHE.

Although many have criticized the cuts to higher education, Governor Corbett continues to defend his position. Unfortunately, he regularly uses inaccurate information to support the arguments for cutting higher education. Email the Governor and let him know how restoring the funding would matter to your family.

What can you do?

On March 28th several busses of WCU students and faculty will join students and faculty from all 14 schools in Harrisburg to ask the PA Legislature to restore funding for education.
To see if there is room on the bus, email the WCU APSCUF Office.

On April 24 you can vote in the PA Primary Election (3/26 is the last day to register to vote). A strong student turn-out in the primary will send a message to Harrisburg that we will be out in force in November. And we will remember how the legislature handled the budget this year.

In May and early June we need to find ways to keep our issue alive for the Legislature even though our semester will be over and many students will be home.
You can register to receive text messages or email updates to join our student activities.

WCU Rally videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86zJaSoKKU

http://westchester.patch.com/articles/video-west-chester-students-protest-budget-cuts#video-9228789

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, lobbying, PASSHE, Program elimination, Rally, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized, West Chester University

“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