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Miami TshirtNote: This was originally published on Raging Chicken Press earlier today. An excerpt is included below. To read the full post, click the “Continue Reading” link at the end of the excerpt or go there NOW.

I did my PhD work at Miami University. No, not in Florida – Miami University in Oxford, OH. There was a t-shirt in the bookstore that always provided a snarky retort to those who made the assumption that I was writing my dissertation in Florida: “Miami was a university, before Florida was a state.” Nope, I was far from Florida – a bike ride away from the Indiana border and about a half an hour from Cincinnati.

As a Central New York native, I had never heard of Miami University. This was before Ben Rothlesburger would help put Miami on the national map for Division I football and just about the time Wally Szczerbiak would lead the Redhawks  to the Sweet Sixteen in the 1999 NCAA basketball tournament. I found out about Miami because two amazing mentors, Jim Zebroski and Nancy Mack, spent part of a spring break coming up with a list of PhD programs in composition and rhetoric that they thought I should apply to as I was nearing the end of my Masters degree at Syracuse. Miami had one of the top PhD programs in the country in composition and rhetoric and I still think my decision to go to Miami for my PhD was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Many of my fellow doctoral grad students have become leaders in the field – Scott Lyons, Malea Powell, Pegeen Reichert Powell, and Gwendolyn Pough just to name a few.

I loved my time at Miami. My education was stellar and the intellectual commitment of the people I studied with was unparalleled. That doesn’t mean that Miami was some kind of utopia. In 1998, for example, I was one of seven students arrested for protesting a series of racial hate-crimes on campus. I was the one grad student and the only white student arrested in the protest. On the way to jail, we heard police refer to us as the Miami 7. We took the name and used it to fight our arrest and draw further attention to long-standing, institutional racism at the university. We refused a plea bargain and demanded a jury trial. In the year leading up to our trial, the discussion about racism and racial intimidation became intensely complex and complicated, but that did not change our resolve. We fought and we won. We were acquitted of all charges (you can read Pegeen Reichert Powell’s critical reading of the context of the protests and the administration’s handling of the issue here).

Also, like many research universities, Miami relies heavily upon the labor of adjuncts and graduate teaching assistance to teach a significant percentage of their undergraduate, general education courses. Miami University also has two branch campuses in Hamiltion, OH and Middletown, OH – both more urban and working class campuses. Miami’s administrations had a long history of treating their branch campus faculty as second-class citizens in relation to the Oxford Main campus faculty.

Up until 1997, Miami’s mascot was the “Redskins.” Activists had long sought to change the name, which seemed especially important for a university that took its name from the Miami Indian Tribe, in a state that boasted the sambo-esque  “Chief Wahoo” plastered all over Cleveland’s baseball legacy. It was not until leaders of the Miami Tribe made direct appeals to the university to change the name, that Miami adopted the Redhawks as its new mascot.

Miami’s main campus was almost entirely white, suburban, and middle to upper middle class. It has the reputation as a “public ivy” which it cultivates aggressively. In 1996, as I was in the middle of my PhD coursework, the university’s administration through the leadership of the new university president, James Garland, began a process of “transformation” that many of us found deeply troubling. The new plan was to put Miami at the forefront of the corporatization of higher education. Literally. Miami administrators began to refer to Miami as a “corporate university,” a term they still use in their own webpages to describe the period between 1996 and 2009 in the university’s history. Under President Garland’s leadership, Miami went on a building binge, seeking to turn its already manicured lawns into the country-club university in southwest Ohio.

Given Garland’s overt commitment to corporatizing Miami and building lots of beautiful buildings and luxury dorms, it was head-turning to read ProPublica’s interview with Garland published on Monday. The article, “On ‘Country Club’ Campuses: A Public University Ex-President Shares His Second Thoughts,”  is an indictment of the trend in higher education to spend millions of dollars on beautifying the campus in order to attract wealthy students to universities.

Garland’s words could not come at a more opportune time as PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university presidents are moving forward with harsh austerity plans, slashing faculty and gutting academic programs. As I reported last month in “Wall Street on the Susquehanna,” PASSHE university presidents, administrators, and Board of Governors are all crying “budget crisis” and insist that the crisis stems from 1) the 2008 economic crisis; 2) the long-term decline in state appropriations coupled with Governor Corbett’s deep cuts in PASSHE in 2010; 3) declining enrollment; and, 4) “increasing costs” in faculty and staff salaries. The sites of PASSHE’s austerity policies have been aimed squarely at faculty and staff. What PASSHE refuses to even acknowledge is that one of the most significant contributors to the current “crisis” has been a decade long, unfunded spending spree on new buildings and “beautification” of campuses. PASSHE university presidents have bonded-out our futures so they can put their names on buildings.

James Garland seems to now be questioning the choices he made to lead the country club trend while president at Miami. As Garland put it,

As I think back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight I worry about whether we did the right thing. As president, you to try to make campus attractive. You do things primarily to maintain financial stability.

I just think there’s a movement these days among universities that are able to do this, to turn themselves into country clubs. But inevitably that comes at expense of academic rigor and the quality of the academic program.

In my tenure we certainly contributed to this trend. And there’s a price you pay for that. For every dollar you put into building a student sports facility –- workout rooms and exercise rooms and squash courts and things of that sort – every dollar you put into that is a dollar you’re not spending on improving classrooms or paying your professors a high enough wage that you can recruit from higher up in job pool.

CONTINUE READING on Raging Chicken Press

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As the news of deeps cuts at Clarion University spreads across the Commonwealth, for many faculty and staff across PASSHE, “back to school” now comes with an asterisk. As the Patriot-News reported last week, several PASSHE universities received letters about the possibility of retrenchment: California University, Cheney University, Clarion University,  East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Kutztown University, and Slippery Rock University. State APSCUF has also confirmed that Mansfield University also received a letter.

I’ve received a number of inquiries concerning letter that was sent to Kutztown. The meat of the letter reads:

As a result of budgetary shortfalls, consideration is being given to the elimination of programs and courses, as well as the elimination of duties or services performed by faculty outside of the classroom. As the impact of such actions may lead to the retrenchment of faculty, this letter serves as notice to APSCUF of the possibility for faculty retrenchments to be effective at the end of the 2013-2014 year.

According to APSCUF, the letter is virtually the same letter that was sent to all 8 PASSHE universities facing retrenchment.

You can read the entire letter here: Kutztown Retrenchment Letter

I am writing a series of articles on PASSHE retrenchment over on Raging Chicken Press using the tag #slasshe (thanks to Rick Smith and Brett Banditelli for that one). You can also follow that same hashtag on Twitter for updates.  I will post excerpts and links to the full articles here.

 

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There has been significant news coverage of student and faculty rallies around the state in response to Corbett’s cuts, so I wanted to take a little time to post some of that coverage here.  I think it is critical that we see the work we are doing locally on our campuses and in our communities as part of a significant network of people working to push back against Corbett’s attempts to cut the future.  We might not all know each other (yet), but we are, nonetheless, in this together. Here is a sampling of the news just from the past couple of days:

Yes, there are a lot of articles here and no I didn’t put them in any special order.  I am sure that I missed several articles and stories that ran on local TV news stations.  But the point of posting all of them here, is to recognize that there is significant resistance to Corbett’s cuts and that students and faculty from around the state are already mobilized and resisting.  I’ve heard some students and faculty lament that the protests on their campuses should have been bigger.  OK, I hear ya.  However, I think we also need to see that when taken together, a couple thousand people stood up this past week and said: “Enough!”  AND…(continuing on my upbeat mood)…this Monday, March 28th we expect those folks and more to converge on the State Capitol and make our collective voices heard.

For now, plan on being in Harrisburg on Monday, March 28th.  Monday is a second day of State Senate budget hearings and we need to be outside and inside the chamber to make our presence knows.  The starts at 11:30 am and lasts till 1:00 pm.  The PASSHE hearing will begin at 1:30 pm.  The PASSHE hearing will last until 2:30 pm and then PHEAA will up on the stand.  The Rally is scheduled for outside at the Main Capitol Steps, but in case of rain, we have the Rotunda reserved as well. PSEA, who has their office directly across from the Main Capitol Steps, at 400 North Third Street, has offered their headquarters as a staging area, so faculty and students can arrive at 11:00 am.

Buses will be leaving Kutztown at 9am.  We will meet in the parking lot behind Beekey.  There are still a few seats left on APSCUF-KU’s two buses, so if you want a seat email APSCUF-KU or call 610.683.4277 asap to reserve your seat.  KU’s Student Government Board, Association of Campus Events, and Undergraduate Council also have several buses going.  If you can’t get space on our bus, you can sign up in MSU 153 or call 610.683.1383 with one of their buses.  APSCUF-KU has coordinated with the student groups and all of our buses will meet in the same place and leave at the same time.

So, keep the laments for better times.

GET ON THE BUS!

Jelcz M121MB

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blue gavel

This little gem popped up on one of my google alerts earlier today.  This case may be important for other APSCUF chapters to brush up on as it concerns the legal relationships between East Stroudsburg and its Foundation.  Briefly, the case involves a request for information from East Stroudsburg’s Foundation.  Dan Berret, a reporter for the Pocono Record, requested “donor information and minutes of meetings held by the [East Stroudsburg's] Foundation. ”  The Administration denied Berret’s request.  How the case is sorted (sorting?) out is quite interesting.

The reason why I think APSCUF and APSCUF chapters should check this out has to do with PASSHE’s claims of a budget crisis and its decision to pursue retrenchment.  It would be useful to know what each university’s Foundation is up to, the kind of money involved, and the particular discussions at their meetings.  I am especially interested in this at Kutztown because I suspect that we will learn more about KU’s accounting practices and the way money moves between different accounts.  I may proven wrong on this one, but it seems like something worth pursuing.  It’s just another version of that famous line from Watergate: “follow the money.”

Laws, Life, and Legal Matters – Court Cases and Legal Information at Leagle.com – All Federal and State Appeals Court Cases in One Search.

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