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Earlier today I posted this to AAUP’s Academe Blog. Here’s the first few paragraphs. If you want to read the full article, click on the link at the bottom of this post. Or, go to the full article now by clicking here

At my monthly department meeting yesterday, the department’s representative to our University Senate gave his report on their last meeting. As part of his report, he told us some of the concerns our university president, Javier Cevallos, expressed about a recent drop in enrollment. Cevallos’s remarks before our University Senate echoed a statement he released in October 2012 in order to explain another $3 million shortfall:

Budget Shortfall 

This fall semester, Kutztown University is facing a problem of serious magnitude.  For the second straight year, the university has experienced a drop in enrollment.

Almost 300 students have made the decision not to come back to KU to continue their education for this fall semester. While we realize many of our sister institutions and private universities within our region are facing the same situation, the drop we are experiencing this year is much larger than we have had in the past.

Upon learning of this, we immediately identified the students and called them to determine their status and/or reasons for not returning.  Although we are still evaluating the information we have gathered, it is evident that we need to become more effective at retaining our students.

As I stated at our opening day gathering, each student we lose seriously impacts our budget.  With only 20 percent of funding coming from the commonwealth, and with our operating budget based on our year-to-year enrollment, the student body is our lifeblood.

As a result of this enrollment loss, we face a shortfall of $3 million on top of the reductions we have already made.  I have decided to cover this gap with carry over funds on a one time basis to meet the deficit in the current year.  Although this is only a temporary solution, it will provide us with time to thoughtfully consider base budget reductions, beginning next year, in the context of our mission.

I want to stress the importance of our role in student retention. We all need to go above and beyond to assist our students in persisting and graduating from KU.   It is crucial to the future of our university and the region.

I urge you all to put our students first, and do whatever you can to make KU a place they will take great pride in.   It is really going to take each and every one of us to help KU overcome this challenge in the future.

This story of “fiscal crisis” has been the norm at Kutztown University for most of the ten years I have worked here. Cevallos’s latest visit to the University Senate was ostensibly, in part at least, to report the university’s findings after gathering information about the reasons why students did not return to Kutztown University. He reported that most of the students who did not return were from Philadelphia and most of those were African-American and Latino students. Not only has the loss of students impacted KU’s budget, Cevallos expressed concern that the loss of these particular students has also hurt the university’s diversity – which has been a focus of his administration as well as a “performance indicator” that figures into the PA State System of Higher Education’s funding formula. Two key reasons Cevallos offered for the decline in enrollment were 1) the possibility that West Chester University – a sister institution located closer to Philadelphia with train service from the city; and, 2) a drop in the amount of financial aid students were receiving. Funding crisis. Diversity crisis. Sister-university-stealing-our-students-crisis.

Read the full article here

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Last night — actually, VERY early this morning — I was searching to see if there were any videos posted by media or individuals of APSCUF’s protest at the PASSHE Board of Governors meeting yesterday. One of my searches brought up a video interview I did for a project some of my colleagues did a couple years back: Union Stories: Kutztown. I did the interview on October 14, 2010, back when we were still working under our previous contract. Now, more than two years later and 19 months without a contract, the story I told in that interview still holds up…for the most part. After two rounds of deep budget cuts, having to fight like hell to prevent our local administration from gutting programs and faculty, and little promise that we can expect anything different for the near future, I hear the edge in my voice when I tell the short version of the story in the 2010 interview. I have a creeping feeling that I am trying to convince myself of something…or that my narrative no longer matches my experience. That’s hard to write, actually.

Coming across this interview was good timing in one respect at least. I was having a conversation with someone a week or so ago who wanted to know why having a union contract was so important to me. I got asked a version of that same question by a FOX 43 reporter yesterday at the APSCUF protest in Harrisburg: “What’s the big deal with working without a contract?” I’ve had versions of this conversation with scores of people over the 10 years I’ve been at Kutztown University. I can’t even begin to count the number of people that wondered why the hell I was going to take a job at Kutztown when I had other offers with lower teaching loads and, in one case, a significantly higher starting salary and in the city I lived in at the time. I had then and have now several reasons. But, one reason stands out above all the rest. I took the job at Kutztown because of the union, because of APSCUF. If Kutztown did not have a unionized faculty, I would have never taken the job. Period.

I’ve tried to make the case for several years that if our contract continues to erode, if our working conditions deteriorate even more, or if we strip away protections and quasi-equity for temporary faculty, then Kutztown – PASSHE as a whole – will not be able to hire AND KEEP quality faculty. We will go elsewhere. That’s sad and infuriating to me. It’s an injustice to the student body we teach and to the mission of the 14 universities that make up PASSHE. But that’s the game that the Chancellor, the Chair of PASSHE Board of Governors, and PASSHE as a whole is playing. They want to strip away quality and leave in its place a degree factory – a State-owned version of ITT Tech or the University of Phoenix.

When I watch my “Union Stories” video now I am keenly aware of why I chose to come to Kutztown, why I am fighting like hell to protect and secure a good contract for ALL faculty, and why I may ultimately end up having to leave. But the game is not up yet and the fight is not lost yet. So, back to work. Here’s the video:

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I ran the numbers a different way and turns out the news just gets worse. This time, I did the graphic with percentages. APSCUF members are now in the 16th month without a contract. As each month rolls by, our paychecks buy less. What does that look like in the real world? It means a 5.2% pay cut every time we go to the store.

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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 particular: temporary faculty workload. It seems that PASSHE negotiators have learned their lesson from our last contract fight. During our last round of contract negotiations, temporary faculty issues were front and center. The issue that got the most attention was the raising of the cap on part-time, temporary members from 7% to 25%. Pretty significant, no? I am sure that some members of our negotiating team that worked on that contract would take issue with my characterization. For example, our negotiators argued that our previous contract had NO CAP on the TOTAL number of temporary faculty members. So, for example, as long as a State System university kept the numbers of part-time temporary faculty members below 7%, that university theoretically could have a faculty that was 60% temporary – as long as 53% of that faculty were full-time temporary faculty. I concede the point. It’s true, the 25% would be the first time the total number of temporary faculty would be capped and 25% is still significantly below the national average, which is between 40 and 60% depending on the study and institution. However, by refusing to distinguish between part-time and full-time temporary faculty, a State university could now turn 25% of the faculty into part-time adjuncts – effectively stripping away any pretense to job security and effectively eliminating their health insurance.

When it came time to sign the final agreement, the State System threw in the fact that the one-time cash payment faculty would receive in year one of the contract (instead of a cost-of-living adjustment) would NOT be given to temporary faculty members. There are several versions of how that happened – and, frankly, I don’t know which version is the most accurate. Suffice it to say that, for many temporary faculty members, that felt like the second slap in the face for that contract. First, the university can now turn your job into piece-work. And, just to make sure you don’t think you are a crucial part of the work of the university, we’re not going to give you what your tenure-track or tenured colleagues are getting, no matter how long you’ve been here.

On my campus, temporary faculty were up in arms. Several were so disgusted, they wanted to leave the union. Many more just retreated to their offices feeling they are totally on their own – best to just “shut up and teach” (a phrase that a temporary faculty member expressed to me at the time) and hope they have a job next semester. From the perspective of the State System administration and Chancellor Cavanaugh: Mission Accomplished. Divide-and-Conquer.

Well, we’re now facing round two in Chancellor Cavanaugh’s Divide-and-Conquer strategy. This time around he’s leading his team to cement a two-tiered faculty system by going after temporary faculty workload. PASSHE already requires faculty to teach a 4-4 load – that is, four classes per semester. By any reasonable measure, we already have a heavy teaching load. The Chancellor is proposing that we up the load to 5-5 for temporary faculty members. He is attempting to hold out the carrot that in exchange for a heavier teaching load, temporary faculty will no longer be evaluated on their teaching, service, and scholarship – they will only be evaluated on their teaching. The Chancellor is trying to drive a permanent wedge between temporary faculty and their tenure-track and tenured colleagues. The Chancellor drove the first spike in during the last negotiations and now he is seeking to bring the hammer down once again, turning a crack into a fissure. The move is an attempt to get tenured and tenure-track to be narrowly self-interested and say, “well, at least don’t have to teach a 5-5 load.” The move seeks to play on the fear that if we don’t accept such a two-tier system, then everyone will suffer. The move holds tenure-track and tenured wages, medical insurance, and workload hostage, threatening to destroy them all if permanent faculty don’t offer up their temporary colleagues up for sacrifice. This is the world we are living in now folks.

But let me open the workload issue up a little more. While it’s true that full-time temporary faculty would see their workload increase by 25% (without any increase in compensation), the consequences of moving to a 5-5 load are much more serious. Take my department, for example. We have a total of 41 faculty members, eight (8) of which are temporary faculty members. Only one of those faculty members are part-time. If you turn those positions into full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions, we have 8.5 faculty positions teaching a total of 30 classes. If the State System turns a 4-4 FTE position into a 5-5 FTE position, our department will not have 6 FTE temporary faculty positions instead of 8.5. And since there is no such thing as a half-person in the real world, you are talking about two people losing their jobs – not exactly a model of job creation in a down economy.

But, it gets worse. Let’s say that a particular university takes a slightly different approach. Let’s say that a university administration – perhaps even at the direction of the Chancellor – tells all departments to keep all faculty schedules as they are and not increase the temporary faculty load to 5-5. Such a university president might even come out and try to sound all benevolent by saying “we don’t want our temporary faculty to be overburdened…we want them to be able to really focus on their classes.” Sound good? Well, guess what? While my department might be able to keep the number of temporary faculty constant (that is, to keep seven temporary faculty on a 4-4 load and one temporary faculty member on a 2-2 load), ALL of those faculty are NOW CONSIDERED PART-TIME. That is, they will lose their FULL-TIME status and with that, they will LOSE THEIR FULL HEALTH CARE BENEFITS. That’s right, instead of just cutting 1.5 FTE faculty positions, a university could cut health insurance for ALL TEMPORARY FACULTY MEMBERS by doing NOTHING. 

So, while Chancellor Cavanaugh may want us all to focus on different workloads for temporary and permanent faculty, his proposal is an attempt to pull the rug out from under ALL temporary faculty members and rip away even the smallest scrap of job security.

Frankly, the only reason we are able to keep the high-quality temporary faculty we have now is because they are paid on scale with tenure-track faculty (well, almost, they do not receive steps as they should) and they receive the same benefits. The temporary faculty members in my department, for example, can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their tenure-track and tenured colleagues. The only reason the vast majority of these highly qualified temporary faculty members do not have tenure-track jobs is because of the job market. And we all know that story. If you constrict the job market, the competition for any single job increases. That’s a pattern that has held steady for the past several decades. Competition for academic jobs is already intense. The Chancellor’s plan not only rips away job security for temporary faculty members, it further constricts the academic job market across the state for ALL higher education faculty. Earlier this year we saw the Chancellor call upon university presidents and faculty to unite and help stave of Governor Corbett’s 20% cut in higher education. He played the role of a PASSHE advocate, a uniter. Well, just a few short months later, we learn that same Chancellor is wielding his Divide-and-Conquer hammer, going after the same people who have helped deliver the high-quality education he touted before the Pennsylvania House and Senate.

The message I have for my APSCUF brothers and sisters comes from a sign that has been carried through the streets of Chicago this past week: “Enough is Enough.” Ya Basta! We have to see the Chancellor’s proposal for what it is: to divide us so he can weaken and conquer us all. We have to begin to think of our current contract fight in the same terms the striking Chicago teachers see theirs: as a fight for the future of public education. If you think of this contract fight only in terms of “getting mine,” we will all lose in the long-term. We cannot afford to lop off limb after limb and think we can be effective for the long haul. I for one will not sell out my temporary faculty colleagues for the same reason I will not sell out my tenured colleagues: we are in this together. This is a fight for the integrity Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. And it is a fight for our futures and our children’s future.

Enough is enough!

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Check out the Shippensburg’s student newspaper’s article and video on the recent APSCUF-SU protest against Corbett’s cuts:

APSCUF Rally Draws Crowds Against Cuts

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Wow. It has been quite an amazing month and the December issue of Raging Chicken Press reflects the kind of month it has been. It’s also pretty clear that we are already bursting at the seams, ready to expand our site into new areas. I am going to spare you my end of  year reflections until next week sometime. Suffice it to say that we’ve got big plans for 2012!

Here’s a breakdown of the December issue:

As you can see, it’s quite an issue. A great way to close out 2011. Raging Chicken Press will be taking a little break over the holidays. Our next issue will be published the first week of February. While we will not be publishing a full issue until then, I will be using the opportunity to fill you in on our plans for 2012.

One reminder: it’s still possible to be eligible to be selected from our subscriber list to receive this months “Must Read.” This month’s book takes its inspiration from our Chomsky interview: Noam Chomsky’s, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order as well as Hopes and Prospects (that’s right, another double give-away). To be eligible, all you need to do is enter your email address in the subscription box on the right-hand side of our main page and click “Subscribe” by Monday, December 19th. That’s it and it’s free. I’ll announce our lucky subscriber next week.

That’s it for now. Hope you dig the issue!

Bread and Roses,

Editor Zero, Kevin Mahoney

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