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Late yesterday afternoon, APSCUF’s state president, Ken Mash, sent a letter to PASSHE Chancellor, Frank Brogan, and PASSHE Board of Governors Chair, Guido Pichini, regarding on-going problems with KU’s Presidential Search process.

Mash’s letter began:

I am very disappointed in the System’s handling of Dr. Paul Quinn’s serious complaint to the State System about the presidential search process at Kutztown University, and the subsequent correspondence related to his complaints about the process directed to the campus community by Mr. John Wabby, the search committee chair.

Mash insisted that “a presidential search process is so very important that is must be beyond reproach” and that a “flawed process can only result in tainting — from the very start — someone’s tenure as president.”

The responsibility of members of the presidential search committee is equally important. If a committee member believes that the search process is flawed or potentially unethical, then a committee member has a difficult decision to make:

Should any members of a search committee believe that the process is fundamentally flawed, if not discriminatory, what are their options? Infused as the process is with high-level administrators and trustees, the act of filing a complaint is surely intimidating. Yet, Dr. Quinn had the fortitude to raise his concerns with the System. Despite his stated desire to bring union representation with him to file his complaint, he was denied the opportunity. He was told there would be an investigation, but we now know that at least one key witness was not interviewed, and others were not even informed of the nature of the complaint.

Mash then addressed the decision by John Wabby, the Chair of the Presidential Search Committee AND the Chair of the Council of Trustees, to kick Quinn of the search committee.

In Wabby’s letter to faculty, he stated that Quinn had violated a Board of Governors policy regarding confidentiality in the presidential search  process. However, Mash was at the APSCUF-KU Representative Council meeting at which Quinn discussed his concerns with the presidential search with elected faculty union representatives. Mash responded as follows:

Having been left with no recourse, Dr. Quinn related his concerns in the most general way to the faculty on the KU APSCUF Representative Council. That body chose to vote no confidence in the process. What else was he or they do do? Forever hold their peace? That is not way to ensure the integrity of the process. He was not informed of any route for an appeal, he was not assured that his serious concerns would be addressed, and he was [not] told how, specifically, his concerns might be wrong.

Contrary to Mr. Wabby’s communication to the university community [including students], Dr. Quinn did not relate specific information about the search to anyone. He merely related his concerns about process and diversity to his colleagues, and he related the reasons for the faculty’s lack of confidence in the process to the public. Our universities are, after all, public institutions.

You can read the full text of Ken Mash’s letter RIGHT HERE.

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Note: On Monday of this week I posted an article about plans to cut 40 jobs, including 22 faculty members at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Earlier today, I posted another article on the situation at Clarion on Raging Chicken Press. This article features an interview with the President of the Clarion chapter of the faculty union, APSCUF. An excerpt is posted here. You can continue reading the entire article by clicking the link at the bottom or go there now

In the wake of the devastating cuts proposed by the Clarion University administration and President Karen Whitney, it took a few days for faculty, staff, and students to shake off the initial shock and disbelief. Shock and disbelief has given way to a mobilization effort to save the three programs slated for immediate cuts and to prevent the firing of 22 faculty and 20 staff members. On August 15th, shortly after students learned of the cuts, a “Save the Clarion Department of Music” facebook page was created by students to “join music education and music business students past and present, and all who participated in performing organizations at Clarion University, so together, we can unite to Save the Department of Music.” Shortly afterwards, Clarion University alum, Jed Millard, started an on-line petition to urge Whitney to put a halt to the cuts. As of this posting, the petition already has 2,021 signatures.

Faces of Retrenchment Day 1 - Leah ChambersYesterday, faculty launched a “Faces of Retrenchment” campaign, as a way to highlight the fact that President Whitney’s “bold, ambitious workforce plan” has direct, material consequences for real people with real families. Many of the 22 faculty slated to lose their jobs have been at Clarion for years – some for decades. In the next several days and weeks, Clarion University’s campus will be bustling with activity and not just from the annual arrival of thousands of students on “Move-In Day.” Clarion University will be bustling with the sounds of organizing.

What the Hell?

If Clarion President Whitney’s slash-and-burn workforce plan shows a disdain for the academic mission of the university, the process by which this plan became known to the university community is down-right sickening. I wanted to know more about how people first learned about Clarion’s new workforce plan, so I called Beth MacDaniel, Chair of the English Department and President of Clarion’s chapter of the faculty union, APSCUF. What MacDaniel told me should set off alarm bells for anyone who gives half a damn about shared governance and democratic process.

When I asked MacDaniel if Clarion’s administration had given any indication that such drastic cuts were on their way, MacDaniel said:

Absolutely none. In fact, a couple of weeks ago we were at State APSCUF for a State meet and discuss [regular meetings between leaders of APSCUF and PASSHE administration in Harrisburg]. They didn’t give us a single clue that it was going to be anything like this. It was…it was…it blew my mind.

MacDaniel did not learn of the university’s “bold, ambitions workforce plan,” until the morning of August 15th when she and leaders from all the other unions on campus were called to special meetings with the university President and Provost ahead of a previously scheduled meeting.

The president has what she calls “university governance meetings,” where she meets with the leaders of different unions on campus. That was set for 1 o’clock this past Thursday. She was told that contractually she ought to meet with the leaders of each of the unions prior to that so they could see specifically what was happening with their bargaining unit members. And so, at 9 o’clock in the morning I met with the President, the Provost, the HR guy, and the financial guy. I had asked two other APSCUF leaders to go with me…I figured it wasn’t good for me to go by myself.

We were given copies of the workforce plan – that’s the first we saw of it. And then we were asked if we had questions.

We [APSCUF] went at 9, AFSCME went at 10, and SCUPA went at 11. At 1 o’clock in the afternoon, all of us met together with the President and Provost at the meeting that had already been set up. People who hadn’t received the workforce plan were given copies of it and then they asked for questions. People were pretty much still in a state of shock.

If you have not checked out the actual workforce plan yet, you should. It’s a 32-page document filled with charts and graphs and a fair share of inconsistencies. And, there is some rather oddly placed happy talk. For example, on page 5  just before the plan calls for the elimination of Academic Enrichment – the department that runs academic support for students who may need tutoring or mentoring – it says, “the plan is intentionally broad and shapes the workforce across all areas of the university in order to ensure the unique culture of learning at Clarion where we believe in the potential of every student, and strive to help our students achieve their academic and career goals.” Really? Really!?!?!?!?

Or, how about this gem on page 12. The administration identifies the BS in Music Entrepreneurship as a potential growth area. Clarion does not have a BS degree in Music Entrepreneurship and the “proposed program” has not made its way through the university’s curriculum bodies. That’s a BS degree for sure, just not one you can get a job with – especially given that the plan calls for cutting actually existing music classes.

“They couldn’t have come up with this overnight,” says MacDaniel. That’s not to say that the administration had not expressed concerns about “budget shortfalls.”  It was no mystery that Clarion, like most of the other 14 universities in the PA State System of Higher Education, was hit hard by deep cuts in State funding thanks to a Governor and right-wing Republican dominated state legislature seemingly hell-bent on destroying public education from kindergarten through higher ed. In an upcoming article on Raging Chicken Press, I will report on some of the root causes of PASSHE’s “budget crisis” that raise troubling questions about how seriously the Board of Governors, University Trustees, and university presidents are taking their fiduciary responsibilities. MacDaniel and other members of the union’s local meet and discuss team had been trying to have frank conversations about the President’s plans for dealing with a projected $8 million budget deficit.

Well, I think that this President and Provost have a particular idea, a vision of what they think the university should be. We kept asking at local meet and discuss, “what’s your vision. What’s your vision.” And all they did was parrot back the vision and mission statements of the university posted on the web page. They had to have had an idea all along…for several months at least…about how extensive they wanted this to be. And they didn’t give us a clue. They kept on saying, “we don’t know the numbers, we don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know. Clearly they knew.

And it seems President Whitney was committed to keeping anyone outside of her inner circle in the dark. In an August 8 prepared statement, Clarion Provost Ronald Nowaczyk delivered the smoke-and-mirrors:

The university is still reviewing any cuts in personnel or related actions, and no decisions have been made.  President Karen Whitney confirmed the changes that will be made will not impact students who attend Clarion this fall.

While the university’s prepared statement indicated that the Provost had “met with state APSCUF leadership, along with the associate vice president for finance and administration and members of the chancellor’s Office of Labor Relations, to discuss the status of the university’s workforce plans, as required by the collective bargaining unit,” no one in that room on the faculty side left that meeting with any indication that Clarion was about to drop a bomb.

When asked whether he had any indication that Clarion was about to see a 10% cut in its faculty and over 40 jobs lost, APSCUF Vice President, Ken Mash said no way. “We were really blindsided,” he said. “We were not sure that they were going to have to retrench at all. Nobody saw 22 coming. It’s not like we’re stupid. They were at meet and discuss and they did not give any indication that they were looking at anything quite like this.”

Give credit where credit is due, however. Clarion’s president was not hiding the fact that she had no interest in hearing from faculty, staff, or students as she was preparing her “bold, ambitious workforce plan.” The administration was pretty clear in that August 8 prepared statement that it was going to issue changes by decree:

Leaders of the various employee bargaining units have not been involved in the process, but Nowaczyk said they are being advised on the status of the process via regular meetings with the president.

Presumably, “advising” means parroting back the vision and mission statements from the university’s web page.

Read the entire story on Raging Chicken Press

Hear Beth MacDaniel, Clarion-APSCUF President on the Rick Smith Show

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Note: This article was published earlier today on Raging Chicken Press. An excerpt appears below. You can read the full article by clicking the link at the end, or you can go to the original article now by clicking here

Last week, Clarion University announced what it called a “bold, ambitious workforce plan” that will result in the elimination of over 40 jobs, including 22 faculty. This is only the latest blow to a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university in a state that seems hell bent on gutting public higher education. This past May, Raging Chicken Press reported on plans to retrench – that is, fire – faculty members at East Stroudsburg University and the long battles with austerity-minded administrators at Kutztown University is a familiar story to our readers.

What sets the move at Clarion apart from previous PASSHE cuts is that it may be the lead example of “transformation” at state universities championed by the system’s Board of Governors. PASSHE’s last Chancellor, John Cavanaugh, released a new vision for PASSHE in November 2010 called simply enough, “PASSHE Transformation.” That document laid out in general terms PASSHE’s intention to take the 14 university system in a different direction:

The vision includes four major components, all grounded in the need for transformation: (a) how, when, and where learning occurs; (b) how the resources necessary to ensure learning are pursued, retained, and sustained; (c) how our universities relate to their various communities; and (d) how we partner with the Commonwealth to create and deliver a shared vision for the future. Only through transformation, grounded in a thoughtful reexamination of our historic emphasis on high quality student learning opportunities, will our success be assured during these very difficult economic times [bold in original].

In my review of Cavanaugh’s tenure as PASSHE Chancellor after he announced he was headed out the door for greener pastures in Washington, DC, I note that Cavanaugh’s vision of “transformation” was lock-in-step with what’s happening to public education at all levels across the nation:

Anyone paying attention to what was and is going on in higher education policy, especially in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, saw the coded language consistent with those seeking to privatize and profitize education at all levels. Take, for example, language from the Broad Foundation, founded by Eli Broad – #157 on the Forbes Billionaire list with a personal net worth of $6.3 billion. Broad is a major contributor to Democratic Party candidates with close associations with Democrats favoring anti-labor, Michelle Rhee-type “reforms” to public education. At the center of the Broad Foundation agenda is, you guessed it, “transformation” of public education. Cavanaugh’s “PASSHE Transformation” memo seemed to signal the austerity to come, squeezing PAASHE’s limited resources and striking a blow to our 6,000+ member union.

While Cavanaugh’s memo was short on specifics, what it meant was not lost on the faculty union. In a scathing piece of satire, “The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of PASSHE,” president Steve Hicks and vice president Ken Mash of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) wrote:

Perhaps you’ve seen the Chancellor’s latest on “PASSHE Transformation?”  It’s amazing how a document so short on details can still manage to rankle.  The very notion that students and faculty will be transformed is enough to disturb, but its implicit anti-intellectual message really vexes.  It’s hard to ignore the presumptuousness that could lead some to conclude that “transformation” is necessary or, even worse, that they somehow single-handedly possess the knowledge of what that transformation ought to be and that it should be imposed from above.

Clarion University’s new “workforce plan” reads more like an accounting ledger than it does a document that helps guide the university to best serve students of the Commonwealth. Clarion’s plan is clearly situated within the growing right-wing, “market-based” proposals to “reform” everything public. Rather than putting forth a strategic plan based on an academically sound rationale, we are treated to a consumer vision of higher education: “eliminating academic programs which no longer hold the interest, based on enrollment trends, of our students.”

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Yesterday, over 500 faculty members from across the 14 universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) converged on the PASSHE Board of Governors meeting at the Dixon Center in Harrisburg. Here’s a couple video snap shots of the action. To check out all the photos I took, you can visit this photo album.

“Contract Now!”

APSCUF President Steve Hicks and Vice President Ken Mash Close Out the Day of Picketing

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On March 28, 2011 1,000 plus converged on our state capitol in Harrisburg carrying the message, “United We Stand, Underfunded We Fail.”  Here are three more videos from that rally. For more videos from the rally and from rallies across the entire State System of Higher Education, check out APSCUF’s YouTube channel:

APSCUF President, Steve Hicks

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APSCUF Vice President, Ken Mash

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Lock Haven Track Member Nick Hilton after 100 Mile Run

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I’ve tried to write this post no fewer than three times.  I’m not having a case of writer’s block; I just haven’t found enough time during these last several days of the semester to tackle the task of connecting Stalin to squirrels.  Actually, it’s not really a matter of connecting the two at all.  It’s a matter of being concerned about failing to navigate what feels like a fairly narrow line of argument.

Squirrel (PSF)A little over a week ago, this post had the title “Squirrel Logic.”  Then, as so often happens, events eclipsed the value of that post.  And yet, I still think there is some value in the notion of “squirrel logic.” I’ll admit that I am indebted to a segment titled “Islamophobiapalooza” that Jon Stewart did on The Daily Show back on 9/7 of this year.  Part of the segment focused on the media’s obsession with pastor Terry Jones’s announcement that he would burn copies of the Quran on 9/11.   Here’s how the Huffington Post described the relevant portion of the segment:

Stewart likened the media’s constant coverage of the crazy pastor to the dog from the movie “Up!” It’s like no matter what is going on the world, they will drop everything if they see a squirrel. In this case, the squirrel is an irrational person who thinks burning books is OK.

If you haven’t seen the Pixar film Up this will give you an idea of the scene Stewart references:

 


At APSCUF-KU meet and discuss this semester, we have been asking the administration for their plans to mitigate the impact of their decisions to retrench faculty, cut release time (Alternative Work Assignments) for directors of programs, get rid of services for “at-risk” students,” eliminate long-standing programs that have been integral to the identity and history of Kutztown University (e.g. the Early Learning Center), and a host of other moves performed, ostensibly, because of a “fiscal crisis.”  When the Kutztown Administration reported a $227,462 surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 at the annual PASSHE Board of Governor’s meeting in October, KU’s administration tried to change its story.  At our October meet and discuss meeting, KU’s Provost attempted to say that the retrenchments were due to “fiscal concerns” but they also had “programmatic dimensions.”  Really?  For over a year the administration has done nothing but cry “the sky is falling.”  Now, they expect us to entertain a new dog and pony show?  SQUIRREL!!!!

The fact is that the current KU administration is suffering from a failure of vision and a lack of any semblance of a coherent plan.  And, frankly, I’m sick of chasing squirrels.  It seems that ever since I’ve been at KU, faculty and staff have been asked to jump in response to one crisis after another.  And, for the most part, we’ve chased the squirrel.  We’ve sucked it up and worked harder.  We’ve put our own research on hold, taken additional precious time out of our family lives, and struggled to maintain the quality of our teaching and service work in our pursuit of the administration’s latest cry of “SQUIRREL!”  The more time I’ve spent working for our local union, the more I am convinced that the real “crisis” at Kutztown is that there is no rudder.  There is no vision that guides the path ahead.  Faculty and staff have jumped and chased the squirrel out of good faith and a commitment to Kutztown University.  We believed in this place.  We believe in our students.  But we cannot continue to dart off into the woods after every snap of a twig because the administration hears a squirrel.

The story of our current “crisis” at KU is a story about the history of this squirrel logic.  It’s not a sexy story.  It’s not as compelling for journalists as the dominant narrative about the economic crisis.  However, even the dominant narrative about the economic crisis is beginning to look more and more like a squirrel hunt.  Just take a look at Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera’s new book, All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, or if you don’t have the time to read the book because you’re out chasing squirrels, check out this interview.  The story is less about forces of nature as it is about the accumulation of bad practices.

What has become clearer to me over this past year is that this squirrel logic is not consistent across PASSHE.  It happens to be especially prevalent at Kutztown.  And it is perhaps because of my Kutztown vantage point that I had mixed reactions to the most recent post on our State APSCUF blog: “The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of PASSHE.” The post is a response to PASSHE Chancellor Cavanaugh’s release of a Board of Governor’s approved plan for “PASSHE Transformation.”  I’ve got a lot to say about that plan, especially how it is in lockstep with the kind of “shock doctrine”/crisis-as-opportunity logic prevalent in higher education right now.  You may recall my post that reported on a “concept paper” by Robert Zemsky and Joni Finney that the Chancellor circulated to State APSCUF last spring (I’d still like to see that document…hint, hint, to all you XChange readers).  However, I have to save that for another post.

While I can fully appreciate what Hicks and Mash were doing in their recent post–and, I think they are dead-on when it comes to what the Chancellor is attempting to do–I find the Chancellor’s memo almost comforting.  That is, at least he has articulated a vision.  As vague as the Chancellor’s statement on PASSHE transformation is, he has at least explicitly articulated a vision for where he wants to take the State System.  That gives us–faculty and staff–something material to discuss and engage.  We can debate the need for “transformation” or we can struggle over the kind of transformation that is necessary to ensure PASSHE’s long-term mission.  I may end up opposing the Chancellor’s plan on its fundamental assumptions about the purpose of higher education, but I can respect the fact that he is willing to put the work into making his plans explicit.  At least he has an argument.

If I am going to be forced to choose a game, I’d rather play against Stalin than hundreds of fictional squirrels.

 

 

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Earlier this evening I received the official list of academic program action recommended from the Chancellor’s office to the PASSHE Board of Governors from our State Meet and Discuss Chair, Mark Cloud.  In his email, Mark indicated that “discussion of these program changes will be this Thursday, 9am during the Academic and Student Affairs Committee session in Harrisburg.”  He also indicated that Ken Mash will be addressing the BOG on behalf of APSCUF and that some faculty members will be present as well.

I wanted to share this list so that we can all get broader picture of what is happening system wide and to situate the reorganization at Kutztown with what looks like a broader PASSHE reorganization.  For example, Medical Technology has been placed in moratorium while at the same time the Medical Technology program at Bloomsburg has been reorganized as a BS in Health Sciences with Clinical Lab/Med Tech as a concentration.  While this information doesn’t by itself mean something, it does provide a useful starting point for critical inquiry.

Here is a copy of the document:

BOG Acad Program Actions July 2010

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