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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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In an email addressed to the “University Community” yesterday morning, John Wabby, Chair of the KU Presidential Search Committee and KU Council of Trustees, announced that he was removing APSCUF-KU President Paul Quinn from the Presidential Search Committee. The move comes two days after Quinn called an emergency meeting of the union’s Representative Council to bring forward what he called “serious problems” with the presidential search process. At that meeting, union representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution of no confidence in the search process (see more here).

In the email, Wabby stated:

I was disappointed when Dr. Paul Quinn, a member of the search committee, chose to breach the confidentiality of the search process on Tuesday by publicly disclosing information about the committee’s deliberations and about potential candidates. While I know he is deeply committed to the university, his action was a clear violation of the confidentiality section of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education policy 1983-13-A—provisions that all participants in our search process have been well aware of from the beginning of our effort. Accordingly, I have removed Dr. Quinn from the search committee, and an APSCUF alternate will take his place on the committee so that we can ensure forward progress.

Wabby makes a case for “respecting the committee’s choices”:

Not everyone will agree with every decision made by the search committee, but it is important to respect the committee’s decisions rather than work outside the process. No single member should have the ability to cast aside the hard work of a duly appointed and fully representative committee.

On the surface, there is nothing surprising about what Wabby says. That is, generally, most people would agree with Wabby’s take here when it comes to basic procedures of a search committee. However, Quinn did not simply decide willy-nilly to start broadcasting his personal thoughts about the Presidential Search. Quinn went public because there were “some serious problems with how the Presidential Search Process is being conducted” and that he believes that “the process has become deeply flawed.”

The question at stake here is this: if a member of this committee (or any such search committee) is alarmed about a process that has grown unethical, flawed, or biased, should that member of the committee “respect the committee’s decisions;” or, should that member of the committee blow the whistle? Let me take that one step further. Let’s now say, that a committee member who is alarmed about the process, follows the official procedure for filing a complaint. But, instead of the complaint being treated objectively and professionally, the committee member is subjected to intimidation and denied the right to union representation. Then what? What if, despite the fact that a serious complaint has been filed, the search is allowed to proceed before a determination is made about the substance of the complaint? Does that committee member simply “respect the committee’s decisions?” If that committee member becomes increasingly concerned that somehow their complaint is being dismissed due to personal or political motives, should she or he just kick the dust, say “ah shucks, guess there is nothing I can do,” and walk away?

Yes, I just proposed a hypothetical situation. But that very “hypothetical” situation is the ACTUAL situation in which APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn, finds himself in at this very moment. Since John Wabby kicked Quinn off the committee, the faculty union has been scrambling to find an APSCUF member to replace him on short notice – interviews begin today at Philadelphia Airport Marriott.

While the concerns Quinn discussed with faculty union representatives on Tuesday about problems with the Presidential Search are deeply problematic, the fact that PASSHE investigators and lawyers denied him union representation at an intake meeting is alarming, especially when you consider Quinn’s description of that intake meeting. After Quinn received a three sentence response from PASSHE lawyers about his complaint and his discomfort with the intake process, Quinn decided to write an email to PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan, PASSHE Board of Governors Chair, Guido Pichini, and PASSHE Chief Counsel, Andrew Lehman. In that email, Quinn detailed his treatment by PASSHE lawyers and being denied union representation:

Standard practice at Kutztown University is that when a complaint is filed from a faculty union member about an individual in a position of authority, a union representative is permitted to accompany the “complainant” to the meeting. The role of the union representative is to serve as a witness, a note taker, and to be an advocate for the faculty member filing the complaint.  The primary purpose of these functions is to provide protection for the “complainant” who is reporting potentially inappropriate behavior from his/her supervisor, and to ensure the protection of faculty member’s rights and interests.  The union representative is bound by confidentiality and cannot share the results of the meeting.

As a matter of fact, when I first filed my complaint with Jesus Pena, I brought the local APSCUF-KU Vice-President Helen Bieber, and she served as my union representative.  It is my belief that  union representation was necessary due to the sensitive nature of the complaint and because quite frankly, it was very intimidating to file a complaint regarding the presidential search process which involves the Council of Trustees, and a PASSHE member, Peter Garland.  Though I have a good working relationship with all of them, they clearly have authority over me, and I feared the potential of retaliatory actions against me.

After filing my complaint, I must stress that I found the actual investigation procedures to be problematic and very contrary to the above detailed practices. My experience began with a process in which I was seemingly treated as a hostile witness.  An example of this is when I was scheduled for the intake with the private investigator Chris Jones, and attorney Suzanne Williamson, I was denied the right to have a witness present.  In particular, Ms. Williamson, was adamant about how this was not necessary because I was the “complainant.”  Her refusal to allow me union representation demonstrated an unwillingness to consider that the very nature of my claim could have ramifications on my professional career.  It was further aggravated by the fact that she personalized my request for a representative as evidenced by her comment:” I feel personally insulted that you do not trust me”.  Despite my requests and explanations for needing union representation, I was told that the proceedings would not take place unless I met with both of these PASSHE investigators –alone. Although uncomfortable with this decision, I requested that this denial be officially noted on the record.   Following the interview, I was allowed to read her notes, but was informed I would not be provided copies or photocopies of the intake transaction for my own records.

Another concern with this investigation was the fact that the presidential search process continued, despite the serious allegations brought forth.   The search firm, acting in an egregious manner, scheduled interviews and continued the search before I received any information discussing the status or outcome of the investigation.  To my knowledge, it is not standard procedure to notify candidates of search results while an investigation as to the fairness of the very process that has been used to select candidates  is pending.  To underscore my point as to the manner in which equity investigations are conducted, it is my experience as union president that our own social equity officer, Mr. Pena, would not conduct an investigation in this manner.  Subsequently, I inferred by the continued forward progress of the search firm, condoned by PASSHE, that my complaint was irrelevant and the process would continue no matter the serious nature of my complaint.

Pennsylvania law ensures a union employee the right to union representation if the employee reasonably believes she or he might face disciplinary action as a result of their participation in a meeting with superiors. The law gives gives the employee the right to determine whether she or he believes disciplinary action might result. However, Quinn received an email response from PASSHE’s Chief Counsel, Andrew Lehman, in which he seems to believe that he and PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan get to decide whether or not Quinn is “reasonable.” Lehman wrote,

The Chancellor received your email and asked me to provide a response. Even though your complaint was filed locally with Kutztown University’s Office of Social Equity, the matter was appropriately referred to my office for guidance and, ultimately, investigation.  We reviewed the matter in a timely manner, gathering documents and interviewing several members of the search committee, including you. This complaint did not involve any potential action against you, but rather you raised issues related to conduct of other members of the search committee and of the search consultant. Board of Governors’ Policy requires members of the search committee maintain confidentiality.  Expanding the universe of individuals involved to include a union representative would not have been appropriate during your interview as part of the investigation related to the search.

Really? My boss gets to decide whether or not I have a reasonable concern about retaliation? That’s not a world in which this union member or ANY WORKER, in my mind, should live. Unless, of course, you long for the days of the Company Town.

As it turns out, Quinn seems to have been right to be worried, especially once he made his concerns plain to faculty union representatives. Not only was Quinn kicked off the committee, yesterday he received a veiled threat of managerial retaliation from the Acting Provost, James Mackin, if he continues to raise concerns about the Presidential Search process:

 

Mackin Email to Quinn

Yes, “so long as no information is shared that would violate the referenced Board of Governor’s Policy.” Since the Chancellor and his legal team are already working from an interpretation of that policy that led to Quinn being kicked off the Presidential Search Committee – despite going to pains NOT to disclose any specific information about the search – it’s pretty clear what this says: say another word about the search and I will begin “infringing upon your rights to communicate with faculty,” or some other form of sanction.

What started as an attempt to ensure an ethical and sound search for the next president of Kutztown University is quickly turning into something else entirely. More to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

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For the second time in less than a week, Kutztown University President Javier Cevallos chose to send faculty, staff, and students out into hazardous weather conditions and then decided a short time later to reverse course and close the university. On Monday, Kutztown University the announcement went out at 5:29 am that classes before noon were cancelled, but the university was open. The upshot of that meant that non-teaching employees at the university – secretaries, custodians, electrician, etc. –  still had to show up for work at their scheduled times. For most of those university employees, that meant getting to KU at 8 am or before. At 8:43 am, Cevallos reversed course and closed the university, sending all those workers back onto the roads in the middle of the worst winter storm of the season thus far. Many faculty had already begun their commutes to KU, leaving extra early due to the treacherous conditions. Many of them did not find out the university was closed until they pulled into the parking lot and check their phones. After all, if you’re trying to drive safely in the middle of a snow storm, chances are you’re not checking your email.

Shortly after his second decision, Cevallos sent this apology to the university community:

Dear Campus Community:

We are closing today, Monday 2/3.  I apologize for making some of you drive in such difficult conditions.  At 5:00 a.m. when I made the decision to cancel morning classes the forecast was for snow to end in the morning.  It is always a difficult decision, we do the best we can with the information we have.  Please drive safely.

OK. An apology. That’s better than what happened several times before – like during the February 1, 2011 storm. Lesson  learned, right?

Not so much.

Despite warnings from the National Weather Service and virtually every regional media outlet, it was deja vu all over again.

Here’s KU’s web page at 5:25 am:

KU weather 1

OK. At least the whole university was closed until noon. That must be what everyone else was doing then, right? Again, no so much.

West Chester University:

West Chester Closed

Cheney University:

Cheney Closed

East Stroudsburg University:

ESU Closed

Even the Dixon University Center – PASSHE’s corporate headquarters was closed:

Dixon Closed

The Borough of Kutztown also listened to the National Weather Service and issued a snow emergency. Kutztown University even posted it on their web page:

Borough Emergency

But maybe PASSHE universities were being extra cautious. Or maybe, conditions in the immediate area of Kutztown University were significantly different than everywhere else. Let’s see:

Alvernia University in Reading:

Alvernia Closed

Albright University in Reading:

Albright Closed

Reading Area Community College:

RACC Closaed

Lehigh Carbon Community College in Allentown:

LCCC Closed

So, it seems that there was at least a consensus that conditions were hazardous and that it was better to make sure people were not out on the roads, weathering sleet and freezing rain (not to mention power outages across the region).

Well, it seems Cevallos was a little late to the party, but by 9:50 am he had reversed course.

KU Weather 2

As much as Kutztown’s administration would like to continuously state that they make mistakes due to situations out of control, it should be painfully clear to anyone with have a memory that this is a failure of leadership. Flip-flopping on weather decisions is only a symptom.

Framingham Hoodie

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In case you missed it over on Raging Chicken Press,  I was talking about my recent article, “Wall Street on the Susquehanna: PASSHE Bond Scheme Bleeds Education Budget for Beautiful Buildings,” on the Rick Smith Show this past Tuesday night.

Click on the image below or CLICK HERE to listen to the interview:

Mahoney on Rick Smith PASSHE Bond Schemes 10-22-13

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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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This morning the following email from Kutztown’s Vice President for Equity and Compliance appeared in our faculty and staff inboxes:

Colleagues:

Good morning.

The Office of Social Equity will offer Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Sexual Harassment Training, pursuant to our university policies, as follows:

· Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 at 11 a.m., Room 312, McFarland Student Union
· Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 at 3 p.m., Room 312, McFarland Student Union
· Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at 11 a.m., Room 157, McFarland Student Union

Each session should last approximately 30 minutes. If you would like to attend any of the above sessions, please register by e-mail with Jacqueline Collette Fox at collette@kutztown.edu or socialequity@kutztown.edu. Please note training by department is also available. To schedule a training session for your department, please contact the Office of Social Equity at extension 3-4700. Please obtain approval from your supervisor if necessary.

Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Sexual Harassment Training is also available from the Office of Social Equity through Desire2Learn (D2L). If you choose to take the online training through D2L, instructions on completing the training are provided once you have logged into D2L and clicked on the Social Equity Policies Training link.

Please note, if you have not taken the training during the current calendar year (2012), you should plan to take the training prior to December 31, 2012.

Thank you.

Jesus A. Peña, Esq.
Associate Vice President
for Equity and Compliance
Office of Social Equity
Kutztown University

It should come as no surprise to anyone at Kutztown that we now have university policies that demand all employees undergo sexual harassment training. I mean, it’s an open secret around here that sexual harassment has been a persistent problem over the years even while the university has gone out of its way to keep potentially explosive cases of out of the light of the media. To be fair, the local media has been fairly lackluster in its critical reporting on these issues as well. KU and PASSHE alike have seemed to place a priority on keeping sorted stories of sexual harassment out of the public’s view. So, in some respect, the introduction of sexual harassment training is a step in the right direction.

A couple weeks back I found out some information about these sexual harassment trainings that is NOT being made as public, however. I got word that PASSHE is taking the position that if a faculty member (or staff member, presumably) do not sign up for sexual harassment training, PASSHE will NOT defend them if if they are ACCUSED of sexual harassment. That is, if the faculty/staff member does not go through sexual harassment training and they are accused of sexual harassment, they’re on their own when it comes to legal representation. From what I understand, APSCUF is pursuing a state-wide grievance on this issue.

Let me be clear: I have NO tolerance for sexual harassment or sexual misconduct regardless of whether they are a member of our union. I have argued within our union and publicly that a union must stand for equality and justice in all of its actions, policies, and practices. If you are committing sexual harassment or worse, you should be punished to the fullest extent of the law in my book. However, I am also a believer in that fundamental American right to be innocent until proven guilty. Our university – thanks, in part to the work of our union members – has a sexual harassment policy with clear procedures to follow.

What is a bit troubling to me, however, is that PASSHE is being quiet about not defending employees accused of sexual harassment if they do not take these trainings. Next week is APSCUF’s Legislative Assembly in Harrisburg. I hope to find out more about the details of the state-wide grievance and what else is going on with this issue. As the very least, I think that all faculty and staff should know what’s going on.

 

 

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Over the past several years I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of projects faculty and students could organize around that would have meaningful impacts on the university and the community. During my first two years at KU, I was the faculty adviser for a group of amazing students who wanted to found a chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops. In less than a year, the students researched the history of USAS, of KU’s licensing agreements, and the range of tactics students could use to persuade the university to join the Workers Rights Consortium–an independent group that monitors textile factories around the world and organizes against sweatshop labor. The short story is that the students convinced the university to join the WRC and for a period of several years, you could be assured that if you were donning the KU logo on your clothing, that you were not supporting sweatshop labor. One year, President Cevallos even mentioned the university’s WRC membership in his opening address — even though he never acknowledged that it was STUDENTS who responsible for the university signing on. I just checked the WRC web site only to find that Kutztown is no longer a member of the WRC. It just goes to show, once the spotlight is turned in a different direction, the university will ditch any stated commitment to human rights.

Anyway, the fact is that students’ activist made a tangible, concrete change in the university. If that student organization had continued after a couple of the key organizers graduated, we might still be able to say our KU apparel was not made in sweatshops. In the light of the current recession and budget-cut mania, I’ve been thinking about the kind of things we could do locally that would have real, tangible effects and that would provide some degree of mutual aid to our communities. Ever since the Occupy Movement exploded on the scene, I’ve been having conversations here and there about just this issue. And today’s Occupy Kutztown rally was an encouraging place to begin a conversation about organizing locally and retaking a piece of the commons. With that in mind, here are some projects you will be hearing more about on the XChange in the coming weeks and months. Here are some concrete things we can demand our university does:

  • For starters, 50% of all food served in the dining halls and other locations on campus should be locally sourced from family farms
  • 75% of all university supplies should be manufactured in Pennsylvania, when possible, at union shops. This includes office supplies such as paper and pens as well as larger items such as desks and walkway lighting.
  • All new building projects should be build using union contractors from Pennsylvania.
  • Space should be set aside on campus for a farmers’ market
  • All university banking accounts should be moved out of “big banks” and relocated to community based banks in the area.
These are just some places to start. The basic idea is that changing these policies at the university would have positive, concrete effects in our communities. They will help sustain and create jobs. I can’t wait to begin organizing around these issues. It just feels good to start having this kind of conversation.

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