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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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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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APSCUF President Steve Hicks issued a letter to students on Wednesday: NO STRIKE this semester. Here is the full text of the letter:

Faculty know you are worried that your professors will go on strike. We know you are concerned about the impact a strike would have on your classes, your finals, and your tuition dollars. After thoughtful deliberation and consideration about how a strike at this time would affect our students, we have decided to postpone consideration of a strike for the rest of this semester.

APSCUF (Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties) and PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) leaders have negotiations sessions scheduled for December. However, there is still a gulf between your faculty and the Chancellor. He still wants a separate pay scale for some temporary faculty.

He is still proposing increases in payments for reduced health care benefits. He wants to cut our retirement health care and stop offering those benefits to new faculty. He wants to stop payments for distance  education, but has not addressed our concerns about growing class sizes. The Chancellor continues to demand more concessions from your faculty than the Governor asked from our campuses’ hardworking secretaries, groundskeepers and custodians. These negotiations remain about simple fairness.

All of the outstanding issues have a direct effect on the quality of education we provide, as all will impact who is in the classroom and the type of classes that are offered. We know that you understand that the conditions under which faculty work are the conditions under which you learn. We know that you want your university to continue to attract and retain the quality faculty you deserve.

We have done our best to try to avoid a strike. We waited over a year and a half before even uttering the word. We gave the Chancellor several opportunities to settle a fair contract, including a two-year extension proposal and the offer of binding arbitration. We offered to pay more for health care and suggested ways for Chancellor to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs. He rejected them all.

We do not want to go on strike. We want to educate our students. However, the core meaning of “union” is one, and we cannot accept the Chancellor’s unsubtle attempts to divide and exploit segments of our faculty union.

The interests of our students are always on our minds. It is why we have waited and hoped that with time we could convince the Chancellor to be fair. With higher education comes the understanding that there are times when people must stand up for themselves. If the only way we can convince the Chancellor to be fair is to go on strike, then we must stand up for ourselves. It is what we would expect of you in the pursuit of fairness. But know that your faculty will only strike as a last resort. You can count on us to continue do all we can to reach a fair agreement.

The last two years, faculty and students worked together to turn back Governor Corbett’s historic budget cuts for our universities. We held rallies and met with legislators who know the value of public higher education. We have stood together for quality education. We can now use your help to avert a strike.

Please write to the Chancellor at jcavanaugh@passhe.edu and tell him to settle a fair contract with the faculty. You do not have to argue our side. Just tell him to be fair. The more he hears from you, the more likely he is to change the proposals even he knows APSCUF cannot in wisdom accept. We appreciate your support.

Steve Hicks
APSCUF president

 


Text APSCUF to 68398 for up-to-date info about negotiations. Like the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/PAStudentsVoiceand follow it all on Twitter at @PAStudentsVoice.

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Today is the last day for APSCUF members to vote on strike authorization! APSCUF-KU Members: Voting starts at 9:00 am and ends at exactly 3:00 pm. Please make every effort to get out and vote. We’d like to hit 100% turnout, but that can onl

y happen if you get out and vote. The polling station is in OLD MAIN 200 A (the entrance is on the side of Old Main facing Stratton Administration building. Call the APSCUF-KU Office at 610-683-4277 if you have questions. We are all busy, but this is our last push so let’s make it count.

At the end of voting today, all ballots will be immediately boxed and sent overnight to APSCUF state offices in Harrisburg. Votes from all 14 campuses will be counted in Harrisburg on Friday. Yup, we’ll know the results before Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

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On Nov. 12, 13, and 14 APSCUF members across the state will be voting to give our negotiating the team the authority to call a strike if negotiations reach an impasse. What might be one of the main points of conflict?

 

 

 

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APSCUF members are now in the 16th month without a contract. As each month rolls by, our paychecks buy less. Like many faculty, I live with the constant worry of a furnace breaking down or an unexpected car repair bill. I hadn’t imagined that 10 years into my tenure at Kutztown, I would still be living paycheck to paycheck.

I wanted to know more about what it means concretely to continue to go without a contract, no cost-of-living increases, no steps. I did some research and put together a little graphic that helps to demonstrate the persistent erosion of our economic conditions. So, here it is: Let’s Go Grocery Shopping!

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