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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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At a special “Emergency Meeting” of APSCUF-KU’s representative council meeting late Tuesday afternoon, the union’s governing body passed a Resolution of No Confidence in the current process for choosing KU’s next president.  APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn, made the unusual move to call for an emergency meeting in a November 25th, email, emphasizing that is it was of “the utmost importance” that elected union representatives from every department be present at the meeting. APSCUF State President, Ken Mash, also drove to Kutztown from Harrisburg for the meeting.

Quinn began the meeting by reading from a prepared statement explaining why he called the meeting on such short notice:

I have called this representative council meeting today to discuss problems that have occurred with the Presidential Search Process. I apologize for not discussing this with you sooner, but the Presidential Search Process is one that is supposed to be bound by confidentiality, and I did not want to violate or even appear to violate that agreement in any fashion. It is only out of a need for action that I am discussing this with you today.

I believe that there are some serious problems with how the Presidential Search Process is being conducted and I believe that the process has become deeply flawed. As your union president and the union representative on the Presidential Search Committee, I can no longer stay silent in good conscious. I believe if this were a faculty search, the university’s Social Equity Office would have throw it out. And, at the end of this meeting I will be asking you for a vote of no confidence in the Presidential Search Process.

The urgency of the meeting also came from the fact that the first round of “airport interviews” (interviews conducted at a hotel near the Philadelphia airport) begin later today, Thursday, December 4th.

The resolution before faculty union representatives stated the five most significant reasons supporting a vote of no confidence in the search process:

  • the Presidential Search Firm contracted to run KU’s Presidential Search failed to abide by the committee’s stated Code of Ethics, encouraging improper and anecdotal discussion of candidates well in excess of candidates’ application materials
  • the voting procedures established by the Presidential Search Firm were flawed and applied inconsistently
  • the process promoted by the Presidential Search Firm yielded a candidate pool that was not ethnically diverse, despite the fact that the Firm raised KU’s failure to meet national standards for recruiting women and minorities
  • the Presidential Search continued unabated, despite the fact that Paul Quinn, APSCUF-KU’s president and representative on the committee, filed a formal complaint with KU’s Office of Social Equity
  • PASSHE lawyers denied APSCUF-KU’s President, Paul Quinn, his right to union representation when required to meet with them and formally file his complaint

Faculty representatives discussed both Quinn’s prepared remarks and the resolution before voting overwhelmingly in support of the resolution.

Diversity Concerns

According to Quinn, the search firm contracted to run KU’s Presidential Search, Greenwood/Asher and Associates, emphasized the fact that Kutztown University has failed to meet national standards when it comes to recruiting women and minorities. Despite the emphasis the search firm placed on including women and minorities in the initial pool of candidates, the final pool of twelve candidates did not include a single minority candidate, according to Quinn. The pool did include women candidates, but the overwhelming majority of candidates were white men. Quinn explained that this pool of candidates is particularly problematic given Kutztown’s location between Allentown and Reading, two urban centers with large populations of African Americans and Latinos.

Like many colleges and universities across the country, Kutztown University has experienced a drop off in enrollment over the past couple of years and has placed a university-wide emphasis upon recruitment and retention. After decades of being one the least diverse student bodies in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), KU made significant gains recruiting students from underrepresented minority groups. The same has been true, although to a much lesser extent, when it comes to faculty and staff diversity. Those gains are important for the university insofar as the State System is supposed to provide access to all Pennsylvanians and each university is expected to reflect, at least to a degree, the demographics of its surrounding community. And, further, several of the key indicators that determine the level of funding each university receives (see an article by former Chancellor John  Cavanaugh and Executive Vice Chancellor Peter Garland for a discussion of PASSHE’s new performance funding model. Interestingly, Garland is also serving as the PASSHE representative on KU’s presidential search).

Inappropriate Criteria: Hearsay and Unsubstantiated Opinion

What was most troubling, according to Quinn, was that the search firm both allowed and encouraged members of the committee to include personal anecdotes about a candidate if they knew them in some capacity. The search firm did not require members of the committee to substantiate any claims they made. Quinn described this aspect of the search in his prepared remarks as follows:

A few of the candidates that applied were familiar to me due to my relationship with colleagues at other universities. When it came time to discuss one such candidate, I asked the firm once again if it was permitted to share what I knew. They reiterated that it was fine, so I shared my interactions with this particular individual. The candidate stated in their resume that they had resigned from one of their previous positions. Another member of the search committee then disclosed confidential personnel information about this candidate that contradicted what was in the resume. There was no evidence of these claims in any of the materials that the candidate submitted, making the comments completely unsubstantiated. In my opinion, the information that was shared was inappropriate, and a breach of a confidentiality if it was indeed true. That discussion should NEVER have been allowed to occur. It was a violation of the rights of that candidate who was not even present to defend themselves.

This situation was allowed to occur for other candidates in the pool as well. People used hearsay, information with no factual basis, and personal opinions to judge who was worthy of an “airport interview.” In fact, certain members of the committee made it clear they were instructed by their representative constituency how to vote, and that was their intention. Their decision had nothing to do with the information provided to us by the applicants. Material that had nothing to do with the resumes, was shared and discussed openly by the committee. The firm even shared undocumented information about certain candidates’ previous employment that was not appropriate without the candidate being present or references being contacted.

Quinn reiterated that if these kind of discussions and blatant statements of personal agendas took place during a search for a faculty member, Kutztown University’s Social Equity Office would have cancelled the search and restarted the entire process to ensure that proper procedures were followed.

PASSHE Lawyers Deny APSCUF-KU President Right of Union Representation

The proper step to take if a member of a search committee is concerned about ethical violations within the process is to formally report the matter to the University’s Social Equity Office. Quinn did just that after growing increasingly concerned about potential negative impacts of a flawed search on the future of the university. He described his decision to final a formal complaint with the Social Equity Office in his prepared remarks:

It was my opinion that after having been through tough times with the previous administration, it would be horrible for this university to start a new era that was determined by such a biased and unfair process. Thus, I decided to file a complaint with the Social Equity Office. I took [APSCUF-KU] Vice-President Helen Bieber as my union representative, and went on record with what occurred. I met with Mr. Peña [Associate Vice President Equity and Compliance & Title IX Coordinator], and gave an intake about the flawed process. He informed me that he would most likely not be allowed to conduct the investigation, and therefore would be contacting PASSHE legal for guidance. It was his belief that, since he had not certified any of the candidates for the “airport interviews”, that the process would be put on hold until my complaint was dealt with.

Quinn told faculty representatives that only later did he find out that the process was never put on hold. “Wouldn’t investigators want the process to temporarily pause, so that if something was found to be wrong, candidates scheduled for interviews wouldn’t have to be canceled?,” Quinn asked. “This leaves me with serious doubt as to whether my complaint was ever taken seriously” by PASSHE officials in Harrisburg.

Shortly after Quinn spoke to Mr. Peña, he was contacted by PASSHE’s Office of Legal Counsel to schedule another intake meeting with PASSHE special investigator, Christopher Jones, and University Legal Counsel, Suzanne Williamson. The meeting did not get off to a good start. Quinn explained:

When I showed with my union representative [APSCUF-KU Vice President Helen Bieber] for the meeting, I was told that I could not have a union representative as a witness. I tried to explain to the investigators that I was reporting a potential problem with a process run by the Council of Trustees and PASSHE. These were all individuals that had power over me, and I was feeling nervous. In particular, it felt like the PASSHE attorney was trying to bully and to intimidate me with her tone and stance. PASSHE would not budge, so I was forced to sit alone with the investigators for over two hours. I did have them document in their notes that I was denied a union representative, but I was not allowed to keep or receive copies of their notes or the report that they created about my incident. They made me feel as if I was the problem, and not the flawed process about which I was complaining.

According to a  ruling in the 1975 Supreme Court case, NRLB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., employees have a right to union representation at investigatory interviews. These rights have become known as Weingarten Rights. Weingarten applies only to private sector employees, but the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board adopted the Weingarten Rights in 1981 for public employees. The “Policy and Law” page on the PA State Human Resources site, describes an employee’s rights as follows:

“[The Pennsylvania State Labor Relations Board] will find a violation of Section 1201 (a)(1) of the Act if an employer conducts an investigatory interview of an employee without a union representative being present provided the employee has a reasonable belief that discipline may result from the interview.”

In effect, Quinn was presented with a choice: file a complaint without a union representative present or drop the complaint entirely. It is entirely unclear what would motivate PASSHE lawyers to deny Quinn union representation, especially given that he was coming forward with a complaint in order to ensure that the search for Kutztown’s next president would be ethical and fair.

What Is Going On?!?

Following a lengthy discussion and deliberation, an overwhelming majority of union representatives voted in favor of the resolution calling for no confidence in the current presidential search. There is no doubt that this was a difficult decision for many representatives, especially given the fact that Quinn and the other faculty member on the Search Committee, Dr. Jennifer Schlegel  (who is not a member of APSCUF-KU’s Representative Council, but who was invited to attend the discussion), did not disclose the names or specific details about any of the candidates and went through pains to respect the confidentiality of the search process. I think it would be fair to say, however, that most representatives left the meeting trying to understand what exactly is going on with the search, whose interests are driving the process, and why PASSHE seems hell-bent on pushing ahead on this search in a rather heavy-handed manner.

A number of troubling possibilities are plausible — some dealing with more local, institutional politics; others having do with with PASSHE’s persistent attempts to “transform” the state system through slashing faculty and programs. It is difficult to tell. In the next day or so, I will be posting a follow up article exploring some of these possibilities.

 

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Death Threat Note to Quinn

This article was originally published on Raging Chicken Press earlier today. You can read the full article here and check out our continuing coverage of KU’s new gun policy. 

This past week, Kutztown students, faculty and staff were first learning of the university’s new weapons policy which opens the campus to guns. The new policy, according to the Morning Call, will give “Kutztown more gun freedom than most of the state-owned universities, even more than the sample policy suggested by the state’s attorneys,” despite statements to the contrary by the university’s president, Javier Cevallos. It didn’t take long before the radical, pro-gun playbook showed its ugly face. Shortly after he first heard about the policy under consideration at an April meeting of Kutztown’s Administrative Council, the president of the faculty union, Dr. Paul Quinn, began receiving anonymous death threats.  Faculty first learned of these threats at a May 9th meeting of the union’s Representative Council and the Morning Call reported on the threats this past Friday.

I spoke with Quinn over the weekend about what happened.

Quinn, a physics professor, said after his classes on Thursday, May 2,  he walked into his office to find that someone slipped a folded note under his office door. “At first, I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “I opened the note and it said, ‘Drop the gun issue or else.'”

Quinn said that after he read the note he immediately made several calls, including one to the Executive Director of Kutztown’s Human Resources department. She told Quinn to go to the police immediately. “I alerted my Chair and my Chair said yes, go.” Quinn and a union representative met with  Kutztown University’s Director of Police Services and Acting Chief of Police, John Dillon shortly afterwards.  “The only time I could get there was around two o’clock,” Quinn explained. “I had an office hour from 1:30 to 3:00. So, I normally would have been in my office. I went at two o’clock to deliver that note to Public Safety. When I got back an hour and a half later, there was a second note under the door. The second note said, ‘What scares you more, guns or death?’”

“What this means,” Quinn said, “is that someone was watching.”

Up until a union Representative Council meeting on Thursday, May 9, the only official word about the university’s new gun policy from the union came from a May 3 email from Quinn to faculty. The email included links to the university’s old policy and the new policy. Quinn wrote,

Fellow Faculty,

Here is some information for you to be aware of.  The administration has decided to change the current weapons policy on campus.  The link to the new policy is included below.  Administrative Council discussed it at their last meeting, and now it has been posted on the website.  I am sending you this email so that you are aware of this change.  I have attached the previous policy so that you can see what the comparisons are for yourself.  This change seems to be occurring at other Universities in the state system, one of which is Millersville, however, not all have adopted the change at this point.  Please be aware that you should NOT be discussing this in your classes unless it is related to the material covered in your course.  Feel free to talk about it OUTSIDE of your classes, but discussion in classes can lead to discipline.  We will be discussing this change at Representative Council next week.  Have a good weekend.

The fact that Quinn received death threats on the day before he wrote this email to faculty suggested that a person or group of people think that Quinn is leading an opposition to the university’s gun policy. “What’s weird is that I have not taken a position on this new policy,” Quinn said.

According to Quinn, the first he or faculty members on the university’s safety committee had heard of the new policy was at the last Administrative Council meeting on April 19. “After a five-minute discussion, they wanted to vote on it,” Quinn recounted. Quinn said that he did not have time to digest the impact of the policy, so he abstained from voting. “I didn’t vote yes or no.” Quinn said he wanted a chance to better understand the issue. “It was my understanding — and the understanding of other faculty members on Administrative Council — that the university administration still had to work with PASSHE on the policy and it probably wouldn’t be effective until the fall, which is why I thought I had time to discuss and get input.”

Quinn contacted other faculty members who have experience in law and public policy — some who were also avid gun owners — to ask their opinions. Quinn was given several resources to help him look into the issue. When Quinn asked Kutztown President Javier Cevallos if the new policy was public, Cevallos said it was. “So, this policy was not secret, I planned on bringing it up at Meet and Discuss and at Rep Council,” Quinn said.

Quinn presented the new policy at the union’s next Executive Committee meeting. “I talked about it with Exec and Exec was furious” that this was the first they had heard that the university administration was writing a new weapons policy. “So we decided that we would contact a lawyer to get a white paper opinion from someone who was not APSCUF or PASSHE,” Quinn explained. “Somehow, that information must have gotten out.” And then came the death threats.

Quinn said their have been additional notes and other forms of intimidation, but he is not at liberty to discuss them as they are now part of an official police investigation. Quinn, however, is not intimidated. After he told his chair of the first note, his chair was very concerned. “He said I needed to go home,” Quinn recalls. “I said, ‘bullshit. I am not going home’.”

To read the rest of the article, CLICK HERE

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As readers of the XChange know, this past Thursday, APSCUF members from across the state converged on the Dixon Center in Harrisburg for the October meeting of the PASSHE Board of Governors. APSCUF President Steve Hicks reminded the Board that APSCUF’s offer of binding interest arbitration expires this coming Monday – October 15th. As I reported in a previous post, the day before the Board of Governor’s meeting, the Chancellor’s Office told APSCUF that it was limiting public comments from faculty to three speakers each limited to three minutes. You can listen to the public comments made by APSCUF by clicking the links at the end of this post (I was pleased that my recordings came out so well).

I was thrilled to see over 100 faculty members from 12 of the 14 PASSHE universities represented at the Board of Governors meeting. Kutztown was well represented and many of those who could not make it, sent cardboard Avatars thanks to the creative work of some of our members (you can see all my photos of the event on the APSCUF-KU 411 Facebook page). Our picket before the meeting was serious and lively. When we moved inside to the meeting, APSCUF members packed the hall.

Now, we wait until Monday for the Chancellor’s response to our offer of binding interest arbitration. Next Saturday, October 20th, APSCUF has called a special Legislative Assembly in State College with only one item on the agenda: discussion and vote on strike authorization. Meanwhile, around the state, faculty are doing the practical work of preparing for the possibility that we will be forced to go on strike to preserve the quality of our jobs and the quality of education in PASSHE. We are putting whatever we can in savings. We are sending our off-campus email addresses to our local offices. We are making placards. We are planning actions. We are talking to students. We are talking to our neighbors. We are writing letters. We are visiting the offices of our state legislators. We are getting ready.

At our September Legislative Assembly meeting, I was struck by how different this negotiations felt and how unified the delegates were about the seriousness of the issues we are facing. I felt like I was with like-minded people who saw our current contract fight for what it is: it is a fight to preserve public higher education in Pennsylvania, a fight to preserve our profession. It is a fight for our students, our children and their futures. I felt the same seriousness of purpose in APSCUF members at the Board of Governors meeting.

Below are links to the comments made by APSCUF members at the Board of Governors meeting. They are MP3 files, so they should play on any computer or device.

APSCUF President, Steve Hicks – “Monday is the Deadline” 

Kevin Mahoney, APSCUF-KU – “You Can’t Have It Both Ways, Chancellor”

APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn – “In the Trenches”

Mary Popovich, APSCUF-CAL – “Hitting Below the Intellect”

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It’s about 3:30 am and I am up preparing for today’s PASSHE Board of Governors meeting in Harrisburg. I am printing out the last faculty letters to the Chancellor that I received late last night, reviewing my notes for my 90 seconds before the Board of Governors, rechecking Google maps directions to ensure I can return to KU in time for my office hours and afternoon class, and hoping that enough faculty members from our 14 university system will make the trip to Harrisburg today to pack the Board of Governor’s meeting. As an academic – especially one that teaches writing and advocacy rhetorics, I am compelled to accept the persuasive power of rational discourse and I hope that the words of my colleagues and I will have some degree of impact on the Chancellor and the Board of Governors. I want to believe that we can help convince PASSHE administrators to bargain in good faith and help us secure a good and lasting contract.

However, the activist in me, the labor unionist in me, is also compelled to recognize that the persuasive power of words – yes, even in an academic context – have power only insofar as they are backed by people willing to act up on those words. Words, by themselves, are constrained by context – e.g. if there is no one listening, or a decision has already been made, or there are no institutional rules that require those in power to listen. If words are not empowered to be meaningful in any given institutional context, then their source of power must come from outside that institutional context. As Frederick Douglass memorably put it:

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

For sure, Douglass was no slouch when it came to a commitment to the persuasive power of words. However, he was also no fool. His direct experience with slavery and racism taught him otherwise.

Late yesterday we found out that the Chancellor’s Office has limited the public comments section of today’s meeting to three speakers. Each speaker will be limited to three minutes. Then, that’s it, comments are cut off. The Chancellor’s Office limited public comments to three speakers at least once before – when cafeteria workers from IUP, represented by SEIU, were protesting the Board of Governor’s meeting because of Sodexo. The take away? When workers in the PASSHE system – from cafeteria workers to academic workers – seek to make their concerns part of the official discussion, the Chancellor’s Office turns off the mic after providing just enough time for comments so they can claim to have been “open” to public concerns, but not enough time for any substantive discussion. It’s not about discussion after all. It’s about control.

I will be splitting my time with our local APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn. Before hearing that the Chancellor’s Office was going to limit debate, each of us had three minutes. But, we’ll take what we can get. I will deliver faculty letters and I will make some brief remarks. But, in the end, what will matter is if the Chancellor and the Board of Governors see that they are not up against three or four faculty members, but hundreds. The power of our words will be measured by the number of faculty members packing the meeting room and manning the picket lines outside the Dixon Center.

I prepare to drive to Harrisburg knowing full well that the Chancellor’s Office has already stacked the deck against us. That the only reason I am  being given time to speak is because the Chancellor’s Office needs to appear to to be open to public comments. I don’t have any illusions about that portion of today’s meeting. I am going to Harrisburg to stand with my colleagues from across the state who, through their physical presence, are saying, “Enough!” I am going to Harrisburg to provide the Chancellor’s Office with a small taste of what a picket line looks like. I am going to Harrisburg to begin a process of demonstrating what gives a union power at the negotiations table  – not simply the negotiation skills of the people at the table, but the collective power of our more than 6,000 members across the Commonwealth. I am going to Harrisburg to begin a process of putting limits on the aspirations of would-be, petty tyrants.

 

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The first major Harrisburg rally in opposition to Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts took place on March 28th.  The rally was spearheaded by students from Shippensburg University and supported by APSCUF.  APSCUF-KU sent four buses filled with students and faculty. Here is APSCUF’s video/photo montage of the event:

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