Posts Tagged ‘Rick Smith Show’

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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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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Flood Metaphor



As the news of deeps cuts at Clarion University spreads across the Commonwealth, for many faculty and staff across PASSHE, “back to school” now comes with an asterisk. As the Patriot-News reported last week, several PASSHE universities received letters about the possibility of retrenchment: California University, Cheney University, Clarion University,  East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Kutztown University, and Slippery Rock University. State APSCUF has also confirmed that Mansfield University also received a letter.

I’ve received a number of inquiries concerning letter that was sent to Kutztown. The meat of the letter reads:

As a result of budgetary shortfalls, consideration is being given to the elimination of programs and courses, as well as the elimination of duties or services performed by faculty outside of the classroom. As the impact of such actions may lead to the retrenchment of faculty, this letter serves as notice to APSCUF of the possibility for faculty retrenchments to be effective at the end of the 2013-2014 year.

According to APSCUF, the letter is virtually the same letter that was sent to all 8 PASSHE universities facing retrenchment.

You can read the entire letter here: Kutztown Retrenchment Letter

I am writing a series of articles on PASSHE retrenchment over on Raging Chicken Press using the tag #slasshe (thanks to Rick Smith and Brett Banditelli for that one). You can also follow that same hashtag on Twitter for updates.  I will post excerpts and links to the full articles here.


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For those of you who don’t know, in the spring of 2011 I launched a progressive media site called Raging Chicken Press. While I described the site as a “side project,” it is really more of a place where my teaching and scholarship meet in practice.  For example, this semester I am teaching ENG 316 Rhetoric, Democracy, Advocacy and next semester I will be teaching a Special Topics class ENG 390 Activists Writing Media: Composing Democratic Futures. I’ve published on activist rhetoric in  Democracies to Come – co-authored with Rachel Riedner of the George Washington University, as well as articles on “Viral Advocacy” in Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service-Learning and rhetorics of labor advocacy in Seth Kahn and JongHwa Lee’s fantastic collection, Activism and Rhetoric. I’ve always had the need to do more than teach and write about rhetoric. I’ve found it critical to also be a practitioner. In fact, I would argue, my teaching, scholarship, and practice are all intimately related and in dialogue. Raging Chicken Press has been my latest site of practice and it has taken off faster than I could have imagined.

Last week I launched a new series called “Smashing Apples: Shock Doctrine for Public Education.” The series focuses on the attacks upon public education in PA and across the region and nation. I wanted to let readers of the XChange know for a couple of reasons. First, I am always looking for new writers, photographers, videographers, cartoonists, and podcasters interested in contributing to the site. Given APSCUF’s continuing contract fight, I thought there might be some of you out there who have got some things to say, and who are looking for a place to say it. While our APSCUF-KU efforts are currently focused on letters to editors and to the Board of Governors and Chancellor, Raging Chicken Press might give you a space to contribute in different ways.

Second, I wanted to let you know of some of the articles we have recently published in which you may be interested. Here you go:

Hope you find some these articles compelling and if you’re mad as hell and can’t take it any more, consider submitting to the Raging Chicken


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This past Saturday, APSCUF posted the following negotiations update on its blog:

APSCUF and PASSHE negotiators met Friday, September 14, at the Dixon Center in Harrisburg.  The Chancellor’s team passed a proposal on retrenchment language and made suggestions for future bargaining sessions. APSCUF caucused and responded to their proposal in writing. The two sides reconvened and failed to come to agreement on the language, but agreed to session definitions for the next two times: on Oct. 5th APSCUF will present on curriculum, class size, and distance education and on Oct. 22nd the Chancellor’s team will discuss temporary workload and concessions on retiree health care.   There was neither discussion of nor progress made on the Chancellor’s team’s demand for concessions on distance education, active and retiree health care, and temporary faculty workload.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough is enough!

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

APSCUF Rally Draws Crowds Against Cuts

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

Here’s a breakdown of the December issue:

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

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

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

Bread and Roses,

Editor Zero, Kevin Mahoney

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