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Posts Tagged ‘wisconsin’

It seems like getting the February issue out took FOREVER! I don’t know if that’s what it felt like for all of you out there, but it was certainly my experience. But, the important thing is that it’s out!  And, it’s kind of cool that we published the February issue on the one year anniversary of the first mass protest of the Wisconsin Uprising against governor Walker’s attack on working families. We are STILL Badgers! I’ll give you a little sense of what’s been going on behind the scenes; but, for the moment, here’s what you’ll find in the February issue:

Reminder: Subscribe and Be Entered in the RCP Monthly Give-Away!

I want to make sure to remind everyone out there to subscribe to Raging Chicken Press. If you subscribe by Monday, February 20th, you will be entered in this month’s Subscriber Give-Away! This month’s Give-Away includes two books hot off the presses: John Nichols’s book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest from Madison to Wall Street and regular contributor to Raging Chicken Press, Lee Camp’s new book, Moment of Clarity: The Rantings of a Stark Raving Sane Man. All you need to do to subscribe is to enter your email in the subscription form on the right-hand side of the page. Subscribing doesn’t cost you a thing, but it does ensure that you will receive notifications of all new Raging Chicken Press content right in your inbox. Really, can you think of a downside?

Fundraising Campaign: Can You Help? 

I’ve been squawking about this for a while now, but we’re into the thick of it now. Twelve days ago, we launched our first ever fundraising drive on a web platform called WePay. We are attempting to raise $25,000. Yes, that’s what I said, $25,000. I’ve gone back and forth as to whether I should even try to raise this kind of money at this point. It’s a lot of money, I know. But, here’s the deal. I’ve said from the very beginning that I am building Raging Chicken Press for the long haul and I intend on building it in away that is both realistic and sustainable. That is, up until this point Raging Chicken Press exists on whatever money I can stash away, sales in the Raging Chicken Press store, and the affiliate programs we are using. While these sources help, they are by no means sufficient for developing a serious progressive, activist media site.

The $25,000 number comes from thinking about what I’d like to do with RCP in the next few years and what it would take–financially–to make that happen. I’ve talked about some of these projects before, but here’s a flavor of the kind of things I think Raging Chicken Press can do if we get the support:

  • Annual Best of Raging Chicken paperback book and eBook, featuring the best articles of the year. Ideally, we can have the first edition ready for our one year anniversary in July.
  • Three paid internships a year: 1) a fall internship on issues in PA public and higher education; 2) a spring issue focusing on PA policy and budget issues; and, 3) a summer internship on PA environment and sustainability.
  • “Broadside” editions of each issue of Raging Chicken Press to be distributed to regional coffeehouses, bars, hangouts, etc.
  • Annual presence at the PA Progressive Summit and Netroots Nation.
  • Payment for contributors to Raging Chicken Press based upon similar progressive publications’ payment structures.
  • Press passes for Raging Chicken Press reporters.
  • Promotional materials including a banner, fliers, and Raging Chicken Press swag.
  • Shifting t-shirt sales from our Zazzle.com store to locally produced, union printers (the issue here is that in print t-shirts locally in unionized shops, we need to buy larger quantities of shirts and to keep stock on-hand. Buying large numbers of shirts is a chunk of change).
  • Establishing a brick-and-mortar presence on Main Street (or close to it) in Kutztown as a base of operations, meeting space, and store front for t-shirts, buttons, posters, books, and other progressive materials.

This is not a comprehensive list, but representative of some of the major initiatives I’d like to move on in the very near future. Some of these items will require on-going fundraising and grant applications (which I am also working on). The brick-and-mortar presence is a perfect example an initiative that needs up-front money AND a fairly predictable budget.

There is an additional reason for beginning a fundraising drive at this point. I’ve wanted to avoid having to go the advertising route as a way of sustaining Raging Chicken Press. I think the potential strength of this project is dependent upon a decision progressives in our communities deciding to support the development of this progressive, activist media site. In short, I need to know if progressives in PA and beyond believe this project is worthwhile. Are you willing to help build this site? Do you think it is valuable to build progressive alternatives to mainstream media? Do you think it is valuable to have media site that gives progressive writers, videographers, podcasters, artists, and activists an outlet for their work? Those are questions that I don’t have the answer. I need to know from you: Can you help? Can you help build a regionally focused progressive, activist media site?

You can contribute any amount over $2. EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS! We hope that there are enough of us out there who want to join with us to help build progressive media alternatives. I, for one, think we are going to need it.

Call for Submissions for March Issue

Yeah, I know we just published the February issue, but I’d like to get a jump-start on the next issue. Give the deep cuts being proposed by PA governor Tom Corbett and the ramping up of the election cycle, I want to put out the call for the March issue sooner rather than later. Here’s the deal:

Deadline for Submissions for March Issue: Saturday, March 10th. 

If you think you’ve got something to send our way, check out our submission guidelines. If you still have questions, drop me an email at ragingchickenpress@gmail.com.

Wrapping Up for Now

I’m going to leave things there for now. There are a couple more things that I want to tell ya, but this post is long enough already. I will say that I will be looking for your input for the 2011 Best of Raging Chicken Press book pretty soon! Look for your chance to help pick which Raging Chicken Press articles will make it into our first-ever “Best of” book!

Bread and Roses,

Kevin Mahoney
Founder and Editor Zero, Raging Chicken Press

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I love this guy.  Not for anyone who considers politeness and civil discourse to the only mode of political engagement.   Go get ’em Lee.


 

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Special thanks to the folks at the Rick Smith Show for turning me on to this song. It was the perfect complement to their interview with Bruce Levine, author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.  If you haven’t heard the interview, you can listen to it here (it’s about 19 minutes):

Bruce Levine on the Rick Smith Show

Anyway, here’s the song that got me writing this post:

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Over the past week or so, there has been renewed attention to the ways in which Pennsylvania students — students in PASSHE and the state-related universities (Temple, Lincoln, Pitt, and Penn State) — have mobilized against Gov. Corbett’s cuts.  In my conversations with some of the student organizers at KU and across the state, it is encouraging to hear that students are beginning to get a very real sense of their own power and ability to enact change.  At a recent faculty organizing meeting and in numerous conversations, I have made the case that Corbett’s cuts represent a decisive moment in the history and future of public education in PA — K-12 and higher education.  In the case of higher education, the ability to roll back Corbett’s cuts depends a great deal on whether or not students will mobilize.

It is true that students have already mobilized.  However, there are nagging questions as to whether or not students will be able to expand their current organizing and show up at local and state-wide rallies in numbers that will give state legislators, PASSHE officials, and the Governor pause.  It is also true that students have been contacting legislators and are increasing their presence in Harrisburg as part of lobbying days.  And yet that nagging question that Rick Smith asked me on his show last week still hangs above us all (my apologies for the rough transcription – a good reason why you should listen to his show and listen to my interview at the link above):

ME: What we’ve got is a State System of Higher Education which is really like the last promises to the citizens of Pennsylvania that they’ve got a shot . . . This is like a last stand in my mind.  What they’re after is a fundamental change in the “common” part of our Commonwealth.

Rick Smith: I absolutely agree with you…but…it says you had a hundred fifty – two-hundred people out there today.  I’m curious why you didn’t have a couple of thousand and why across the state…when are we going to see this?  Because this affects everyone of those kids right now and the high school seniors that are coming up and the families…this is a massive, 54% cut.  54%!

There is just no getting around this question.  Why indeed were there not thousands of students out that first day?  Why on the APSCUF led protests around the state this past Tuesday, were there not thousands of students protesting on each and every campus?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go back on the spirit of my last post to “keep laments for better days.”  I am not lamenting.  As a matter of fact, I feel more politically energized now than I have been in a couple of years.  The work that students at KU and around the state are doing to get the word out, to organize buses to Harrisburg for the 11:30 am rally on Monday, March 28th on the Capitol steps  is incredible.  The speeches students gave at the St. Patrick’s Day rally at KU were powerful and moving.  My point is, rather, that I worry that the majority of students, their families, and the citizens of PA don’t yet get how serious the current situation is.  I worry that by the time the seriousness of Corbett’s cuts hits, it will be too late.  And, frankly, I think it will much more difficult to reinstate funds to public education once they are eliminated.  Corbett and his new breed of slash and burn politicians, are playing for keeps folks.

The cold truth of the matter is that administrators, politicians, and cable news talking heads have made a sport of attacking teachers and professors for their personal gain.  They have been successful in convincing a vocal segment of citizens that teachers and faculty are the problem, are lazy, or just that “we” have it better off than “they” do.  And, when it comes to higher education, there are only about 6,000 faculty members and coaches in PASSHE.  There are over 120,000 students.  When you take into account students attending state-related universities you are talking about a group of people who can effectively shift an entire election — very much in the way students in PA did during the 2008 election.  The fact is, “they” — politicians, state administrators, self-interested slash and burn talking heads, and even Gov. Corbett, are afraid of a mobilized student body.

If you think I’m overstating the case, you need to check out the returned-from-the-dead Voter ID bill (or as the Montgomery County-based Election Reform Network calls it, “zombie legislation”) just reintroduced by PA State Representative, Daryl Metcalfe, 12th leg. district, Butler Co).  Voter ID sounds good, right?  I mean, everyone should have to show a picture ID when then vote to make sure that there is no fraud, right?  Well, that law is already on the books.  Here’s a brief analysis by the Election Reform Network:

Photo ID is a solution in search of a problem.  What will it solve?  Not voter fraud since there’s no evidence that there is any.  In fact, we already have a range of sensible safeguards on the books.  Every first-time voter in a Pennsylvania precinct has to show ID.  Thereafter, s/he must be listed in the District Register/poll book in order to vote by regular ballot.  An example of the voter’s signature is kept on record and compared to the new one every time the voter signs in on election day.  Just in case anyone has the bright idea to bypass legal requirements by impersonating someone else in a federal election, they’ll face five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000, on top of state penalties.  With all of the election reforms we truly need, does this sound like an area of the law that needs attention?

So, why the need for a new law?  Sure, you can jump aboard the Daryl Metcalfe fear express and buy into his stated purpose for introducing the bill: to ” protect against corrupt politicians, groups and individuals who might attempt to undermine our elections through the old time, “vote early, vote often or from beyond the grave’ or more recent ‘get out the illegal alien/non-United States citizens voting programs subject to the rule of law.'”  Or, you might pause for a moment and consider the very real implications of introducing new, seemingly redundant voting requirements just as we get ready to enter the 2012 election cycle: suppress voter turnout.  As the national organization Election Protection shows there is a move to introduce new versions of voter ID bills in 32 states (as well as other new voter hoops in additional states).  Such measures are proven to suppress voter turnout:

The Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten reports that Republicans in state legislatures “are pushing for new laws that would prohibit many college students from voting in the state-and effectively keep some from voting at all.” A bill being introduced in New Hampshire “would permit students to vote in their college towns only if they or their parents had previously established permanent residency there,” and others would end Election Day Registration where it already exists. Election Day registration is a an important reform that ensures that problems with registration, clerical errors, or arbitrary deadlines do not create a barrier to the ballot box. Wallsten also wrote that legislatures in 32 states have proposed measures that would add an ID requirement or proof of citizenship. These requirements are especially discouraging impediments to low-income voters, students, recently-naturalized citizens, and other minorities.

The current ID law allows students to use their official university ID as proof of identification.  Metcalfe’s legislation would prevent that and require all voters to show an official PA voter registration card.  You might ask, “what’s the big deal,” until you begin to think through some very practical issues.

Efforts to get more college students registered to vote often happen on their college campuses and elections happen, for the most part, when college classes are in session.  If the goal is to encourage citizens to participate in the democratic process, then you want to make it easier for people to register to vote and to exercise that vote.  Since many students live in legislative district outside of the district in which their college or university is located, it would be easiest for students to vote on campus — meaning they would register to vote in the university’s district.  The easiest form of ID to show as proof of residence is your college ID.  Sure, students could change their official address on their driver’s license every year, or under Metcalfe’s bill they could change their Voter ID address every year.  But you know the realities of that as well as I do.  Heading the DMV to get my license renewed or my address changed is not something I want to do unless I am forced to do it.

And that’s the key to the Metcalfe’s proposed legislation: to suppress voter turnout by introducing enough confusion and inconvenience so that people say “forget about it.”  No one can accuse Metcalfe or any other politician who votes for the legislation of directly attempting to suppress voter turnout.  They can rely upon the realities of human behavior to make it look like the individual’s fault.  Presto.

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but I am with USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham on this one.  Once you begin to track the kind of moves that are being made in the same states whose Republican Governors and/or legislatures are going after collective bargaining, public education, public services, and workers’ right, you can see the writing on the wall.  In writing about Wisconsin’s newly proposed voter ID bill, Wickham is on the money:

Walker’s bill is a shoot-the-wounded assault on the Democratic Party’s base, which when combined with a voter ID law that’s also being pushed through Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature, could put the Badger State firmly in GOP hands for decades.

The proposed ID law would restrict the right to vote to people with military IDs, driver’s licenses and a state-issued ID card. Passports and photo ID cards issued to college students (even those from state universities) would not be acceptable.

College students and public unions are pillars of the Democratic base. Wisconsin’s ID law would suppress voter participation among students. A 2005 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute study found that 82% of 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds did not have a driver’s license in the ZIP codes for neighborhoods near Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The study also showed that statewide, the majority of college-age blacks and Hispanics lacked driver’s licenses . . .

. . . Late last month, Texas’ Senate passed a voter ID law that requires people in that state to show a driver’s license, military ID, a passport, a state or citizenship ID card or a concealed handgun license before being allowed to vote. Over the past decade, Texas’ population grew to 25 million people. Hispanics were 65%, blacks 22% and whites just 4.2% of that population surge. Whites now make up less than half of all Texans and tend to be older. So not surprisingly, the Republican-controlled Senate made an exception to the ID law for people older than 70. Those voters need to show only a voter registration card to vote.

This is the nature of the war the GOP is waging. It’s a quest for political hegemony — and a fight Democrats cannot afford to lose.

A plan to dissuade college students from participating in the 2012 election>  You bet.  If you are going to wage a war on the middle-class like the Republicans in several states are doing – and like Gov. Corbett is doing — then you better find a way to prevent those folks who are pissed off the most from voting in the next election.  To put in the words of comedian Lee Camp, “Evil People Have Plans” (thanks to Jay and his Best of the Left Podcast for including Camp’s rant in his most recent show).

Like I’ve been saying for a while now, we’re facing a game-changer folks.  The outcome of our current struggles – in PA, WI, OH, MI, ID, IN, and around the country – will determine our immediate futures.  Not only are we fighting for our individual well-beings, we are in the midst of deciding what kind of State and nation we are going to live in for the next generation.  I’d love to hear evidence to the contrary, but that’s the way I see it at this point.

And, in PA, students are at the forefront of this game-changer.  There are a lot of people saying their prayers every night that students will begin showing up in the thousands to rallies on their campus and in the State Capitol.  We’ll have the next test on Monday, March 28th as students and faculty gather in Harrisburg to protest Corbett’s cuts.  A bigger challenge that will confront  students in the days to come will be whether they can sustain their efforts for the remainder of the semester and over the summer?  The summer break has long been used by university administrators and politicians to disrupt and thwart student mobilizations. What is clear is that now is not the time for complacency.  As Michael Moore put it during an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, “Everybody, up off the couch right now, please.”

I do want to be clear that I am not saying that resistance to Corbett’s cuts doesn’t require everyone to get up off the couch and get involved.  PASSHE and other faculty should be showing up in droves on their campuses and in Harrisburg.  Not only are our immediate livelihoods at stake, the nature of the institution that we have dedicated our lives to is under assault.  And it’s true that university faculty are not the easiest bunch to get to show up either – even when their own jobs are at stake.  So, we – faculty organizers – have our work cut out for us too.  I mean, if faculty are not willing to fight a direct assault on higher education and, specifically, the very universities in which they work, then I am not sure what they would be willing to fight for.  In my mind, organizing in opposition to Corbett’s cuts to higher education amount to a moral imperative for PASSHE faculty.  A similar challenge is posed our  AFSCME and SCUPA brothers and sisters.

However, in my gut I believe that our ability to resist Corbett’s cuts will succeed or fail depending upon students ability and willingness to mobilize.

I’ll close this post for now.  I hope to write again later tonight about some of the serious problems with what I keep hearing from Democrats, Republicans, PASSHE officials and union leaders about decreasing the amount of Corbett’s cuts – I’m in the “no cuts to education” camp, not the “don’t-rip-off-both-my-arms,-just-my-left-one” camp.  But for now, I’ll leave you with how the issue was framed in a recent editorial published in Public Opinion:

According to Associated Press, thousands of students and faculty staged demonstrations Tuesday at most of Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities. Our State System of Higher Education is targeted by Corbett to lose more than half its funding.

It was yet another example of the emerging push-back against a coordinated nationwide effort to use budget deficits as justification to enact highly ideological policy goals at the expense of the young.

Bear in mind, we’re talking about young people, the only demographic with the power to balance public policy favoring older folks. It’s also the only demographic to so consistently fail to vote, directly propogating the imbalance against its interests.

It’s usually considered a safe political bet to give them the shaft. But whenever students get agitated, politicians get nervous — because they’re used to safely ignoring their concerns.

Good. Politicians should be nervous. If they’re going to emasculate the business potential of our next generation of adults, they shouldn’t be allowed to rely on the standard election metrics.

We can only hope thousands more Pennsylvania students take inspiration from those already agitating for fairness, for shared sacrifice, for acknowledgment of their importance to our future.

We recommend they get to fighting now, because in a few months the moment could be lost.

via PO EDITORIAL: Students hold their fate in their own hands – Chambersburg Public Opinion.

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Hey all!  The Rick Smith Show just put up a new page devoted to the PA Budget Battle!  My interview from St. Patrick’s Day about the Kutztown protest is the first segment posted.  Check it out here and support the Rick Smith Show by listening in Monday-Friday 9pm-midnight on WIOO 97.9 FM and 1000 AM (Carlisle/Harrisburg) and WEEO 93.9 FM and 1480 AM (Chambersburg/Shippensburg).

Here’s a link to Rick’s PA Budget Battle page and to my interview:

Pennsylvania Budget Battle | The Rick Smith Show.

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Just in from state APSCUF concerning our current contract negotiations:

APSCUF Agrees to Negotiate Wage Freeze

HARRISBURG – On Sunday, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), the organization representing the 6,000 faculty and coaches at the 14 state-owned universities, agreed in principle to negotiate a one-year wage freeze as called for in Governor Tom Corbett’s March 8th budget address.

“We are prepared to negotiate a wage freeze this year in the context of similar sacrifice shared by our administrative and management counterparts,” said a motion passed unanimously by a committee comprised of representatives from the 14 universities.

“Our primary concern remains with our students to whom we have devoted our professional careers.  We are united with them, their families, and all those who recognize the value of public higher education,” said APSCUF president Steve Hicks, “and we hope to fully concentrate our efforts on restoring the funding that is vital to helping our students achieve their dreams.”

“The Commonwealth must also recognize its obligations to Pennsylvania’s students.  Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities are extraordinary resources that allow students of working class families to build a better future for themselves and for the Commonwealth,” Hicks continued.

In recent years, the Commonwealth has steadily reduced its support for the universities, and the burden of such reductions has fallen consistently upon the students, faculty, coaches, and staff of the state system.  Students have paid increased tuition and fees, taken on more debt, seen elimination of their programs, and experienced a growth in class sizes.  APSCUF faculty and coaches have felt the effects of decreased funding by accepting years without pay increases, paying more in healthcare contributions, absorbing the loss of both temporary and regular faculty, and taking on increased workloads.

“We want to do our part to support our universities and respond to the governor’s call for a one-year wage freeze.  We want to be part of the solution,” Hicks said. “We hope the General Assembly does its part by meeting the Commonwealth’s obligation to the State System of Higher Education by restoring the critical funds necessary for our students to have the same opportunities their brothers, sisters, and parents had to improve themselves and to secure Pennsylvania’s future.”

 

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If you haven’t already, you should check out the pics I posted of last week’s St. Patrick’s Day protest against Gov. Corbett’s cuts to education.  If I haven’t said it enough already, I was incredibly impressed with the passion and energy of Kutztown’s students.  They put together a powerful event that said in no uncertain terms: we will not stand for Corbett’s Cuts! One chant in particular stood out and will no doubt become the slogan for their continued protests:  the future of Pennsylvania is standing RIGHT HERE!

At the event, I announced that APSCUF-KU would be sending at least one bus to Harrisburg on Monday, March 28th for APSCUF’s PA Senate lobby day.  We will gather outside the State capitol with hundreds of other students and faculty from the 14 universities of the PA State System of Higher Education to make our voices heard.  To make sure we are heard, I ordered a dozen vuvuzelas for the event. I would encourage my brothers and sisters from around the state to do the same or to bring their own “instruments” for an APSCUF Noise Band.  I want to give credit to one of my students for putting the vuvuzela bug in my ear.  One of my ENG 023 students is researching the history and use of the vuvuzela — it’s also called a grenade whistle (a bit shorter than the full-length vuvuzela) and has been featured on the Jersey Shore in addition to its well-known use during the World Cup.

Anyway, by the end of Thursday’s rally, we already had enough people to fill one bus…today we may very well fill a second.  There are still some seats left, so if you’re from the KU community and you want a seat, contact the APSCUF-KU office asap.  On April 6th, KU’s Student Government Board (SGB)  and Association of Campus Events (ACE) will send at least four buses to Harrisburg for another PASSHE-wide protest at the State capitol. I am thrilled to see people pushing back.  As I said in my interview last week on the Rick Smith Show, until Harrisburg begins to look like Madison, I have little faith in our elected leaders to do the right thing.  When I hear legislators — Democratic and Republican alike — talk about “decreasing the amount of the cuts,” I become even more convinced that we need people in the street and at the Capitol every single day.  The fact is, even the cuts are reduced to 25% instead of the Governor’s currently proposed 50% cuts, we are still talking about cuts that will fundamentally transform PASSHE — and not necessarily in the way that the Chancellor may have envisioned. The only appropriate response to what the Governor is trying to do is what I said at the St. Patrick’s Day protest: you don’t cut the future, you invest in the future.

The most encouraging aspect of KU’s St. Patrick’s Day Rally was the passion and energy hundred’s of students brought to Main St.  But the day was more than a “day of rage.”  Students used the event as an organizing opportunity to get more students involved and to organize for the next step in their struggle, in our struggle.  I mean, let’s face it: the results of our efforts to resist Corbett’s cuts, will determine their future opportunities and, more general, their futures.

As amazing as the St. Patrick’s Day protest was, there was one thing that represented a significant disappointment.  You’ll recall that last Tuesday, KU President Javier Cevallos held an open forum to discuss the impacts of budget cuts. Cevallos called for “unity” and suggested that we are “all in this together.”  In support of his call for “unity,” Cevallos invited the presidents of all the unions on campus and the president of the Student Government Board to address the forum.  It was a good move for the cameras, for sure.  At the forum, I spoke briefly about Cevallos’s call for “unity.”  I said that while I am all for “being in this together,” we have to be clear on what that means.  In other words, I am going to fight to preserve higher education in PA and to defend KU and PASSHE against the Governor’s attacks.  However, if “we” are going to do this “together” our administration is going to need to show some backbone and leadership too.  That is, I am not willing to pretend that I, and my union, are on the same side at KU’s administration only do the grunt work and then get sold down the river when Cevallos decides to roll over and cut more faculty, staff, and programs.  I made the same case later in the day at our APSCUF-KU Meet and Discuss.

As I discussed in an earlier post, I suspended the “normal” agenda of our Meet and Discuss meeting so that we could address the impacts of Corbett’s cuts. Here’s a small piece of that earlier post:

Over this past year, we–the APSCUF-KU Meet and Discuss team–have been pushing for the Kutztown University administration to articulate a coherent, transparent vision for the university.  Such as vision does not consist of the kind of platitudes and hyper generalizations that our university president continues to articulate in public forums and in the local newspaper.  A coherent vision for a university means that the administration has articulated a set of principles that guides decisions and the university.  It also means a set of priorities that will determine how resources are spent, programmatic decisions are made, and which academic areas are considered “core” to the university.  Such a vision is not self-evident, nor is it a by-product of the invisible hand of the academic market place.  In the real world, people have to make conscious decisions and they need to take responsibility for those decisions.  The absence of a coherent vision and an institutional leadership that is explicit about its priorities and guiding principles helps foster a dysfunctional culture–where rumor and half-truths stand in for principled discourse; where concern about the stability of one’s job is the white noise seeping into every office; and where one cannot distinguish between work that is critical to one’s individual success and the success of the institution from busywork or punishment.

As I lamented in that post, we — APSCUF-KU — have been pressuring the administration, president Cevallos in particular, to articulate a vision for Kutztown University that has some substance and that could withstand the demands of a first-year writing course’s requirements for detail and argument.  At one point in our discussion, the Provost, Carlos Vargas, and I got into it a bit about the question of “leadership.”  Vargas argued that I needed to understand that not everyone is a leader in the same way, that being confrontational (like I am) is not the only way to be a leader.  I argued that I am not asking Cevallos to be “confrontational,”  I’m asking that he fulfill the first item in his job description which says that he needs to develop a vision for the university.  My argument was that Cevallos needs to demonstrate some kind of recognizable leadership, especially in this moment.

P culture yellowCorbett’s budget cuts presented Cevallos with an opportunity to “show us his leadership.”  He had his public forum.  The jury was out as to whether that forum was just another in a line of dog-and-pony shows, or if Cevallos was going to step up and put his administration behind defending public higher education in PA.

At first, I was encouraged when some of the student leaders who organized the St. Patrick’s Day protest told me that Cevallos had agreed to come to protest and be one of the featured speakers.  The students agreed to move the protest from its original site — President Cevallos’s front lawn — to the front of Schaeffer Auditorium (right next to the president’s house).  Apparently, there was some concern that holding the protest on the president’s front lawn could be misinterpreted as being a protest against Cevallos.  From what I was told, the students agreed to move the protest because they didn’t have an investment in the front yard of Cevallos’s house, as long as the protest would still be highly visible from Main St.

The protest began and the numbers of students continued to grow.  About 40 minutes to the protest, one of the organizers of the event, Manny Guzman, called everyone over to the podium set up for the event.  People gathered around, but no sign of Cevallos.  Speakers spoke, but no sign of Cevallos.  The protest came to a close about 2 1/2 hours after it began. Still no sign of Cevallos.  That’s right, despite telling students he would come to the protest and that he would speak at the protest, Cevallos was a no show.

I had to leave the protest early, because I had to teach.  After my class, some students tracked me down by my office to let me know how the rest of the protest went and to ask me if they could put one of their signs on my office door.  Then, they told me this story:

Toward the conclusion of the protests, students began to ask: “where is president Cevallos?”  They had all expected him to be one of the speakers.  Apparently, a rumor was circulating that Cevallos’s office had called some of the student organizers shortly before the protest to say he could not be at the protest, he had to be in Harrisburg.  A couple of students didn’t believe this and went to his house and knocked on the door.  Someone answered the door and told them he was not at home, but should check his office.  The students went to Cevallos’s office.  He was there.  He came out, apologized and said he had a meeting with the Board of Trustees that he just found out about that morning.  So, he didn’t show.

What the full truth of the situation was, I don’t pretend to know.  What I do know is that president Cevallos had an opportunity to be a leader, to come out and help bring the KU community together behind the shared purpose of defending KU and PA higher education.  That’s not even controversial.  At least not among our students and the citizens of the Commonwealth who have come out 80% against Corbett’s cuts to school districts and 70% are against his cuts to higher education. Instead, Cevallos remained in his comfortable leather chair in his office.

So, to my counterparts at the Meet and Discuss table and readers of the XChange, I ask you this: If it is true that there are “different kinds of leadership,” what kind of leadership was president Cevallos exercising when he decided to tell students he would be there and then didn’t show?  Call me abrasive if you will, but I’m having a little trouble understanding his leadership style.  Please, enlighten us.

From a union perspective at some point a struggle becomes so critical, so dire that there is no space for the luxury of sitting on the fence; no place for misplaced, postmodern undecidability.  You have to decide.  We’re at that point. In the immortal words of Florence Reece, which side are you on?

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