This post originally appeared in Raging Chicken Press earlier today. If you are interested in this issue, I will continue to follow this issue as over the next few weeks – KM
Just over a week before Kutztown University will welcome the families and friends of soon-to-be graduates, the university has decided to revise a long-standing policy in order to welcome guns onto its 289 acre campus. While the massacre of students and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT is still fresh in people’s minds and the families of the victims are still canvassing the nation in support of reasonable gun control policies, KU President Javier Cevallos and his Administrative Council decided that now was the time to make it easier for students, faculty, and staff to carry weapons on campus.
“An example I came up with: A guy stabs another guy and then
the victim is in the hospital. The guy who stabs him comes to the
victim’s bedside with the victim’s family, just to tell him everything
is going to be alright. That’s how I am feeling.”
Kyle D. Johnson
Millersville University Student
Class of 2013
[POST UPDATED 3/15/2013: Correction under "Free Speech Frame" heading]
A two year contract fight and several years of austerity apparently were not enough to persuade Millersville University administration that it should close out the year on a high note, celebrating the accomplishments of their students. Instead, the administration has thrown the university back into the political fires of Gov. Tom Corbett’s deep cuts in public education from Kindergarten through higher ed. Millersville University is part of the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which Corbett targeted for a 50% budget cut in 2011. The state legislature softened the blow by passing “only” an 18-20% cut in State funding to public higher education (see details in one of my previous posts, “Flat Funding? Not in the Reality-Based World”). These cuts led to the elimination of three men’s sports: indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, and cross country. The university also cut or left unfilled 124 faculty and staff positions as a result of the deep cuts. So, how did Millersville University administration decide to close out this academic year? By invited Gov. Tom Corbett – the architect of austerity in PA – to be the 2013 Commencement speaker.
In an interview on the Rick Smith Show on Tuesday (3/12), Kyle Johnson, a graduating senior at Millersville, said that when he first heard the announcement, he “thought it was a joke.” The choice of Corbett as the 2013 Commencement speaker was a “smack in the face,” according to Johnson – a phrase echoed by dozens of students posting stories of their outrage on a petition against Corbett speaking at graduation, a “No Corbett at Milllersville” Facebook page, and a “No Corbett at Millersville Graduation” tumblr page.
At my monthly department meeting yesterday, the department’s representative to our University Senate gave his report on their last meeting. As part of his report, he told us some of the concerns our university president, Javier Cevallos, expressed about a recent drop in enrollment. Cevallos’s remarks before our University Senate echoed a statement he released in October 2012 in order to explain another $3 million shortfall:
This fall semester, Kutztown University is facing a problem of serious magnitude. For the second straight year, the university has experienced a drop in enrollment.
Almost 300 students have made the decision not to come back to KU to continue their education for this fall semester. While we realize many of our sister institutions and private universities within our region are facing the same situation, the drop we are experiencing this year is much larger than we have had in the past.
Upon learning of this, we immediately identified the students and called them to determine their status and/or reasons for not returning. Although we are still evaluating the information we have gathered, it is evident that we need to become more effective at retaining our students.
As I stated at our opening day gathering, each student we lose seriously impacts our budget. With only 20 percent of funding coming from the commonwealth, and with our operating budget based on our year-to-year enrollment, the student body is our lifeblood.
As a result of this enrollment loss, we face a shortfall of $3 million on top of the reductions we have already made. I have decided to cover this gap with carry over funds on a one time basis to meet the deficit in the current year. Although this is only a temporary solution, it will provide us with time to thoughtfully consider base budget reductions, beginning next year, in the context of our mission.
I want to stress the importance of our role in student retention. We all need to go above and beyond to assist our students in persisting and graduating from KU. It is crucial to the future of our university and the region.
I urge you all to put our students first, and do whatever you can to make KU a place they will take great pride in. It is really going to take each and every one of us to help KU overcome this challenge in the future.
Ever since the attacks on public sector unions, working families, and public education in Wisconsin that began just over two years ago, my own writing has changed. It’s become less…well, “academic.” I find myself more interested in plowing through company SEC filings on Lexis-Nexis than some of the newest scholarship in my field. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking scholarship…there are days I wish I could carve out several hours to peruse the latest journals in my field of rhetoric and composition. Right now it just feels like the relentless attacks against education and the public sphere more broadly, is an exigence I cannot ignore. That’s one of the good things about being a rhetorician, I guess. There are times when you actually have to practice being a rhetor.
I posted a version of this piece earlier today on Raging Chicken Press, but very much wanted to engage in this space as well. There is something that I want to say here that is not quite fleshed out. Something about the kind of research into our own institutions that seems absolutely critical now. I will have to return to that which I do not articulate.
Today feels like a milestone for faculty in Pennsylvania, especially faculty in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, or PASSHE. Here’s why.
It’s been a little over two weeks since Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett delivered his annual budget address. Corbett’s office signaled in advance that his proposed 2013-2014 budget would not be as draconian as the previous two. I think it would be fair to say that the governor would have to work extraordinarily hard to try to top the devastation he’s wrought since taking office in 2011.
Gov. Cut, Gut, and Punish Arrives in Harrisburg
Corbett’s first budget proposal in 2011 sought a 50% cut in public higher education funding and close to a $2 billion reduction for K-12 schools. In the end, Corbett didn’t get to cut as deep as he wanted, but he got his cuts thanks to Republican control of all three branches of state government. The PA
Chart from PSEA | psea.org
legislature may have balked at Corbett’s initial numbers, but they had little problem passing, in the words of Rick Smith, a “cut, gut, and punish” budget that targeted schools, general assistance programs, and health care support for low-income working families. But the biggest target was clearly education.
I am a member of APSCUF – the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties – the union that represents over 6,000 faculty and coaches in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). I am sure that many readers of this blog are aware that we have been in a two-year long contract fight with PASSHE, working 19 months without a contract. After moving steadily toward what would have been the first strike in APSCUF’s history, there was an unexpected marathon bargaining session that led to an agreement. Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I had a little breathing room to write. I posted a version of the following post to my media site, Raging Chicken Press and my union blog APSCUF-KU XChange. And, I thought it would serve well to post it here as well as a way of introducing myself and what I think has been a significant contract fight for higher education unions.
This past Sunday morning (2/3/13), APSCUF - the union that represents more than 6,000 faculty and coaches in the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) – announced it had reached an agreement on a “framework” for a faculty contract after more than two years of negotiating and 19 months working without a contract. On Monday evening, the “framework” was sent to APSCUF’s Negotiations Committee for a vote on whether or not to approve the “framework,” turning it into a “tentative agreement.” The Negotiations Committee voted unanimously to do so. The union’s representative body – APSCUF’s Legislative Assembly – voted this past weekend to send the agreement to the membership for ratification. Specific details of the agreement will be discussed among APSCUF members at membership meetings and union listservs.