Labor leaders representing professors and faculty members at Pennsylvania’s fourteen state-owned universities held a virtual press conference speaking out against the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s plan to consolidate six universities.
Over 200 students, faculty members, and members of the press attended the virtual event and listened to concerns about PASSHE’s consolidation plan and the devastating impact consolidating universities will have on local communities. Speakers for the event included APSCUF President Dr. Jamie Martin, AFSCME Council 13 Executive Director David Henderson and Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale.
The State System of Higher Education released their plan to consolidate six state owned universities earlier this week. It would consolidate California University, Clarion University and Edinboro University in the western part of Pennsylvania and Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University in the northeastern section of the commonwealth.
Dr. Jamie Martin, who represents close to 5,000 professors and coaches as president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities, stated that “it’s for me to believe that there so little details in a 439 page document,” and told the press that “consolidation will cost $30 million with savings at $19 million.” According to Dr. Martin, Chancellor Dan Greenstein’s consolidation plan will force online courses to most majors and “it appears as if the students at Lock Haven and Mansfield will have to take all of their required courses online.” Dr. Martin later stated that forcing students into online classes comes at cost with issues of equity and access to technology and broadband access.
David Henderson, the executive director of AFSCME Council 13, told attendees that PASSHE’s consolidation plan lacks transparency. He stated that “AFSCME Council 13 is vigorously opposed to PASSHE’s proposed system redesign and university consolidation plan” because of the “elimination of good unionized family sustaining jobs on these campuses.” Henderson also pointed out that women will disproportionately be affected the most because “women constitute large majorities of both the student body on PASSHE universities and of the untenured faculty and staff.
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale highlighted the economic impacts the fourteen state-owned universities have in their respective regions, shown here by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and linked the closing and consolidating of universities to towns losing their factories and steel mills over the decades. Bloomingdale said “We’ve been down this road before. We’ve seen where folks said ‘well, we’re going to consolidate,’ and that’s just the first step towards closing. We saw it happen with the state hospitals in Pennsylvania and the state mental hospitals. We’ve seen it with the factories and steel mills.”