Faculty rebuke chancellor’s comments suggesting state system could be dissolved

  • Julia Agos

(Harrisburg) — Faculty members from Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are criticizing recent comments made by Chancellor Daniel Greenstein, suggesting he would support a plan to dissolve the system if a financing agreement is not met.

At a budget hearing last week, Greenstein was defending his proposal to combine six of the State System of Higher Education schools into two, as a way to save money.

“Unless we figure this out, I will be recommending to the board that we come back to the senate next year with a legislative package to dissolve the system,” Greenstein said.

But many professors and coaches at the universities are pushing back.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties held an emergency meeting Tuesday to voice their concerns about his statement.

“The chancellor often points out that enrollments have declined, and yet his statement will negatively impact our recruiting efforts — and, by extension, our enrollments. Why would the leader of any university system insinuate it should be dismantled?” APSCUF Vice President Dr. Christopher Hallen said at the meeting.

APSCUF represents more than 5,000 PSSHE employees.

John Gump, the head volleyball coach at Kutztown University and executive coach for APSCUF, said the chancellor is undermining prospective students’ confidence in the system.

“Coaches are now working with the classes of 2022 and 2023. To have the chancellor make these comments hinders the efforts of our members, as they work to continue to bring students to our campuses and programs,” he said.

Some 94,000 students – including those at Bloomsburg, Kutztown, Millersville and Shippensburg — would be affected if the system were dissolved. Enrollment has dropped by 22% in the last ten years.

However, not everyone was outraged by the statement. State Senator Joe Pittman of Indiana County, a Republican, said he would sponsor a bill to dissolve the system.

“I’m seeing at IUP right now pay a terrible price in terms of retrenchment and clerical retrenchment and other layoffs and I can’t help but believe that that price is being paid for years of cross-subsidization to weaker universities,” he said.

For now, Greenstein is recommending California, Clarion and Edinboro combine in the west and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield join together in the northeastern part of the commonwealth.

The state system board is expected to vote on the proposal next month.

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