Monday, May 30, 2016

A Wake-Up Call to PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - Part 15


The Role of Context



Merriam-Webster defines “context” as “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.” In addition, context usually involves the use of the descriptive terms through which that “something” can be fully understood and assessed.



The fact that Act 188’s mandate regarding the Commission of Presidents was ignored by PASSHE’s Board of Governors as well as its Chief Counsel for the 16 years from 1993 to 2008, is just one more unfulfilled “something” from Act 188 that cries out for an explanation.



Act 188¹ contains the following mandate:  “The commission shall recommend policies for the institutions and shall act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors.”  (Emphasis added.)



Recall the statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities from Act 188—high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students—has also been ignored by PASSHE’s Board of Governors and Chief Counsel.  With such a lawless context, is anyone surprised that the Act 188 mandate regarding the Commission of Presidents might also be ignored?



PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.


The Commission of Presidents (2009 - 2012)



Recall from last week’s post that while I never criticized my colleague presidents for holding back on the truth in the only settings available to us between 1992 and 2008—public Board of Governors’ meetings with the media present—I resolved to do it differently if and when my turn came as Commission Chair.



With the start of my first term as chair of the Commission of Presidents in July of 2008, I resolved that “differently” would include: 1) Sending Commission of Presidents’ motions to the Chancellor and Board of Governors, and 2) speaking more truthfully in public whenever such opportunities came  up.  



By doing the necessary staff work, and then conducting regular phone-conference meetings of the Commission of Presidents, I was able to see progress toward our first tangible success as a Commission.  



Here is the first document approved by the Commission of Presidents during my term as Chair: 



Commission of Presidents’ Meeting – March 15, 2010



The ongoing privatization of ‘public’ universities is inescapable because of a gigantic 50-year shift in the demographics of American society.  Between 1950 and 2000 the percentage of voting households with at least one person 18 or younger living there fell from 57% to 34%.  This means that by 2000, fully two-thirds of the voting households in America could no longer benefit directly from public higher education and, consequently, it is likely that the people living there don’t want their taxes raised to send someone else’s son or daughter to college.



As a result of these demographics, the privatization of ‘public’ universities became inevitable.  The only remaining question is whether it continues to occur without a plan.  Since the last 27 years of privatization have occurred without a plan by our elected officials, it is extremely likely that that situation will persist indefinitely unless the ‘public’ universities, and the System of which they are a part, take the lead in developing a plan for privatization that is acceptable to all the relevant parties, including the universities, the System, the Governor and the Legislature. 



The above two paragraphs served as the Rationale for our very first Commission of Presidents’ Motion to the PASSHE Chancellor and Board of Governors.



The first Commission of Presidents’ Motion to the Chancellor and Board of Governors read as follows:



“Resolved: That Chancellor Cavanaugh set up a meeting between the Commission of Presidents and the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors at which the question of PASSHE taking the lead in developing a plan for privatization that is acceptable to all the relevant parties including the universities, the System, the Governor and the Legislature.” 



The Chair of the Commission of Presidents Meets with Chancellor Cavanaugh



Shortly after the Commission of Presidents had approved its first motion and rationale in more than sixteen years, I met with Chancellor Cavanaugh to deliver this milestone document, in partial fulfillment of the Act 188 mandate on the role of the Commission of Presidents.



As I saw it, now that the Commission of Presidents had finally done its part, the Chancellor and Board of Governors would then do their part, as Act 188 clearly intended.



I fully expected that Chancellor Cavanaugh would promptly agree with this official motion from the Commission of Presidents and was totally shocked when he turned me down cold!



He simply refused to schedule such a meeting with the Executive Committee of the PASSHE Board of Governors, and when I pressed him on his refusal, he responded as follows:



This Board of Governors is not interested in planning.



Chancellor Cavanaugh made identical comments to the fourteen presidents at meetings of the ‘Council of Presidents,’ the name given to the regular monthly meetings of the presidents with the Chancellor and his staff in Harrisburg.  



That this Board of Governors is not interested in planning seems obvious from the fact that PASSHE operated without a strategic plan between June 30, 2009, when its previous plan, “Leading the Way,” expired, and January 23, 2014, when its new plan “2020: Rising to the Challenge,” took effect.



Merriam-Webster defines “strategic” as “of or relating to a general plan that is created to achieve a goal in war, politics, etc., usually over a long period of time.”



That PASSHE operated without a strategic plan for four and one-half years says this Board of Governors allowed the fourteen PASSHE universities to drift as far as goals were concerned.


But PASSHE’s strategic plan “2020: Rising to the Challenge” portends a future more sinister than drift alone—this plan officially ignores Act 188’s statutory vision of “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” and replaces it with its own narcissistic vision:



“The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education seeks to be among the nation’s leading systems of public universities recognized for (1) excellence, relevance, and value in education; and (2) responsiveness to regional, state, and national needs through its programs, service, scholarship, and research.”²



Note that the word “student” never appears in the Board of Governors’ new Vision Statement!



The Board of Governors has made it official—the fourteen universities are no longer about the PASSHE students; they are about the elected and appointed officials who control them.



To be continued.



Monday, May 23, 2016

A Wake-Up Call to PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - Part 14


The Commission of Presidents


We will now return to the story of the twenty-year history of the PASSHE Commission of Presidents for the years between 1993 and 2012.  Recall that Act 188¹ contains a specific mandate in these words:  “The commission shall recommend policies for the institutions and shall act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors.”  (Emphasis added.)



But despite this mandate, during the first sixteen years of that 20-year period, not a single resolution was ever moved, discussed or voted upon by the Commission!   And as a result of that failure, not a single Commission policy recommendation affecting the PASSHE universities was ever approved and sent to the Chancellor and Board of Governors for their consideration and possible approval.



Upon my election to the position of Chair of the Commission of Presidents in 2009, I resolved to get the PASSHE Commission of Presidents to function according to the clear, unambiguous language of Act 188.



PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

The Challenges Facing the Commission of Presidents



As far as living up to the Act 188 mandate was concerned, the greatest challenge facing the Commission of Presidents involved the near impossibility of bringing the fourteen presidents together in person for long enough periods of time to conduct meaningful discussion on the important issues and concerns facing the universities.  There were many pressing issues and precious little time to deal with all of them. 



But based on my experience, university presidents tend to be highly-focused problem-solvers at heart.  By the very nature of their work, and to have any chance of success in their careers, they must be able to identify both the greatest challenges and the greatest opportunities facing their universities, and to provide the energy and guidance needed to turn planning and execution into successful outcomes.



While identifying and solving challenges came naturally to each of the PASSHE university presidents, certain, shall we say, political challenges, had managed to thwart the Commission’s purpose for years.  Chief among them involved the presidents’ painful awareness that the most critical challenges facing the individual universities—and the PASSHE students they served— could never be discussed inside PASSHE.



From the perspective of the fourteen PASSHE presidents, three decades of falling State appropriation— compounded by the Board of Governors’ “low-tuition-for-all” policy—was impoverishing the universities and their ability to deliver to the students PASSHE’s statutory purpose of ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.’ 



The frustration of the PASSHE university presidents on this issue—feeling thwarted in their longing to convey their strongly held beliefs officially to the Chancellor and Board of Governors—manifested itself most powerfully every year as the July “tuition-setting” meeting of the Board of Governors approached.



Although the presidents between 1993 and 2012 regularly made the PASSHE Chancellor aware of their concerns—about declining educational quality and the need for tuition increases large enough to compensate for steadily falling State appropriation funding—not one of the three chancellors serving during that period was either: 1) able to convince the Board of Governors to heed the presidents’ second-hand advice; or b) willing to request an opportunity for the presidents to meet directly with the Board of Governors in a closed session to express their concerns first-hand and face-to- face.   



Instead, the only opportunity available to the presidents to notify the Board of Governors officially of their concerns about declining educational quality and insufficient tuition increases would come at the public tuition-setting meeting in front of the Harrisburg media.



A typical scenario at the July BOG tuition-setting meetings between 1993 and 2012 went like this: A resolution on the proposed tuition increase would be moved, seconded and opened for discussion.



The first Board members to speak—obvious supporters of the low-tuition-for-all policy—would begin by speaking to the responsibility of the BOG “to keep tuition affordable;” would praise the presidents for ‘the great job they were doing to save millions of dollars by cutting costs;’ and would end by expressing their support for the low tuition increase being proposed, and their confidence that PASSHE’s excellent presidents could continue to preserve educational quality as they had always done in the past.  



A few BOG members, typically one or more of the three student members of the Board, would speak in favor of a larger tuition increase in order to preserve the quality of their education.



The Presidents’ “Impossible” Opportunity to Speak



Prior to voting on the tuition-increase Motion, the Chair of the Board of Governors would routinely invite the Chair of the Commission of Presidents (a.k.a., ‘the president of the presidents’) to speak on the proposed tuition increase.  For my first sixteen years I watched in both horror and empathy as one of my conflicted colleague presidents struggled with the impossible opportunity being offered to them.



Why impossible?  Because despite apparently being given an opportunity to be truthful to the BOG before they voted on the Motion, no president in his/her right mind could bring themselves to be totally truthful about the decline in educational quality—in front of the media.  That headline could write itself:



“PASSHE’s ‘President of the Presidents’ Decries Decline in Educational Quality!”



The PASSHE presidents had been maneuvered into becoming enablers of the Low-Tuition-for-All policy.



When all Board members wishing to speak to the motion had been heard, and the Chair of the Commission of Presidents had also spoken, the proposed low tuition increase would be passed either unanimously or by a lopsided majority.



While I never criticized my colleague presidents for holding back on the truth in that terrible situation—a public Board of Governors meeting with the media present—I resolved to do it differently if and when my turn came as the chair of the Commission of Presidents.



But that story as well as the story of “The Professor and the Donkey” will have to wait until another day.  



To be continued.


¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Wake-Up Call to PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - Part 13


The Commission of Presidents (1993 - 2008)

As shown last time, the PASSHE Commission of Presidents during fiscal years 1993 through 2008 never carried out its Act 188 mandate¹ which is as follows:  The commission shall recommend policies for the institutions and shall act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors.” (Emphasis added.)
 
PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

Because of the Commission’s failure to do its part—by submitting recommendations or offering advice—the Chancellor and Board of Governors were never called upon during those years to receive or consider any input whatsoever from the Commission of Presidents.

Now one might think that the Chancellor and Board of Governors would have been disappointed or at least curious about the Commission’s failure to submit helpful recommendations or offer its best advice.  
 
But based on my 20 years as a PASSHE university president, any who might think that would be wrong. 
 
According to what I saw firsthand during that time, the Chancellor and Board of Governors were neither disappointed nor curious about the Commission’s failure to follow the law; in fact, they did everything in their power to discourage the Commission of Presidents from fulfilling its Act 188 mandate.
 
It became crystal clear to anyone present who was paying attention that the Chancellor and Board of Governors were not interested in hearing what the fourteen presidents might have to say.  That’s because in the secret meetings where PASSHE’s key decisions got made, many presidents were seen as political naifs who would embarrass the Board of Governors by suggesting things the Board might have to publicly reject—namely things that might benefit PASSHE students rather than PASSHE officials.      
 
You may recall a similar twenty-year dynamic with regard to predetermined “political budget requests” which PASSHE Chancellors would direct the fourteen presidents to submit every year—so as not to embarrass the politicians by having the Governor reject the more realistic, fact-based budget requests.
 
At no time during my twenty years as a PASSHE university president did anyone—including the Chancellor, the Board of Governors or, most importantly—the PASSHE Chief Counsel—remind the presidents of the clear language of Act 188 regarding the obligations of the Commission of Presidents.
 
Under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act,² the PASSHE Chief Counsel is designated as the attorney with the responsibility for making sure that PASSHE operates in accordance with the law.  But for the entirety of my twenty-years as a PASSHE university president, every Chief Counsel was totally silent on this issue.
 
By way of background, the PASSHE Chief Counsel (as well as the attorneys who provide legal advice to the 14 PASSHE universities) report to the General Counsel, who reports directly to the sitting Governor. 
 
While one might expect that PASSHE’s Chief Counsel would make sure that the various provisions of Act 188, including the provision for the Commission of Presidents, would be scrupulously followed, twenty years of evidence exists to show that such an expectation has not in fact been fulfilled! 

Perhaps this failure on the part of PASSHE Chief Counsels shouldn’t be all that surprising when one recalls that Act 188’s most important provision—PASSHE’s statutory purpose of “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students”—has been ignored by the Board of Governors since 2002, while PASSHE Chief Counsels have looked on in silence.  Could they just be going along to get along?
 
It is unlikely that the several different attorneys who have served as PASSHE’s Chief Counsel between 1992 and 2012 didn’t notice that the Board of Governors’ focus on its “low tuition for all” policy—rather than on the Act-188 mandated “lowest possible cost” to the students policy—was “contrary to law” and hence by its very definition, “malfeasance.” 
 
But since PASSHE Chief Counsels report to the Governor through the Office of General Counsel (OGC), and sitting Governors benefit politically from being seen by the electorate as “keeping tuition low,” it seems likely that PASSHE Chief Counsels may be motivated to please the politician to whom they report--unfortunately at the expense of PASSHE students from Pennsylvania's least affluent families.         
 
The Commission of Presidents (2009 - 2012)

After 16 years of witnessing first hand that the Commission of Presidents was not functioning at all as mandated by Act 188, I ran for the position of Chair of the PASSHE Commission of Presidents, and was first elected by my colleague presidents in FY2009, eventually serving for a total of four one-year terms.
 
As the new Chair of the PASSHE Commission of Presidents, I resolved to follow the Act 188 mandate on how the Commission of Presidents was to function.  My first step was to schedule, with the presidents’ consent, regular conference call meetings of the Commission of Presidents one full year in advance.
 
Second, I performed the staff work that was needed to develop a series of draft motions for discussion by all the presidents.  As any experienced leader learns, Draft 1 of any key document is the most difficult one to create.  But after group discussion of Draft 1, suggestions would be made and those that received consensus support would be incorporated into Draft 2.  After several more iterations of this process, the Commission of Presidents would arrive at a version of a motion that could be approved by majority vote.
 
When one of the presidents asked “How do we know that the Chancellor and Board of Governors will want our recommendations and advice?”  My response was this: “Act 188 says what the Commission shall (not may) do; and we haven’t been doing it for the past sixteen years.  We need to do what the law says because if we don’t do our part, the Chancellor and Board of Governors can’t do their part either.”     
 
To be continued.
 
¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.
²
http://www.ogc.pa.gov/About%20Us/Pages/CommonwealthAttorneysAct.aspx#.VzZmHmTD-mc.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Wake-Up Call to PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - Part 12


The Commission of Presidents
As we saw last time, Act 188 defines the membership of the Commission as the fourteen PASSHE university presidents, and specifies its purpose¹ as follows: “The commission shall recommend policies for the institutions and shall act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors.”

Recall that when used in laws, the word “shall” denotes what is mandatory.  (Emphasis added.)  Also recall that Act 188 is the enabling legislation that created and ostensibly guides the PASSHE system of fourteen universities.
PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

Last time, under the heading “Still Another Example of Malfeasance by the PASSHE Board of Governors,” I cited the Act 188 text on the ‘Commission of Presidents’ and asserted that Chancellor Cavanaugh and the Board of Governors “decided otherwise” when it came to obeying that provision of the law.

By asserting that they “decided otherwise,” I was in fact asserting that by ignoring that specific mandate from Act 188, their actions were “contrary to law” and were therefore—by definition—malfeasance.
 
To Recommend Policies and To Act in an Advisory Capacity

It is clear from the ‘Commission of Presidents’ language in Act 188 that there are two critical provisions in the law, and that both provisions—labelled I and II below—require cooperation between the Commission of Presidents on the one hand, and the Chancellor and Board of Governors on the other.
 
Also clear is that both sides in this needed cooperation have roles to play, and responsibilities to accept.
 
I: To recommend Policies for the Universities

According to Merriam-Webster, to “recommend” is “to suggest that someone do something.”   In PASSHE’s case, the Commission of Presidents is empowered—and in fact mandated—to suggest to the Chancellor and Board of Governors that they do something such as, e.g., adopting a particular policy affecting the fourteen universities that the Commission of Presidents, as a group, supports.
 
The Role and Responsibilities of the Commission
 
Before the Commission of Presidents can recommend policies to the Chancellor and Board of Governors, it must first invest the necessary time and effort to study and develop potential policies for submission to the Chancellor and Board that are favored by a majority of the fourteen presidents.   
 
In short, the role of the Commission is to study and develop policies that, in the eyes of a majority of the presidents, would benefit the PASSHE universities.  But that role can be accomplished by the presidents, only if they accept the responsibilities involved in doing “staff work,” which PASSHE presidents are often reluctant to engage in because of the time commitment required to achieve any sort of consensus. 

And because PASSHE presidents are often required to travel to Harrisburg once or twice a month to participate in meetings with agendas created by the Chancellor or Board of Governors—with few if any opportunities to do any face-to-face “Commission” work while there—the work of the Commission of Presidents—to the extent that it gets done at all—is conducted by telephone conference calls with the presidents in their offices and, not infrequently, in their cars on route to or from off-campus meetings.
 
The Role and Responsibilities of the Chancellor and the Board

According to Act 188, the role of the Chancellor and Board of Governors in this case would be to receive and consider for approval any recommendations sent to them by the Commission of Presidents.  
 
But before the Chancellor and Board can receive and consider a policy recommendation from the Commission of Presidents, the Commission must first do its part by developing and then sending their policy recommendation to the Chancellor for transmittal to the Board of Governors.

And before any such recommendation could be considered by the Board of Governors, a number of other arrangements would need to be completed by the Chancellor, the chief executive of the Board.
 
Many of those required arrangements arise from the fact that, by law, PASSHE Board policies, whether added, amended, or rescinded, must first be approved in public session with the media present.
 
So, for example, meeting times would need to be scheduled to enable the Board to consider and discuss the policy recommendation in question, before being called upon to vote on it during a public session.     
 
The Commission of Presidents (1993 - 2008)

In my first sixteen years as a PASSHE university president, five different colleague presidents were elected and served as Chair of the Commission of Presidents.
 
As a first-time university president and “newcomer” to the PASSHE system of fourteen universities in the summer of 1992, I set out to listen and learn as much as I could so that I might be able to contribute not just to my university but to the “system” and the other thirteen universities as well.  
 
In truth, it didn’t take long for me to notice some disturbing patterns with regard to how the PASSHE system operated.  Chief among them was a frequent lack of agreement between “words” and “deeds,” a subject to which I will return in future blog posts.    
 
The bottom line is this: During that sixteen year period, I can’t recall a single motion having been made, discussed, or voted upon by the Commission of Presidents!   And as a result of that failure, not a single policy recommendation affecting the PASSHE universities was ever made by the Commission and sent to the Chancellor and Board of Governors for consideration and possible approval  

The Commission of Presidents (2009 - 2012)
 
After 16 years of witnessing first hand that the Commission of Presidents was not functioning at all as mandated in Act 188, I ran for the position of Chair of the PASSHE Commission of Presidents, and was first elected by my colleague presidents in FY2009, eventually serving for a total of four one-year terms.
 
To be continued.

¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Wake-Up Call to PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - Part 11


The Definition of “Malfeasance
As we saw last time “malfeasance,” according to Dictionary.com, is “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.”  (Emphasis added.)
 
The Definition of “Shall

According to Dictionary.com, when used in laws—the word “shall” means “must;” or “is obliged to.” 
The Act 188 Statutory Purpose of the PASSHE System of Fourteen Universities

According to Act 188, Section 20-2003-A; Purposes and General Powers (a):

Its purpose shall be to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” ¹
 
PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

The Board of Governors’ Failure to Deliver PASSHE’s Statutory Purpose
 
We have previously documented the fact that the Board of Governors has failed since 2002 to deliver PASSHE’s statutory purpose of “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” 
 
Specifically, we have given evidence that the quality of the education provided to PASSHE students has been falling,² and that it has not been provided at anything like the lowest possible cost to the students.³ 
 
Moreover, we have also documented the even more damaging fact that the PASSHE Chancellor and Board of Governors have gone to great lengths to avoid public mention of PASSHE’s statutory purpose, apparently in the mistaken belief that as long as they never say it, they have no obligation to try to do it.
 
To fail to deliver PASSHE’s statutory purpose to the students—had they really been trying to accomplish it—would be regrettable.  But for the PASSHE Chancellor and Board of Governors to pretend they have no obligation to obey that law, and instead to state publicly, and publish widely⁴ in PASSHE’s Strategic Plan, their own made-up version of PASSHE’S statutory purpose—is an arrogant violation of the law.   
 
Two Additional Examples of Malfeasance by the PASSHE Board of Governance

Last week, we cited two interrelated examples of actions by the PASSHE Board of Governors that were clearly “contrary to law,” thereby justifying the use of the term “malfeasance” to describe them:  1) The Governor (rather than the Board of Governors) deciding PASSHE’s annual tuition increases over a twenty-year period; and 2) PASSHE’s political (rather than fact-based) annual budget requests over the same period.

This first example, like the one involving PASSHE’s statutory purpose, is directly contrary to law: Act 188 specifically grants the tuition-setting authority not to the Governor but to the Board of Governors.
 
The second example, where the Chancellor directs the fourteen PASSHE presidents to submit annual budget requests containing predetermined funding levels unrelated to the actual financial needs of the universities—so as not to “embarrass the Governor”—helps facilitate the first example.  With “political” budget requests, a Governor can set annual tuition levels without fear of contradiction from legitimate budget requests which as “public documents” could become public under the State’s Right to Know Law.
 
As the chief executive officer reporting directly to the PASSHE Board of Governors, it is unlikely that any Chancellor would blatantly direct the fourteen presidents to do something contrary to the dictates of the Board of Governors.  And the Board of Governors, most of whose members are political appointees nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate, can generally be counted on to support the Governor’s wishes—as evidenced by the Board’s abject abdication of responsibility regarding tuition increases.        
 
Still Another Example of Malfeasance by the PASSHE Board of Governors
 
We will now describe another very specific mandate from Act 188 that was violated by the PASSHE Chancellor and Board of Governors during my entire twenty years as a PASSHE university president.
 
I refer to Section 20-2007-A - Commission of Presidents - which reads verbatim as follows:
 
“The Commission of Presidents of the System shall consist of the presidents of the several institutions who shall annually select one (1) of their members as chair-person. The commission shall recommend policies for the institutions and shall act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors. The commission shall meet quarterly and additionally at the call of its chairperson or the chancellor. A majority of the presidents shall constitute a quorum.” (Emphasis added.)
 
Unfortunately, the above section of Act 188 of 1982—the law that created and ostensibly guides the State System—was mostly ignored by the Chancellor and Board of Governors during my 20 years in PASSHE—despite the fact that the law says “The commission shall (not may) recommend policies for the institutions and shall (not may) act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors.”
 
All three chancellors from 1992 to 2012 (McCormick, Hample and Cavanaugh) viewed the Commission of Presidents pretty much the same way—with fear and loathing.  Note that by law the Chancellor is not a member of the Commission—not even an ex-officio member.  So the Commission of Presidents, by law, could and did meet without the Chancellor present—which no chancellor seemed happy about.
 
During Chancellor Cavanaugh’s time between 2008 and 2012, the presidents, as a group of individuals, met monthly with him--at his request and with his agenda--in a free-for-all type discussion in which presidents offered individual advice and suggestions—which the Chancellor was free to accept or not.  During those years:   
 
·         The only ideas from individual presidents that ever got to be considered by the Board of Governors were those few which Chancellor Cavanaugh happened to agree with.
 
·         And none of the consensus ideas of the presidents as a Commission of Presidents ever got to the Board of Governors for consideration because, despite the legal mandate that “The commission shall recommend policies for the institutions and shall act in an advisory capacity to the chancellor and the governors,” Chancellor Cavanaugh and the Board of Governors simply decided otherwise.
 
To be continued.  
 
¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.
² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6794551/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-9-and-caption-january-23-2014-pdf-387k.
³ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6802256/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-20-and-caption-january-29-2014-pdf-390k.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/7490741/strategic-plan-2020-rising-to-the-challenge-10-14-pdf-2-1-meg.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Wake-Up Call to PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - Part 10


What PASSHE Politics Defeating PASSHE Economics Looks Like
This heading was the final one in last week’s blog post.  The text beneath that heading cited just one of many key behaviors revealing how PASSHE politics defeats PASSHE economics every day, namely how Governors from both parties have been deciding PASSHE tuition increases for years, despite the fact that the law, Act 188, assigns that decision not to the Governor but to the PASSHE Board of Governors.

PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
 
PASSHE’s “Political” Budget Requests
 
The Act 188-defying setting of PASSHE annual tuition increases by both Democrat and Republican Governors is not the only example of how PASSHE politics defeats PASSHE economics.  PASSHE’s political annual budget request process at the fourteen PASSHE universities is another egregious example.
 
As a PASSHE university president for twenty years (1992-2012) I witnessed the annual budget request process that was dictated to the fourteen presidents by the PASSHE chancellor who, under Act 188, is the chief executive of the PASSHE system, reporting directly to the Board of Governors.  The PASSHE chancellor is also the person to whom each of the 14 university presidents reports on a daily basis.
 
The financial people in the Office of the Chancellor (OOC) would tell the presidents at the 14 PASSHE universities how to prepare their documents so that their budget requests for the following year would show a degree of shortfall that had been predetermined by OOC—without input from the universities.
 
That is, the budget requests from the 14 PASSHE universities during the 20 year period 1992-2002 were political (rather than financial) documents having little or no relationship to the economic realities at the fourteen PASSHE universities.
 
These predetermined university budget requests would then find their way into PASSHE’s official budget request which would be sent by the Chancellor and Board of Governors to the Governor’s Budget Office.
 
Although one might suspect that PASSHE’s predetermined budget requests might be crafted to request more funding than was actually needed to do the job, the exact opposite was actually the case!  Year after year, PASSHE’s budget requests would ask for less funding than was needed to do the job, and year after year, that year’s State appropriation would be even lower than PASSHE’s preset low-ball requests.
 
And to make matters worse, as State Appropriation continued to fall as a share of PASSHE’s total annual revenue, the Board of Governors since 2002 compounded the problem by adopting its Act 188-defying “Low-Tuition-for-all-Policy,” which acted to similarly reduce the amount of funding coming from tuition.
 
One result of these terrible decisions by the Board of Governors was to make achievement of PASSHE’s statutory purpose—“High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students”—impossible.   Since 2002, political decisions by the Board of Governors have caused the quality of a PASSHE education to plummet while, at the same time, saddling students from less-affluent families with crushing student-loan debt, while foolishly giving unneeded State subsidies to students from more-affluent families!       
 
Budget Request Directive: “We don’t want to embarrass the Governor

At one of the monthly meetings between Chancellor John Cavanaugh and the fourteen PASSHE presidents with budget requests on the agenda, I asked the following question: “Wouldn’t it be better for everyone concerned if we were totally truthful in our university budget requests as to what we really needed to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students?”  The answer: “We don’t want to embarrass the Governor by asking for more money than the State can afford to give us.”
 
Ironically, at the time that question was asked and answered, the State was providing only 30% of PASSHE’s annual revenue, while the PASSHE students, parents and alumni donors were providing 70%.
 
Even more ironic is the fact that neither of the two examples we have given so far in which PASSHE politics defeats PASSHE economics—the Governor (rather than the Board of Governors) deciding PASSHE tuition increases, and PASSHE’s political (rather than fact-based) budget requests—has any legal basis in Act 188, the enabling legislation that created and ostensibly guides the PASSHE universities.

Malfeasance
 
According to Dictionary.com, “malfeasance” is “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.”  (Emphasis added.)
 
Both examples above suggest that the PASSHE Board of Governors and the Office of the Chancellor have operated over the years in ways that are contrary to law.  Even more compelling on this score is the fact that since 2002, the Board of Governors has failed to deliver either end of PASSHE’s Act 188 statutory purpose, which is: To provide “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
Chart 9 provides powerful evidence¹ for the huge drop in the educational quality of a PASSHE education since 2002, while Chart 20 provides compelling evidence² for the fact that the Board of Governors has not been providing a PASSHE education at anything like the “lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
In this case, the malfeasance by PASSHE’s elected and appointed officials is easy to document because their flawed actions violate not just the spirit but the letter of the law.
 
As shown above, the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” has not been provided to Pennsylvania’s students since 2002, reducing the promise of Act 188 to empty words for those students and alumni.
 
This is not a failure of law, but rather a failure of Pennsylvania public officials to obey the law.
 
To be continued.

² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6802256/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-20-and-caption-january-29-2014-pdf-390k.