Words Versus DeedsWe began last week’s blog post with the heading “Words and Deeds” as applied to the world of politics. But when it comes to politics, generally speaking, a more apt heading might be “Words Versus Deeds.”
Merriam-Webster defines “versus” as “against, in contrast to, or as the alternative of.”In the case of the gentrification of the fourteen PASSHE universities by the PASSHE Board of Governors since 2002, there is evidence that the BOG’s public statements are often contradicted by their deeds.
The 14 PASSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
Act 188¹ Versus the BOG’s Strategic Plan²
The statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities—according to Act 188 of 1982, the law that created them and legally controls them to this day—is to provide “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” (Emphasis added.)
PASSHE’s current “Strategic Plan 2020: Rising to the Challenge” was adopted by the Board of Governors in January of 2014, and prominently displays the following statement of Vision:“The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education [PASSHE] 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.” (Emphasis added.)
According to Act 188, a PASSHE education should be about the students; but according to PASSHE’s Strategic Plan—as approved by the Board of Governors—a PASSHE education is about the system.It is difficult to imagine a contradiction more blatant than this one: Act 188—the enabling legislation that created the PASSHE system of fourteen universities—also created the PASSHE Board of Governors!
Despite being Act 188’s creation, the BOG issued a strategic plan that places the PASSHE system above the students, in arrogant defiance of the law that created both the system and the Board of Governors.BOG’s Public Statements on Students Versus BOG’s Gentrification Policy on Students
A review of PASSHE news releases and newspaper articles in which PASSHE officials are quoted reveals that high PASSHE officials—in particular the Chancellor and the Chair of the Board of Governors—are very reluctant to acknowledge the Act 188 statutory purpose of the 14 PASSHE universities, which is to provide “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”If the Chancellor or Chair of the PASSHE Board of Governors ever publicly uttered the words “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students” regarding PASSHE’s statutory purpose, it is a fact that somehow those words never found their way into any printed record that I could find!
Act 188’s statutory purpose, as well as the best interests of the students cited there, has been missing from the BOG’s public statements for years. That same purpose as well as the students’ best interests have also been missing from the BOG’s contradictory policy choices and actions since 2002.Perhaps the Board of Governors reasoned that as long as they never publicly acknowledged Act 188’s statutory purpose or the best interests of the students cited there, no one would notice when they adopted policies and took actions that violated both Act 188 and the best interests of PASSHE students.
In a parallel way, the word “student” so prominently featured in Act 188’s statutory purpose, does not appear at all in the Vision statement proclaimed by the Board of Governors’ current strategic plan!
During my 20 years as a PASSHE university president and the four years since, the Chair of the Board of Governors rarely issued a written statement describing the Board’s relationship to the PASSHE students.In fact I could find only one document of that type, and it appeared in a 2012 PASSHE News Release³ entitled “PASSHE Board of Governors Chair sends open letter to California University of Pennsylvania.” That letter contains, in part, the following statement over the signature of BOG Chair Guido M. Pichini:
“Students, please know that your interests always come first in every decision we make and every action we take. There is no more important responsibility for us as a Board than to help ensure that you have an outstanding educational experience that leads to your ultimate success.”
Words Versus Deeds
Words: “Students, please know that your interests always come first in every decision we make and every action we take.”
Deeds: The BOG’s gentrification policy helps only about one-third of PASSHE students (those from more- affluent families) and harms the other two-thirds of PASSHE students (those from less-affluent families). One third of PASSHE students get unneeded State subsidies, and two thirds of PASSHE students receive one of two evil outcomes: 1) crushing student-loan debt, if they are lucky; and 2) no opportunity for a college education whatsoever if their family is unable to meet PASSHE’s bottom line cost of attendance.
Words: “…to help ensure that you have an outstanding educational experience…”
Deeds: Ironically, as shown in earlier blog posts, the BOG’s “low-tuition-for-all” policy has been the cause of the steady erosion in the quality of a PASSHE educational experience since 2002.
In addition to causing that steady decline in quality, that very same BOG policy is causing the rapid gentrification of the fourteen PASSHE universities.
In summary, the evidence shows that a large chasm exists between Board of Governors’ statements with their pretty words regarding PASSHE students, and the ugly outcomes actually being delivered by the Board of Governors to the vast majority of PASSHE students.
To be continued.