Photo: Protest against university “consolidation” outside the state capitol, Harrisburg
On the afternoon of July 14, the Board of Governors (BOG) of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) unanimously voted in favor of approving Chancellor Greenstein’s “consolidation” plan. The implementation of the plan will result in the elimination of 1,500 faculty and staff jobs, the use of more online instruction many students struggled with during the pandemic, and devastating economic effects on the working-class communities slated for consolidation.
During the July 14 BOG meeting, the Board repeatedly acknowledged the public’s criticism of the plan and that it is not “perfect,” and that it will cause “pain” and be “difficult.” The BOG’s overarching position was that this imperfect and harmful plan is necessary to save the system. For hours they argued over and over that “doing nothing” will be far worse.
Based on our experience organizing rallies and forums across the state, it is clear that the position of working people, students, parents, and community members has never been to do nothing. At all of the many rallies we co-organized across the state against mass layoffs in public higher education and for a fully funded state system, crowds of dozens led chants of “save our jobs, save our community,” “no money, that’s a lie, we won’t let PASSHE die,” and “we reject your rotten plan, consolidation is a scam.”
At the rally in Lock Haven, Penn., Kristy, a Workers United member and staff of the Bentley Dining Hall at Lock Haven University, explained how she and her fellow union members “care about the whole community. [Consolidation] will totally devastate the whole community. This is a college town. Without students and revenue, we will have nothing.”
Josh, an AFSCME union member and staff worker at Millersville University of Pennsylvania traveled hours to Bloomsburg, “to show solidary with my co-workers at these universities under threat of the Chancellor and Board of Governors. It was incredibly powerful and inspiring to see all the Workers United members come out shoulder-to-shoulder alongside APSCUF members.”
Chris, a PASSHE alum at the Bloomsburg rally, told Liberation News that, “it is important to defend the place that made you who you are as a student and make it possible for students in the future.”
A professor at the Lock Haven rally argued that, “it should be uncontroversial that education is a public good. It’s bad enough that Pennsylvania is 48th in per capita spending in higher education. We should be investing, not pulling back. Hurting universities will hurt towns that they are in.”
We stand with the people in demanding a fully funded PASSHE system utilizing the billions of surplus funds that currently exist. Our position has always been, and will continue to be, to put working people, students and their communities first.
The BOG is asking us to stand with them in the successful implementation of their consolidation plan. We say NO! We will not help them further cut PASSHE’s budget, lay off more than 1,500 working people throughout the state system, and attack working-class communities. We will not help them implement this cynical and reckless plan. We will not stand with them as they abandon students, faculty, staff and working-class communities throughout the state.
We will continue to stand with the people and their right to education and job security. Join us in building the movement against mass layoffs in public higher education and for free public higher education!