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Pennsylvania Faculty on Strike

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Early this morning, 5500 faculty members on the 14 campuses of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including my wife, went on strike because of PASSHE’s refusal to offer a fair contract. The university system has sought to effectively destroy these schools. They want to commit to even more adjunct teaching while also lowering adjunct pay up to 20 percent. The schools are offering pathetic pay rates and seeking major health care givebacks. 477 days after the last contract expired, the union (APSCUF) was willing to continue meeting, but as the hours wound down, PASSHE refused to come back to the table. APSCUF is trying to argue for binding arbitration. But the schools, with a weak hand because of the absurdity of the offer, refuses to agree to that. The strike will end if PASSHE agrees to that binding arbitration. Until then, the corporate war on higher education has forced 105,000 students to not get an education.

I know this isn’t Yale, Harvard, Columbia, or any of the New York schools that the lefties who went to those schools teach at since many couldn’t imagine lighting out for the territories. So this strike probably won’t get the kind of attention that we saw at Long Island University. But it’s equally important. More will be forthcoming.

…Since there seems to be some confusion, this has nothing to do with Penn State University. These are the affected schools.

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  • Crusty

    “I know this isn’t Yale, Harvard, Columbia, or any of the New York schools that the lefties who went to those schools teach at since many couldn’t imagine lighting out for the territories. So this strike probably won’t get the kind of attention that we saw at Long Island University.”

    Your understanding of east coast snobbery is a little off. While LIU is geographically closer to the Ivy Coast than Penn State, spiritually it is much closer and way more important.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      Yup.

      • Srsly Dad Y

        PA sure is a weird state with names. So “The Pennsylvania State University” is not part of “the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.” And yet the latter includes both an Indiana University [of Pennsylvania] and a California University [of Pennsylvania].

        • PA is just a weird state period.

          • West

            Hey! As a person who grew up in Pennsylvania (but no longer lives there), I resemble that remark!

        • Crusty

          And, the private, non-state University of Pennsylvania is the only school in the country named University of [Name of State] that is not a state university.

          • Manny Kant

            Although there’s also New York University, Colorado College, Mississippi College, and Connecticut College.

            • skate

              And the College of Idaho. For a time known as the Albertson College of Idaho, but I am happy to say they have reverted to being the C of I.

          • Bloix

            Although University of [City] usually signals a private school, often although not always Catholic.
            And Princeton was originally named The College of New Jersey.

            • Crusty

              Today there is another college called The College of New Jersey, no affiliation to Princeton and having changed its name at some point from Trenton State College.

              • skate

                Although The State University of New Jersey is yet another school.

                • Crusty

                  Is that a place separate from Rutgers?

                • skate

                  Perhaps I should have phrased that as “The State University of New Jersey is yet another school called Rutgers.”

        • Bloix

          The PASSHE schools are a system of regional universities that focus on providing low-cost education to Pennsylvania residents, many of them first-generation students of all races and backgrounds. They are teaching schools, not research universities. It’s a successful model for bringing higher education to the widest possible student population.
          It’s true that the names are confusing as heck (although Slippery Rock, at least, is hard to forget).

          • Manny Kant

            They’re kind of weird, in the sense that they’re all in the middle of nowhere. None of them are located in the actual mid-sized cities in the state (though some of those do have Penn State or Pitt satellite campuses)

            • Jackov

              Having campuses located in towns in the hinterlands does not appear that different from the SUNY system in New York.

              • skate

                Could be one of those “spread the wealth” things. The original two state schools in Idaho — U of I and ISU — were sited that way.

                • The Lorax

                  I think part of the reason why state schools are far from cities is that cities were (are) seen to be dens of iniquity.

                • skate

                  Maybe some places. But in the case of Idaho, the state was a bit of a Frankenstein construct, so with the capital obviously going to Boise (it had been the territorial capital) it made sense to satiate the other sections by giving them the state colleges.

                  Of course all that went out the window once the state took Boise College into the public system.

          • West

            Exactly, and they do that well.

            My mother went to Millersville to get her teaching degree, when I was a lad. She had a BA from Smith that she’d have gotten circa 1956, then she worked a while, then was a stay at home mother to my older sister and I, then when I was ballpark 7-ish (memory is fuzzy), she went back to school, so circa 1968 – or 69 she got her teaching certificate and went to work full time as an elementary school teacher. For that era, that made her very much a “non-traditional” student. Millersville was about a 40 minute drive from where we lived, and she obviously wasn’t in a dorm or anything. It worked well for her.

    • Penn State is in a different system. This has nothing to do with that school.

      • Crusty

        Well I’ll be darned.

      • Vance Maverick

        Here’s a list for those like me who didn’t know.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Actually, PASSHE’s 14 state-owned schools are Bloomsburg, Cal U, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, IUP, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester.

      You’re thinking of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education, Pennsylvania’s four state-related* schools: Lincoln, Penn State, Pitt, and Temple. From a Pennsylvania snobbery stand-point, I believe these schools are seen as more prestigious; I know they were 20-25 years ago.

      EDIT: So there’s something new due to my slow typing, don’t confuse the Commonwealth System of Higher Education with the Penn State Commonwealth Campuses. (My dad went to Penn State Mont Alto.)

      • Crusty

        Do any of these schools have good football and/or child molestation?

      • Manny Kant

        Yes, the Commonwealth System schools (with the exception of Lincoln, I think, which is basically comparable to the PASSHE schools) are generally considered to be more prestigious.

        • I would say, Pitt >> {Temple, Penn State} >Lincoln?! in general (and Penn State has so many satellite campuses now…it’s almost it’s own system).

          (Penn State is a land grant institution; Pitt and Temple were private; Pitt has 10x the endowment of Temple, etc. ).

          • Aaron Morrow

            For anyone who doesn’t know, Lincoln and Cheyney are historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).

            • Thanks! I’d never heard of it before. I should have looked it up….

              It’s near where I grew up! Well, we’re so saturated with universities I guess it’s not surprising I’d never heard of it. Though it’s status as a pioneer HBCU should maybe have bubbled it up.

            • Crusty

              I believe the Vanessa character on the Cosby show attended Lincoln.

              • J. Otto Pohl

                Kwame Nkrumah went to Lincoln.

                • LFC

                  So did Thurgood Marshall, I think, though I need to check that.

                • Bill Murray

                  So did Thurgood Marshall, I think, though I need to check that.

                  Wikipedia agrees with you on Justice Marshall

          • West

            Penn State started out as a private institution but then got the land grant designation when that system was initiated, and ceased being even remotely private soon thereafter.

            I’m pretty sure Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln were private even longer. I seem to recall Lincoln coming into that system in the 70s or 80s.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      The vision of internal class warfare among recipients of PhDs in that quotation is highly misleading. In my experience as one of those lefties who went to Ivy League schools, we teach where there’s work. As anyone in academia knows, the academic job market has been pretty-to-extremely terrible for over forty years. Very few people go into this business without a willingness to “light out for the territories,” and those who lack such a willingness generally don’t stick around long. There are certainly real class divisions in academia today: e.g., between those who teach at Ivy League schools, those who teach at other R1 schools, and those who teach at other sorts of institutions; between TT and NTT faculty; etc. But it’s been a very long time since an Ivy League PhD kept one out of “the territories.”

      • Woodrowfan

        having been on a handful of searches in the past few years I saw a real wariness towards some* Ivy League PhDs. The feeling was as soon as a better job opened up, they were gone.(Apparently that did actually happen before I arrived) PhDs from good R1s that were NOT Ivys got more attention as did those from the so-called “Lesser” Ivys.

        *Specifically, Harvard, Yale, Princeton.

        • Crusty

          Lots of people like to move on to better jobs. It isn’t unique to HYP grads.

        • The Lorax

          I’ve been on SCs where some of the grad students from really prestigious places weren’t very good, as the faculty in their department were too important and busy to spend any time educating the grad students.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        One is far more likely to see UK degrees in the more remote territories of the world.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        I have never seen one in any of the territories I have worked in.

  • I have a friend from grad school on this strike. Tough.

    The adjunct stuff seems to have been beaten back before the strike, at least some of it.

    • I missed that your spouse is on this strike! Good luck and solidarity!

  • twbb

    I like academic elitist-bashing as much as the next guy but the idea that even grads of Harvard and Yale are passing up Penn State faculty jobs is counterfactual. The snobby school collectively graduate far more PhDs than they can offer jobs to and most of their grads would kill for a Penn State job.

    • This has nothing to do with Penn State. Different system.

      • twbb

        I stand corrected, but same answer for [insert any nonprofit 4-year college here].

    • Srsly Dad Y

      never mind then

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      This isn’t Penn State, but twbb is nonetheless correct. Ivy League PhDs, like all PhDs, take work where we find it. We prefer good jobs to bad jobs, of course, but the quality of the job isn’t determined by prestige, but by much more mundane things, i.e. tenure, teaching load, etc. And if we can only get less good jobs, we’ll take them (fwiw, I’m in what I consider a very good job: tenured, with a 2-2 at a middling flagship public university). In my experience the most common form of snobbery among Ivy League grads is regional more than prestige-driven, e.g. Central Connecticut State is more attractive to many than the equivalent sort of place in the middle of the country. But from a practical perspective, beggars can’t be choosers. And all of us start out as beggars in this game.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        If you look at the history departments of these schools, you’ll see plenty of PhDs from Ivy League, “public Ivy,” and similarly prestigious private schools (e.g. Chicago, Emory, Vandy). Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s history department, for example, includes folks with PhDs from Penn, Columbia, Cambridge, Vanderbilt, the other Indiana University, UT Austin, and Emory. Ivy League PhDs cannot afford to be snobs. And, in fact, the vast majority of us are not.

    • JL

      There’s also the fact that different fields and subfields have different powers. For instance, in my subfield, Michigan State (not UMich) occupies the place of prestige that one would stereotypically associate with, say, Harvard.

      However, while many PhDs will go wherever they can, it’s true that a lot of people from elite schools look down on regional teaching schools, which I gather is what this system is. Ecologist Terry McGlynn, who is a prof at CSU-Dominguez Hills, talks about this a lot on his excellent blog (Small Pond Science).

  • BGinCHI

    In lots of comment threads, people bash unions because they think they only want salary increases, benefit increases, etc.

    But in higher ed, it’s very common to see the union fighting for best practices and the integrity of the mission (qualified instruction, fair pay for quality instruction, budget resources going to classrooms and not administration, and so on).

    I would really like to see more coverage of how higher ed unions are a force for good in terms of students and university mission. Especially compared to, say, police unions, which seem determined to protect bad cops and bad practices all too often.

    • ASV

      Yep. My union struck five years ago over transparency issues, and the university actually increased salaries in their 11th hour offer, which we rejected. They also made big concessions to the other three campus unions who were about to strike as well, getting them all to agree in an effort to freeze us out. We struck anyway and eventually got the oversight language we wanted.

    • MAJeff

      I’ve actually come to the position that if faculty want to protect governance, labor organizing and collective bargaining are the way to do so. (I’ve used our grievance process to slap back administrators trying to get around governance.)

  • Rob in CT

    Best of luck to your wife & the others involved.

  • Denverite

    I know this isn’t Yale, Harvard, Columbia, or any of the New York schools that the lefties who went to those schools teach at since many couldn’t imagine lighting out for the territories. So this strike probably won’t get the kind of attention that we saw at Long Island University. But it’s equally important. More will be forthcoming.

    That’s not fair. There’s also Duke and Northwestern and Stanford and Chicago and Rice and Berkeley and maybe one or two other schools.

    • Maybe Michigan and Vanderbilt and UCLA, but that’s getting awful gauche, don’t you think? I mean, those Yale grads might actually see a Republican once a day.

      • Denverite

        Republicans are permitted at Chicago, but only the libertarian types.

        Michigan and UCLA are OK for grad school only.

        Vanderbilt is not OK under any circumstance. Might as well have gone to SMU.

        • Vanderbilt is not OK under any circumstance.

          So I would have thought, but a Fields Medalist of my acquaintance has just decamped to Vanderbilt from the job he’s had at Berkeley for 30-odd years. (Rumor Has It that they tempted him by a substantial raise. It had better be pretty damned substantial.)

          • Denverite

            (Incidentally, six of the seven degrees possessed by the Denverite household come from schools mentioned in this comment thread. The other is from a prominent Virginia public institution. No, the other one.)

  • Planner8

    These schools are the descendants of normal schools & state teacher’s colleges. Akin to the California State University system.

  • BethRich52

    I attended secondary school in Maryland. A very high percentage of my teachers were graduates of Pennsylvania state colleges. My great aunt attended one when it was a teachrs’ college.

  • I went to my old law school last Friday to give a seminar. I was a volunteer. Unlike the last 15 yrs I had to pay for parking. $12 for half a day. Seems now the parking garage is a money maker and the volunteer profs are NOT.

    Maybe we don’t need 4 law schools in our podunck little state.Lemeno.

  • nocomment

    Yup.
    IUP went from Indiana State Teacher’s College, to Indiana State College, to Indiana University of PA.
    The last 2 iterations came about somewhere in the mid-late 60’s.

    • Surely before it was “Indiana State Teacher’s College”, it was “Indiana [State] Normal School”? Certainly that was true in California, PA, where my mother grew up and got her teaching certification—and taught grammar school there in a one-room schoolhouse, where one of her students was her age-mate (he’d been held back a few times) Joseph Albert “Jock” Yablonski, later an activist in the United Mine Workers who was assassinated on the orders of UMW president Tony Boyle. …And so the thread comes back to labor unions in Pennsylvania!

      • Bill Murray

        according to Wikipedia, it started as Indiana Normal School, under the 1875 Normal School Act. It became State Teacher’s College at Indiana in 1927

  • Crusty

    Nice to see Bill Clinton joining them on the picket line, holding the yellow sign, on our right.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      Well sure, he got to walk Patricia Heaton.

      ETA I had a link, it failed.

  • No Longer Middle Aged Man

    Question for Erik about the binding arbitration: In CT, when a state employee union and a state agency agree to binding arbitration, that is not the end of the story. Any such agreement still has to be approved by the state legislature. Is this the same for Pennsylvania?

    In CT, for regularly negotiated contracts, the state legislature approval can simply take the form of not voting on a contract put forth by the governor. In that circumstance, the contract is considered to have been ratified by the legislature even without a positive vote affirming it. I’m not certain if contracts decided by binding arbitration also have this wrinkle, but I do know that the state legislature can reject them.

    • MAJeff

      As someone who has negotiated contracts for faculty in PA, and been involved in binding arbitration, the legislature is not involved. Contract approval rests with the parties (the unions and Trustees of the college/university) and the arbitrator’s decision is binding.

      At least that’s been my experience thus far.

  • Jordan

    Best of luck to all of them.

    On my (short) commute home this morning I didn’t hear anything on Philly’s NPR station about the debate or the PLEDGE DRIVE they are currently running. Just a long, fairly deeply reported piece about the strike.

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