PASCU seeks to reform PASSHE governance to eliminate the divided loyalty inherent in 100% political control.
Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania (PRWEB) February 24, 2014
Angelo Armenti, Jr., the former Villanova University Dean and 20-year President of California University (Cal U), recently announced the release of his new book, Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education.¹
In it, he describes what divided loyalty has been doing to students and the 14 PASSHE universities in Pennsylvania, which include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
According to Armenti, “When elected or appointed officials fail to perform sworn duties, it raises a question of divided loyalty, otherwise known as a conflict of interest, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a conflict between the private interests and official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust.”
The official responsibilities of BOG members are spelled out in Act 188 of 1982, the enabling legislation that created the PASSHE system of 14 “public” universities. Among those responsibilities, according to the book, is the mandate² contained in PASSHE’s statutory purpose: “Its purpose shall be to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” According to the book, that statutory purpose has neither been planned for, nor achieved, for at least the last twelve years.
A member of the Board of Governors (BOG) holds one seat on a 20-member governing board with responsibility for a $1.5 billion budget and the interests of 112,000 students—who along with parents and alumni donors—now pay 75% of PASSHE’s annual operating budget. Every BOG position is literally a position of trust since thousands of Pennsylvania parents are entrusting their sons, daughters and hard-earned money to the BOG in the hope and expectation of receiving a high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students—a forlorn hope and expectation since 2002, according to the book.
Two officials—an elected Governor and an appointed Secretary of Education—hold ex officio seats on the BOG, and 18 other appointed officials hold the remaining seats. According to the book the governor of the State, regardless of political affiliation, has at least three private interests that conflict with the governor’s official duties—as far as membership on the PASSHE Board of Governors is concerned. And that situation creates issues of divided loyalty, i.e., conflict of interest, for every elected governor.
Similarly, the very natural desire to be reappointed to the BOG after their terms expire puts 18 of the 20 BOG members in a position of wanting to serve the best interests of the individuals with the power to facilitate their reappointment—all of whom are elected officials.
There is currently no role for PASSHE students, parents or alumni donors in the BOG reappointment process, making it a purely political process that favors the elected officials over the students, parents and alumni donors when it comes to reappointment.
Under this scenario whose interests are more likely to be advanced, those of the elected officials or those of the students, parents and alumni donors? According to the book, “The smart money is on the elected officials.”
According to the book, the PASSHE Board of Governors as currently constituted under Act 188 is hopelessly conflicted in a way having nothing to do with individual BOG members, but everything to do with a fundamentally flawed governance structure that leads to a design-induced failure to protect the interests of the students, parents and alumni donors, who currently pay 75% of the cost of education.
¹ Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education is on sale now, available from Amazon.com in paperback and e-book. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=angelo%20armenti.
The Role of PASCU
According to Armenti, the failure by PASSHE’s 100% political leadership to deliver the promise of Act 188 to its majority financial stakeholders—the PASSHE students, parents and donors, primarily alumni—was a major reason behind his decision to create PASCU, the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities, in 2012. PASCU’s official mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.” To advance that mission, PASCU seeks to reform PASSHE governance to eliminate the divided loyalty inherent in 100% political control.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Angelo Armenti Jr. served as President of California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) from 1992 to 2012. Before that, he was a Dean at Villanova University, a professor of physics, and author of The Physics of Sports (American Institute of Physics, 1992). During his career at Cal U, Armenti is credited with establishing numerous funding sources for student scholarships and for campus revitalization projects, efforts made in part to address the problems that he describes in Privatization Without a Plan. In June of 2012, Armenti founded a non-profit corporation entitled The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) whose mission it is to preserve the purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania. He also writes for his weekly blog at http://angeloarmenti.blogspot.com/.