Opening up Act 188 and other laws could generate more opposition than assistance to West Chester’s state-related bid.
Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania (PRWEB) March 19, 2014
Angelo Armenti, Jr., President of the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU), 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."³
In the book, he describes various aspects of Act 188, the 1982 law⁴ that created the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) as a public corporation having authority over the 14 PASSHE universities, which include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester. Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities include Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln Universities.
Act 188, as initially enacted and subsequently amended, still binds West Chester and the other 13 PASSHE universities together into a tight system in ways that preclude any individual university from leaving PASSHE to pursue a different legal arrangement such as, for example, state-related status.
Also under Act 188, the PASSHE universities are bound up in a single collective bargaining unit when it comes to its more than five-thousand unionized faculty members spread over the 14 campuses.
The 1980 Commonwealth Attorney’s Act⁵ also binds the 14 PASSHE universities together in terms of the legal representation they may receive which, by law, must come from the Office of General Counsel (OGC) reporting to the Office of the Governor. State-related universities on the other hand, although receiving substantial commonwealth funding, are permitted to have independent legal counsel.
According to Armenti, at the very least, Act 188, as well as the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, would need to be amended in order to permit West Chester, and perhaps other PASSHE universities, to leave the PASSHE system to become state-related—while leaving certain other PASSHE universities behind. But while amending these and other laws for that purpose is achievable in principle, the very act of opening up Act 188 and other laws could generate more opposition than assistance to West Chester’s state-related bid.
PASSHE is party to multiple collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) involving different employee groups. But in each case, according to Armenti, those CBAs bind the employees together into bargaining units that are, at minimum, PASSHE-wide and, at maximum, commonwealth-wide. For that reason, every bargaining unit covered by a CBA with PASSHE might potentially be negatively affected by a departure of represented employees from one or more of the PASSHE universities.
Resistance to the proposal from representatives of APSCUF, the union representing PASSHE faculty at the 14 universities, is a telling example of how the various affected unions are likely to see the West Chester proposal. The president of the local West Chester chapter of APSCUF was quoted⁶ as being “wary” of the proposal. The statewide president of APSCUF spoke out forcefully against the proposal in a post on the faculty union website as follows: ⁷
“Steve Hicks, President of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) said today that proposed legislation from State Senators Tommy Tomlinson and Andrew Dinniman allowing Pennsylvania state universities to leave the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is short-sighted and would hurt students and taxpayers by potentially tripling tuition and eliminating state oversight and accountability.”
According to Armenti, such responses from APSCUF leaders were predictable for at least three reasons:
a) If the West Chester proposal were to become law, the faculty bargaining unit representing the PASSHE universities left behind would eventually have to be reduced in size to reflect the departure of faculty members from the universities that left. This in turn would mean a reduction in the number of dues-paying members in the PASSHE unit and therefore, a reduction in APSCUF revenue.
b) APSCUF objections also reflect real concerns of those faculty members at the PASSHE universities who would be left behind if the proposal were to be enacted into law. Those faculty members would become part of a smaller bargaining unit with perhaps reduced leverage in future negotiations with PASSHE.
c) Another major concern would be the labor status of the faculty members at any university that would leave PASSHE. While there is no prohibition against state-related university faculties being unionized—like Temple University has been for more than 40 years—it remains unclear whether faculty at a state-related West Chester University would be unionized or not. And, if so, who would represent them?
Two days after news reports of West Chester’s interest in becoming state-related went public, the University of Pittsburgh became the first state-related university to come out against the proposal.⁸
According to Armenti, the enormous legislative delegation associated with the geographically dispersed PASSHE universities, combined with the geographically dispersed State-Related universities, can be expected to marshal substantial political opposition in an effort to block the West Chester proposal.
The Role of PASCU
PASCU’s 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 the governance of PASSHE so as to enable it achieve its statutory purpose as mandated by Act 188.
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 statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania. He also writes for his blog at http://angeloarmenti.blogspot.com/.