PASSHE/APSCUF Negotiations: Our Focus Needs To Return To Our Students
The following op-ed article relative to the contract negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) was written by ESU President Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D.
Our Focus Needs To
Return To Our Students
By Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D., President of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
On January 28, we’ll be welcoming more than 7,000 students back to our campus and community for what hopes to be an exciting and productive spring semester. As our students begin a new year and a fresh start with a new class schedule, many will also look forward to catching up with their friends and classmates while working to achieve their educational goals. Regretfully, this time of great eagerness may be compromised by their concern as to whether or not their professors will be there to greet them.
As you may already know, contract negotiations continue between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF). At ESU, we’ve made every attempt to keep our students and their families updated as talks continue. We want them, and our neighbors in the local community, to know that we periodically post updates about the negotiations on the university website (esu.edu/negotiations) for their convenience and to rest assured that we have a plan in place should a faculty strike occur.
Please know that PASSHE continues to do everything possible to ensure a strike will not occur. The leadership of the State System is committed to reaching an agreement that is not only fair to our faculty but also, and more importantly, to our students and their families who provide almost seventy five percent of the revenues for our universities through tuition and fees.
Clearly, a priority of these negotiations is seeking ways to offset increasing costs to the universities that ultimately impact our students and their families in tuition costs. PASSHE’s current compensation package for faculty, now on the table, is reasonable. It addresses two major concerns which are health care benefits we provide to both active and to retired employees. If we, as institutions, do not address these costs, they have the potential to negatively impact our ability to provide resources for our students and to improve and modernize our operations and course offerings that will ultimately influence student success.
At the bargaining table, PASSHE has offered a number of health care plan options to faculty, hoping they will consider adopting a plan that is comparable to the health care option currently available to the more than 80,000 employees of the Commonwealth (including Governor Corbett, his cabinet, and all PASSHE presidents). If accepted by APSCUF, the changes could result in lower premiums while ensuring that all PASSHE employees receive benefits comparable to those received by other state employees. APSCUF’s choice could benefit everyone.
The proposed change for APSCUF would not affect current employees but those new to PASSHE (hired after July 1, 2013), offering new APSCUF employees an optional health care account similar to the current option available for a retirement account. The change alone would help the State System address the more than $1.4 billion outstanding financial obligation in this area.
Like many other colleagues and peers, my hope is that there is a swift but fair resolution to these negotiations that will not negatively impact the cost of a PASSHE education. I am eager to get the focus back on our students at ESU in order to provide them with exemplary academic and life experiences. I look forward to continuing work with the faculty and staff as we continue to enhance our academic programs and build relationships in our local community to develop internship and job opportunities that will keep our graduates engaged and connected.
I want East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania to be the BEST university within the State System. We need a resolution of these negotiations so we can again focus on the future of ESU and our students.
Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D. │ President
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
200 Prospect Street │East Stroudsburg, PA 18301