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Rally Against PASSHE Consolidation Plan Set for Saturday in Clarion

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 @ 12:06 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

Veterans Memorial Park ClarionCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Party for Socialism and Liberation and PASSHE Defenders are co-hosting a rally in Clarion on Saturday to stand against the integration plans that will bring six universities, including Clarion University, together into two regional universities.

The rally will be held in Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday, June 26, at 2:00 p.m.

The consolidation plans in question will restructure six universities into two combinations of three. The integrated institutions would be California, Clarion, and Edinboro universities in the western part of the state and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield universities in the northeastern region.

According to a release from rally organizers, they are demanding that the Board of Governors vote against the plan at the July 14-15 Board of Governors meeting.

The release states that “while the plan has been presented as a way to save the system from economic crisis, the evidence suggests that it will only deepen the crisis students, faculty, and working-class communities are facing.”

Organizers are also encouraging members of the public to call the Board of Governors office at 717-720-4010 to express their opinion on the matter.

The organizations argue that “the plan includes cutting PASSHE’s budget by $44.2 million, mostly in the area of personnel, and would result in the loss of 1,500 jobs at universities throughout the State System,” and “consolidating six of the system’s universities into two, as the plan outlines, would be economically devastating for the working-class communities in the affected small college towns.”

The release notes “per student state appropriations for higher education have decreased by 52% since 2001. During the same period, tuition and student debt have increased significantly.” It argues Pennsylvanians “can only expect that budget cuts associated with the consolidation plan will lead to additional increases in tuition, leaving many working class and oppressed students unable to access PASSHE schools.”

The push against the consolidation plan comes in the wake of virtual public hearings held on June 9 and 10 during which many objections were heard.

According to WESA.fm, speakers during the hearings addressed multiple concerns, such as fewer in-person class opportunities and the effect on on-campus programs like student-run newspapers.

Dr. Jamie Martin, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), recently voiced her concerns to City & State Pennsylvania, noting that the plan lacks clarity in terms of before and after organizational charts.

“Those organizational charts would tell us a lot about what departments are going to remain, and how they are going to be organized within an integrated or consolidated university. Those are missing. We have concerns about the extent to which students would have to be forced to take online or hybrid courses,” stated Martin.

Nevertheless, Chancellor Dan Greenstein argues the integration plan will actually create new academic opportunities by developing a world-class, Pennsylvania-based online academic program to add to their on-campus offerings.

“It is less about how to make students college-ready and focuses far more about how to make colleges ready for our students,” Greenstein said.

Additionally, Clarion University Dr. Dale Elizabeth-Pehrsson has voiced similar sentiments.

“Leveraging combined scale would create expanded opportunities for the traditional face-to-face student experience, deliver new online offering, as well as uncover cost efficiencies, which would keep Clarion University and other State System universities accessible,” Pehrsson said in a release late last year.

“Through the collective talent of the faculty and staff at Clarion, California, and Edinboro, we would reconceive, rebuild, refresh and expand what we offer to students.

“We would help shape the future of public higher education, not just in Pennsylvania, but nationwide.”


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