I am looking forward to meeting many of you at the Meet and Greet at the IM building on Saturday. With each day tat goes by the pressure that we, the alumni, are putting on the board seems to be starting to bare fruit. First we have them agreeing to do an independent audit for the counting of the ballots and they are setting up meetings with the possibility of opening up talks to look at the real structure of the Board. Our Numbers for change are strong and we are being heard. We must stay vigilant and focused not just in the next several weeks remaining in the election but in the years to come. Yes I said years. This is a long process but WE ARE Penn Staters and we will get the change we need.
A response on step 7 regarding the creation of a University System of Pennsylvania. First as with each of the 12 steps there is a lot of work that would have to go into filling in the details, so they are by no means complete. Second in step 7 the University would not lose its identity as Penn State, or the status as the premier and only land-grant university of the state or even the number one school in the pecking order. To say these would be lost would be a false-hood in that with Penn State’s status and rankings and the fact that it is the Land-Grant University of PA it would be the flagship system within the system and University Park would be the flagship campus. Having researched the boards and systems that exist in many other states I have found that this is in fact a common practice and still allows for separate identities for each of the colleges or Universities in the systems.
Since obviously I am extremely familiar with the University System of Maryland I will use that as my example in this case. The University System of Maryland is governed by a Board of Regents that oversee 12 very separate Universities, each with there own president and governing structure, mascots, sports teams, traditions, alumni associations, marketing campaigns etc.. Of those 12 schools the University of Maryland at College Park is the Land-Grant school for the State and the flagship school for the state and as with each of the others it operates independently. Each school works with the Systems office to help relationships with Annapolis, to gain the best leverage for projects and state money as well as other issues that might fall to either Maryland’s Governor or Legislature. The Systems office also helps to oversee state educational standards and requirements are being met across the state and that none of the schools is forgotten by the Legislatures or the Governor’s office. Thereby ensuring that each schools needs are provided for and they can be successful in their missions. Again let me reiterate that this is a very common situation across the country, another one that everyone might immediately identify with is The University System of Georgia which includes 35 institutions of which include Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, each has a very clear individual identity and tradition rich past and none of them are compromised by being under the umbrella of the University System.
So in summary creating a University System will not:
1. Will not minimize our Land Grant Status or transfer any of that right to any of the other State Schools
2. Will not change our place in the pecking order for State Funding
3. Will not change our Mission
4. Will not change or diminish our ability to provide a quality education to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania at a price the Average Citizen can afford (Actually our Board of Trustees has been violating this one for many years now and this must be stopped.)
5. Will not change the fact that WE ARE PENN STATE and friends don’t let friends go to Pitt.
Some final Clarifications, Penn State is the Land-Grant University but it is still in fact a “State-Related” school and is part of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education along with Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. This suggestion would link the Commonwealth System of Higher Education (CSHE) and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE) under on larger umbrella. Since until 1989 we were considered a “State-owned University” and therefore even more closely tied to the State, (this changed when we decided we did not want Businesses on Penn State Land to local taxes and we wanted to be exempt from the Open Records Act), it should not be difficult for us to be willing to once again be a partnered with the PSSHE and the CSHE. I think that most of us do feel that we need to be more open and transparent and that having to be under the Open Records Act is not a bad thing per se.
Again, I have only given two of the great many examples out there for State University Systems. As I have stated before I really do like to do my homework before making a post and since I am as many of us are Blue and White to the core I would not propose anything that in anyway took away from our tradition, history, standing or place in the global community but rather find ways to strengthen all of that.
As promised a look at how to improve our standing in Harrisburg. To do this I have developed a twelve-step program with the elements we will need to look at. The steps are not in any specific order.
1. Do we have a champion in each house of the General Assembly? The problem that we have not addressed but have skirted around at best is that we have no real champion in Harrisburg and that the University has not fostered that relationship to this point in a way that could be deemed successful.
2. What percentage of General Assembly members having ties to PSU and how can we improve this? To elaborate, in the House there are 203 districts and we have 21 Representatives with PSU ties (10%). In the Senate we have 50 districts and 10 Senators with PSU ties (20%). Now this looks only at those with PSU ties and not those with ties to all of the State supported Universities and Colleges, which is higher (I have begun that work but it is not finished). We are blessed at PSU to have incredible alumni that care about their communities, are highly intelligent and great leaders, we need to mine this pool of talent that resides in the Pennsylvania and groom candidates that support PSU and work to ensure their election. Later I will point out a Party Neutral requirement, which means that our Alumni Association must be the starting point for this effort and do it without regard to party but as a support and resource for PSU tied candidates. This would include adding in how to run educational material, working to identify alumni that would make good candidates; help in the grass roots get the word out efforts etc. We would need to have a strong handle on district voting statistics, PSU voter strong holds, voter turnout efforts, and other campaigning tools. Our grass roots Alumni groups that have formed in the wake of the Sandusky issues will also be a great help in these endeavors if they can agree to incorporate this into there mission statements and goal.
3. What percentage of the General Assembly members have ties to a PA state supported college or university? This is where we supplement and complement step two especially in districts that we are unable to put forth a strong PSU candidate.
4. We need to build a collision of those with ties to all PA state supported colleges and universities (this would include the trade schools of course).
5. How do we work around Governor Corbett and eventually ensure he is removed from office (likely in the next election, impeaching is not a likely scenario). A strong support from the General Assembly can tie the hands of the Governor. This is a critical step for us to be taking now with Corbett in office. There are groups forming that seek to get him out of office and we, as alumni should support this effort.
6. We need to build the trust and support of the electorate, this would involve Public Service announcements about the great things that PA State Supported Colleges and Universities are doing for the People of PA.
7. (This one is a tough pill to swallow I am sure) is to look to combining all of the State Supported Colleges and Universities into one single University System of Pennsylvania (USP). We are all competing for the same pot of funds and if we worked together we would greatly increase the lobbing power and the likely hood of maintaining a champion in each house of the General Assembly. Also, this would allow for an element of over all restructuring of the various charters and allow for the Governor and the Government appointees to interact only at this USP level and free up the direct influence over any individual part of the system of Colleges and Universities. Similar systems are in fact working in other states. It is unlikely that we would end up eliminating the influence of the Governors office as the Executive Branch has jurisdiction over the educational systems of the state.
8. Is to get our own house in order. This refers to the elements I posted regarding our return to fiscal responsibility. If we can’t keep ourselves in line and be responsible stewards of all of our own resources then we don’t deserve to get more resources. I know this too is a hard pill to swallow with or without a spoonful of sugar.
9. Is to be Open and transparent and except this with all of its pro’s and con’s. If we are working on issues that are sensitive to national security or fall under trade secret and paten protection laws then those items will be covered, HR issues are covered to a point and no one is suggesting that these specific protections be dropped and they are still covered in the right to know/freedom of information acts.
10. Is to restructure our charter and our Board of Trustees to be smaller, more representative, more transparent, more nimble and responsive, more focused on true leadership and guidance of the University, more diverse, and a greater and a true built in assurance that the entire board turns over every 12 years or so (Idea that you have a limit of 2 three year terms and that a third of the Boards seats are voted on each year that means that you will have a full turnover every 12 years).
11. Is to freeze tuition for till it is in line with other public land-grant universities. This has been successful elsewhere and should be applied to PSU since we have the highest in-state tuition of any Public School.
12. Is to remain party neutral. This is never an easy thing to do as we all have our political points of view. This is however critical different parties have power at different times and we cannot allow ourselves to be tied to the success or failure of only one party as that can crush our support if we are seen to be on the losing side and a target for retribution towards the losing side.
This was a post that I did on the Penn State Alumni Association LinkedIn Group as part of a thread on the level of state Funding that PSU Gets. I am addressing the elements that will need to be addressed to bring our Budget back in line and be able to hold tuition and weather the drop in State Funding all while improving the functionality of the University.
This will be a multiple post response to the items brought up in this thread. For those that don’t know I am the Campus Landscape Architect at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the 2011-2030 Facilities Master Plan that addresses all aspects of the running of and expansion/growth of the University from building needs, program needs, budgets, tuition and how many students we will be looking to admit etc. I am a Landscape Architect and a Planner by trade and profession and I am candidate #31 on the ballot. All of the items that have been discussed are ones that I have personally had research, act on, and deal with on a daily basis as both a member of the Planning office and a co-author of the Master Plan. I can say with the utmost certainty that these issues are not unique to PSU and also that PSU is not doing the best resolve these issues of other peer institutions. I also would recommend that all of you (and I know this is time consuming and likely not a lot of fun for most), read the full PSU budget, the Strategic Plan and the Master Plans for the University. In reality if a candidate for the BoT has not read these documents (All of them are available on the PSU website) then they have not done their homework and likely do not actually know what they are talking about or even if the Current BoT is doing their Job. I know this statement sounds very self-serving and arrogant of me to say but if you read the Charter, By-laws and Standing Orders, the major responsibilities and duties of the members of the BoT are directly related to what is contained within the full PSU budget, the Strategic Plan and the Master Plans for the University and satellite campuses. For the record I have read and reread all of these documents more times than I can count and I receive updates from the Planning and Strategic Planning offices to be current on all the issues as I feel all the candidates should. This will be four posts for the Budget and house side of the coin please read all of them before commenting.
The first grouping of posts are meant to address the operational budgets and fiscal responsibility of the University with the funds that we currently get from all sources, and taking into account the loss of funding we all expect from the State. I will address the issues of the State under funding the public universities and colleges in PA in later posts as these while connected issues are still addressable separately. Understanding that while I am against going private and feel very strongly about remaining a public land-grant university, going private is an option and we can “cut” ties to the state’s funding. This reality makes dealing with our own house so to speak the higher of the two priorities (Our Budget, operating cost and tuition being the first and our relationship with the state the second). If we can gain control of our budget, what we charge for tuition and how nimble, and lean (in a good way) our house is we can more effectively work out the issues of our relationship with the state, if we are Public or Private, or how we survive in a world that even now is questioning if one even needs a physical campus anymore with the success of online learning and degrees. To make a correction we are not the leader in Online education we hit #20 in student services and Technology and #47 in Student engagement and Assessment and did not even rank in the top 55 in Faculty Credentials and Training on U.S. News and World Reports 2012 for the overall program (contrary to what the PSU website states) and OBD (The Online Education Database) does not have us even in the top 65 (We are simply not listed). So always take rankings with a grain of salt. Also at the last BoT meeting at the Hershey Medical Center, the item was voted on to make improvements to South Campus Dorms which in the meeting were described as some of the worst living conditions on any college campus, these dorms are shown to perspective students and have been on the list of needed projects for years and I am sure we can all plenty of our favorite projects that have jumped them in line. This series of postings will not give the final solutions but more so a look at the depth that we must really be looking and how difficult the road will be. I have participated in this very difficult path at UMD and seen how if done, it can be successful and result in a stronger institution.
First I want to address the comments that have been made regarding reductions in the University’s budgets and having each department propose a series of cuts that could be made and a list of priority true fiscal needs. Sanford is right that the departments have been doing this and there have been some cuts to departments and programs. Now this is where I will say that the perception and realities clearly are not meeting and this is in multiple perceptions and realities. The first is that from the standpoint of a department what is a lean and efficient is not always the actual reality. A department is of course going to find some low hanging fruit that could be cut to improve budgets but beyond that everything becomes a necessity and absolutely required to meet the goals and missions of the department and to change this “would hurt the department and the students.” The reality is that actually the cuts can and should go a lot deeper.
As some have hinted this looks into the offerings of the department, both the large scale of degrees and the smaller scale of individual classes and how many class sections there are. Then there is the question of the faculty needed for these classes and what classes require, is it a 15 to 1 ratio or a 400 to 1 ratio of Students to Faculty or what can simply go on-line, this requires a full examination of the realities of what is long term support and viability of a program, what are the market and societal viabilities of the various degrees and individual classes. This means will a degree actually get you a job in a field directly related to that degree, is a course offered because it is critical to the degree or is it outdated, the specialty of faculty member, or a class that 30 students petitioned for 20 years ago and it is no longer or never was needed or important to the degree it “helped”, then how are those classes offered and is the content and delivery done in the most effective and relevant manor possible. The last piece directly addresses the space requirements that a department has on the Universities Physical Plant and if buildings that we have are adequate, need improvements, can be repurposed, or need to be replaced or new buildings added. Then you must look at that Faculty that we have (This is one of the hardest pills to swallow) and determine are they the best in their field, are they current with the field, are their specialties and research interests current, needed (to provide the students the classes needed for the degree), and are they fundable through grants, donations, and other sources, the most difficult is their salary compared to peers and others that might be on the market for new positions.
The next step is to look at the administrative level of the University. Are we running as efficiently as possible? Are there departments that could be consolidated due to similar fields, overlapping offerings, and synergies that could be amplified by co-location and reduced administrative barriers? Can we reduce administrative staff and run more efficiently (Most administrations will say no while the reality is most often the opposite)?
Next there is the question of the “Building Boom” and the University’s Physical Plant (for those not familiar with this term it is every, building, plants, space, wire, pipe, parking lot, etc. in other words everything that must be maintained to keep the campuses running and functioning and looking good). Chris brought up a point that he, others and I have addressed on other threads, that of the need look at the existing building and space stock that we have, the costs to maintain it, the ability to repurpose it, its ability to meet the needs of the uses and services it provides vs. the new buildings that we have been sprouting up all over campus and the vast expanse of campus that now must be maintained at a higher level of care, the additional infrastructure that must be maintained, the strain on the current staff to meet the new needs, the needs for new staff, the life cycle costs of the new buildings etc. Sanford was correct to point out that the funding for the new buildings generally comes from a “different” pot then the rest of the operating budget but that ends once the building construction is complete and the University “Takes Delivery” of the new building. Once complete all maintenance costs, corrections to “problems and omissions” during construction and other issues like staff positions, supplies (light fixtures, toilet paper, electricity, water, gas, etc.), become part of the operating budget. Rarely are there any endowments that actually cover these long term costs. Then there are the questions of “Did we have a building that could have been repurposed?” “Did we build a building that can be repurposed?” become important.
Corbett continues to show that this was a personnel vendetta for him against Joe and Graham. Now it is time for Penn Staters and others that graduated from PA State schools to rise up and throw him out of office. The volume of alumni from Pennsylvania’s State supported schools exist to change the General Assembly and the Governors mansion back to bodies that support the PA Higher Education system and truly want to create an educated and technically proficient and job ready population for the State. Encourage those that have a love for the States public Colleges and Universities to run for office and to make sure they vote and make their feelings known.
With only 6 days till the release of ballots for the Board of Trustees, please make sure all of your Penn State friends and Family are signed up to receive a ballot.
Email BOT@psu.edu with your full name, year of graduation, major and degree, and the subject line stating that you are requesting a ballot.
I am Candidate 31 and look forward to your support.