Jan. 18, 2013
Students need to focus on education, not negotiations
As we get set to welcome our students back to campus for the start of spring semester, I am sure they are occupied with thoughts of their upcoming class schedule, reuniting with fellow classmates and getting back to achieving their educational goals. Unfortunately, one other item might be on their mind: whether their professors will be there to greet them.
Understandably, the status of negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) has drawn increased attention from students and their families. First and foremost, students should know that we have a plan in place should a faculty strike occur. For details on this plan as well as the latest information on the status of negotiations, students should visit www.sru.edu.
Students and their families should also know that PASSHE is committed to achieving a new collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF that is fair, that is affordable and that positions the State System to continue to provide an affordable, quality education for years to come. PASSHE leadership has made it clear throughout these negotiations that its number one focus is representing the interests of students and their families who provide nearly three-fourths of the revenue needed to operate the universities.
PASSHE has put a very reasonable compensation package for faculty on the table while also making it clear that it needs savings to offset the increased costs to the universities and, ultimately, to our students and their families. Two major cost drivers for our universities are the health care benefits we provide to both active and retired employees. If these aren’t addressed, these costs threaten to overwhelm the system and take away resources that could otherwise be used to improve and modernize our educational offerings to ensure students succeed.
PASSHE has offered a number of health care plan options with the goal of more closely aligning the system with the same health care plan that the Commonwealth’s 80,000 employees – including the Governor and his cabinet – all have. The changes could result in lower premiums while ensuring that all PASSHE employees receive benefits comparable to those received by other state employees.
For future, not current, employees, PASSHE has proposed to offer an optional health care account similar to the current option available for a retirement account. The change, which would begin to address a more than $1.4 billion outstanding financial obligation in this area, would apply only to employees hired after July 1, 2013.
The bottom line is that PASSHE and APSCUF must resolve these issues quickly and fairly so that we can get back to focusing on how best to continuously enhance the quality of our academic programs as well as the educational experience of our students. There are far more important things for our students to be focused on when they return January 28.
Slippery Rock University President