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June 10, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU president tells trustees ‘advocacy efforts helped’

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Advocacy, especially student advocacy, has played an important role in focusing legislative attention on the financial needs of higher education, Robert Smith, Slippery Rock University president, told the Council of Trustees today at their regular meeting.

“Last March, when the governor proposed cutting support for higher education in his first budget by nearly 54 percent, everyone was shocked. When we caught our breath and focused on the future it was evident we would have to step up efforts to make our case in Harrisburg,” Smith said. “What emerged was ROCK Nation, an advocacy network of people committed to helping SRU tell its story.”

Smith said students organized letter-writing campaigns, visited with legislators and helped create a ROCK Nation presence on the Web to garner support for restoration of higher education funding in the state budget.

“I want to acknowledge the role students and faculty have had in our advocacy efforts. I am especially grateful for the hundreds of our students who have participated in some way to make the case for Slippery Rock University. Six of our students gave their time over two days to travel to Harrisburg to personally meet with our legislators,” Smith said.

“Their work was phenomenal, especially in face-to-face visits with legislators as they told of the effects a decrease in funding would have on their educational opportunities,” Smith said. “They made a difference. We need many more like them to step up, be heard and make a difference.”

Two students were also commended for their work in creating ROCK Nation, an online advocacy organization, and a Facebook page. ROCK Nation membership is open to students, current and former faculty and staff, alumni, community members and friends of the University. Advocates of ROCK Nation are asked to share fundamental concerns with elected officials, businesses, community groups and prospective friends of the University.

Smith presented students present at the meeting with ROCK Nation lapel pins, designed to recognize those who become members of the advocacy group and then go “beyond the call” to aid in supporting SRU on important issues. The pins were forged by Wendell August.

Receiving the handcrafted pins were:

  • Nicole VanDyke, a senior communication major from Homer City who was instrumental in providing materials for the creation of the advocacy network;
  • Louis Bouselli, an information systems major from Hawley, who was cited for his work in providing the technology expertise to create ROCK Nation;
  • Jim Kramer, a therapeutic recreation major from Butler, for advocacy efforts;
  • Adam Kennerdell, a finance major from Slippery Rock, for advocacy efforts;
  • Logan Miller, a chemistry major from Franklin, for advocacy efforts;
  • Elise Michaux, an English major from Connellsville, for advocacy efforts;
  • Sarah Browne, an English major from Cranberry Township, for advocacy efforts; and
  • Jeremiah Rosser, a May management graduate from McDonald, for advocacy efforts.

            “I want to thank the students who took a positive lead and a common sense approach to this important issue. I hope they will one day consider running for public office,” said Trustee Suzanne Vessella from Ellwood City.

“The primary focus for the past two months has been on restoring the recommended cuts to the state appropriation for Slippery Rock University,” Smith said.

There have been indications from the House of Representatives that some funding would be restored in the final version of the budget. “That is certainly positive news and demonstrates that our advocacy efforts are taking hold to present SRU as good stewards of the public’s money and a respected major economic force in the region. We believe SRU is a sound investment from multiple perspectives: Students’ benefit from improved lifestyles and increased earnings; taxpayers benefit from a larger economy and lower social costs; and the state benefits from increased job and investment opportunities, higher business revenues and greater availability of public funds and eased tax burdens. In these next several weeks, it is critical that our voice continues to be heard,” he said.

Smith said that while the University was working to restore the state appropriation, it was simultaneously working to manage the shortfall it will likely face. “If the rumored 15 percent reduction becomes reality, SRU will be required to make up near $7 million either through revenue enhancements or expense reductions. All of the divisions have been engaged in addressing these needs, Smith said, however no actions will be taken until after the final budget and any tuition increases for the coming academic year are announced,” Smith said.

Smith told trustees that SRU had been named to the Washington, D.C.-based Corporation for National and Community Service 2010 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which salutes the nation’s institutions of higher education that support volunteerism, service-learning and civic engagement, and that the University had been named a “College of Distinction,” by StudentHorizons, Inc.

“We are certainly proud to receive these important honors,” Smith said

Joshua Young, council chair, announced that a president search committee, charged with finding a replacement for Smith had been appointed. Smith, president of SRU since 2002, has announced he will retire in January. See story at:
In formal votes, trustees approved a plan to create a “Student Life Enhancement Fee” of $5 per credit hour for enrolled, on-campus undergraduate students. The fee does not apply to graduate students, those enrolled in 100 percent distance-education classes or in programs that do not have on-campus classes. The fee will cover services that promote quality residence life and student leadership development, but will not cover varsity athletics. The fee, which will be managed by the vice president of student life and are restricted to Division of Student Life programs, takes effect with fall classes.

As part of the motion, trustees agreed to eliminate the $20 Graduation Fee and the Academic Transcript Fee for regular transcript purchases. Additional Transcript Fees for special services, including overnight transcript service, were retained.

On the recommendation of the council’s governance committee, trustees voted to retain the current slate of officers for a second term. Joshua Young of Caln Township was re-elected chairperson; Eric Holmes of Pittsburgh was re-elected vice chairperson and John Thornburgh of Wexford was re-elected secretary.

Council approved the minutes of the March 18 meeting and the May 8 conference call meeting.

In routine action, trustees approved submitted reports covering contracts, fixed assets, and service and supply purchase orders.

Trustees were informed of 49 faculty and staff appointments for summer and fall.

The trustees were also informed:

Bruce Russell, retired dean of the College of Business, Information and Social Sciences, had been granted dean emeritus statues. Russell retired in 2010 after 37 years at SRU; and  Carolyn Prorok, professor of geography, geology and the environment, who retired in 2008 with 21-years of service, and Mark Banks, communication professor, who retired in 2010, with 19-years of service, had been granted professor emeritus status;

Retirements of 16 University faculty and staff were announced.

Faculty retiring are: Richard Altenbaugh and John Badget, both professors of secondary education/ foundations of education. Altenbaugh retires after 19 years service, and Badget after 43 years; Srinivasa Mani, retires with 41 years as a professor of professional studies, and Betsy McKinley, retires after 17 years as an assistant professor of physical education.

Staff retirements are: Jean Richardson, administrative assistant I in the Office of Academic Affairs, 40 years; Patricia Castor, clerk typist II in secondary education/foundations of education, 40 years; Rebecca Barber, custodial worker 2 in facilities and planning, 36 years; Joanne Sanatus, clerk typist II in the nursing department, 36 years; Pauline Kelly, custodial worker II in facilities and planning, 19 years; Marsha McKnight, clerk typist III in the Office of Academic Services, 35 years; Robert Moors, plant mechanic in the SRU Heating Plant, 26 years; Linda Schuetz, clerk typist III in the SRU Counseling Center, 21 years; Betty Hutchinson, clerk typist II in the Admissions Office, 15 years; Connie Reeder, custodial worker I in facilities and planning, 11 years; Paul Burt, maintenance repairman I in facilities and planning, five years; and Don Steele, locksmith in facilities and planning, four years..

Council’s next scheduled meetings will be Sept. 8-9.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.