As you know, President Percy hosted two financial forums last week. I heard a lot of the same speeches there that I’ve for the past 12 years: There’s a budget crisis. We have to cut. We have to tighten our belts. We have no choices.
I don’t believe any of this. Both our (AAUP) analysis and the analysis in the Huron Report show clearly that these things aren’t true.
I see a bright future for PSU, but only if we hold the Administration accountable for investing in the things that matter, rather than spreading budget doom and gloom and investing in all the wrong places.
I am a social constructivist who does qualitative interview-based research. I am also a librarian, which means I care deeply about process, about developing and executing positive strategies for improvement, and about living up to our mission and promises to students. Like you, I am educated enough to tell when there are smoke and mirrors being cast to cloud larger truths.
The truth I see is that Administrative budget priorities have failed our University.
One of the ways in which the Administration has failed, is by feeding the Administrative bloat noted in AAUP’s report by Howard Bunsis and confirmed by the independent, outside consultant hired by the Administration itself.
What is “administrative bloat?”
Administrative bloat is the outsized investment in administrative structures and university bureaucrats at the expense of investments in hiring and in supporting the faculty, academic professionals, and staff members charged with fulfilling the University’s mission to the students and its community.
Here is what we know about our budget problems:
- PSU Administration has consistently used enrollment declines to excuse poor financial decision-making, hiring freezes (or “pauses”) for faculty and academic professional positions, and administrative expansion. This does nothing to address the real issue: the need to invest in hiring more personnel who will serve our students in financial aid, student services such as career and academic counselors, counselors and mental health professionals, and teaching faculty.
- For a decade, we’ve heard about budget shortfalls from the Administration, followed by subsequent reports of budget surpluses.
- The current “budget gap” is the result of mismanagement and poor investment decisions. Enrollment Management has consistently failed to invest in the personnel, software, and relationship-building needed to sustain and increase our enrollment, and those issues long pre-date the pandemic.
- University and college administrations across the country are using the pandemic as an excuse for disinvestment in the workers and programs that directly serve students. AAUP’s own Special Report: COVID-19 and Academic Governance outlines numerous cases. It is frustrating to see PSU’s Administration take this same path.
I would like concrete answers to the following questions:
- How much has this Administration reduced its subsidy to the PSU Foundation? This is an issue that the Administration has claimed for years it will address, and yet we continue to see no action and no answers.
- How much has this Administration reduced its subsidy to Athletics? Again, for several years we have heard that this problem will be addressed. No action. No answers.
- Why does this Administration insist on pouring money into the University Place Hotel, which as I understand it, has NEVER been in the black?
- How much has this Administration invested in consulting groups such as the Huron Consulting Group and the consultant being used to examine Athletics? How many more dollars do we need to spend to hear the same analysis over and over again?
- Why aren’t we reinvesting in the frontline staff who support current students AND future students?
- How do hiring freezes and staff and faculty attrition support student success?
- How does investment in administration and disinvestment in student services enable our purported commitment to equity, racial and social justice?
President Percy will be unveiling a new website and concrete plans for financial sustainability this week. When I see that I will certainly have more questions, and I hope you do, too.
This Administration has failed to invest in the faculty, academic professionals, and staff critical to student recruitment, retention, and success.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I see a bright future for PSU. If we stand together, are visible, and make our voices heard, we can reverse course. Will you join me in asking the Administration and the Board of Trustees to prioritize investment in rebuilding PSU from the people up?