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“All of this secret keeping is a hell of a way to let knowledge serve the community.”

April 20, 2023 / PSU-AAUP

“All of this secret keeping is a hell of a way to let knowledge serve the community.”

This sentiment, offered anonymously by a respondent to a survey sent last week to PSU-AAUP membership, perfectly encapsulates the current tone of our community. We are suffering from a lack of trust between administration and students and employees on the ground, and Administration’s blatant disregard of the scholarly expertise housed in our community and our community members’ lived experiences. We need the Board’s help to start repair today, and to position our university to have a Bright Future. We need good collaboration with our incoming University President. 

Today I approach the Board with a request on behalf of our 1,182 bargaining unit members: we implore you to push University Administration to engage in robust shared governance practices now and in the future. We have a bright future at PSU, but only if we come together in shared governance.

Since the first week of Spring we have witnessed a landslide of top-down, uninformed decision making that has direct negative effects on our students, staff, and faculty. First, the Vaccine Mandate Policy rescindment was announced and went into effect on the same day. A week later, Administration sent a communication informing us of a policy change regarding how armed patrols by our sworn officers are approved. 

Neither of these policy changes went through a shared governance process, and as a result have deepened the chasm between Administration and on-the-ground students and workers.

In the case of the policing policy, the University Public Safety Oversight Committee—the very committee charged with advising and oversight of public safety—was not consulted prior to its implementation. We see this as an egregious failure of community engagement and it has seriously further eroded trust of the Administration. 

We are currently gathering member input about this decision and how it was made via a survey—we will share a report with you when it is ready. From the input we have already gathered:

  • “How is that after all of the time spent on this issue that such a unilateral and immediate reversal could even be considered?”

  • “I felt that the "transparency" that was cited was very misguiding and, as a faculty, not consistent with my experience working for the university. Campus safety is an issue that impacts us all (including students), and deserves greater attention to, and accountability for, the larger PSU community to make choices regarding safety.”

  • “I feel so discouraged and demoralized by the administration’s handling of this issue.”

  • “… administration completely failed to meet all promised standards of community engagement.”

  • “This was a shocking decision to have announced fait accompli, and it dealt a serious blow to the administration's credibility and claims of inclusive and dialogic governance -- let alone its commitment to racial justice.”

  • “This action has eroded my opinion of and relationship with PSU. I am so sad and angry. I feel like the President's Office and CPSO have been pretending to listen and abide by agreements but they never really meant it.”

  • “I am really disturbed by the lack of transparency and the total disregard of student, faculty, and staff input.”

At the Board’s Governance Committee Meeting on April 6th, three faculty experts from the National Policy Consensus Center, housed here at PSU, presented their view on how shared governance should and could be practiced. I have seen no evidence of this Administration using that faculty expertise or using those practices. Similarly, I saw no evidence of this Administration using the expertise of faculty experts in Public Health and other disciplines regarding the vaccine policy, nor were faculty experts in Conflict Resolution or Criminology & Criminal Justice  consulted regarding the change in policing practices.

Shared governance demands accountability to our community. It demands open dialogue, thoughtfulness, respect, and trust. 

We are on the cusp of welcoming our new University President to our campus full-time. For her to be successful and for us to collaborate in working toward a bright future, we need the Board of Trustees to provide her good mentorship and on boarding. Dr. Cudd will need to engage with on-the-ground students, staff, and faculty early and often. This means regularly meeting with union leadership from ASPSU, SEIU, AAUP, PSUFA, and GEU. 

A University President is accountable to the Board of Trustees as well as to the campus community. The Board needs to make clear to Dr. Cudd that she is expected to engage in robust shared governance, and she is just as accountable to the people working on the ground as she is to the Board of Trustees. Right now there is no trust of Administration, and it is incumbent on the Board to position Dr. Cudd to gain it.

To start healing our campus and to position Dr. Cudd for success, we ask that the Board appoint a Presidential Transition Committee that includes a student representative, staff representative, and faculty representative. We want Dr. Cudd to be successful, and we implore the Board to be a partner in good faith to accomplish the bright future we all see for PSU. 

Thank you for your time.  

Emily Ford, PSU-AAUP President

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