As if the turmoil of the past year hasn’t been enough, Provost Jeffords recently introduced a call to the University community to “ReImagine PSU.” We don’t know about you, but members of the AAUP leadership team are a little overwhelmed with keeping our classes going, our programs running, all the while managing the health and safety of our families and communities, homeschooling, and on and on. We have also been experiencing a significant amount of trauma associated with this terrible pandemic as well as the continued (unanswered) cries for racial justice. To then be asked to participate in a major grant proposal at this time in the academic year is absolutely a huge ask and an ask that we do not see as appropriate at this time. (Psst: The pandemic crisis is not over.)
Capacity notwithstanding: We remain skeptical of the Provost’s proposal and have many concerns. Here are our top 3:
1. We are being asked to chase carrots over a cliff.
The Provost has offered Faculty and Staff a $300,000 carrot to reimagine themselves out of jobs and out of programs to run. We question the value of cash incentives that conscript us in our own downsizing. Shouldn’t that money be used instead to invest in our faculty, staff, and students in preparation for the present and new world before us? Faculty and staff are being asked to contribute to the “imagining” of how we can cut our jobs as well as programs that benefit PSU students. (Remember the 2013 ReTHINK PSU that offered grants to help us think about moving all of our classroom work online?)
2. The Provost co-opted antiracism to further a neoliberal budget agenda.
The Provost’s email aptly asks: “How can we confront structural and systemic racism in our own work and in the communities we serve?” Yet the remainder of the email washes over this work and focuses squarely on adapting to new budget realities--”realities” that do not square with better than expected state appropriations and federal relief monies. Simply put, the Provost co-opted antiracist efforts in order to further her own budget slicing agenda, without reflecting on the harm that budget slashing may perpetuate in our community. PSU-AAUP knows that reversing the course of systemic racism at PSU is an incredibly complicated project, and one that PSU-AAUP is also committed to, but we do not see how assisting in cutting out our colleagues or program reduction will advance intersectional racial justice.
3. PSU Administration’s continued lack of budget transparency.
Where is the money for this ReImagine campaign coming from? Is it part of the $105 million that PSU received to sustain the university through the pandemic? It is unclear. We assert that these funds ought to be used instead to keep us whole and think about the present. The funds should allow us to get through the pandemic without losing any more of our valued colleagues. We also must remind you that the persistent pattern of artificial scarcity has, for the past 5 years, not been born out with their end of year fiscal reports. There have been surpluses. Must we accept their doom-and-gloom scenarios about budgets and enrollment and hack away at ourselves and the institution?
You will be invited to a meeting in your college to learn more about ReImagining PSU in the coming weeks. During these forums push these three concerns and ask your critical questions.