Commentary: Americans seek truth from Trump, students seek truth from PASSHE

The Democratic Party is suing President Donald Trump’s campaign, Russia and WikiLeaks over an alleged conspiracy that supposedly undermined the 2016 presidential election.

A few days prior to the lawsuit, former FBI Director James Comey boldly came out against Trump, saying he is morally unfit to be president and may be compromised by the Kremlin.

The country wants answers. The truth, though still shrouded in a thick fog, is beginning to become clear and it is not pleasant. But Americans want the truth, and they want to be assured that their president is working for their best interests and not his personal or international interests.

Much like on the national level, students want the same thing on college campuses — the truth. Across the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), more than 100,000 students and faculty want to know how bad things are with the system and how much worse things will get.

In the past five years, enrollment has dropped by more than 1,000 students and dozens of faculty and staff positions have been left vacant. Academic departments are continually losing faculty members as professors retire, and there are no plans or money to find a replacement.

Higher-education institutions across the country are suffering in many of the same ways as PASSHE schools, but Pennsylvania remains on the bottom rung for public funding of colleges and universities. 

If you look at PASSHE as a business, then it is only logical to cut spending as revenue drops. When you downsize any organization it is important to make sure it is downsized in such a way that it does not diminish the quality of the product or service. 

The problem is PASSHE and the individual university administrators have not explained how the quality can be maintained or what kind of cuts to expect in the future. 

Businesses have the luxury of making internal operational changes without the general public knowing or caring about them as long as the product or service is still adequate. With universities, structural changes are directly linked to students and their quality of education.

For example, fewer faculty members in a department means there are fewer special topics and field-specific classes that can be taught, thus limiting the range and quality of education a student can get. Likewise, pushing for classes to be held remotely damages the integrity of a university community — an undervalued necessity.

Funding cuts are inevitable as long as enrollment drops and state funding continues to be under par. The real damage is not informing university communities of what to expect in the future and how to prepare for it.

There are serious financial challenges that Shippensburg University and many other schools are facing, and everyone in the community has the right to know what to expect. If tuition will rise, then current and prospective students need to know that so they can determine if they can afford college. If an academic department is losing faculty members and changing the courses and programs it offers, current and prospective students and faculty members need to know before investing themselves at SU.

Yes, that might be bad for business, but when the truth can determine the future of people’s lives it must be told. Maybe even administrators do not know what to expect in the coming years, but they have a duty to make sound predictions.

The truth of what Trump did or did not do may be an enigma, but SU’s future should not be.

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