Shippensburg University is going to go through a lot of changes in the coming months. SU President Laurie Carter announced her plans to leave the university to take the same position at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) redesign is in full-swing and will impact SU and our sister schools.
Change in most situations can be beneficial. The Slate staff sends its congratulations to Carter; however, we, along with our campus community members, must think about life after the 17th president leaves.
For seniors, Carter’s departure is not a major issue. We have less than 70 days remaining and are pushing for our diplomas — some of us planning to never look back.
For underclassmen and campus community members who will remain next academic year, there is a lot to think about.
Students must have an impact and involvement in deciding who will be the next captain at the helm of this Ship. The university president’s actions directly impact every member of the campus community in one way or another. We must be included in conversations about what comes next.
Students must also remain aware of the PASSHE redesign and steps toward integration. Phase three of the PASSHE redesign includes “university integrations.” As of February, students could enroll at the first integrated university in fall 2022. In October 2020, the State System looked at combining California University, Clarion University and Edinboro University; along with another potential combination of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield.
State System officials the integration process at passhe.edu/systemredesign:
- A single leadership team
- A single faculty and staff
- A single program array
- A unified enrollment management strategy
- A single reporting relationship through the chancellor to the Board of Governors
- A single accredited entity
- Three vibrant campuses, each with its own identity
While SU is not on the list, it is a potential issue down the road. SU and other state schools are in a difficult place right now. Between the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, state system financial woes, fighting for increased enrollment and maintaining campus life, there is a lot going on.
Shippensburg’s next president must understand our values. They must understand our story, our campus and our faculty and staff. Most importantly, they must understand and advocate for our students. A large number of factors, like state system funding, that result in the need for school integrations are out of the individual student’s control.
But universities are not supposed to be identical. What works for students at Shippensburg might not work for students at Millersville or Bloomsburg. We chose SU because we thought it was the best fit for us. When combining or “integrating” universities, the individuality — no matter how much they say it won’t — will slowly be lost.
It is easier to tailor policies and programs to best serve the students’ individual needs for 500 students than for 1,500 students. When too many students and faculty are put under the same management, it becomes harder to address issues at an individual level.
And without a president who will advocate and fight for us, we find ourselves vulnerable to these detrimental changes.
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Grab the life preserver, Shippensburg. We may be in for some rough seas.