I spent all day Thursday covering the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors’ meeting. Most students have no desire to sit through the hours-long meeting, but this particular meeting’s agenda was quite eventful for students — Shippensburg University students specifically.
The board appointed current Mansfield University President Charles Patterson as our interim president after SU President Laurie Carter departs the university this summer.
PASSHE board officials also voted to freeze tuition for the third year in a row, “affirming its commitment to keeping public higher education at its 14 universities affordable for students during the ongoing pandemic,” according to a PASSHE press release.
As a student, I appreciate the board’s effort and desire to keep costs low. I have been the student with tax information that made my financial situation appear easier on paper than in reality. I sacrificed a social life and living off-campus with my friends because living at home meant my semesterly bill would be a few thousand dollars cheaper.
However, we must acknowledge that the money has to come from somewhere. Our schools still need funding (of which the state is not adequately providing), so if the students or the legislators are not footing the bill, then who is?
Well unfortunately, it eventually does come back to the students.
As Carter and Kutztown University President Kenneth Hawkinson said during the meeting discussion, there are repercussions to these decisions. Both presidents supported low costs for students; however, they explained that less money means more cuts. This could mean a reduction in faculty and staff positions, as well as less institutional financial aid.
“You cannot continue to cut, cut, cut and provide quality at the same time. We have continued to do that, but there will come a point when it’s not going to be possible,” Carter said. “So instead of providing students with a lower cost education, we have to be thinking about the whole picture, the quality of their education matters.”
Carter added that these cuts hurt the morale of the people who are serving the student body, therefore hurting the students. Carter herself is a product of the state system, a Clarion University graduate.
SU has worked extremely hard to avoid retrenchment and drastic department cuts. However, we are not immune to these measures and must continue to work to keep SU on the right path.
After the board recognized Carter for her time as president, she thanked her colleagues for their support during her tenure, and then continued, saying something that caught my attention, and hopefully the attention of PASSHE officials.
Carter noted that the board spent a major portion of the meeting discussing new programs and plans relating to diversity, equity and inclusion on our 14 campuses. She then called on the board to address an area of diversity as the system continues “to respond to the changing demographics of our society and the needs of diverse students.”
“Few of the councils of trustees are truly diverse — this must be addressed. Trustees play a critical role in the life of our campuses. I ask you to work so that they reflect our campus demographics and ensure that trustees are trained in DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) so that they can be supportive of these important efforts,” Carter said.
I am hopeful that each university’s board and Council of Trustees will take this into serious consideration and take actions toward representing their students. Representation is important for all of us — we the students need to see ourselves in our mentors around campus.
I was proud to hear Carter advocate for all of us, and hope that officials listen, seriously consider and take action on her requests.
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