Themes: Quality Education
During the course of the strike, the repetitive question became: what caused the faculty members to walk out? Pulling from the 37 oral transcripts, an overarching theme centralized around faculty members desire for quality education. Located within previous contracts drafted by PASHE, the state systems original goal aimed to hire more adjuncts over professors, while increasing their workload and minimizing their benefits. APSCUF faculty members disagreed with this inequality, highlighting the harmful effects of such goals. These effects included additional stress to adjuncts and the stagnation of quality education.
Katie Lundy (Past Millersville University Undergraduate) pushed this ideology forward. According to her, due to the “intersectionality of one’s life experiences, one often—at least in America—tends to be rather anti-intellectualist…”2 Instead of viewing professors as potential contributors to student and societal growth, most people perceived “intellectuals as elitists because they’ve had the privilege to pursue an education that many people have not necessarily had the chance to pursue.”3 By placing “professors and the professoriate” in an “ivory tower,” a gap formed between the necessity of education, it’s educators, and the rest of society.4 As a causal effect, the cruciality of education decreased while the drive for more business-minded institutions increased.
Ana Borger-Greco (Past Associate Professor of Spanish) mirrored Lundy’s perspective. In a personal interview with Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol, Greco expressed her disgust concerning “all of the posturing that’s going on.”5 She believed that the state systems insistence to cut down on educational costs resulted from viewpoints that saw faculty as the major expense. This created ideologies that conceived educational institutions as synonymous to manufacturing plants. Greco even recalled personal encounters concerning individuals who told her to “get real and realize it is like manufacturing trucks.”6 To her, the major expense at a university should be the faculty as the entire purpose of an educational system is to teach students, not to manufacture trucks. As a result, she refused to believe that universities should be viewed from a business-like standpoint.
Barry David (Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology) agreed. Strictly referring to the state of Pennsylvania, he saw zero reasons for the poor educational funding conditions. Compared to his first year at Millersville in 1983, the percentage of revenue coming from state funding drastically dropped, decreasing from “about seventy-percent of our revenue” to about “twenty-five percent.”8 This reversed the relationship between state funding and the individual student’s tuition. Where, before, students directly paid for about twenty-five percent of their tuition, today they pay for roughly seventy-five percent. David assertively addressed the unjust situation this placed students in, acknowledging “that it’s not right; students should not have to leave here with such incredible debt.”9
The aforementioned interviewees provided only a few individual perspectives regarding the societal views, and governmental treatment, of education, faculty members and students. Yet, regardless, the general consensus of the interviewees remained concerned about the future of higher education. For Kathleen Walsh (Social Work) the outcome “of our past elections on education” led to an uncertainty “that a Trump administration is going to value higher education.”10 Therefore, the answers to “how we frame and shape accessible public education,” relies more heavily upon “the state and local level.”11 Ana Borger-Greco added to this strategy, insisting that “if Pennsylvania would only add a half a percent to our income tax...per year...it would solve all of those problems.”12
Increasing the income tax provided an option through which to increase the state funding provided to universities. In turn, David believed that increases in state funding presented the possibility to create a “strong industry and economy in [...] whatever the environment is.”13 In Pennsylvania, he saw a direct correlation between the poorly funded educational institutions and the declining economy. Secure financial systems rely heavily upon “the well-educated population, or country,” produced by well-supported learning facilities.14 If a state lacked the incentive to sufficiently fund the institutions in higher education, the amount of well-educated individuals drops, leading to eventual declines in the economy. More plainly speaking, David noted “that students leaving here with debt need to earn money somewhere,” so “they’re just gonna leave Pennsylvania and go someplace else and get a job.”15
Realistically speaking, staying silent would have exacerbated the educational inequalities between professors and adjuncts, as well as between state funding and student tuitions. These inequalities included the opportunity to force adjuncts into teaching increased course loads for less pay and minimal benefits. By expecting school systems to adopt the ideology of working more for less, the overall quality of classes layed at risk of diminishing. Therefore, by recognizing their right to fight for educational equality, faculty members advocated for increasing academic opportunities. Such opportunities aimed not only to create a fair working environment for all faculty members, but student intellectual growth as well.
- Robyn Davis (History) interview by Elizabeth Nelson and Katie Barrett, November 30, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Katie Lundy (Past Millersville University Undergraduate) interview by Lauren Cameron, March 24, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Ana Borger-Greco (Past Associate Professor of Spanish) interview by Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol, February 28, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Jeff Adams (Past Associate Provost for Academic Administration) interview by Alexander Arnold, December 12, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Barry David (Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology) interview by Katie Barrett, November 28, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Kathleen Walsh (Social Work) interview by Stephanie Pennucci and Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol, December 5, 2016, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Borger-Greco, interview.
- David, interview.