Themes: Quality Education
A central theme that emerged during the strike and in the interviews that followed was the importance of supporting quality higher education in Pennsylvania. Ana Borger-Greco (Foreign Languages Department) believed the State System’s insistence on cutting educational costs came from viewing faculty as simply an expense. She expressed her dismay about “the posturing that’s going on.”2 To reduce the amount of money spent, the State hoped to hire more adjuncts instead of tenure-track professors, increasing their workload and minimizing their benefits. For young academics, working as an adjunct provided the opportunity to ease into the field of higher education. However, many adjuncts in the PASSHE system worked three or four jobs in order to make ends meet. In the following audio clip, Robert Spicer reflected on his experiences of working as an adjunct professor in higher education:
Barry David compared his first year at Millersville in 1983 when the state provided “about seventy-percent of our revenue” to today where the state provides only “twenty-five percent.”5 This has reversed the relationship between state funding and an 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 addressed the unjust situation this placed students in, acknowledging “that it’s not right; students should not have to leave with such incredible debt.”6
As a result, narrators believed that public higher education was under attack. The State’s continued movement toward treating higher education as a business seemed to have the goal of reducing costs and graduating students at the cheapest price possible. Ana Borger-Greco believed that this created ideologies that conceived educational institutions as synonymous to manufacturing plants.
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.”8 Therefore, the answers to “how we frame and shape accessible public education,” relies more heavily upon “the state and local level.”9 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.”10
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.
- Ana Borger-Greco (Past Associate Professor of Spanish) interview by Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol, February 28, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Special Collections, Millersville, PA.
- Robert Spicer (English) interview by Stephanie Pennucci, March, 21, 2017, 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.
- Jeff Adams (Past Associate Provost for Academic Administration) interview by Alexander Arnold, December 12, 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.