May 12, 2011

Campus consensus: IUP students, teachers, administrators oppose Corbett's budget cuts


Tracey A. Glorioso, communications media major, IUP, Davis Hall. "I think it sounds like we have a long way to go still. But I don't know how confident I feel in students rallying effectively." Photo by David Loomis.

By Elyse Shirley


INDIANA - In his March 8 budget address, Pennsylvania's new Republican Gov. Tom Corbett called for the deepest cut in state spending on higher education in U.S. history.


"I am ... calling on employees in the State System of Higher Education to consider sacrifice," he said. "I ask nothing more of our best educated people than to face up to a hard economic reality."


The reality, according to Corbett, means cutting higher education funds in half, starting as soon as July 1. In 2010-2011, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education received $503 million from the state; the 2011-2012 budget proposes allocating $233 million to PASSHE - a 53.8 percent cut.


Since the announcement, a flurry of confusion and shock has swept students, faculty, administrators and legislators. Peter Roquemore, 21, political science major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was among the former.


"My initial reaction was confusion," said Roquemore in an April 13 interview. "I didn't know what it meant."


Faculty members also express dismay.


"I was in shock when I heard about it," said Tina Perdue, Ph.D., an English professor at IUP, in an April 14 interview in Sutton Hall. "I knew it was going to be bad. But I had no clue it would be this severe."


The shock has worn off. But Perdue said the situation remains bleak as the need to lobby lawmakers increases.


"We need to get every percent we can squeeze out of them," said Perdue.


That is the goal of the state system, according to Karen Ball, PASSHE's vice chancellor of external relations.


"I have never seen higher education in the bull's eye like this -- it's amazing," she told a crowd of students and a handful of faculty during a March 21 Advocacy Days presentation in IUP's Eberly Alumni Auditorium.


Ball said the state university system needs to mobilize all its constituents to fight the cuts.


 "Six months ago we figured on a 10 percent cut," she said. "We had no idea the governor would propose a 50 percent cut. Now we really need to get to Harrisburg."


On April 4-5, PASSHE did just that, along with students and alumni from the 14 state-system universities. By "telling a story" to state legislators, Ball hopes to recover as much funding as possible.


"I want every dime back," said Ball. "That's not realistic. But that's where we'll start."


While Ball makes ready for negotiations, it's not clear whether Corbett's cuts were intended as a bargaining ploy.


 "A 50 percent cut takes us out of the bargaining range," said Roquemore. "When schools like IUP were expecting and planned for a 10 percent cut, even coming down to 25 percent is too much. This shows that he doesn't prioritize education highly."


Perdue agreed that the governor's budget proposal is based on ideology.


"It demonstrates Corbett's ideology as a Republican -- government should not be in the business of things like health care, higher education or lower education. It should keep the lights on and not much else," she said.


Keeping the lights on may take more than few disgruntled students showing up at the capitol.


"I think it sounds like we have a long way to go still," said Tracey A. Glorioso, 21, a junior communications media major, following the Advocacy Days presentation. "There are a lot of nice ideas floating around. But I don't know how confident I feel in students rallying effectively."


Roquemore agreed that the road ahead may be long and the effort difficult.


"It's a good movement to stand up and formally present the view of the students," he said. "It's a necessary component, but it's not enough on its own. We need a small group as a voice but with the backing of the masses. That's why we need more rallies and more people sending letters to the legislators."


Perdue expressed skepticism.


"Given the realities, I don't know how much can be done," she said. "The pressure should be kept up with as many letters and phone calls as possible. [Karen Ball] ought to be living in Harrisburg doing whatever she can."


As weeks pass with little political or budgetary clarity in sight, those affected are anything but relaxed.


"I'm a little worried that it's settling down," said Roquemore. "I think we're going to find ourselves in another round of voiced opposition as the issue progresses. In fact, I hope so."


For some, the waiting game is the worst of all their concerns.


"The temporary employees are terrified they're not going to have jobs," said Perdue. "No one knows what's going to happen. So we're just scratching our heads, waiting to hear."



Virginia A. "Tina" Perdue, Ph.D., English professor at IUP, Sutton Hall. "I'm really worried about the students. I'm afraid they're going to be paying more to sit in bigger classes. And it's not fair." Photo by Mehdia Tariq.

The biggest concern for Perdue, a tenured professor, isn't losing her job. It's students.


"I'm really worried about the students," she said. "I'm afraid they're going to be paying more to sit in bigger classes. And it's not fair."


Another stakeholder in the budget battle is the statewide faculty union. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties hosted a midday rally on March 22 in front of Stapleton Library.


Speakers included state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, IUP Interim President David Werner, IUP faculty union chapter President Susan Drummond and several students who expressed opposition to the budget cuts.


Reed promised that restoring funding would be his No. 1 priority.


"A 53 percent cut to higher education cannot, should not and will not stand in this state," said Reed, an IUP alumnus.


A few hundred students and faculty responded with applause, shouts and whistles.


IUP is not the only school in an uproar. Rallies and protests at the affected universities have been rampant since Corbett's March 8 budget announcement.  Student athletes from Lock Haven University and Millersville University ran 100-mile and 40-mile relays, respectively, to Harrisburg to protest the budget on March 28.


Penn State's Abington campus and Temple University, two of four non-PASSHE schools on the chopping block, rallied March 30 and marched down Broad Street in Philadelphia. The other two state-related schools are University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University.


At IUP, the Student Government Association met March 21 in Eberly Hall, where members voted unanimously to condemn Corbett's budget plan.


Elyse Shirley, a junior majoring in journalism, English and Spanish, is from Indiana, Pa.


Sidebar: Budget-cut breakdowns


Following is a breakdown of proposed 2011-2012 funding reductions for the 14-campus Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and for the four state-related universities:


Agency/university                       2010-2011 budget     2011-2012 budget (proposed)PASSHE                                         $503 million           $233 million

Pennsylvania State University            $334 million           $153 million

University of Pittsburgh                     $168 million           $80 million

Temple University                             $173 million           $82.5 million

Lincoln University                             $14 million             $6.8 million


Source:  Section E14.8, the Governor's 2011-2012 Executive Budget proposal



Sidebar:  To get involved


To get involved in the debate over Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2011-2012 state budget, contact Pennsylvania's state legislators:


-- Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, listed with e-mail addresses


-- Members of the Pennsylvania Senate, listed with e-mail addresses 



Sidebar:  For more information:


For more information on the budget proposal issue, contact the following sources:


State Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana

550 Philadelphia Street
Indiana, PA  15701

Phone:  724-465-0220
Fax:       724-465-0221



David Werner

Interim resident

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Sutton Hall, Room 201
1011 South Drive
Indiana, PA 15705

Phone:  724-357-2200

Fax:       724-357-3060



Susan Drummond



Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana, PA 15705

Phone:  724-357-4479



Zachary J. Stayman


Student Government Association

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana, PA 15705


David C. Bivens

Immediate past president

Student Government Association

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana, PA 15705



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This page contains a single entry by Ms. Lee C. Vest published on May 12, 2011 9:26 AM.

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