Free State-Funded College in Pennsylvania
Free State-Funded College in Pennsylvania
The Board of Governors (BOG) does not represent the people who attend, work in, and depend on the PASSHE schools for their livelihood. Given the serious threat to working people and students throughout the state posed by the unanimously-passed Consolidation plan, we, the people, must take matters into our own hands, together, and claim the power we already have.
In a review of PASSHE universities the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems concluded that the system suffers from “a longstanding climate of distrust and confrontation with the institutional stakeholders and the office of the chancellor.” Year after year, chancellor after chancellor, the BOG continues to support policy initiatives that directly threaten the well being and interests of students, staff, faculty, and the larger communities in which they reside.
The people demand a new structure to replace the BOG as the primary body responsible for managing PASSHE. The people demand a People’s Congress of PASSHE designed to be a fighting Congress of students, staff and faculty representing Pennsylvania’s working-class of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, and ages.
We must create a People’s Congress of communities under attack by Consolidation and fight back against it, a Congress of the grassroots and the working class, of resistors, organizers, and activists, of everyone who recognizes we can no longer continue as we have. Such a People’s Congress will confront the BOG of the billionaires. It will galvanize the energy of the many groups who oppose and are threatened by Consolidation. It will demonstrate what democracy truly looks like.
THE REALITY WE’RE FACING
The implementation of Consolidation is threatening to destroy working-class communities throughout the state. It plans to lay off more than 1,500 jobs across the state. This is a destructive agenda without restraints in which the BOG plays a leading role.
For a long time, the BOG has served the state’s biggest corporations at the expense of students, staff, and faculty. A majority of members of the BOG are themselves millionaires and billionaires.
THE PEOPLE’S CONGRESS OF PASSHE
We need a People’s Congress of PASSHE where we govern, decide and act for ourselves and our communities. Since April 28th (and before), people have been fighting back against Consolidation. Students, staff and faculty have rallied, marched, and appealed to the BOG. A People’s Congress of PASSHE can help support and coordinate this ongoing resistance. We can create a new, collective vision of our common future. We can put together the strategy to make it a reality.
We invite all to join us in building such a People’s Congress of PASSHE. Over the next weeks and months, we will all begin the process of preparing for this Congress by launching local assemblies, determining and discussing the matters to be brought before our new People’s Congress of PASSHE.
Throughout history there are moments that urgently require radical change and the reorganization of political and economic power, and the building of a new power. This is such a moment. We will resist and resist and resist — until we overcome.
Free education: Education, housing, healthcare, and food are currently distributed by markets in the U.S., leaving many working-class and oppressed communities without adequate access. We demand free education, free housing, supplied class materials and books, and the abolition and cancellation of student debt. We know the money is there to provide a debt-free education, and in the process, job security for staff and faculty. We refuse to settle for less.
Livable wages for staff: We demand that staff also receive a livable and dignified wage. The contributions of staff (including student workers) to the university environment are just as important and indispensable as faculty, which should be reflected in their earnings. We understand that there is a divide and a pay gap between staff and faculty. We reject this injustice. We demand that all workers under PASSHE are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve in the workplace.
A bigotry-free campus: We demand a safe and inclusive campus environment that actively challenges racism, white supremacy, homophobia, xenophobia, rape culture and all forms of bigotry. For example sexual assault is rampant on college campuses. Institutions of higher education are often perpetuators of rape culture. Only a third of rapists are found guilty and punished for their crimes, including expulsion. We demand strict adherence to a no tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and assault, as well as proper handling of those with allegations. We demand that the PASSHE system should have a firm stance against placing those with allegations in positions of power. The state system claims that they have a zero tolerance policy towards harassment and assault, yet they have given higher level positions to people who have these allegations. We demand that these people be removed from their position of power.
No campus police: We demand an end to all police activity on PASSHE campuses. Campus police pose an unnecessary threat to oppressed communities with their invasive dorm room searches and stalker-like nighttime patrols. As a necessary alternative, we demand that all police officers be immediately disarmed and removed from any and all PASSHE-affiliated sites. We demand that for any community member who needs help during a mental health (or other) crisis, a team of medically-trained, non-armed professionals administer treatment. We also demand the decriminalization of drugs whose enforcement disproportionately affects the lives of working class people of color. We also demand treatment programs for those with unhealthy relations to substances that do not involve the police.
Disability accommodations: We demand that students with any disability - visible and/or invisible - receive appropriate accommodations to ensure their success. We believe that buildings that are not ADA compliant should be prioritized for renovation over new construction projects so that all students can access all buildings safely. We demand patience and respect for students with invisible disabilities from faculty and staff who may not understand why a seemingly able-bodied student is receiving academic accommodations or not behaving in a manner that is consistent with society’s ableist expectations. We demand a free, fully staffed, on-campus counseling center with telehealth options to support the mental health needs of our students, workers, and faculty and that this counseling center offer long-term services instead of merely granting referrals to healthcare providers who may be out-of-network or accessible only by car. We reject the use of ableist and classist attendance policies that require documentation from a doctor to maintain a certain grade because chronically ill and disabled people cannot always physically get to a doctor or afford to see a doctor every time they have a flare-up.
No prison labor: We demand the cancellation of all Pennsylvania Correctional Industries purchase orders at all PASSHE schools. Currently Lock Haven University, Shippensburg University, and Slippery Rock University have PCI purchase orders. The U.S. prison system holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prison population. Within the United States, a disproportionate number of these prisoners are young Black, Latine, and Indigenous people. An overwhelming number are working-class people of all nationalities and ethnic groups. The impact of this mass incarceration is vast—destroying families, communities and lives. As we divest from police and prisons, we will invest in the social needs of communities, including education.
Eco-friendly campuses and sustainable energy sources: We demand that colleges seek to accommodate Eco-friendly and energy sustainable solutions ranging from the construction of energy efficient buildings, retrofitting environmentally friendly hardware into older facilities, increasing green transportation options, and reducing water use. We believe that the existential threat of climate change should be taken seriously by the institutions that are supposed to raise our future. We also demand that campuses create safe dorm spaces and safe classrooms. The state system would probably consider itself as progressive in this matter, but we believe that they are in contradiction with themselves in many of the intersectional aspects that the student body faces.
Academic freedom: According to the American Association of University Professors, academic freedom is the “indispensable requisite for unfettered teaching and research in institutions of higher education.” If higher education is going to serve the interests of the broadest masses of workers and not monied interests, then the free pursuit of truth must continue to be protected. Just as the AAUP has noted, "academia has changed a lot since 1915, but there are still people who want to control what faculty members teach and write. Thanks to the AAUP, academic freedom is widely recognized as the fundamental principle of our profession. Despite this acceptance, academic freedom remains vulnerable." The People's Congress of PASSHE supports this sentiment.
Please visit www.congressofpasshe.com to learn more and get involved!