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PASSHE Chancellor Greenstein’s recent forum

HOLLE CANATELLA

Bellefonte

On March 22, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Dan Greenstein, along with other senior system and LHU administrators hosted an oforum via Zoom for LHU employees, students, and the Lock Haven community.

During the Q&A portion of the session, I asked Chancellor Greenstein if he, or any other senior administrators, had voluntarily taken a pay cut, as university officials elsewhere have done, in response to financial crises exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. For example, Temple University’s president took a pay reduction in May 2020.

I also asked him to commit there and then to doing so because it would be an act of both solidarity and generosity to those employees in the system who’ve had their hours reduced or who face layoffs. I was thinking of the dozens of LHU clerical staff, custodians, grounds’ crew, other staff, and their families, as well as the 40+ faculty who stand to be retrenched (me included).

The chancellor’s response was dismissive and disappointing.

Chancellor Greenstein first noted that he did not know if any well-paid senior administrators had done so, asserted that it wouldn’t make a difference if they did, and evaded answering, as he frequently does when asked hard questions or ones that he doesn’t like.

He missed the point of my question entirely, and perhaps deliberately. Of course I do not expect small pay reductions from senior admin to make a massive difference in the system’s financial stability, but I do believe that to voluntarily make such a minor sacrifice would serve as display of both respect and empathy for and solidarity with those working folks who have and will suffer as a direct result of the chancellor’s short-sighted and destructive decision-making.

Many of the students who attend LHU are from these same working-class families, who now won’t be able to afford to send their kids to college, period. Moreover, even if a small pay reduction helped only a few staff, doesn’t that matter?

At last Saturday’s AFSCME rally we heard from custodial staff, some of the hardest working but lowest paid workers in the system, who have generously paid for students’ dental visits, taken students to dinner, or bought medication for LHU students who were ill. When the pandemic struck, I and dozens of other faculty and staff, made donations to the LHU student retention fund so that cash-strapped students would be able to stay in school. We have made donations to the Haven Cupboard. We have donated and collected money for our co-workers, friends, and neighbors facing job-loss. We have made certain to patronize local businesses to help keep them afloat.

Despite PASSHE administrators’ constant assertions that we are “in this together” and that they “know this is hard,” neither the chancellor, nor any of the other senior administrators on that call, volunteered to take small cuts to their salaries.

Their apathy to the plight of working-class people in the Lock Haven community and beyond speaks far more than their trite cliches and empty words of compassion.

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