Friday, December 19, 2008

Sacrificing Staff

President Spanier recently added to remarks he gave to the Faculty Senate. In this latest round of remarks, he continued the theme of the sacrifices that would be needed by students, faculty, and staff members.

He also mentioned that while the University was in good shape, fiscally speaking, these were tough times economically. (He did seem to stop short of saying that the University was in excellent financial shape... which I attribute to the massive debt taken on by new building projects.) Lower state funds and higher medical insurance were just some of the fiscal challenges that Spanier mentioned.

Those sacrifices include higher workloads, higher tuition, and lower wages.

These steps may be unavoidable and the staff, as usual, is prepared. What I felt was missing was any mention of the continual sacrifices of the staff over the past years, years when record tuition and record enrollment would lead one to believe that revenue would outstrip the small sum of state monies. However, salary increases have been lower than the pace of inflation and employee's pay for a higher share of health insurance costs as their choices of health insurance plans decrease. Higher fees, longer hours, and congested commutes have taken their toll on staff, as well.

It doesn't end there. The staff of Penn State has been instrumental in taking Penn State from a paper-shuffling bureaucracy to a more tech-savvy operation and, despite the glitches, there's no doubt that the University is a much more efficient, more productive place than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

This innovation has gone unrewarded and, one could say, that it's only been punished.

Why has this happened?

Penn State staff has no independent voice. Their needs are secondary (if they are considered at all).

Penn State staff members will meet the fiscal and technological challenges that we are facing, but will the University meet its obligations to the staff after this economic strife has passed?

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