Unhappy MU students meet new state chancellor

MANSFIELD – New Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Frank Brogan met with a less than receptive audience at Mansfield University in an open session Friday.

Many students carried placards saying “save our Philosophy-Spanish-Fisheries-Journalism-among others-Department” – all on the chopping block in light of a recently announced budget deficit in the millions of dollars.

Following a nearly hour-long speech where he at one point hinted at the possibility the university might not be around in 50 years if “we keep doing things the same way.”

Students who raised their hands in the packed Straughn Hall asked pointed questions. One student, from East Stroudsburg, asked Brogan how a commitment to excellent in education can be met by retrenching faculty?

“Retrenchment is by definition made necessary by budgets,” he said.

“When you don’t have any money and you cut and cut in a recession, for years, you ultimately get to the point where you have got to do this because you have no choice,” he added.

Calling what is happening here a “perfect storm,” Brogan said combined with declining revenue from the state, rising tuitions to make up the difference and declining enrollment has forced the university to make “hard decisions.”

“We have to try to decide what Mansfield will be going forward. Mansfield doesn’t enjoy a proximity to major population area that is moving in its direction, so we have to have a different mode of funding that cares about the programs people are in, and takes into consideration the uniqueness of each institution and funds on a contractual basis. You cannot fund West Chester the same way you fund Mansfield,” he said.

Another student asked how he plans on achieving the individual specialization in the state system.

Brogan answered that by saying “program alignment.”

“They are all different and unique, the question is what makes you unique? You can’t just say location, you can’t just say we do it better. What makes you unique is your academic program array?”

In today’s technological world, he said, potential students can “apply at multiple universities in our system, what will make them interested in some and not the others?”

“It is critical it start here, you are closest to it,” he added.

Another student reminded Brogan that “we came here because we wanted to and we are angry because you are taking a part of our family here.”

“We would rather keep our faculty and sacrifice other things. I don’t think I would be as strong a student as I am now without our faculty. Of course we are going to be upset. You are cutting the thing that is most important to us,” she said.

“I’m not the guy cutting anything. I came here to try to help us get to the next level. I understand circumstances have stressed this institution that keep this guy awake at night,” he said, gesturing towards university president Fran Hendricks.

“Just to be clear, I didn’t come here to squash your dreams or keep you from doing anything, but I cannot come here and spread pixie dust and fix what has been 50 years in the creation,” he said.

He took one final comment from Philosophy Department Associate Professor Adrianne McEvoy, whose name students chanted so he would choose her.

“My request is that you help us make PASSHE like SUNY, get the PR we need. You talk about the quality of education they aren’t going to get at some other school. We need some help marketing wise in Harrisburg and I ask that you help us with that,” she said.