Kutztown University President sends message to students about faculty negotiations

Kutztown University President F. Javier Cevallos sent the following update to Kutztown University students on Monday regarding negotiations between the State System (PASSHE) and the faculty union (APSCUF).

Spring semester classes begin next Monday, Jan. 28. On-campus residents will return to campus on Sunday, Jan. 27.

The message follows:

January 21, 2013

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Dear KU Students,

Greetings! I hope you had an excellent winter break and are excited about the prospects of the semester ahead.

One of the concerns we faced at the conclusion of the fall semester was the status of contract negotiations between the State System (PASSHE) and the faculty union (APSCUF). While some progress had been made at the bargaining table, the two sides have yet to reach an agreement.

As the days move on, you are likely to encounter information regarding these negotiations, including the possibility of a faculty strike. First and foremost, you should know that we have a plan in place should a strike occur. We will post details on this plan, as well as the latest information on the status of negotiations on our website (see “Faculty Contract Negotiations Information” at the bottom of www.kutztown.edu).

You should also know that PASSHE is committed to achieving a new collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF that is fair, that is affordable and that positions the State System to continue to provide an affordable, quality education for years to come. PASSHE leadership has made it clear throughout these negotiations that its number one focus is representing the interests of you and your family, who provide nearly three-fourths of the revenue needed to operate the universities.

PASSHE has put a very reasonable compensation package for faculty on the table while also making it clear that it needs savings to offset the increased costs to the universities and, ultimately, to you and your family. A major cost driver for our universities is the health care benefits we provide to both active and retired employees. If this isn’t addressed, the costs threaten to overwhelm the system and take away resources that could otherwise be used to improve and modernize our educational offerings to ensure your success.

PASSHE has offered a number of health care plan options with the goal of more closely aligning the system with the same health care plan that the Commonwealth’s 80,000 employees – including the Governor and his cabinet – all have. The changes could result in lower premiums while ensuring that all PASSHE employees receive benefits comparable to those received by other state employees.

For future, not current, employees, PASSHE has proposed to offer an optional health care account similar to the current option available for a retirement account. The change, which would begin to address a more than $1.4 billion outstanding financial obligation in this area, would apply only to employees hired after July 1, 2013.

The bottom line is that PASSHE and APSCUF must resolve these issues quickly and fairly so that we can get back to focusing on how best to continuously enhance the quality of our academic programs as well as your educational experience. There are far more important things for you to be focused on when you return to class on Monday.

Please be assured that we will keep you abreast of negotiations as they progress. Be sure to check your Kutztown University e-mail as well as the website listed above for the latest information.

In the meantime, enjoy the final few days of your break. I look forward to seeing you in a few days and I wish you the best for the semester ahead.

Sincerely,

F. Javier Cevallos

President