PSS supports SUNY reforms
The Professional Staff Senate has joined the Faculty Senate, the SUNY-wide Faculty Senate and the UB Council in supporting the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA).
Senators voted 30-8, with one abstention, in favor of a resolution introduced by PSS Chair Janiece Kiedrowski endorsing the principles of PHEEIA, which, the resolution says, “provide the necessary flexibility, independence and responsibility for the University at Buffalo in managing its finances more effectively in fulfilling its academic mission and its role in enhancing the cultural and economic vitality of the Western New York community.”
The resolution also asks that SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and her staff address five “outstanding issues”:
• The need to define “special tuition rate” more precisely and provide a cap.
• The need to include faculty and professional governance in campus decision-making processes that produce recommendations for tuition rates, public-private partnerships and associated land leases.
• The need to ensure that oversight of public-private partnerships requires adherence to all relevant environmental laws and to best environmental practices.
• The need to ensure that all rights and benefits of collective bargaining in the current labor contracts be extended to all future negotiated contracts.
• The need for a commitment on the part of New York State to a future level of funding that would “constitute a continuing, maintenance of effort.”
The vote on the resolution took place at the April 8 meeting of the PSS Executive Committee. Kiedrowski said the vote was taken during the executive committee meeting, rather than during a PSS general membership meeting, because only elected senators may vote on resolutions. All 64 senators were invited to attend the executive committee meeting, she added.
The vote on the resolution was taken by secret ballot after senators had been given an opportunity to speak for one minute on the issue. Kiedrowski said the vote was by secret ballot due to the “passionate” nature of the issue. “I felt some people might feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions in public,” she said, noting there was “heated debate” when the issue was discussed during a general membership meeting in January.
Only four senators of the 38 in attendance at the April 8 meeting (one vote was mailed in) spoke, she noted.
Kiedrowski said she introduced the resolution on PHEEIA because the SUNY Senate and Faculty Senate both had voted on the issue “and I wanted to have professionals finally vote, one way or another.”
PHEEIA, currently being debated in the state Legislature, would put in place significant reforms that would give SUNY—and UB—the financial flexibility to position the system and university to play a major role in the state’s economic resurgence and support UB 2020 as a basis for economic transformation in Western New York. It is crucial, UB administrators say, to the university’s plan to become a pre-eminent public research university.
The legislation would move tuition outside the state budget process, allowing SUNY trustees to implement differential tuition rates and raise tuition up to an annual cap of 2 ½ times the five-year rolling average of the Higher Education Price Index. It also would allow SUNY to receive and disburse revenues from tuition and self-supporting program activities without an appropriation from the Legislature. In addition, it would encourage public-private partnerships and provide regulatory relief from burdensome and duplicative state policies.