Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Harrisburg University Faculty & Staff

Just a quick reminder; Employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act are afforded certain rights to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, with or without a union.

Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “protected concerted activity”, which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action. - National Labor Relations Board

I said way back in the first post that this blog was part of an effort to "improve working conditions for the faculty and staff" at Harrisburg University. Now is the time! Stand up for yourselves and stand up for the students. Faculty and staff need fair working conditions and fair contracts. If the faculty and staff had job security, the university would be a different place.

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You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

Hey, Harrisburg University....your pants are on fire!

One of the things this blog has consistently cried foul about is the way the Harrisburg University presents false enrollment numbers.We've heard the provost make claims of "everyone does it" and the president claim that HACC does it and even the Chairman of the Board of Trustees thinks it fine to lie about enrollment numbers. I know what you're thinking "Oh no, not another post about enrollment numbers!", but please read on.

No wonder reporters like Eric Veronikis from the Patriot-News can't make sense of the numbers the university is putting out there. In the recent article  Harrisburg University of Science and Technology will celebrate its 10th anniversary, Veronikis is all over the place about enrollment numbers. He writes:

"Today, 368 full-time students attend HU, and 1,022 are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs."

"In a few years, HU hopes to enroll 1,000 students".

"To have 1,000 undergraduates in downtown Harrisburg, that will change fundamentally what happens downtown" (quoting the Provost).

"The school currently has 368 full-time students" .

"1,020 students are enrolled in HU courses".

And this is all in ONE article! Clearly, the article is a pile of fluff; the reporter isn't doing an investigative report. We'll cut Veronikis some slack since he's obviously getting his data from Harrisburg University.

What is Enrollment?

Seems like a stupid question right? The reason it needs to be defined is that the U.S Department of Education is under mandate by Congress to track higher education data. The collective data would be useless if the individual data was not strictly defined. The "comparing apples to oranges" idiom comes into play here.

The U.S. Department of Education defines annual enrollment like this: "Institutions report an unduplicated head count for the total number of students.....enrolled throughout the reporting period. Students included are those enrolled in any courses leading to a degree or other formal award, as well as those enrolled in courses that are part of a terminal vocational or occupational program." So for example, individuals that take a cooking class, go to a weekend conference or are dual-enrolled high school students are not enrolled in the institution.

Knowing this, Harrisburg University still claims a "total student enrollment" of 1022 students.

Source: www.harrisburgu.edu 12/11/11

The truth is (there is that phrase again), Harrisburg University has an enrollment of less than 400. There are not now, nor were there ever 1022 students wandering around downtown Harrisburg like our administrators imply. As with just about everything at Harrisburg University, the 1022 number is designed to give you a false impression. Administration is trying to hoodwink you into thinking they are doing a great job. The exact opposite is true; Harrisburg University has missed enrollment projections for at least the past three years.


HU Report of Self Study 2008-09


So what?

By itself, a little exaggeration about numbers to improve how you look to the public isn't a mortal sin, particularly to a business-minded administration that thinks stretching the truth in advertising is just fine. But the university also misstates faculty numbers ("41 person-faculty" and "15 full-time faculty") hides their retention rates, misleads the public about NSF grants, has fake research centers and makes ridiculous job placement claims. All of this together is meant to deceive the public and students.

At a normal institution, administrators are fired for this type of dishonesty. Just this year:

* The provost of Iona College was fired for misrepresenting various kinds of student data to improve college rankings. Iona College was open and honest about the errors and took immediate corrective action.

* An Assistant Dean at the University of Illinois resigned after he was caught misstating student numbers.

* Villanova University fired several employees for knowingly reporting inaccurate student data. Villanova's Dean did not shrug off the misstatements, but instead immediately started an internal investigation and hired a national law firm to conduct an audit.

* Dickinson State University's president was fired for inflating enrollment numbers and for creating an intimidating environment. Those who were misidentified as enrolled students included members of the general public and high-school students seeking dual credit. An auditor's reports said "The....leadership has created a campus culture that is divided, one of distrust, disrespect, and staff being pressured to engage in unethical, suspect, or wasteful activities to meet demands." (That sounds familiar.)

Is the picture that our administrators painting for the public a reality? Do we have 1022 students, 40+ faculty and a thriving community? Or do we have less than 400 students, a handful of working faculty, bottom of the barrel retention, students on the edge of open revolt, students that are tired of being lied to and ripped off, an unhappy faculty and staff, clueless administrators, unqualified administrators, bloated administrative salaries, a useless board of trustees, and financial problems that are so severe that we have recently fired our grant writer, Director of Assessment, a science professor and an admissions councilor? That is the reality of Harrisburg University.

10th anniversary? I've heard a lot of talk from students and I must agree. It does sounds like a great opportunity to protest, doesn't it?

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You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Harrisburg University is one of the top 25 colleges in the U.S.!

The U.S.Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency Center displays information about tuition and net prices at postsecondary institutions. The site highlights institutions with high and low tuition and fees as well as high and low net prices (the price of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid). It also shows institutions where tuition and fees and net prices are increasing at the highest rates.

How did Harrisburg University fare?

If you do a search on "Private, not-for profit, 4 year or above, lowest tuition" you'll get a list of the schools in the U.S. that have the lowest tuition. You'll get about 70 results. Harrisburg University is not even close to being on that list. Although administration claims that Harrisburg University has "very low tuition", the truth is (there is that phrase again) that the tuition costs at Harrisburg University are about average.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Ed. College Affordability and Transparency Center

We can also look at institutions that have the highest increases in tuition and fees and net prices (price of attendance after grant and scholarship aid). Data are for full-time beginning undergraduate students.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Ed. College Affordability and Transparency Center

Harrisburg University is 24th on the list for the entire U.S. of colleges with the highest increases in tuition, fees and net price.  

Harrisburg University Ranks in the top 25 locally too!

Source: CPBJ centralpennbusiness.com
The Central Penn Business Journal (CPBJ) recently released the Higher Education Guide 2011. Harrisburg University of Science and technology was ranked 21st amongst local colleges by total enrollment (391 students).  Last year they were rated 22nd. So it's an improvement! Harrisburg University's public relations department didn't even comment on the ranking.  I guess Harrisburg University couldn't get the CPBJ to fake the enrollment numbers.

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You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Harrisburg University: A Decade Later

The Chairman of the Board Trustees, Bob Dolan has decided to act like the rest of administration and be less than truthful. Check out Harrisburg University: A Decade Later.

Some highlights:

Dolan quotes the Chronicle of Higher Education blog that talks about Harrisburg University. The blog is full of misstatements by the president.

Dolan misstates the total enrollment: "total enrollment is 1,022 students and its 16-story building..." (is it even a 16-story building?) Total enrollment is less than 400. Check out my blog post if you want more information.

Dolan claims there is a "41-person faculty". According to the official government statistics there are 11. However, three of them are "administrative faculty" -- that is they don't teach full-time. One faculty member has left the university and administration has fired another. That leaves Harrisburg University with SIX FACULTY. The rest of the instructors are not faculty, they are adjuncts. Adjuncts only teach classes and have no other responsibilities within the university.



Source: Nation Center for Education Statistics

[Correction: I was overly narrow in my interpretation of "Faculty". Adjuncts can be counted as faculty and some adjuncts do have advising and other duties. Therefore, Dolan's claim of a 41 person faculty could be correct. Sorry for the error.]

Dolan claims new businesses are opening up because of Harrisburg University "HU paved the way for other education institutions to establish satellite campuses downtown, and where students go, businesses follow. New restaurants, shops, services and residential options are filling spaces downtown and beyond". I'll let you judge if that's true or not.

Dolan claims "More than 90 percent of graduates have found jobs in their chosen fields." This claim is based on Harrisburg University's own figures, they have refused to show anyone the study.

Dolan quotes the "Accuracy in Academia" blog post which was surprisingly inaccurate. (You know Bob, just because you quote Mel's lies from a blog does not make it true.)

Students: You are going to have to get mad or leave. There is no hope that the administration or the trustees are going to act with any kind of decency or integrity. 

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You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Harrisburg University community disappointed by town hall meeting

Harrisburg University had their very first "Town Hall" meeting on November 30. There was about 125 in attendance, mostly students, a parent or two and a few faculty members as well. Let me say right off the bat that the SGA has been getting some flak for the format and the selection of questions. I can only offer my humble opinion that we should thank the SGA for their efforts, not chastise them. They were up against people that have authority over them and they did the best they could. I know many of you are frustrated with the way things went and I know a lot of you simply walked out. But don't feel like you lost the battle, because you didn't. You needed to give the University the opportunity to make things right and answer some question. The fact that they spent your time propagandizing instead of honestly engaging in conversation should tell you something about the strength of their position. People that are being open and honest don't need to be selective about questions nor do they need to see them ahead of time.

Here is my take on some of the topics discussed:

Tuition
"You're getting a great deal on tuition! The price of tuition at Harrisburg University is far below the average cost of tuition at a four year private institution in Pennsylvania!" ....Perhaps a more reasonable way to think about this is "Even though Harrisburg University has the worst performance of any private four year institution in Pennsylvania, it would still have a pretty reasonable tuition if the administrators weren't such assholes."

I can't comment on Harrisburg University directly, but let me say that generally, academic institutions like Harrisburg University have a business plan which calculates tuition costs in advance. This is normal and responsible. In most cases, these institution know YEARS in advance what the tuition will be. There is no honest reason to delay the announcement of a tuition increase since the tuition increase is preplanned. As a general rule with new institutions, the tuition is not enough to meet operating cost, therefor the annual price increase is just a way to get the cost of tuition to what the institution thinks students will pay. The idea that the trustees are carefully scrutinizing every dollar to establish tuition increases is a fallacy.

False Figures and Numbers
I think I've been hitting this issue ad nauseum. We can dicker over the meaning of "total enrollment" but that is Darr's game, and just a distraction. When we say "administration is lying about numbers, we mean stuff like this:
"HU President Mel Schiavelli said the university's ever-expanding student body, now in excess of 800, is clamoring for more places to buy groceries and other services such as dry cleaning." - Central Penn Business Journal, Aug 2011. 

Is that "an accounting method" or is that just a plain old lie? (And "clamoring" for "dry cleaning"?! Seriously, how out of touch with reality are you Schiavelli?)

Everything  Else
Pretty much every other important issue was ignored, avoided or blamed on the faculty. Important issues like financial exigency, why Harrisburg University is firing science, why there is no equipment in the labs, why there isn't any experiential learning and misrepresentation by the admissions team were not addressed with any depth (if at all). Why is that?

Now what?
So now you are sure what you are up against. It looks like the students will not get support from the trustees, so there is no hope of correcting the situation within the organization.

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You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Middle States Commission of Higher Education and the Pennsylvania Attorney General.