Despite plans to hold a spring conference in early February, the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Schools is currently at a standstill due to lack of communication among the representatives from Temple, Lincoln University, University of Pittsburgh and Penn State.
“It has been very challenging to stay in contact with Penn State. They have not been in touch with us regarding conference dates and Darin [Bartholomew] has consistently tried to speak to them about this,” Temple Student Government Student Body President David Lopez said.
Bartholomew, TSG director of government affairs and interim executive director of PASS, has been unable to reach Penn State representatives since before the New Year.
“I have sent numerous emails to several people at Penn State, phone calls, and text messages and haven’t received a reply,” Bartholomew said.
Neither Penn State University Park Undergraduate Association President Courtney Lennartz nor Government Affairs Chair Rachel Franceschino responded to requests for an interview.
As a result of the conference rotation schedule, the representatives from Penn State are charged with hosting the spring conference. Lopez describes the situation as “sheer and utter irresponsibility on the part of Penn State.”
PASS was created by the four state-related universities in 2010 in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 50 percent cut to state appropriations. In 2011 and 2012, PASS held rallies in Harrisburg to support higher education funding.
This year, Corbett proposed to flat-fund the universities, so Bartholomew and Lopez recognize that PASS is not the top priority.
“Since the governor did propose flat-funding, it isn’t as urgent for us to meet right away,” Lopez said. “The rally idea has been tabled, considering the flat-funding proposal. That doesn’t mean we need to stop as state-related institutions though.”
“The governor may have proposed flat-funding now for this year, but what is to say that additional funds won’t be on the chopping block in the future. We don’t want to show that we are at ease or comfortable,” Lopez added.
At the fall conference, hosted by TSG on Nov. 10, there were disagreements between the representatives as to the future of the rally. However, all four universities agreed that PASS needed to expand its mission beyond higher education funding.
“What I would like to see out of PASS, other than just being a rally, is us taking the semester to actually figure out how we are going to build a foundation. I am all about building a foundation for the future,” Lopez said. “We should focus on building a sturdy foundation, so that whatever student leaders are elected in a year, two years, or three years they know the principles on which PASS is founded and know the scope of our advocacy.”
Since his election as the interim executive director, Bartholomew has drafted bylaws to create more formality and structure, which he attributes as the biggest issue facing the association.
“When it was created, two or three years ago, it was because it was a proposed 50 percent cut, so there was a lot of initial emotional reactions to create PASS,” Bartholomew said. “There wasn’t actually a legitimate organization structure, there aren’t any bylaws, there is no mission statement, and there is nothing for us to go off of other than agendas from past meetings. There is actually no structure to PASS.”
Bartholomew and Lopez intend to develop PASS until they leave office this summer and hope to bring a form of unity back to the association.
“We are four very different universities, four very different student bodies, and we have four very different mission statements and directions we are moving in,” Bartholomew said. “Even though we all have our own opinions on a lot of things and disagreed on a lot of things, at the end of the day, we are all still the same type of institution from the state’s perspective and we all need each other.”
There is more than two months left in the spring semester for PASS representatives to schedule a spring conference and work on the future of the association.
Laura Detter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.