Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

A couple weeks ago, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) stepped up on behalf of state-wide faculty and coaches against what seemed to be unnecessary spending in terms of a newly enforced regulation, one that hadn’t been given the chance to be negotiated. This affected 14 state universities across Pennsylvania, including West Chester University.

The APSCUF is the union and voice for faculty and coaches, and their president, Dr. Kenneth Mash, explained in detail as to why all this came about and what exactly happened.

“[A new law] was passed last year because of the incident with Jerry Sandusky at Penn State,” said Dr. Mash. “Rules for entering public schooling have therefore been tightened up. Legislature passed this law so that any faculty member of any type of establishment that was to be in direct contact with minors would then be required to be processed by in-depth background checks.”

These background checks were including but not limited to: fingerprint scans, detailed arrest histories and various other checks. The added checks would then surpass regular faculty screening across the country, and affected any faculty in close, constant contact with minors.

This is the problem that Dr. Mash and the APSCUF derived and sought to stand up against, in defense of the 14 public universities of Pennsylvania.

Many public universities in Pennsylvania raised an objection to the legislature.

“They either had a small amount of incoming freshmen that were seventeen years old,” Dr. Mash clarified, “which technically classified as minors, or had a handful of students involved in dual enrollment programs through their universities, whom were minors as well.”

The cumulative background check costs in association with these universities, as estimated by the APSCUF, would be millions of dollars, along with administrative headaches.

Dr. Mash brought up the point that federal law states that with any minor that is matriculated, which means to be enrolled at a college or university, these new regulations that were attempting to be passed were unnecessary with college campuses as even 17-year-olds on a college campus,were to be treated as adults.

The legislature then amended the law, saying “any type of faculty member that is in direct contact with a minor that is not matriculated, would only then require these in-depth background checks.” This would apply to the education system with regards to elementary schools, high schools, etc.

However, under the old law that was passed, the state system started creating and carrying out a regulation that suddenly required every employee to go through the in-depth background check process. Dr. Mash explained what could be seen as unnecessary costs.

“Total costs to annually perform these checks would add up to almost $4,000,000 directly out of the education system’s funding,” said Dr. Mash. “The system refused to change its policy.”

This policy would in turn become troublesome for all Pennsylvania state universities. The universities would be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on background checks for all their faculty because of the small handful of incoming freshmen that were minors.
Not only was the financial side being questioned, but also the ethical side.

“The background checks were so in-depth that they were picking up things that faculty did in their youth,” said Dr. Mash. “All information on employees would become quantified and common knowledge to employers.”

Mash also spoke statistically and pointed out the fact that in terms of crimes on campus, crimes that professors or faculty commit are exponentially less than crimes caused by students.

“If the education system were to spend large amounts of money in order to reduce crime rates, they should be spending it on the awareness of date rape, or street safety, or something along those lines,” said Dr. Mash.

Dr. Mash and the APSCUF represent and have a contract with all faculty and coaches at universities.

“By contract law, we have the legal right to negotiate the terms of the working conditions of all employees at universities in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Mash.

The APSCUF agreed that the law dictates that in-depth background checks must be made with individual faculty members in direct, regular contact with minors. However, they disagreed with the fact that the new regulation was not the law, and it was just being enforced for “whatever reason”, according to Dr. Mash.

“This situation invoked contract law because of the working conditions, so basically under Pennsylvania law, negotiations were legally allowed to be made before the regulations could be enforced,” said Dr. Mash.

The state legislature disagreed, saying they required no negotiations.

Within their legal rights, the APSCUF then filed for grievance, requested an arbitrator, and took the matter to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

The hearing will take place in January of 2016, with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. Until then, by contract law, no more in-depth background checks can be enforced within Pennsylvania state universities.

Aidan Paggao is a third-year student majoring in marketing with a minor in international business. He can be reached at AP814179@wcupa.edu.

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