After 7 weeks in office, PASSHE chancellor visits Edinboro for first time

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 at 6:42 PM
After 7 weeks in office, PASSHE chancellor visits Edinboro for first time by Hannah McDonald
Photo: Hannah McDonald

A packed room awaited Dr. Daniel Greenstein on Oct. 17 at Edinboro University. Greenstein was hired as Chancellor of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) on May 21 of this year and stepped into the role on Sept. 4. Being only in the “third day of the seventh week,” Greenstein said he was quite excited to visit EU on his tour of all 14 PASSHE schools. 

In addition to giving listeners background on Greenstein, Interim Edinboro University President Michael Hannan also introduced Cynthia D. Shapira, the chair of the Pennsylvania board of governors. 

“Absolutely delighted to be back in Pennsylvania,” said Greenstein — a graduate of University of Pennsylvania — as he began his presentation with an explanation of what drew him to PASSHE. He was looking for a public-school system with public policy issues. Issues that he believes are solvable. 

Posing the question: “How do we sustain a system...in order to ensure that all students can afford to get the education they need after high school?” Greenstein continued to discuss how his goals specifically relate to Edinboro, which he considers unique. 

Educating students at Edinboro University is much different than educating students in prestigious, highly selective universities where students come into college as “fourth generation college students...or having received six AP (advanced placement) credits in high school,” Greenstein said. He continued on to explain that Edinboro students can be adult students obtaining degrees to better their career outcomes. Or they can be students from the middle of the high school pot requiring remedial coursework, or individuals not from affluent backgrounds. And many are working to educate themselves solely from their own pockets. 

“Yet,” he said. “They are some of the brightest and most ambitious learners.”

“Educating these students requires a fundamental rethinking of our practice,” the chancellor then stated, seeing it as a goal for public universities to provide the classes and resources that these students need for success.

The first step in learning how to serve these students, he continued, is asking them what they need from their administration and university. 

When the floor opened up “no subjects [were] off the table,” and three individuals took turns addressing Greenstein. 

Elizabeth Joyce, an EU faculty member, posed the first question. About a year and a half ago, Joyce said, Frank G. Brogan, the previous chancellor of PASSHEE, discussed closing a number of Pennsylvania’s public universities, including Edinboro. Joyce said, “there are still people in the area that think we are going to close.” 

Greenstein assured Joyce that he had no intention of closing any PASSHE schools. Closing universities will not solve existing problems, Greenstein said. The solution instead is, “Sustaining this great university, this system, and the services...now and into the future.”

“I also want to apologize that that impression was out there...There was never any intention to make a statement that schools are closing,” Shapira added. “We are going to make sure we are very careful when we move forward.”

Melissa Hallbauer, a student, stood beside members of the student-led organization, “The Sitting Scots.” Hallbauer and these students — some members of Edinboro’s assistant-care program located within the Office of Accessibility Services — addressed Greenstein on the changes coming to EU’s assistant-care program next fall. 

Posed by Hallbauer, who stood and spoke for the group, was a question for Greenstein to “clarify the role...of PASSHE as a whole in making the decision” to change the assistant-care program, where EU would no longer employ personal care aids, but instead work with an outside service provider. 

“The decision, as I understand it correctly,” Greenstein responded, is “it was a change in state legislation” that caused EU to have to make their own changes for personal care aids.

While both Hallbauer and Greenstein misspoke, saying it was a “state regulation” change, whereas it was actually a change in federal regulation, Greenstein admitted that he would have to research the situation more and would like to hear EU students’ opinions further at a later date. 

He continued: “Our ability to enroll, engage and retain students, and to help them succeed is directly tied to our ability to succeed as a university in the system. All students. I think that is one of our most fundamental challenges, the economy, the demography, the demands of employers, the demands of student groups, is requiring us to expand. To work with students who have historically not had much of a place in higher education. And whether they’re ‘Sitting Scots’...or whether they are adults returning from the workforce who need to be upskilled...or whether they are low-income, rural students who have never had a post-secondary education...in the cultural landscape, that’s where the opportunity lies.”

Closing out the open-floor section of the presentation was a final question from Todd Jay, Edinboro’s associate athletic director. 

His statement referencing Pennsylvania politics, was simple. Did Greenstein believe that the goals for growth (be it funding, enrollment, retention or graduation rates) for higher education were reasonable.

“I’m a realist...and an aspirational guy,” Greenstein began, addressing both the room and Jay. Beginning with the realist side of the coin, he went on to say that Pennsylvania is the 47th in the nation for per-capita funding for higher education. This is largely based on the economy of the state, the health and welfare of the people. “And there’s research that suggests that this is true, but it’s not solid because you don’t have a lot of longitudinal data.” 

“But realistically, one can hope.”

Hannah McDonald can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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