Meadville Tribune

Opinion

October 31, 2013

State representative says professor went too far in criticizing education plan

MEADVILLE — Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but it crosses the line when they misrepresent what another person stated.

In the Oct. 23 column by Lowell Hepler (“Rep. Roae should support local state universities instead of attacking them”), he makes statements about things he claims I said that I never said.

Hepler stated, “To him (Roae), they earn six-figure salaries for working 12-hour weeks, and if we can just lower their salaries and increase their workloads, all will be well.”

I never said Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) professors “work” 12 hours a week.

I did say PASSHE professors “teach” 12 hours a week compared to the 30 hours a week high school teachers teach. As a professor, Hepler should know that both high school teachers and college professors also prepare lesson plans, grade papers, meet with students, etc. Hepler changes the whole meaning by misrepresenting and misquoting that one word.

I never said PASSHE professors should take a pay cut.

I did say that PASSHE professors should get one pay raise a year rather than the two pay raises a year they get now. Hepler completely misrepresents my advocating for one annual pay raise as me advocating for an actual pay cut.

I never said all will be well with PASSHE finances by just changing hours professors teach and changing pay raises.

I did say that in addition to the items above that non-essential construction should be avoided unless the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties union and local board of trustees agree to the construction. I am concerned that state funding that is spent on frivolous construction is money wasted.

Mr. Hepler stated that a column I wrote over a year ago was “thoroughly debunked” when it was not. There was another point of view by others, but that does not mean my views were thoroughly debunked.

Mr. Hepler stated that, “The bottom line is that Rep. Roae hates unions ...”

I have never said that I hate unions. I do hate that people can be forced to join a union they do not want to join, and I hate that even when a person chooses not to join a union, they can be forced to pay 80 percent of the union dues that union members pay even though they are not members.

Mr. Hepler falsely stated that I receive “travel and per diem allowances, much of which is unvouchered.” Every cent of my reimbursements have receipts and documentation that verify that I am reimbursed exactly what my expenses are. Some House members “profit” with the per diem system by collecting more than their expenses. But it is outrageous for Mr. Hepler to accuse me of overbilling the state for my expenses.

Mr. Hepler is fully entitled to express his opinion that there is irony that I sponsored a resolution to honor the University of Pittsburgh. They have a campus in Titusville, which is in my legislative district. My opinion is that there is nothing ironic about honoring a major employer and important educational institution in the Sixth Legislative District. He finds it ironic, I do not find it ironic. Both are legitimate points of view and both of us should be allowed to express those views.

Mr. Hepler stated that I never mention the growing costs of excessive amounts of administrators and fancy expensive dorms. I have questioned many in higher education about waste in building elaborate student housing and other non-educational construction. I have also been very critical about the excessive number of administrators, especially those in the $100,000 salary or more categories. There are not news stories that cover every statement I have ever made on every topic for the last seven years and Mr. Hepler should know that.

Mr. Hepler said that I am “attacking” professors near my district. Near my district? Edinboro University of Pennsylvania actually has classrooms in my district in Meadville and many of the professors and students live in my district. That is in my district, not near my district.

The letter that I sent to the union, board and administrators at Edinboro University that he is referring to was filled with suggestions to prevent 40 professors from being fired. I am pushing for attrition rather than mass firings to reduce the size of the work force to match the size of the shrinking student body. I suggested just one pay raise a year, a moratorium on paid sabbaticals, full-time being 15 hours of teaching per week rather than 12 and ending non-essential construction would save enough money to keep 40 professors from losing their jobs. The cost savings would finance the costs of using attrition rather than instant mass firings. Trying to save 40 professors from losing their jobs should not be characterized as me “attacking” those 40 professors.

Eighty percent of the budget at Edinboro University is for salaries and benefits. Those costs for the new school year that just started are about $3 million more than they were for last school year. It is hard to have a serious discussion about cost saving ideas if salaries and benefits cannot be talked about.

Criticism of statements an elected official actually makes should be fair game. But it is not right to make up statements that were never said by an elected official and then criticize those statements.

Republican state Rep. Brad Roae represents the Sixth Legislative District, which includes the cities of Meadville and Titusville.

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