Amanda Betts – Staff Writer
CLARION, Pa.- Clarion University’s Student Senate hosted an open forum Tuesday to discuss the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) review and future changes that could be made to the system.
Many students attended the forum in Gemmell 250. Freshman Chelsea Lanigan had been hearing rumors about the possible closure and merging of Clarion University and was concerned about her career as a Clarion student.
“I was scared I was going to have to find another university,” she explained. According to Lanigan, being aware of what is going on at the university is incredibly important. “The university is for us,” she said. “If we don’t know what’s happening, then the university isn’t for us anymore.”
President Karen Whitney said the potential for closure of Clarion University is “very slim.” She has been working closely with PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan and the firm assigned to work with the state universities on their system reviews.
“Public universities don’t close; they change,” Whitney reiterated from past statements. While she admitted that Brogan is looking for profound changes to be made to the state system, she believes Clarion will survive those changes.
Whitney would like to assure students that nothing has been predetermined.
“Everything is on the table, but I anticipate we’ll be heavily consulted [by the firm],” she said. Brogan will be considering not only Whitney’s opinions, but also thoughts from various faculty, staff and students as well.
“I probably talk about this every day,” Whitney said. She remains concerned mostly with providing students of Clarion University with comfort and knowledge about the potential outcomes.
While Clarion University has faced struggles recently with enrollment and finances, Whitney explained that more than 75 percent of universities in PASSHE are experiencing the same issues. Whitney believes that the state government is the group mainly at fault for these problems.
“I fault the defunding by the state,” she said. According to Whitney, the state government should be paying at least half of student’s tuition fees. “Until this happens, I really think we will continue to face sustainability problems.”
Whitney anticipates that the review will have at least 15 sections: one for each university in PASSHE and one for the entire system. Those involved in the decision-making would like to keep students involved in the discussion, but Whitney expressed that the discussion will not be a debate.
Vice President of Student Affairs Susanne Fenske was thrilled with student involvement in the forum and agreed with Whitney that she was not surprised by the students’ passion. According to both, Clarion’s students remain particularly passionate about their school.
Students will remain informed via emails from both Fenske and Whitney, and both will be available to answer questions. There will be a website dedicated to the system review. Live meetings will be available to stream on the PASSHE website.
“Everything will be public,” said Vice President of Finance and Administration Len Cullo. Whitney expects the system review report in late July or early August.