The Clarion Call report
On Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 1:30 p.m., an open forum with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein was held in the movie theater in the Suites on Main North building.
University President Dr. Dale Elizabeth Pehrsson opened the forum by introducing Greenstein and Cynthia Shapira, the chair of the Board of Governors, who was also at the forum.
Greenstein began by thanking everyone for being there, and by saying that he “didn’t come here to close campuses.” He also said that he was glad to be back in Pennsylvania, adding that he has relatives here that go back to the 19th century.
Before he opened the forum to questions, Greenstein gave a speech about the challenges that PASSHE faces and about wanting to succeed. During the speech, he stated that he came to Pennsylvania specifically because he believes that the state is in the best position to take on the challenges that are faced nationally and win. He also believes that Pennsylvania has the best opportunity to reimagine education as a whole in the country.
Greenstein then said that he has “literally hundreds” of emails from faculty members from universities across the system, and that those emails prove to him that “we are willing to tackle the challenges.”
Greenstein said that he would not talk about most of the challenges, as he had previously done so in his blog. He went on to say that the biggest challenge is culture. He continued by saying that it is the biggest challenge because it is “built on distrust,” and because it “involves uncivil discourse.” Greenstein then said that he believes that culture can be changed.
He continued by saying that he is “forever an optimist,” and that he can’t promise that everyone will like every decision that he makes. He can promise that he will strive for social equity and justice, and that he will be transparent and inclusive. Greenstein ended his speech by saying “I hope that if and when I make a mistake, that people will let me know.” He then opened the forum to questions.
Dr. Uraina Pack, from the English Department, asked Greenstein if he had any ideas for how to use diversity on campuses to help “move us forward.”
Greenstein answered by saying that he has observed that there is a duty to enroll diverse students. He said that in order to use diversity to move forward, two questions have to be asked: “Who are the students?” and “What is required to make the students succeed?”
Another question was asked by Dr. Carey Childers from the Mathematics Department. She asked Greenstein what his thoughts were on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s article on dramatic enrollment drops. He responded by saying “they are dramatic,” and that they go back to 2011. He also said that it is something that “We can’t just sweep under the rug.” He also said that something is happening that is making students not want to enroll. He then said that this subject is challenging on the public relations front, because there is a “degree of skepticism” in the state legislators. He said that it is hard to explain to them the “narrative of who we are.” He can tell them about things, but he wishes that he could show them. He ended by saying that there is a PR issue, and that “we need to lean into it hard.”
Another question that Greenstein was asked was about if there were any opportunities for the school to be a national school and not just a rural school. He responded by saying that “you probably don’t want me to name it as a national school,” and by saying that the best way to do it would be for the students and faculty to make that change.
The last question that he was asked was about the issue of how students have a narrow view of the State System, and how they focus on only their own university, and it was asked how students can be brought to see the system in the same way that PASSHE sees it. Greenstein responded by saying that he thinks that it is a strength for things to be the way they are, and that it is “important to hear the students’ voice.” He ended by saying “there is a hazard in not listening to the students.”
Greenstein then ended the forum by thanking everyone for their attention, and by saying: “I believe in this university, and I believe in you.”
At a very brief press meeting after the forum, Greenstein was asked where he saw the system in five years. He responded by saying that he hopes that it will become a “genuine public system that is able to operate across the state.” He then added that “form follows function,” and that “we need to figure out where to go and how to get there.”
Greenstein was then asked what channels he would use to bring up the discussion of how to get there. He said that there are numerous opportunities before and after board meetings, and that he is trying to use his blog as well.
Before the press meeting ended, Greenstein was asked if he had anything to say to Clarion University. He responded by saying “I said it before. You guys are great.”