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Union Delays Call to Oust Cheyney President

CHEYNEY, Pa. _ A union representing support staff at Cheyney University that had planned to call for the school president’s ouster has agreed instead to meet with her to review concerns.

Issues to be discussed with President Michelle Howard-Vital may include allegations that key administrative positions have been unfilled, funds have been mismanaged and nepotism has been evident in some hiring, according to a list of the union’s “protest concerns and demands” obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Local 2347 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees– representing secretaries, administrative staff and some other non-faculty positions had planned a rally for next week. Its president did not return a call for comment.

“The scheduling of the rally may have finally convinced everyone that it was time to get together,” said Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the State System of Higher Education.

Cheyney, a historically Black university in suburban Philadelphia, is one of 14 colleges in the system. Recent fiscal troubles have led to intervention by state officials; the school was trying to overcome a $1.2 million deficit as of April.

The university released a statement saying that Howard-Vital “is working with the leadership team to bring best practices to Cheyney University to support the teaching and learning environment. This means there will be changes that will be unpopular because they will move people out of their comfort zones.”

Howard-Vital took over last July, promising to try to boost the graduation rate, renovate buildings, and increase fundraising.

But Greg Smith, past president of the faculty union, said Howard-Vital was harming the school.

“The rank and file are about to have an insurrection here,” Smith said.

Neal Holmes, president of another union representing 100 faculty members, said his group will be meeting with Howard-Vital as well. His union’s concerns include the treatment of coaches, a drop in summer school enrollment, summer school organization, the hiring of faculty and how professional development courses are run.

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