It’s one thing to lead by example and quite another to be made an example of. The executive leaders of Penn State University, who have managed to generate quite enough terrible publicity over the past couple of years, have now gone boldly where no employer has gone before. By implementing a coercive, intrusive, and wasteful “wellness” program during the academic year’s summer doldrums and miscalculating that it would go unnoticed, they have invited the wrath of their own faculty.
The PSU wellness initiative like so many before it relies on the hydra of preventive medical care, which is both clinically and fiscally ineffective; a personally intrusive health risk appraisal; and, a whopping incentive/penalty of up to $1,200 per year if you don’t play ball, which is double the national average. Penn State faculty, led by political science professor Matthew Woessner of their Harrisburg campus, have responded with outrage and a petition for withdrawal of the program, which now has 1,500 digital signatures. Penn State’s HR team, led by VP Susan Basso, has doubled down on its own ignorance claiming that the opposition is “unfortunate and sad.” What’s unfortunate and sad is that employees of a college can’t do math or read .
Penn State faculty are right to oppose the wellness program on both ethical grounds and economic grounds. Their creativity on how affected faculty and staff should respond is applause-worthy. Entering bogus data on the HRAs (both legal and harmless to employees because HRAs are anonymous) and refusing to get any of the preventive care recommended are useful guerilla steps. They are also discussing a blanket refusal to participate, which means either everyone gets hit with the penalty or no one does.