Eastern Gateway Union Votes No Confidence in College Leadership

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The faculty union at Eastern Gateway Community College voted “no-confidence” in the college board of trustees, interim president and associate vice president of financial aid, citing failures of leadership.

In a Wednesday news release, the Eastern Gateway Community College Education Association, the faculty union, wrote that its focus is to run strong programs that support students.

“Compelled by that mission and a string of recent failures in leadership by the Eastern Gateway Community College’s associate vice president of financial aid, interim president, and board of trustees, EGCCEA members approved a vote of no confidence in the college leadership at a general membership meeting last week,” the news release said.

The union said the action stems from what it calls “ongoing failures by the college to resolve systemic problems identified by the U.S. Department of Education…”

College employees have been working with all offices to process students, the union said.

“Unfortunately, the associate vice president of financial aid [Kurt Pawlak] has not shared in the same priorities, and has been unable to complete the accurate and timely submissions that the U.S. Department of Education requires.”

The college remains on probation as determined by the Higher Learning Commission. Some of the issues related to the probation stem from finances.

“This action comes as a result of the Interim President [John] Crooks’ failure to engage in the collaborative resolution of problems through shared governance structures,” the news release said. “Different administrators at different times have issued decisions without consultation or concern for shared governance. Dr. Crooks has failed to define lines of accountability for his leadership team.”

Crooks late Wednesday issued a statement through a college spokesman.

“At Eastern Gateway, our doors are always open to discussing issues, thoughts and finding solutions,” Crooks said in the statement. “We are committed to a transparent and inclusive process to advance the success of our students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve. While this has been a trying time for the greater college community, and as we address our declining enrollment, we believe we can persevere by working together.”

Crooks was appointed interim president in July.

The union also has issues with the college trustees for what it calls a failure to oversee and correct the failures of college senior leadership.

“Our concern was, and is, based on the immediate and ongoing impact that these issues are having in our ability as educators to adequately serve our students,” the union news release said.

With the no-confidence vote, the union says its registering its anger and frustration “at being ignored and at our ideas being marginalized during this time of crisis for the college.”

The news release said the union strongly believes in the college and its mission.

“Our goal is to teach our students,” it said. “We believe the college needs to work collaboratively with us, leveraging the expertise of our members, to resolve the impediments that stand in our way.”

In his statement, Crooks said the college, trustees and administration are committed to putting students first.

“We have been addressing the issues from the Higher Learning Commission and the U.S. Department of Education,” he wrote. “We continue to provide updates to all of our staff and faculty as we reestablish the importance of Eastern Gateway in the communities we serve…”

The college is committed to continuing to serve the Ohio and Mahoning valleys, the president’s statement said.

“Although shared governance is core to the values of our administration, the institution must manage its limited resources effectively,” he said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.