Faculty Union Says YSU Has Failed to Implement COVID Safety Measures

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The union representing faculty at Youngstown State University is again criticizing the school’s coronavirus safety plan, citing at the lack of proper air filtration and an inadequate testing process.

“We honored our commitment to our students and to YSU by returning to pre-pandemic face-to-face course numbers this fall, believing that you would follow the guidance of the CDC and local and county health departments to keep us all safe,” said Susan Clutter, president of the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association. “You have failed to institute even basic protections and we will no longer be silent about your lack of action. You are putting all our lives in danger.”

Shortly before the new school year started, YSU officials announced an updated safety plan that required the wearing of masks indoors, free testing, contact tracing and the upgrade of ventilation systems across campus. 

According the YSU-OEA, some air-filtration supplies were ordered Aug. 27, three days before the start of the semester, and have yet to arrive.

The union also called the testing and reporting process “surveillance only” for on-campus testing. Off-campus test results may be self-reported, which the union says “inaccurately represents positive cases across campus.”

The YSU-OEA made six demands of the university’s administration, including:

  • Daily communications between leadership and the YSU community that includes transparency on decision-making.
  • An accurate weekly report of positive COVID-19 cases at Youngstown State.
  • A vaccine mandate by Dec. 1 for faculty, staff and students.
  • All faculty and staff who are high-risk or live with people who are high risk to work and/or teach remotely.
  • Distribute N95 masks to those who requested them but have yet to receive them do a third-party’s incorrect processing of orders.
  • Hire a director of environmental health and safety who is an authority on public health due to the lack of confidence in the current director.

The final request is in reference to the current director, Julie Gentile, who made several Facebook posts about COVID-19 – many of which are now deleted – that were flagged by Facebook as containing misinformation, including those supporting the use of anti-parasite drug ivermectin and those questioning the efficacy of wearing masks.

In the statement, the YSU-OEA again referenced other public universities in Ohio, which have implemented measures such as vaccine mandates, requiring masks and adherence to the state’s minimum operating standards for colleges and universities.

“The union has been patient with administration’s handling of the pandemic and supported decisions based in medicine and science made in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021,” Clutter said. “However, at some point leading up to this semester and continuing now into the third week, administration is seemingly choosing to prioritize a ‘return to normalcy’ over instituting all the necessary safety measures needed to limit the spread of COVID on campus.”

In a response, the university said it “has been and will continue to implement evidence-based protocols to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines” and will continue its communications with local and state health organizations, as well as other universities in the state, to develop COVID-19 safety protocols.

“All protocols and procedures are included on the university’s COVID-19 Information website, which went live in March 2020 when the pandemic hit and has been regularly updated since,” the spokesman said in the statement. “The administration has sent 73 university emails related to the pandemic to employees and students in the past 18 months, on average one per week, in addition to information in the weekly campus e-newsletter and across all YSU social media channels.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-changing moving target beyond anyone’s control; every day, we all learn new approaches to keeping ourselves and those around us safe. The university community has shown great patience and perseverance. An institution of our size cannot successfully move through a pandemic of this magnitude without composure, understanding and, finally, resolve,” it continued.

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Aug. 13: YSU Faculty Union: Why Are We the Outlier in COVID Safety?

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