Guest Commentary: Support for Johnson as YSU President

Submitted by Mike Costarell, professor of computer science, information and engineering technology at Youngstown State University.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – I want to share a different opinion to the public debate on the hiring of Bill Johnson as Youngstown State University president. 

Aside from serving in the Navy for six years, I have lived in this area for my entire life, earning an engineering degree at YSU in the 1980s and having been hired as faculty at YSU in 2006 to teach in the Engineering Technology Department.

Core to all programs on campus are the concepts of critical thinking, scientific method and respect and dignity to all on campus. 

Many of these concepts were absent in recent campus events, including the protest outside Tod Hall on Nov. 20, 2023, Senate discussions on a vote of no confidence on Dec. 6, 2023, and interruptions at the board of trustees meeting on Dec. 7, 2023.

A few statistics below support the hiring of Johnson as president of YSU:

98% of Alumni Did Not Sign the Alumni Petition

While 2,500 people signed the petition against Johnson as president for YSU, the remaining 112,500 made no comment. Stating or inferring that alumni do not approve of Johnson’s policies is incorrect, as the silence of the large majority cannot be taken as agreement with the petition.

70% of the YSU Academic Senate Are Faculty

The notion of shared governance between the faculty and administration is not represented in the YSU Academic Senate. Of the 100 senators, the votes are egregiously gerrymandered so that 70 are cast by faculty, 15 are cast by administrators and 15 are cast by students. Any policy or statement by this group will heavily favor the views of the faculty union.

67% of Johnson’s District Voted for Him

Compare this to the YSU Senate vote, where 58% percent of votes rejected Johnson. These numbers indicate that Johnson’s values are aligned with the region, while the views of the Academic Senate and most faculty are not. 

The Senate resolution also implies that certain identities would avoid YSU because of Johnson’s religion, military service, gender and race. While this could be argued, the reverse could also be true. Those 190,000 voters have families that identify with Johnson and his values. His presence on campus could just as easily make them feel more welcome here and increase enrollment.

0% Connection to YSU

At the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, December 7, 2023, I was quoted as saying:
“I appeal to my fellow faculty to act like PhDs, not like kindergarteners. If you want to throw a
tantrum, take it outside.” I have a correction to make to this statement, as the key instigator at the Board of Trustees meeting, Daphne Carr, is not faculty, staff, and to my knowledge, has never attended YSU.
A brief look into her website shows that she:

  1. Has orchestrated “activism and organizing for social justice actions for more than a
  2. Is a self-described “Occupy Wall Street Music Working Group co-organizer (NYC).”
  3. Lists herself as a protest medic, with experience in treating “Long Range Acoustic
    Device (LRAD)” waves used to disperse crowds.

For a person who demands respect and dignity for her identity groups, little was given in return
for Bill Johnson, much less the Board of Trustees.

In closing, I’d like to assure the public that not all YSU faculty agree with the campus protests or Academic Senate vote of no confidence. If you and your family are part of the tens of thousands of citizens who support Johnson, please do not allow the voices of a vocal minority to dissuade you from attending classes this semester.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.