YSU Faculty Oppose University Restructuring

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Youngstown State University provost Brien Smith.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Faculty at Youngstown State University are criticizing the school over a plan to restructure its colleges, a plan that was not created with input from the educators.

In a statement issued Friday, Steven Reale, president of the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association, said the union is “extremely distressed by the unilateral decisions being made this week about crucial matters of university operations without any input from faculty.

“YSU-OEA learned of YSU’s plan to restructure the university at the same time as the general public. Members were told via email that major restructuring of academic divisions is taking place,” he continued. “The moves demonstrate not only reckless haste, but an unprecedented lack of transparency and disregard for shared governance.”

In a letter to faculty from YSU provost Brien Smith, Youngstown State will merge the Beeghly College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Science in an effort to balance the university’s budget. The moves are expected to save about $1 million per year.

Several programs will be reassigned to new colleges, including forensic science to the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, journalism and early childhood associate’s degree to the liberal arts college, economics and communication to the Williamson College of Business Administration, and Center for Human Service Development and gerontology/long-term care administration to the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services.

“Restructuring of the colleges has been under consideration for several years at YSU and has been examined over the past several months as part of the university’s ‘Take Charge of Our Future’ strategic planning process,” Smith said in a separate statement. “With the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting financial impact, it is crucial that we enact plans now to develop a state-mandated balanced budget and to maintain and enhance our academic quality. A significant number of employees on campus have already agreed to a combination of pay cuts and furloughs. As we determine the full economic impact  of the pandemic, more actions are likely to come.

“Most importantly, the plan should not have a significant impact on students, their studies, their majors and their successful pursuit of a college degree,” he continued. “In fact, our hope is that these internal structural changes present an opportunity for new innovation and synergies to improve the already excellent programs at YSU. We look forward to working with our faculty, staff and everyone on campus and in the community as we continue to face these challenges.” 

The plan will also see 18 department heads return to the classroom. While the move comes with a pay decrease of about $17,000, no jobs will be cut.

“Undertaking a massive restructuring of colleges and departments, while also negotiating a contract and adjusting to the realities of teaching during a pandemic, will only create more stress, chaos, and division at YSU at a time when all of our energies should be devoted to working together to provide a seamless and minimally disruptive Fall semester for our students,” Reale said.

The YSU-OEA has requested that the university pause contract negotiations for a year, Reale said, a request the that was rejected.

The plan will be discussed at the university’s board of trustees meeting next week.

On Wednesday, Youngstown State announced that it was cutting 22 coaching and administrative positions. Two of the school’s teacher’s unions also approved furloughs resulting in a 10% pay cut and the layoff of 69 workers. Combined, the two moves save YSU $4.8 million.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.