YSU Leadership Transition Plan Being Developed

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A plan is being developed for Youngstown State University leadership during the time between interim President Helen K. Lafferty’s Dec. 31 departure and when U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson is sworn in as president.

Lafferty, interim president since Feb. 1, announced at a trustees meeting Thursday that she will leave Dec. 31.

“The Board and President-Elect Johnson are currently working on a concrete start date, that will be no later than March 15, 2024,” Rebecca Rose, university spokeswoman, said in an email. “A transition plan is currently being developed.”

Lafferty, who has been on sabbatical from her administrative and faculty positions at Villanova during her interim presidency, was expected to remain at YSU until a new president takes over.

The YSU faculty union, YSU-Ohio Education Association, issued a news release Thursday afternoon.

“The university community is in shock that, with the ongoing presidential controversy, we’re seeing our interim president say goodbye months early and hearing about potential cuts,” Mark Vopat, union president, said in the release.

The trustees’ governance committee Wednesday heard a presentation reviewing the academic program portfolio design. No action was taken, but the design looks at “shifting resources from programs that aren’t meeting goals in graduate success, market demand and financial sustainability toward those that do demonstrate high performance in these areas,” according to the presentation.

That’s concerning for the union.

“If Lafferty is saying ‘goodbye’ now, when Johnson doesn’t take office until March and the board and YSU administration is considering ‘reallocating resources’ for our programs in the meantime, who will be in charge to make those decisions when classes resume in January?” Vopat asked. “The last thing we need is more uncertainty or another disastrous decision at YSU.”

The union also takes issue with the public not being allowed to speak during trustees’ Thursday meeting after being told that they could.

“This is not how a public university should behave,” Vopat said in the release. “Public universities are open to dialogue and debate. That is the foundation of shared governance and how we get stakeholders to trust and invest in us. We need to have open conversations about our leaders, the vision for the university and our programs if YSU is going to weather this.”

In October 2022 when the university announced that Lafferty had been selected as interim president, she told The Business Journal she planned to “be here for the duration of the process” and wasn’t under any time constraints to return to Villanova.

A Youngstown native and graduate of YSU, before she was appointed as interim president, Lafferty served as a global trustee, a nonvoting board member. 

At the trustees meeting Thursday, Lafferty read a statement that was also distributed across campus, saying that her goodbye was more difficult than she thought it would be.

“All of the good things that I enjoy in my life today are because of Youngstown State University,” she said. “After these many months with you, that love and affection has deepened beyond words.”

Pictured at top: Helen K. Lafferty, YSU’s interim president, and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.