YSU-OEA Unhappy with Reorganization, Contract Talks

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The faculty union at Youngstown State University is pushing back against the academic reorganization that YSU says would save $1 million annually.

A letter to the YSU Board of Trustees, written by Steven Reale, president of YSU-OEA and co-signed by 145 members of the union, implores trustees “to direct the university to pause, to take a step back, to focus on our students, and allow ourselves the time and space to assess the new realities that YSU faces.”

The faculty union is at a stalemate in negotiations with the administration over proposed contract changes, and instead wants a one-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which the university has rejected.

That disagreement widened last week when a reorganization task force chaired by YSU Provost Brien Smith released an academic reorganization plan.

The reorganization plan combines the Beeghly College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Science would be combined, reassigns several academic programs to new colleges, and returns 18 department heads to the classroom with a pay decrease of about $17,000.

“We have been distressed to see YSU’s administration announce sweeping changes, hastily and unilaterally conceived without the slightest consultation with the students, faculty, and staff whose work lives they will most profoundly affect, at a time when we are already working through unprecedented uncertainty,” Reale states in his letter, released Wednesday.

“The proposed reorganization of the university — should it be enacted — would effectively split apart linked programs and curricula, drastically reduce support staff, and sow chaos in ways we cannot possibly yet predict just when we should be working together to bolster the University so that it may fulfill its mission come fall. Indeed, the proposed reorganization would compound — as its announcement has compounded — the uncertainty students and faculty will face over course delivery, contract negotiations, health and safety precautions, and further disruptions that will certainly arise towards the end of the year, when virtually all experts predict a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While the faculty union recognizes “the administration’s right to make such unilateral decisions, it is the right and duty of the YSU-OEA to explain that such decisions will limit our ability to effectively serve our students insofar as they will create an atmosphere of instability, which will doubtless undermine recruitment and retention efforts at YSU,” Reale’s letter continues.

In response to the union’s complaint that faculty were not consulted, Smith said last week that “the plan should not have a significant impact on students, their studies, their majors and their successful pursuit of a college degree. 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 provost also noted that “a significant number of employees on campus have already agreed to a combination of pay cuts and furloughs.”

Administrators have also agreed to pay cuts.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.