Academic senate moves vote forward

By Sydney Stalnecker and Elizabeth Coss

Youngstown State University’s academic senate motioned to move forward with voting on two proposals during the academic senate meeting held Tuesday. First, it proposed a vaccine mandate and followed up with the opposition to retrenchment and reduction of faculty and programs. 

According to Chet Cooper, the chair of the academic senate, only 35 of 79 senators voted on the vaccine mandate proposal. Of those 35, 51% voted in opposition of the mandate while about 46% supported the mandate. One senator abstained. 

YSU President Jim Tressel was the first to speak at the meeting, stating that he was not there to debate on the proposals. Instead, he suggested the members of the academic senate acknowledge the challenges the university has faced over the academic year.

Tressel also encouraged the senate to be prepared to instate a vaccine mandate because the vaccine may be mandated federally, in which case the decision would no longer be up to the university.

“Institutionally, we always have to think about what could be the most extreme situation that could occur,” Tressel said. “What if we are mandated from a federal standpoint?”

Student Government Association conducted a survey over multiple platforms for students to answer.  

The responses were from 13% of the student body. Around 53% of participants were in opposition of a vaccine mandate, and 44% were in favor of it, with over 2,000 responses.

Following the motion to move forward with voting for a vaccine mandate, the senate then discussed the recent moves for retrenchment of faculty and programs. 

Albert J. Sumell, senate member and chief negotiator for the faculty union, proposed the resolution stating that the senate wasn’t against the administration or athletics, but believes YSU is not desperate enough to be making cuts, citing bad priorities. 

The senate’s resolution in opposition to retrenchment and reduction states YSU has sunsetted 26 programs and terminated faculty despite Neal McNally, vice president of finance and business operations, publicly affirming Nov. 10 that “YSU is ‘fiscally sound overall.’”

Sumell said McNally’s quote indicates that “we are not in a fiscally dire situation that should warrant the need to engage in retrenchment and terminate qualified, full-time faculty.”

Following the decision to push the resolution, Provost Brien Smith addressed the senate by discussing financial reports and funding obtained through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In this current academic year, as [Vice President] McNally points out, we’re really fiscally sound and that’s because we’re still living [on] the COVID-19 dollars. About $10 million, and so that’s really saved us, as it has many institutions, ” Smith said. 

Despite noting retrenchment is needed to cut costs and increase savings, Smith said it is not always desirable. However, Smith wants to make sure the university improves not only enrollment, but retention. 

Twenty-two of the 35 voting members, about 63%, voted in favor of the resolution, and about 31% were against the proposal. 

Following the senate’s decisions, the board of trustees will receive the proposals and vote on them today.