“Closed doors, closed wallets”

Jacob Schriner-Briggs, class of 2017, spoke to the board during the Governance Committee to express concerns Dec. 6. Photo by Shianna Gibbons / The Jambar

By Shianna Gibbons

Youngstown State University alumni, YSU Foundation trustees, donors and supporters have condemned the board of trustees for its decision to conduct a confidential search for a new YSU president without community input.

In a statement released Nov. 28, the YSU Foundation addressed community and donor concerns by stating it would have preferred an open process, but the Foundation will continue its mission.

“Individuals have reached out to the YSU Foundation trustees to express concerns and their reluctance to provide ongoing support moving forward,” the YSU Foundation stated. “We will continue our mission as an independent, nonprofit organization that supports student scholarships, student development and career opportunities.”

Ed Muransky, former chair of the YSU Foundation, resigned as chair Nov. 27. There’s no reported reason for his resignation. Muransky left during a meeting earlier that day, according to the new chair, Nader Atway.

YSU alumni Daniel Catello, Madeline Grimes, Ashley Orr, Tyler Pabst and Jacob Schriner-Briggs released a statement after the contract of employment was approved for Johnson. The statement said they were dissatisfied with the board’s exclusion and its choice to dismiss the over 2,600 alumni who signed the alumni petition.

“We will also withhold donations and other forms of material support to the University until its recent administrative [failure] is rectified. Although we love YSU, cherishing what it has done for us and so many others, we encourage you to do the same: current YSU leadership does not deserve a vote of confidence,” the alumni letter stated.

Observers came to the board meeting with signs protesting the controversial search process. Photo by Shianna Gibbons

The Jambar was invited to a private meeting to speak and ask Johnson questions Nov. 30. When asked about upset donors and alumni stakeholders, Johnson said people are disappointed with the process, which he had no part in.

 “They’re upset with the process. I had nothing to do in deciding that — it wasn’t my process,” Johnson said. “No amount of money will buy them a vote on the trustees’ decision.”

Bruce Zoldan, who announced a $5 million donation for a new student center, said the Zoldan family wants to reconsider how his donation is used. Zoldan said he’d like for it to go toward student scholarships, rather than his name on a building.

Along with monetary donations being withheld or reconsidered, Youngstown native and “Modern Family” actor Ed O’Neill, announced he is returning his honorary doctorate because of the board’s decision.

In the meeting to approve the contract of employment, the board announced it would not be accepting public comment until the Dec. 6 meeting. SGA, Rose McClurkin and Schriner-Briggs spoke during the Dec. 6 Governance Committee meeting with the board of trustees about the negative response to its decision.

According to Schriner-Briggs, he drove from Connecticut on less-than-24-hour notice to provide concerns shared by thousands of alumni. He asked the board 11 questions surrounding the process and its decision.

“On Aug. 24 you released a presidential perspective, which established criteria for selecting YSU’s next president. The perspectives said ‘an ideal candidate would understand the workings of higher education and bring stakeholders together.’ But the congressman has no experience in higher education, the chair of the YSU Foundation has resigned in protest and the wider community is in turmoil. Did the perspectives mean anything?” Schriner-Briggs said.

Michael Peterson, chair of the YSU board of trustees, said in an interview with 27 WKBN First News that the board will not reconsider its decision for Johnson.

“If we all have that love [for YSU] then trust this, [the board is] not going to put someone in that seat who does not deserve it, who’s not going to be a workhorse for the 100% of YSU students,” Peterson said. “[Johnson’s] the right decision — not the popular one — I understand that I knew it going into it, but it’s the right decision.”