Committee Formed in Response to Campus Climate Dissatisfaction

By Samantha Phillips

The campus climate survey brought to light the problems and complaints that faculty and staff have with the university. To combat this, a steering committee is being formed by the Academic Senate executive committee to find and implement solutions.

The steering committee will be comprised of three faculty members, three staff, three senior administrators and one student. The student will be chosen by the Student Government Association.

A report that analyzed data collected at the open forums detailed 15 themes suggested by faculty and staff to improve campus climate, including changing senior leadership, calling for shared governance and improving communication and transparency.

Chet Cooper, chair of the Academic Senate, said the steering committee is in charge of prioritizing the actionable items, and deciding which ones can be implemented.

“There are a great number of individuals both within the faculty and staff who truly love the institution and will do what it takes to move the institution forward,” he said. “Those are the kinds of people we are looking at and hope will be on the steering committee.”

At an Academic Senate meeting discussing the report, a professor raised concerns that the university is only making changes because it’s being assessed by the Higher Learning Commission in 2018. Cooper made it clear that they need to create lasting change that improves the culture of the university for years to come, not just to gain accreditation.

“This will not be a whitewash,” he said. “If they are using the Senate and this process of gathering input, then there will be consequences, and they won’t be pretty.”

YSU President Jim Tressel said the accreditation process was created to hold universities to high standards, but they would be working towards improving the university regardless of the accreditation.

“It’s to improve our overall excellence,” he said. “In my opinion, the university making these changes [only] because of the HLC visit couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

There are multiple reasons for these changes taking place, Cooper said. Faculty and staff are frustrated because although enrollment is increasing, positions of people that were fired or resigned haven’t been replaced so they are left with an increased workload to make up for it.

At the meeting, one woman voiced her concern that the steering committee will be too small to truly represent all areas of campus.

Cooper said the composition of the committee may change, but they want to keep it small because having too many people on the committee will impede progress.

The student on the committee has been chosen. SGA President Tyler Miller-Gordon and Executive Vice President Gabriella Gessler selected Rayann Atway, SGA parliamentarian.

“She has a strong sense of academic integrity in terms of what we should do to make the institution a better place,” Miller-Gordon said.

Other students wanted to be a part of the process, he said, so a consulting group is being formed to discuss ideas with Atway.

A timeline for action has not been reached, but Cooper and Miller-Gordon said it will be soon.

“I think we have had great momentum,” Miller-Gordon said. “If we keep that momentum, we’ll see results more quickly.”

Although the problems in the survey don’t directly affect students, he said they affect the academic environment that students are indirectly affected by. He said he looks forward to seeing how the campus will improve.